Do Salarymen Really Read Manga?

by Justin Sevakis,

Vithuyan asks:

I have heard that manga is very popular among salary-men in Japan, is that true?

Yes. Although most of them are not reading Shonen Jump. Seinen manga magazines ("seinen" literally means youth, but in terms of manga demographics, it's the category for adult men) are popular reading for guys on long train and bus commutes, which are pretty common in Japan. Magazines like Weekly Young Magazine (Kodansha), Weekly Young Jump (Shueisha) and Big Comic Original (Shogakukan) don't have the gigantic circulation numbers enjoyed by their youth-oriented sister publications -- Young Magazine has about 1/3 the circulation of Shonen Jump -- but the series within them can be quite popular nonetheless. It's quite common to see middle-aged men in suits on the subways and commuter rail lines reading them.

Adult women have a similar genre -- josei manga -- aimed at them too. However, it's the least popular manga category. Where Shonen Jump has circulation of nearly 3 million copies per week and Weekly Young Magazine has nearly a million, the top two josei manga magazines -- You and Be-Love sell less than 200,000 per week. (The top shoujo magazines sell around 400,000 copies.)

Anyway, seinen manga can be hard to tell apart from shonen manga, because they can have similar themes. Fighting, supernatural, sports, fantasy and romance are all represented. However -- and this is stereotyping to a degree -- seinen manga does tend to be a little darker and more sophisticated in how it approaches its themes. It's unlikely that you'd see a bog-standard tournament fighting or harem romance manga series running in a seinen magazine. And while there are still plenty of high school stories, there are far fewer of them.

Instead, there are a lot of seinen manga that explore an adult's working life -- from teaching and cooking, to various types of on-the-job intrigue. Medical and investigative procedurals make for popular genres, as do series about politics. Sex and violence can also move front-and-center, and not always in an alluring way. Since the series are aimed squarely at adults, there are far fewer editorial restrictions on what subject matter and content can be shown.

While most Seinen manga is not something that would make for a popular anime, there are some major, major exceptions. One Punch Man is seinen manga, as is Prison School, Ghost in the Shell, Planetes, Chobits, Tokyo Ghoul, Mushishi, Monster, Flowers of Evil, xxxHolic, Gantz, B Gata H Kei, Elfen Lied, Berserk, Akira and Blame!

The world of manga is incredibly diverse, even moreso than the sort of series that end up getting animated. If you haven't done so, the world of seinen and josei manga are well worth exploring. Some really great stuff is hidden in those piles.

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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for nearly 20 years. He's the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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