In October of 2021, Western business people became familiar for the first time with a name that at that point was only known to a very small group of select otaku: piccoma. The application was featured for being one of the few apps that crossed the one billion USD threshold for in-app purchases, despite having only one geographic region it operated in (Japan).
Copyright and Analytics by AppAnnieAt the time, unless you had already been reading the Western equivalents such as WEBTOON or Tapas Media, it was very likely that you were entirely unfamiliar with the idea of Webcomics (known sometimes as SMARTOON on piccoma). Whereas traditional Manga were often released in chapter or volume print format, Webcomics are published in a format more optimized for digital phone reading, and generally associated with Korean or Chinese publishers (though some Japanese works, such as ReLIFE, also exist). Two publishers in particular now dominate the Japanese comic book market which is known as the world’s largest: piccoma, owned by Kakao, and LINE Manga, owned by LINE Corporation.
The general Japanese public’s reaction to these market movements has been extremely positive, to say the least. In both 2021 and 2022 Anime Japan‘s Manga We Want to See Adapted rankings both featured Webcomics in their top 3 picks (Solo Leveling in 2021, and Who Made Me a Princess in 2022). More than 50% of readers say they read comics digitally now for free, with the number shooting up to 65% among readers ages 10 through 39. This number excludes those who buy things digitally, which was another option per LINE Research. Despite the current research suggesting that these two applications hold a 70% share of the Japanese comic market, however, you’d be hard pressed to find any sort of review or guide to Webcomics anywhere in English language coverage.
As such, I’ll be launching a new series now called Otaku Picks You Should Read, aiming to provide the best reads that Japan is currently obsessed with right now – regardless of whether the work is a light novel, web novel, webcomic or manga. This hopefully will cover the huge lack in coverage that currently exists for this specific niche.
Please let me know in the comments or on Discord if there is any work you’d like me to cover!