Challenge of the Demographics! Men and Women!

Strap yourself in. I'm about to blow away all your preconception about comic and manga gender demographics. It's actually more interesting than it sounds.

DC wanted to know who was buying New 52.

The demographics between men and women is often a heated discussion when it comes to comics, but it's just so difficult to find any solid numbers. People often feel or reluctantly accept that it's a boy's club. When I hear people in the US talk about manga, they seem to believe that manga are just as large a boy's club as comics if not larger toward a male audience. Well, I have some information that may surprise you.

Back in February of 2011, DC released a survey conducted by the venerable Nielsen Survey Group on the results from The New 52 reboot - - It's a reboot. Deal with it. A lot of articles published about this survey revealed that DC wasn't particularly happy with what they learned, and released the result with a list of bullet points to parse the results. They made a point of saying that this survey only questioned The New 52 buyers, but at the time The New 52 made up the vast majority of what they were publishing. Below is an image of the gender demographic portion.

Nielsen survey of DC Comics New 52 readership
What changes will come with Marvel NOW?

In stores, DC had a 93% male readership and only 7% women. Online, things were generally better with 77% male and 23% female. I had heard that DC wanted a second Nielsen survey back in June, but I couldn't find the results anywhere. I also couldn't find any research on Marvel's gender gap for readers. Just the gender gap of creators. Most seem to feel it would be either equal to DC or slightly worse. Partly given how many often complain about the lack of female characters leading their own series. Though, some see hope for Marvel NOW to improve things. (see Why Marvel NOW! Is Great For Female Characters)

Weekly Shōnen Jump has a gender-neutral readership

When many comic readers talk about manga, I often hear them bring up some of the negative stereotypes of fan service or harems. Well, harem series are a niche genre and aren't among the top selling series in Japan, and it's not as if fan service - cheesecake - doesn't exist in all of the top selling comics. Glass houses and all.

The term "shōnen" in Japanese literally means "young boy", but it's also used as a classification for a type of manga series. Classically, these are more oriented toward young men, but the same could be said about the most popular comics in North America. The focus is normally on action, fighting, comedy, or sports. One of the most popular shōnen serialized magazines in the world is Shueisha's WEEKLY SHŌNEN JUMP. This is the magazine that has brought us DRAGON BALL, NARUTO, ONE PIECE, BLEACH and countless other series since 1968.

On top of WEEKLY JUMP celebrating it's 45th anniversary this year, it can also boast that it has a 50/50 male to female readership, making it one of the most gender-neutral manga magazines. Nikkei Shimbun, one of the largest media corporations in Japan that specializes in publishing financial and business news, released in November the results of their look at the women who read WEEKLY JUMP. Here are the results of what Nikkei found.

Nikei chart of women readers of WEEKLY JUMP

For the benefit of those who don't read Japanese, I've translated the graph's results in the tables below. Though, big surprise. Pink is for girls, and Blue is for boys.

Popular Women Comics [女子人気の高いコミックス]

SeriesWomenMen
Haikyuu!!66.8%32.2%
Gin Tama63.8%36.2%
Katekyo Hitman Reborn62.4%37.6%
Kuroko no Basuke56.9%43.1%
ONE PIECE51.8%48.2%
BLEACH50.7%49.3%

Popular Men Comics [男子人気の高いコミックス]

SeriesWomenMen
Nisekoi16.7%83.3%
Kochikame18.2%81.8%
Medaka Box25.1%74.9%
Toriko37.3%62.7%
Beelzebub38.8%61.2%
NARUTO45.6%54.4%
Women really like this soccer series.

Some of these series popular among women aren't about romance or things many often associate with female readers. HAIKYUU!!, which has a 66.8% majority of women, is about a soccer team. NISEKOI, which has an 83.3% majority of men, is a romantic-comedy. ONE PIECE is my favorite among what is known as the Shōnen Trilogy (ONE PIECE, NARUTO, and BLEACH). I always knew that ONE PIECE had a strong female following, but I was quite surprised to see they're actually the majority.

There is an interesting fact about these numbers that wasn't covered in Nikkei Shimbun's research that I'd like to show you.

The Oricon Group tracks the sales of all media in Japan. This includes manga volumes, and every November they release a top sales chart. It only includes the sales of all new volumes released that year. It doesn't include any back issue volume sales. This chart I'm going to show you is not exclusive to Shueisha produced series. This includes all manga sold in Japan by all publishers between November 2011-November 2012. Shueisha's are just often the most popular, and I'm highlighting these few for a reason.

2012 RankSeriesVolumes2012 Units Sold2011 RankVolumes2011 Units Sold
#1ONE PIECE65-6823,464,866#161-6437,996,373
#2Kuroko no Basuke15-198,070,446#2410-141,712,983
#3NARUTO59-626,495,240#254-586,874,840
#12BLEACH53-572,974,750#849-524,187,258

I wanted to show you this chart of manga sales to make a point. It's not just that the highest selling series have the smaller gender gaps - - though that is worth mentioning. Which makes sense. The more inclusive you are the larger your sales. You're appealing to more people. There is still something else interesting about these numbers.

As you can see, no series is a serious competitor to ONE PIECE, but look at KUROKO NO BASUKE (aka KUROKO'S BASKETBALL). That's the series in the chart above ONE PIECE with the 56.9% female readership. It also had the largest jump from 24th to 2nd. Basically, the top two selling manga series in Japan for 2012 had a majority female readership. When has any comic book ever done that?

You really have to wonder about what it is that these creators and companies do to bring in the balance of readers that they get. What are your thoughts on these facts?

Source: Nikkei Shimbun HERE

-Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @ FoxxFireArt

27 Comments
27 Comments
Posted by Mr_Ingenuity
Edited by Hacked

Wow. Phenomenal work here and makes you wonder why MarvelNOW has decided to push more of its female characters. As a Marvel fan, I wish I could agree with you that the female readership is equal to DC, but I doubt it which would explain the lack of accessible numbers and the aforementioned push of Marvel's female characters.

Also of note is the online numbers considering comics are going into digital format more and more. So it looks like its becoming a 4:1 ratio. There are some big numbers to be considered, isn't there?

Again, great article and well worth me bookmarking. Thank you for sharing.

Edited by Blood1991

I know many Anime fan girls vs lady comic nerds the statistics proved that american comics don't appeal to a majority of women comic readers like manga does and when you look at the anime genres many of which are geared towards women that isn't very shocking. However, I really didn't except the readership for Bleach and Onepiece to have such a strong female following.

Posted by confirukia

@Blood1991 said:

I know many Anime fan girls vs lady comic nerds the statistics proved that american comics don't appeal to a majority of women comic readers like manga does and when you look at the anime genres many of which are geared towards women that isn't very shocking. However, I really didn't except the readership for Bleach and Onepiece to have such a strong female following.

well said.

i got into comics form manga,because shonen and shojo mangas were just to predictable!(code geass and dead man wonderland are the only exception)

Posted by FoxxFireArt

@Mr_Ingenuity:

I know.

@ScarlettAssassin:

Thank you! Marvel has often seemed tone deaf when it comes trying to appeal to women.

The results of DC's survey does show that women don't feel comfortable or welcome in comic stores. I think pricing is one of the things holding digital back from growing. Digital comics cost way too much.

As a woman reader, you might want to look into some of these manga series. You may find something you like. I've written a few reviews of some of the ONE PIECE volumes. This is my review of ONE PIECE Vol. 61 - HERE. It has picture samples from the pages

@Blood1991:

ONE PIECE having a majority female readership doesn't surprise me as much as BLEACH being almost right down the middle. The series isn't so different than NARUTO. It's about fights and guys with swords. It also doesn't skimp on the exposed breasts. Just look at Rangiku Matsumoto or Tier Halibel.

I had a friend who went to Japan, and he said she was shocked that you'll find ONE PIECE merchandise nearly everywhere. This summer, a mall in Japan opened a ONE PIECE store. One store dedicated to selling ONE PIECE stuff. Word came out today that next summer there will be a Shonen Jump theme park. A bloody theme park with different sections dedicate to separate manga series.

Women just seem to feel so much more welcome in these series than with comics. What's surprising is that WEEKLY JUMP is a shōnen book that is designed to target boys. For whatever reason, women also really like these series. There are josei series made for more adult women, and women are the majority of the creators for these type of series.

Posted by Mr_Ingenuity

@FoxxFireArt: While I have never had an interests in comic and manga gender demographics, your blog increased my knowledge on the subject 100% (based on facts). The thing that stood out was One Piece's female fan base. But that just because I had assumed allot about One Piece fan base in general.

Posted by Lvenger

How is it that manga is capable of selling in the millions of units for issues or volumes whereas comic books struggle to reach the 200,000 mark in the selling of their units? It still bemuses me today.

Posted by Pope of the Church of Gaiman

@Lvenger said:

How is it that manga is capable of selling in the millions of units for issues or volumes whereas comic books struggle to reach the 200,000 mark in the selling of their units? It still bemuses me today.

Because manga are part of Japanese culture whereas comics are just something that exists in American culture but isn't really considered integral. It's not acceptable to read comics but it's normal to read manga.

That said, I've actually never heard of anyone thinking manga were mostly read by males, I've always thought of them as a female thing, given that in high school it was almost only girls that read them. Although to be fair, the only person I've ever seen reading a comic in an actual high school itself was also a girl.

Posted by FoxxFireArt

@Mr_Ingenuity:

When I write about a subject. I prefer to use facts as examples. It's better than taking how you feel and stating it as fact. I find that most people underestimate ONE PIECE, but are often surprised by the content when they're going through it. Tom Pinchuk has been reviewing the anime over on Anime Vice, and he reall seems to be enjoying it.

It's too bad the CV staff doesn't seem to highlight blog posts anymore. It would be nice to see all this work to get more attention. I'm hapy to see people responding well to it.

@Lvenger:

I could probably tell you five to ten reasons for this. Also, don't forget to add in that Japan's population isn't even nearly the size of the US. It's not just selling more but within a drastically smaller population. I covered one issue in a previous blog post called Publishing Tricks: Comics vs. Manga.

If these series sales surprises you that much. I bet you'd be shocked to learn that when ONE PIECE Vol. 61 came out in Japan. It sold over 2 million units in three days of it's release. That's not rare for this series. Every volume sell over 1-2 million with every release. That's why it's units sold in a year is so staggeringly high.

Posted by Lvenger

@Pope of the Church of Gaiman: @FoxxFireArt: Ah they're more closely linked to the culture and have a smaller population size to sell it too? Very interesting. Thank you both for broadening my horizon on manga!

Posted by FoxxFireArt

@Lvenger:

That's actually a misconception, There are plenty of people in Japan who look down on manga as something kids read. The way ONE PIECE sells to so many people is completely new. It's never been done before. That's the reason it breaks so many records and sell so well. It's not the standard for manga sales, as you can see it's closest competition can't even sell over 10 million in a year. It's not the cultural issues as much as content. They market and appeal to more people, as you can see with the gender appeal. The smaller the gender gap often means the better the sales.

The point I raised about the population says more about the U.S. We have a vastly larger population and these products are shipped into areas such as Canada as well. This makes the population sample even larger. There are more people to sell to. Yet, we can only manage a fraction of the of even lower selling manga series. By math, we should be selling more than we do. Remember that many comic series are still seen as cultural icons. Everyone knows the story of Superman or Batman, even if they've never read a comic.

The way manga can outsell comics with such a smaller population is astounding. I could give you a list of reasons for this gap, but I can tell you that culture is not that big a difference.

Posted by Catsnlynne

I remember doing a survey for DC comics and I answered the questions all truthfully ( female, my correct age ect.) and when I got done I was told I was not qualified for the survey. So if that's the kind of surveys they are doing, how are the suppose to get an accurate count of who exactly is reading their comic books. (I don't know if this was the same survey mentioned in the OP.)
Posted by Blood1991

@FoxxFireArt: I have got to get around to visiting Japan a freakin Theme Park! That is something I need to go to.

Posted by sora_thekey

From what I've read in Bakuman it seems like Manga focuses a lot on selling their stories to a certain type of audience (even though the charts you posted show that it doesn't always cater to the audience you would think).

Comics on the other hand (I think) is not as common as manga. What I mean is, you see Anime on primetime, while super hero shows here are on Saturday mornings. It's not an etretainment medium as common in America as anime and manga is in Japan. So there's bound to be tons of closet comic book readers... a lot of which are female.

Moderator
Posted by SiycoBat

All I can say is that I am a proud otaku of 10 years. I've been around manga and anime the majority of my life and didn't start getting into comicbooks until 3 years ago. The reason why manga does better than American comics in general is because manga is more diverse than comics in not just race and gender, it's in everything. You will never find a manga story that has the same concept or plot like you find in top-of-the-line American comics. Reading one manga story, like One Piece, and then start reading another manga, like Gintama, is like switching between worlds and universe with their own heroes and heroines that battle evil or solve problems their own way. The problem is that top American comic companies like Marvel and DC keep wanting to force the Superhero genre on the American public that, half of the time, will be hit or miss. If American comic companies really wanted to attract more readers, they need to lighten up on the Superhero genre, stop the crossovers, bring in new concepts for series that will actually attract a wide range of people, and most importantly, make the stories be stand-alone.

Edited by SiycoBat

Also I would like to make another note as far as getting new readers, is to make serious measures into changing society's attitude when it comes to comics and animated works. This Puritan and condescending attitude that currently has a strangle hold on American animated media is killing any means of society ever seeing animated series anything more than shows for children. Even though there are gems on TV like the Venture Brothers, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic ( I dare you to give me shit about this show), Green Lantern and Young Justice, the majority of animated media is completely dumbed down and treats kids and its watchers like they are completely stupid and can't handle depth.

Posted by FoxxFireArt

@SiycoBat:

That's pretty true. If you read something like NARUTO then go into ONE PIECE. The worlds are completely different. Too many comics and characters have the same feel. Not that the comics don't have unique series, but the publishers don't push them.

When anime are created based on manga, they are more often direct adaptations of what are in the pages. When your cartoons based on comics are dumbed down or childish. It's no wonder people think that's what the comics are like. I mean, CODE GEASS was the anime equivalent of V FOR VENDETTA.

@Blood1991:

The theme park will have sections based on NARUTO, ONE PIECE, and DRAGON BALL. From the chart that's been shown, ONE PIECE area will be twice the size of the others. Disney owns Marvel, but have they put up any themed areas based on it?

@sora_thekey:

Well, also remember that BAKUMAN is still fiction. It will take liberties with reality to tell it's story.

Making the excuse about different cultures doesn't stand up to facts. Between the US, Canada, and everywhere else these comics are sent. Comics have a population to sell to that is three to four times larger than Japan's, but comics can only seem to make a fraction of the sales manga make.

You know one thing that manga publishers do? They market to people outside of the readership constantly. They make movies based on these series where the characters are exactly how they are in the manga, You see a movie based on a comic and it's more often nothing like what you will find in the comic They make anime that show off events right from the pages. I've never seen a comic-based cartoon adapt a story right from the comics.

Posted by Aero_gt

More women are buying One Piece... Well that proves it.... Women have better taste.<-Is what I would say until I saw that they also buy more Bleach. Still, Men are just as bad for buying Naruto.

Posted by sora_thekey

@FoxxFireArt said:

@sora_thekey:

Well, also remember that BAKUMAN is still fiction. It will take liberties with reality to tell it's story.

Making the excuse about different cultures doesn't stand up to facts. Between the US, Canada, and everywhere else these comics are sent. Comics have a population to sell to that is three to four times larger than Japan's, but comics can only seem to make a fraction of the sales manga make.

You know one thing that manga publishers do? They market to people outside of the readership constantly. They make movies based on these series where the characters are exactly how they are in the manga, You see a movie based on a comic and it's more often nothing like what you will find in the comic They make anime that show off events right from the pages. I've never seen a comic-based cartoon adapt a story right from the comics.

Well, I still don't see how culture doesn't have an impact. Culturally speaking, reading comics is often seen as a childish endeavor. I don't think that's the same in Japan with manga and anime. That should have an impact on sales and the demographic the companies are trying to appeal to. Saying that the people who watch anime and read manga in Japan are a different market is not accurate because of what I explained before. Anime a prime time, everyday activities. Super heroes and comics in America are not.

@Blood1991:
The theme park will have sections based on NARUTO, ONE PIECE, and DRAGON BALL. From the chart that's been shown, ONE PIECE area will be twice the size of the others. Disney owns Marvel, but have they put up any themed areas based on it?

Disney is currently expanding its own franchises in their theme parks so I don't think that the incorporation of Marvel will be soon.

Moderator
Posted by FoxxFireArt

@sora_thekey:

When you are using culture as an excuse. All that is saying is that nothing can be done or learned from. The cultures aren't that different. Manga are seen as childish by many in Japan. The way ONE PIECE sells is not the standard. No other series has ever sold like this.

The US also has entire networks dedicated to showing cartoons. It's more the fault of the networks and production companies of not putting them on prime time. Often becasue cartoons based on comics are toned down to the point of being childish. There is the idea that if it's animated it should be for children. That's becasue nothing else has eve really been done.

Posted by sora_thekey

@FoxxFireArt: ...and all that is because of the company's idea of who their audience is. Culturally speaking it would be impossible for American creators to learn from Japan when their mind set is different. You are right, I agree with you but the reasons behind it are because of culture. The reason every school in my country has a mandatory rule for uniforms and your country doesn't is because Mexican culture believes control is better than individuality, while the US teaches that you should always be your own person. It all comes down to culture.

Moderator
Posted by Mr_Ingenuity

Picture = Stolen

Posted by FoxxFireArt

@Mr_Ingenuity:

What do you mean stolen? I threw that together last night. Felt it needed an opening picture.

Posted by Mr_Ingenuity

@FoxxFireArt: No I mean I'm taking it.

Posted by FoxxFireArt

@Mr_Ingenuity:

Oh, You're welcome to it.

@sora_thekey:

The problem with saying it's just about culture is like saying that there is nothing to be done or learned from. It's giving up on ever trying to improve things. There's always something to be learned from and applied. A vast majority of women feel welcome in reading manga. Comic companies claim they want more women, and yet they do the same things over and again.

I often hear the argument about cultural differences from people who don't even understand the culture or speak the language. It's not culture that makes comics and manga so different. It's style.

Actually, my high school tried putting in place a strict school dress code the year after I graduated. More and more schools are trying that. There are also private schools that do have uniforms.

Posted by xybernauts

@FoxxFireArt:

This is a really great article. What you said makes alot of sense. By being more inclusive you attract a larger audience and in turn increase sales.

Personally, I didn't read manga, but I do watch some of the more popular anime out there like Naruto and Bleach. What specifically does american comics have to do to increase their appeal to women? What does Manga (i.e. One Piece Naruto, and Bleach) have that American comics don't? Off the top off my head, do american comics need to weave in more comedic situations with their action, fight oriented stories? This would make comics more like the recent Teen Titan cartoon series.

One could even expand your argument and apply it to minorities as well. Personally I've always wondered why comics didn't make a bigger push to attract minorities like Hispanics, one of the largest growing portions of the US population. Create more Hispanic characters and hispanic oriented stories to attract more hispanic readers. Back in the 70's and 80's US comics made a push to be more inclusive, but since then it feels like american comics make it a point to appeal mostly to white males.

Posted by sora_thekey

@FoxxFireArt: Yet, style is influenced by mind set which is influenced by culture. We could go on and on about this, but I think we are saying the same thing. I agree there is a lot of room for growth in America's comic industry that can be learned from the Japanese comic industry. Still, it will take a long time for that approach to be applied on this side of the Pacific.

As for the uniforms, what about the other 95% of the schools in the US? Sure some people might like the idea of uniforms but it's not a consensus,

Moderator