Why Chinese Manhuas are giving tough competition to Japanese Mangas?
As an avid manga reader with over 500 completed titles to my name, I have always prided myself in keeping up with the latest and hottest releases coming out of Japan. But off-late, I found myself spending more and more time reading and watching Manhuas or Donghuas that come from China.
The reason is the increasing number of Chinese content that has recently slipped into my comics reading libraries. Let’s take a look at what makes this new breed of comics so formidable against the all-time reign of Japanese mangas.
Aimed at the Digital Reader
What makes these Chinese manhuas especially appealing is its vertical reading format.
Borrowing from the success of Korean webcomics, most Chinese Manhuas are focusing on digital-first readers, who prefer to consume comics on their smartphones. Therefore having a linear format that allows one to read in one long scroll is the best way.
Compared to that, the Japanese comic industry is heavily print-focused. The artwork is created for paperback first, and later scanned and uploaded for the digital audience, leading to loss of quality sometimes.
Although scanning and licensing groups have reduced this loss by a huge margin, the reading style is still not optimized for the digital audience and involves multiple page-turns.
Having a digital-first approach also allows Chinese manhuas to have fully colored comics instead of black and white, without worrying about massive colored printing cost.
‘Everyone’s an Author’ Format
Kuaikan Manhua and other similar webcomics apps allow readers to publish their own manhuas or light novels on the site, thereby building a community of readers and artists.
Members can also collaborate within the site to produce a comic. And the ranking system keeps readers, as well as artists, motivated as well. This has not only made comics production a more democratized field, but it also keeps a steady supply of original content in the library.
While it hands down wins the number game, it does, however, compromise quality, as several of these manhuas often end up having a drastically similar plot, as artists target popular themes.
Often these manhuas that targeted at young girls end up having a regressive plot, or racy content to get easy clicks, while the so-called ‘shounen’ counter-parts tell the same story of martial arts and winning over stronger opponents, without room for innovation.
What is to be noted is that much of the art-style does tend to replicate mangas, showing that Chinese manhuas are actually feeding off the popularity of Japanese manga in Asia.
Getting Global Audience to ‘Pay For Content’
The biggest achievement for Chinese manhuas has been in convincing it’s readers to pay for them. Unlike Japanese manga, which is expensive by virtue of its print nature, webcomics often come cheap.
To top it off, manhua reading apps often dump a good chunk of the comics for free reading and only lock the latest or the last few chapters behind a pay-wall. That would mean that unpopular manhuas would remain free, as readers would wait to read them or abandon them, but many would pay for the popular ones.
Digital distribution to foreign readers is also another very important factor in popularising Chinese manhuas. Apps like Manga Toon, Web Comics, etc have a license to translate and distribute Chinese manhuas to the western audiences, often making money in the process.
Huge investment from Chinese Content Giants
As stated above, Chinese manhua saw a burst in production after comics became more and more democratized. A good part of it is thanks to Beijing based Kuaikan Manhua, the popular digital comics platform that not only lets you read but also create and submit your own webtoons.
A similar thing happened when Korean webcomics started to enter the comic market with LINE Webtoons. Webtoons like Noblesse(2007) and Tower of God(2010) became super popular giving readers an alternative to purely Japanese comics.
While Korean comics remain popular, the new wave of Chinese manhuas is making larger ripples.
And it’s all thanks to Kuaikan Manhua’s ambition to emerge as Marvel of the comic world, giving birth to multiple money-making franchises. An ambition that Chinese content giant Tencent wants to help it achieve.
It has recently invested USD 125 million in the app. Tencent has its own comic platform called Tencent animation that churns out dongas and manhuas simultaneously.
Tencent is not the only backing Kuaikan Manhua has. According to CrunchBase.com so far Kuaikan has raised over USD 354 Million from investors like Sequoia China Capital, TikTok’s owner Bytedance, and even Coatue Management.
Can Chinese manhuas beat Japanese manga in global appeal? Tell us in the comment box below.
Photo sources: Screenshots of promotion material taken from the Kuaikan Manhua app.
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