Industry group gives staggering figure for cost of pirated manga in just one month.

The New Year’s season is usually a pretty festive time in Japan. Along with late Christmas parties there are end-of-the-year parties (called bonenkai, literally “forget the year parties”) and start-of-the-year parties. Most people also get about a week off from work straddling New Year’s Day, which they use either to travel back to their hometowns to spend time with relatives or for pleasure trips both inside Japan and abroad.

This year, though, not a whole lot of that was happening. With coronavirus infection numbers surging, people were encouraged to stay home, and apparently a lot of them kept themselves entertained by reading pirated manga online.

According to a study by Japanese publishing industry group ABJ (Authorized Books of Japan), the Internet’s 10 largest manga piracy websites were accessed by users in Japan some 200 million times during December of 2020. That’s nearly three times the figure for January of 2020, which was around 72 million. “The increased amount of time people are spending at home during the pandemic is likely a factor,” said an ABJ representative, and the organization estimates the total cost of the content illegally viewed by Japanese users in December, had it been purchased instead, would have been somewhere in neighborhood of 41.4 billion yen (US$400 million).

While widespread piracy of anime and manga has long been an open secret in overseas fan communities, it hasn’t traditionally been a high-profile issue within Japan, particularly for manga. While prices for anime in Japan tend to be higher than officially licensed DVDs or Blu-rays overseas, manga is a fairly low-cost hobby in Japan, where weekly anthologies and collected volumes are often priced at 500 yen (US$4.85) or less, and used volumes can be bought at second-hand stores for as little as 100 yen. But as advances in technology make it easier for pirates to set up sites, and also easier for tempted and curious individuals to find them, it seems an increasing number are finding the allure of getting something for nothing too strong to resist, even as it angers and frustrates the art’s original creators.

Source: Asahi Shimbun via Livedoor News via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso
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