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At The Comics Journal, Ryan Holmberg has a lengthy and intricate piece on the Japanese creator Suzuki Miso and his coverage, in manga form, of the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami on the manga industry. There’s a lot to chew on here, and Holmberg casts a skeptical eye on some of Suzuki’s reporting, but there is also a fascinating description of how the Japanese comics market works and why the earthquake hit it so hard. One striking similarity between Japan and the United States is that while comics themselves are only a tiny part of the nation’s economy, they are fertile ground for properties that are developed in other media with much greater impact.
Of course, being part of a comic itself, Suzuki’s journalism was directly affected by the very factors he was writing about: The first chapter of his manga, “The Day Japan and I Shook,” appeared in Comic Ryū, but that magazine was forced to suspend publication shortly afterward. Since then Suzuki has been publishing it online, and it will pick up again in print in December, when Comic Ryū resumes print publication.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, many publishers put their manga magazines online for free. This was due to disruptions in the distribution chain as well as shortages of ink, paper, fuel and other supplies. While it was presented as a selfless gesture of help to those stricken by the earthquake, Holmberg points out that the earthquake victims were less likely to have internet than residents of Tokyo and other less affected areas. Furthermore, the big publishers resumed print publication and distribution as quickly as possible, suggesting that their benevolence was also good business sense: Posting the manga online kept readers in the loop while the physical comics were unavailable to them. This is, of course, exactly what Suzuki is doing.
At any rate, this is one comic I’d love to see translated. JManga, call your office!