Friday, June 7, 2013

Western Comic Books in Japan

In this world of a billion comic book blogs, I usually can't offer anything new to the table.  I can, however, offer a rare peek into Japan's perspective on Western comic books which - up until recently - were barely acknowledged.  Thanks to the comic book movie boom, Japan has started to take a slight interest in Western comic books, so I decided to go to a Kinokuniya book store in Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture (basically: Who-the-fuck-cares-ville, a couple hours outside Tokyo), to see what kinds of comic books normal, non-Tokyo people in Japan are interested in reading.  Here's what I found:

As expected, The Avengers is extremely popular:

It says something about including a "Marvel Avengers" song.  What.

To my surprise, the book store was even selling the Marvel Zombies series in Japanese.  I guess they figured it might appeal to the horror interest in Japan.

Lately, DC has also been really popular in Japan thanks to Nolan's "Batman" movies.  DC heavily advertises in Japan, so I think they might be pushing the upcoming "Justice League" movie early:

I'm guessing this means Japan didn't see that Green Lantern movie.  Oooooooooh.

Similar to the United States, Japan separates their DC and Marvel sections.  As you can see, Japan's idea of DC basically just means "anything and everything Batman":

I can attest to the fact that my 12-15 year old students are obsessed with Batman.  It's hard to tell if they're into the character or just the damn symbol, but I think it's a little bit of both.  A lot of my students - in equal parts male and female - have Batman pen cases, Batman pens and Batman keychains.  However, when it comes to folders, Iron Man reigns supreme.  Superman and Spiderman pen cases are also popular, but Spiderman's actually been really popular in Japan for awhile - especially among young boys.

What I wasn't expecting to find in the Western comic book section of Kinokuniya was this: the Walking Dead graphic novel series:

As far as I know, the show's not even airing on Japanese TV yet.
Other things of interest included the Kick-Ass series in Japanese, and some French graphic novels I didn't recognize.  I'm actually really glad to see Japan opening up and trying new things when it comes to comics.  Despite the country's reputation for being obsessed with Western popular culture, Japan has a tendency to be very stubborn when it comes to reading materials - especially comic books.  This influx of superhero comics and movies could be an interesting new perspective for them.  Nonetheless, the Western comic books section of Kinokuniya was tiny compared to the massive manga section taking up a fifth of the store.  All the "Batman" movies in the world couldn't tear Japan's interest away from One-Piece.

I hope I was able to provide a unique look into Western comic books abroad!

See y'all next time!


  1. I'm actually surprised about the Walking Dead bit. I'm curious to see how it is received in Japan

    1. I was really surprised too. To be honest, I'm not sure how popular zombies are in Japan. I know Japanese people like horror and video games with zombie-like monsters are popular, but I'm not sure if "Zombie Apocalypse" stories are really "in." The Shinjuku Kinokuniya also sells the "Walking Dead" series, so it must be popular. I'm wondering if the show airs on Japanese TV, or if it will be soon.