(Contributed by Verity)
Originally, Anime was sold in a small little section of SOME video stores. And Manga was sold at stores that specialized in comic books. That means the people who ordered the merchandise to be sold knew what they were selling and even went out of their way to get it for the customers they knew who wanted it. As the anime and manga market bloomed, mainstream bookstores started to get into the business as well. This had…. some challenges.
Now, keep in mind that in the U.S., “comics” are seen as something for children. This is not true, has not been true for a long time. Some American “comics” like Watchman, Sin City, Maus, they are very serious and very dark and not at all for children. They are “Graphic Novels” and many book stores just have that comics section and let the fans regulate it.
They weren’t sure WHAT to do with Manga in the US.
I remember going to a local book store to try to find what they actually had available. I had to get down on the floor to find that Sailor Moon had been put next to the children’s picture books. They were trying to market the manga to three and four year olds. I found to my surprise that they had put a very adult themed manga in that category as well, because the authors were most known for the more innocent Card Captor Sakura. When I brought this to the attention of the cashier, showing her a particularly racy picture, she blushed, said they didn’t know about that, but it was corporate which chose where to shelf the books. She couldn’t change it.
More curious, I went to another mainstream bookstore. They had the same issue, with some very… graphic… manga mixed in with the other manga. When I asked the cashier at THIS store about it, she just sighed. The cashiers here had the same problem – corporate offices that were not aware of what they were buying told them how they were allowed to shelf it. They had put some effort into informing the cashiers, and had the section in plain view of the registers specifically to watch what kids were exposed to, but that’s all they could do.
Since then, and also the boom of the Marvel franchise, publishers have become much more aware that manga is marketed to a wide range of ages and covers a wide variety of genres. They have added in a rating system for parents who are not so well versed – like “T” for Teen, “M” for Mature. The “boom” seems to be over, and it has settled into a comfortable presence in mainstream book stores and streaming services online. Libraries and schools struggle to keep manga on the shelves.
But that’s another story.