In Japan, manga is a term that encompasses all graphic storytelling content and has been around for centuries. Manga as we know it, with its style of art and narrative, rose in popularity in the 1950s, with such well-known greats as Osamu Tezuka beginning to publish their work. The international success of manga has been increasing rapidly since the early 2000s, and now, with more avenues to consume content online, the influence and popularity will likely continue to expand from there.
Manga fans, even outside of Japan, are well-versed in the language, genres, and themes popularly used to categorize and search for manga that interests them. Along with the regular proliferation of the genres used to classify titles by age demographic, here are some recent points of interest and trends happening in manga at the moment. These may help you decide on how to develop your manga collections or how to work with readers of this genre.
Shonen manga’s global popularity
Shonen manga is a demographic primarily targeted at young boys aged 12-18 when the manga is classified and published in Japan. However, these titles will often have outlier demographics reaching older audiences of all genders. Captivating illustrations, fast-paced and dramatic action, and likable characters help certain shonen titles become globally, explosively popular. This also includes incredibly popular anime adaptations that can help the titles reach an even wider audience, for people who aren’t as familiar with the manga versions of these titles. Some currently popular shonen series include My Hero Academia, Chainsaw Man, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Demon Slayer.
Increase in romantic and steamy josei manga
Manga publishers have recently been expanding their imprints to bring more formats, genres, and themes to English translations. One publisher, Seven Seas Entertainment, has expanded to many imprints, but one in particular is titled Steamship. Steamship specifically publishes adult manga targeted at women, often referred to demographically as josei. This is part of where manga coverage is expanding beyond action-oriented manga aimed at teens.
The rise of isekai
Isekai is a theme prevalent in manga and light novels that has been around for several decades now. However, there has been a strong boom in the market for isekai titles in the last few years. Isekai, which translates to “another world,” is a type of story where a character is transported to a world beyond their own and either must learn to survive in the new world or find a way back to their own. Oftentimes, these are fantastical stories about breaking out of the mundane world to settle into a new one, or to fulfill a romantic fantasy. Isekai is popular both in manga format and in light novel format, which is a form of Japanese fiction mostly comprised of prose with occasional manga-style illustrations interspersed throughout. In some cases, one single story will have both a light novel and a manga version.
While many of the isekai titles are focused on high fantasy adventure stakes, there are some that are much more focused on mundane slice-of-life activities. Characters will often carry over skills or hobbies from their previous lives and use them to cultivate a more peaceful life than that of an adventurer. These include titles such as Ascendance of a Bookworm, Campfire Cooking in Another World, Drugstore in Another World, and Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu.
Continued popularity of BL and yuri, particularly from webcomics
BL and yuri are types of romance that focus on relationships between people of the same gender (two men and two women, respectively). These romance subgenres have been popular since the original spike of manga in the 2000s and have only been increasing. Now, many publishers are providing access to series originally published online from comic aggregating sites like Webtoon and Lezhin, many of these being BL or yuri stories. This includes titles like Killing Stalking, Amongst Us, and Pulse.
Some popular anime adaptations, both ongoing and upcoming
As mentioned above, the adaptation of popular manga into anime series allows for even more excitement and interest to cultivate. This is particularly true in many cases where the manga is several volumes ahead of where a season of anime ends, allowing fans to continue their interest after the season is over. Here are a few examples of popular anime series that are either currently airing, recently aired, or coming to streaming services soon. You can always check streaming sites like Crunchyroll to see what shows are gaining the most traction.
Tokyo Revengers: After Takemichi Hanagaki finds out that his ex-girlfriend died in a gang dispute, he suddenly finds himself flung twelve years into the past, hoping to prevent her death by any means necessary. The first season aired from April to September 2021, and the manga is currently being published in English.
Skip and Loafer: Mitsumi Iwakura moves from the countryside to a prestigious high school in Tokyo, forming a friendship with fellow student Sousuke Shima, but immediately making a bad first impression on everyone else. As her new life plays out, she hopes to correct this impression as people see her friendship with Sousuke blossom. The first season aired from April to June 2023.
Zom 100: For thankless salaryman Akira Tendou, the zombie apocalypse may be the best thing that ever happened to him as he decides this is the perfect time to work through everything he’s ever wanted to do with his life. The premiere season started airing on July 9th and is currently ongoing.
My Happy Marriage: Miyo Saimori was resigned to being reduced to a mere servant for her father’s lover and her daughter. However, her upcoming arranged marriage to stoic military captain Kiyoka Kudou may turn out to be happily ever after. The premiere season started airing on July 5th and is currently ongoing.
Jujutsu Kaisen: When Yuuji Itadori finds himself accidentally encountering a horrific monster in his high school, he’s suddenly thrown into the middle of a centuries-old conflict between human sorcerers and mystical curses. Season 2 started airing on English streaming services on July 6th and is currently ongoing.
I’m in Love with the Villainess: Office worker Rei Oohashi suddenly awakens in the world of her favorite dating game, in the presence of her favorite character, Claire. However, Claire is not one of the games’ intended romance options, but instead the villain! The series is set to premiere in October 2023.
Delicious in Dungeon: Adventurers from all over come to test their mettle in the Golden Kingdom’s labyrinthine underground dungeon. When Laios’ party find themselves starting back from square one — with one party member missing and lacking all their supplies—he proposes they delve back in with one new idea: eating the monsters they encounter. The manga series has been published in English since 2017, and the anime adaptation was recently announced with a pending release date.
In NoveList, we have updated our genres and themes to reflect popular and well-known terminology for manga readers. This includes shonen manga, shojo manga, josei manga, seinen manga, kodomo manga, boys love manga, and yuri manga; as well as the themes slice of life and Isekai.
Jamie Langer is a Metadata Librarian at NoveList. She is currently reading She Loves to Cook and She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki, Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui, and Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu.