Manga became an even hotter commodity during the quarantine, and both retailers and publishers say that it may still be awhile before fans can easily find copies of Attack on Titan or Chainsaw Man on store shelves.
Many products experienced shortages during the quarantine, ranging from toilet paper to video game consoles, but manga shortages may continue in North America even after the quarantine lifts, as the industry may take longer to adapt to the post-lockdown surge in demand, according to a report published by geek culture website ICv2. The site spoke to multiple retailers and manga publishers to see why certain titles have been so hard to track down in recent months, and why restocks on popular series seem to be taking so long. "Manga sales just spiked during the pandemic, and it's almost impossible to get replacements right now," said Bob Schaffer of Dragon’s Lair Comics and Fantasy in San Antonio, Texas. "We're still selling manga faster than we can restock it," added Matt Lehman, owner of the Comicopia shop in Boston. According to ICv2, issues with printing and shipping may constrain the ability of publishers to keep up with demand until at least the end of 2021.
"Consolidation over the past few years in the U.S. printing industry has led to fewer plants and even fewer that can print manga," said VIZ Media's Kevin Hamric. VIZ is one of the largest publishers of English manga. "Combine this with the fact that printers had to operate under COVID restrictions, as did book distribution warehouses, and the supply chain starts to slow down. There have been other issues during this time as well, such as a paper shortage, pallet shortage, carton shortage, employee shortage, truck driver shortage, and container, shipping, and port issues for those books that are printed overseas."
Physical copies of popular and currently in-print manga, such as the first volumes of Chainsaw Man or Jujutsu Kaisen, are currently sold out on Amazon and used copies are being sold on eBay for double and even triple their suggested retail price. Hamric warned that the situation won't improve for sometime, saying, "VIZ Media is working with all of our supply chain partners to get out from under this as quickly as possible... but it is going to take some time - probably into early next year."
The full report from ICv2, which also includes additional statements from Yen Press, Random House, and more specialty retailers, can be read here.