I can barely stand to read a comic on a computer screen, so the idea of squinting at a cell phone for that purpose is completely beyond my comprehension. But this piece at BusinessWeek.com is a fascinating look at the phenomenon’s early growth in Japan, mostly for what it suggests about the potential to reach what might be called casual readers. Reporter Kenji Hall initially looks at this from the angle of boys’-love fans:
“‘Women and girls in their teens, 20s, and 30s like BL for their portrayals of innocent love,’ says Toshiki Fujii, a manager in the cell-phone content division at Nagoya-based Media Do. ‘But now those who might have been coy about walking into a shop can find what they’re looking for online.’”
Hall goes on to explore the phenomenon more broadly:
“The good news for publishers is that those Net-savvy readers aren’t yet curtailing their spending on real-world goods. ‘Many are still loyal comic book readers who use downloads as a way to try something they might not normally buy,’ says Shuta Suzuki at publisher Shueisha.”
In other words, it’s a variation on the loss-leader concept, but instead of leaving a reader with a thick magazine to dispose of, there’s just a file on their cell phone to be deleted. So there’s convenience added to the privacy of nobody being able to tell what you’re reading. That strikes me as a fairly compelling combination of benefits for people who, unlike me, view the cell phone as something more than an irritating necessity, best used for calls to AAA or the ordering of carry-out.
Though relatively young, the cell-phone manga industry seems to be moving in a very specific direction: towards women.
“When Toppan Printing launched the country’s first Web site for mobile manga downloads in late 2003, it focused on big-name titles favoring male readers. As other publishers and distributors entered the fray, it was the comics for girls and women—boys love and another category called teen love—that lit up the charts.”
Or, like those crafty, low-key BL fans, are those shôjo and josei titles being read by men and boys who don’t want to be seen with the latest copy of Margaret tucked under their arms?