The most popular manga at this Spanish manga mecca right now isn’t, in fact, Dragon Ball!

Our Japanese language reporter Ikuna Kamezawa, a frequent adventurer and enthusiastic traveler, happened to be strolling around the sunny streets of Málaga, Spain recently, happily enjoying the sights, when she came upon something that stopped her in her tracks: a red sign with the Japanese character for heart, “心” (pronounced “kokoro”) on it. It turns out that it was a shop called Kokoro Mangas, which was entirely dedicated to fans of Japanese manga. “I knew manga was popular overseas,” she thought, scratching her head. “But I didn’t know it was popular enough to have a whole store dedicated to it!”

Ikuna is delighted that Japanese culture is so popular around the world, and she always feels grateful when she sees tourists gawking excitedly over the anime and game wares in Akihabara, but she has often been curious about them. As she crossed underneath the red “Kokoro” sign, she found herself wondering what kind of manga was popular in Spain. Probably Dragon Ball, right? It’s one of the most popular and recognizable franchises in the world, after all!

The walls of the shop were tightly packed with books and figurines, and the music playing in the background was all Japanese anime songs. There was a steady flow of people going in and out of the shop, and though Ikuna doesn’t speak Spanish, she was able to pick up titles of games and anime, like Final Fantasy and Evangelion, from the talk around her.

Ikuna herself grew up a pretty big fan of manga. She had kept her subscription to Weekly Shounen Jump until her second year of high school, which, she is proud to say, was a pretty long time for a girl in those days. She can tell you anything about Slam Dunk or Yu Yu Hakusho. She also read the Hana to Yume monthly girls’ manga anthology until her last year of middle school, so she’s pretty familiar with many of the big titles from the last 20 years or so. However…

The manga on display front and center at Kokoro were almost all titles she’d never heard of! She wasn’t sure if they were popular in Japan and she had just never heard of them, or if they were comics from Spain…as a writer, she felt kind of ashamed not to know.

She’d thought that overseas manga and anime fans only really liked big name franchises, like Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, and One Piece, but just from browsing through Kokoro Mangas she realized that in reality foreign manga fans were in a whole other world of fandom, perhaps even one step ahead of Japanese fans.

Ikuna couldn’t even tell what kind of manga these were, because their titles and content were all translated into Spanish, but she could tell that some were full of historical references or set in ancient Japan, with elements international readers might not be familiar with. She was also surprised at the amount of classic manga, as a good third of the manga on sale there were more than 30 years old. Some of them were thicker than novels, as big as encyclopedias, with huge price tags. But they exist..and they were being sold here…so that must mean there’s a demand for them, right?

Ikuna wondered, are Spanish manga fans really that hardcore?

So she decided to reach out to the shop associate to find out more about Spanish tastes in manga. The associate, whose name was Maria, didn’t speak English, so they communicated using a translate app. When Ikuna said she was Japanese, Maria’s whole face lit up.

It turns out that Maria is a huge fan of Japanese manga, so Ikuna decided to ask her about the most popular manga at Kokoro. Maria quickly pulled five volumes from the shelves, remembering the names and locations of them easily.

Number 5: Issak

Ikuna was embarrassed to say that she had never heard of this manga, which is about a Japanese mercenary operating in 17th century Rome. Perhaps it’s popular because the setting is familiar to European readers…she thought, but she wasn’t sure. In any case, it seemed to be a well-received theme, at the very least.

Number 4: Cardcaptor Sakura

Of course Ikuna was well-aware of this one! Cardcaptor Sakura is an iconic shojo manga that would easily make anyone’s list. Though Issak had the appeal of having a non-Japanese worldview, Cardcaptor Sakura proves that Japanese-style school-life stories and romantic comedies are also appreciated by overseas readers. The adorable magical girl elements probably helped too.

Number 3: Dragon Ball Super

Ikuna was not surprised that Dragon Ball made the list, but she had fully expected it to be on top. Instead, it’s only number three! Having not paid super-close attention to manga and anime for several years, she was unfamiliar with the newest installation of the series, Dragon Ball Super, and  was pretty confused by Goku’s pink hair and the “Super” attachment to the title.

Number 2: One Piece

The ever popular One Piece made it to the number-two spot. The long-running pirate adventure story has captured the hearts of people all around the world, and no less in Spain. This didn’t really surprise Ikuna. But what could usurp manga industry giants like Dragon Ball Super and One Piece?

Number 1: Demon Slayer: Kimetetsu no Yaiba

Called “Guardianes de la Noche” in Spanish, Kimetetsu no Yaiba is a manga Ikuna had never heard of before. To find out more, Ikuna bought a volume for 8.10 euros (about 980 yen or US$9), and flipped through it. The dialogue was in Spanish, of course, so she didn’t really understand the story, but it still looked pretty interesting.

▼ The Japanese sound effects were all maintained in the panels, with Spanish translations added to get the meaning across.

Since she didn’t know anything about the story, she decided to ask her SoraNews24 coworker, and manga expert, K. Masami.

Ikuna: “Have you heard of this mysterious manga called Kimetetsu no Yaiba?”

K: “Don’t call it ‘mysterious!’ It’s a really interesting series!”

Ikuna: “I knew you would know about it. Is it pretty popular in Japan?”

K: “It’s not just popular, it’s explosive right now! It might be the most popular manga this season! The anime is doing really well, and they’re going to make a movie for it too.”

Ikuna: “Really? It’s really popular in Spain right now too.”

K: “And for good reason!”

Oops…Ikuna had been looking at a top manga the whole time and had no idea. She wasn’t sure whether or not she should be surprised that the most popular manga in Spain is the most popular manga in Japan, too, but she does know that Spanish fans seem to be about as passionate about manga as Japanese fans.

Ikuna had gone into the manga store in Málaga expecting to only see big names like Dragon Ball on the shelf, and thinking that she knew more about anime and manga than people from other countries. Her experience in Kokoro Mangas has made her realize that fans of anything, in any country, should not be underestimated!

Thanks to Kokoro Mangas, she’s also considering picking up her first Weekly Shonen Jump magazine in more than ten years when she gets back to Japan. At the very least, she promised the sunny Andalusian countryside that she would read through the entirety of Kimetetsu no Yaiba, so let’s hope she gets back in touch with her inner otaku!

Shop Information
Kokoro Mangas
Calle Nosquera, 6, 29008 Málaga, Spain

Images © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]