1) Foreign comic book publishing domination

In 2019, according to the Department of Publishing, Printing, and Issuing, Vietnam has over 60 publishers with a specific number of comic book publications reaching nearly 30 million copies, but most of them are comic books translated from abroad. Foreign comics account for more than 90% of the market share of Vietnamese comic books. In that, Japanese manga (manga) dominates, followed by comics from Korea (Manhwa), Chinese comics (Manhua), and comics from the West …

Japanese comics

Manga – Japanese comics genre, which was introduced to Vietnam in the late twentieth century has quickly shown its strength with 4x% of total sales accounted for comics in Vietnam. Since then, manga has maintained its top position for the most popular manga genre in Vietnam.

Source: VIRAC

According to the survey on the level of interest in manga stories, the target group that accounts for the majority of manga readers is from kindergarten to secondary school; of which more than 90% have bought manga. With 4x% reading stories through online channels,  the fact that 7x% of readers spend from 30 minutes to more than 1 hour reading manga every day shows the attraction of manga to Vietnamese readers.

It is not by accident that manga is the most popular genre in comic lines in Vietnam. Besides the advantage of being introduced to Vietnam earlier than comics from other countries, manga is also pleased readers with eye-catching pictures, bold style of each author, and creative content, integrating many messages and lessons as well as Japanese cultural elements.

Some manga series made a big splash: One piece, Doraemon, Detective Conan, …

Korean comics

Manhwa appeared in Vietnam in the late 1990s, a decade after the manga, but still made a great contribution to popularizing Korean culture to Vietnamese readers. Manhwa is influenced by the Japanese manga style and absorbs many Western and Chinese cultural elements, so it is easily accepted widely by its diverse content.

However, readers are more and more difficult in terms of both content and form of each comic book. According to the survey, the simplicity and lack of clarity in the way of drawing as well as the duplication in the content are the reasons why manhwa is less popular than manga. The period 2000-2010 was the golden age of Korean comics in Vietnam, but since 2010, there has been no remarkable manhwa.

Some popular manhwa series: Full House, The Kid Army, Goong (Palace), …

2) Barriers to the development of the comic industry in Vietnam

Counterfeit and copyright-free printing: Pirated stories that are scanned of original books or printed on poor quality paper, are suffusing on the market with low prices and without author name or publisher information. Even some bookstores are linked with pirated stories sources to gain higher profits than the original comics.

Smuggled distribution on the website: Comics that were scanned, photographed, and posted on the website spread very quickly due to the readers’ preference for free reading, almost no cost compared to buying copyright stories. The distribution of pirated stories has a great influence on the revenue of mainstream publishers.

Intellectual property, copyright: Many companies take advantage of the artists’ ignorance of the law to circumvent the law, deliberately steal “gray matter” and then trade the works without consent from the author.

Unscrupulous translation, truncated version, a set of multiple versions: Character names are not consistent, text in the story is not seamless, sloppy translation, unintentional translation, … are some of the many problems in the many comic translations.

Cultural conflict: Not every comic from abroad is always published. Publishers need to pay attention to differences in customs, conception, image reception, … For example, the order in which Japanese manga is read is from right to left, or the series Shin – The Boy of Pencil used to be stopped publishing for a while because there were some actions in the story that were considered to be a lack of education in Vietnam (but normal in Japan). Fortunately, the publisher Kim Dong (the publisher of the series in Vietnam) has negotiated with the Japanese publisher Futabasha (the copyright holder of the work) to edit it for readers.

3) Opportunities for the Vietnamese comic industry

Develop the online comic market segment

The trend of moving from comic book publishing to webtoon has been more evident in some regional countries such as Thailand. Before 2014, webtoon had accounted for only 5%, but by 2019, this category has accounted for 60% of the market share.

According to a report by Waka – an online reading platform, every month in Vietnam, there are about 2.5 million people who regularly read manga online. This figure corresponds to a scale of about 4,000,000 USD / year.

Vietnamese readers mainly use mobile phones to read manga online because of its compact size, handy, suitable for reading stories at any time they have free time. In which, after 8:00 pm is the time when readers usually read comics online the most.

Source: VIRAC, Waka

Potential audience

In 2019-2020, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education and Training, Vietnam has more than 5 million preschoolers, 8 million primary school students, 5 million secondary school students, nearly 3 million students in high school, and more than 1 million university students. This shows the potential readership of the Vietnamese comic market.

According to Waka’s survey, the average age of people reading manga online is under 24 years old, accounting for 4x.8%, followed by readers aged 24-25 account for the second-largest proportion (3x.4%).

Source: VIRAC, Waka

Besides, Vietnam is also a country with the highest literacy rate in the world with 95%. Along with that, the proportion of the population using the internet as well as electronic devices is very high. The average Vietnamese spends more than 200 minutes per day online. This is the growth potential of online comics that cannot be missed.

Source: VIRAC, Datareportal

Promote the strength of self-composed Vietnamese comics

After a series of successful Vietnamese comics such as “Long thần tướng”, “Địa ngục môn”, … self-composed comics by Vietnamese authors bloom. It is not difficult to see posts of self-composed works in online comic-loving communities or short comic posted on social media such as “Thỏ bảy màu”, “Vàng xám comic”, “Thăng Fly Comic”, … Currently, there are several online comic books printed on paper books such as the series “Xấu hổ hay dễ thương”, “Chuyện vặt của Múc”, “Mèo mốc”…

According to Waka’s survey on online comic reading, more than 90% of respondents said that interesting content was the most important reason for readers to continue watching series or not. The reasonable drawing is the factor that makes more than 80% of readers want to continue to follow the series. Meanwhile, only a few are interested in the author’s popularity and advertising factors.

Source: VIRAC, Waka

Currently, young Vietnamese authors not only invest in forms and drawings but also pay attention to incorporating the beauty of traditional culture, historical and social events into composing materials and content for comics. This shows the awareness of young people in preserving cultural traditions and the country’s history as well as providing useful information for domestic readers and promoting culture to global friends. Young Vietnamese authors have taken advantage of comics as a natural educational channel about Vietnamese history and culture, using close and authentic content towards the national pride of domestic readers.

Promoting those factors, the Vietnamese comic industry is expected to have impressive works with many Vietnamese features that are more popular to readers.

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