Skip to content
relates to The Hunt for the Next Blockbuster Manga
Illustration: Mojo Wang for Bloomberg Businessweek

The Hunt for the Next Blockbuster Manga

As Japan’s biggest comic in a decade nears its end, publishers and streaming giants are hungry for a new monster hit.

One day last July, Hajime Isayama spent a morning strolling through a chic modern art gallery on the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower, which looms over Tokyo’s upscale Roppongi neighborhood. The gallery walls, which have since been adorned with paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, were lined with original artwork from the manuscript pages for a bestselling manga, or comic book, Isayama’s Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan).

The exhibition commemorated the 10th anniversary of this gory epic, which is set in a world dominated by flayed, vascular, man-eating behemoths, tall as the Mori Tower itself, who terrorize walled-off cities where humanity has taken refuge. In the decade since Titan was first printed in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, its antagonists have left their gigantic footprints all over Japan’s popular culture. The country’s largest publisher, Kodansha Ltd., has issued about 100 million copies of its 31 serialized volumes. The animated television adaptation is an international hit that has in turn generated a live-action film franchise, several video games, and merchandise including toys, tote bags, and limited-edition packaging for a popular Japanese laundry detergent.