If you’ve been manga shopping recently or following industry news, you probably know all about the printing crisis. It’s a problem for all publishers, but the manga genre has been one of the hardest hit. Basically, if there’s a volume you’ve been meaning to pick up, there’s a strong chance it’s in not stock and ready to ship at your favorite retailer — or at any other store.
The reasons have been explained before, but they all trace back to the pandemic. A lack of workers in general, books and streaming rising and/or reaching record heights during the pandemic, manga and anime gaining general acceptance, and books being pushed back causing books previously scheduled at the time to be pushed back in a chain reaction.
Denpa posted a series of Tweets talking about their upcoming schedule. The whole thread is rather fascinating, but here are some of the key points. First, print turnaround used to be about 2 to 4 weeks…now it’s 20 to 24 weeks. And while Denpa has books and reprints scheduled, for titles they didn’t list, it will be Q3 of 2022…at the earliest. Q3, of course, being July to September.
That’s a long time to wait for fans who want to start a new series they’ve been hearing good things about or fill in a hole in their bookshelves.
I’ve previously used Spy x Family as an example to show the stocking difficulties. Well, to continue with that example, I placed an order for volume 4 in May from Right Stuf. The book had been released in March. I got my preorders of volumes 5 and 6 no problem, but it was only late October that I got volume 4 in. Yes, I know I didn’t preorder it, but it had only been out for two months, and it took over five months for me to get a copy. So again, that ties into Denpa’s 20-24 week reported turnaround for books.
In order to avoid these issues, preordering seems like a good option. That way, publishers know how many they need to print to fulfill the initial demand and better estimate how many copies they should make for post-release sales, including copies to put on bookstore shelves.
Unfortunately, even that is imperfect. Take the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba boxset, which is due for release on November 9th. In an email, here’s what Robert’s Anime Corner Store had to say about it in a recent newsletter:
“This set was allocated for the holiday season due to overwhelming demand, with Viz informing all retailers back in Sept that they would not be able to deliver enough to meet pre-order demand, and that some orders would have to be filled out of subsequent pressings after Christmas.”
Places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble aren’t accepting any more orders for it. Right Stuf Anime still has it available for preorder while Books-a-Million lists it as in stock as of the end of October.
On Right Stuf’s page, they added a warning to the item description to expect a delay on Demon Slayer.
I am curious as to whether places like Books-a-Million did plan ahead well in locking in orders in advance or if customers would get a rude surprise after they ordered with a delay notice. I’ve had that happen before, although I’m not saying that this is the case here. Walmart also had it in stock when I was writing this, but by the next day, it was sold out. They were selling it for about $160, so maybe in Books-a-Million’s case it’s because they’re selling it at MSRP?
Hopefully though for orders that have been placed and will be shipped out there will be nothing wrong with them. Because it could be very difficult to get a replacement, especially if you had locked in a lower price. Those who hoped to give this collection as a Christmas present may be out of luck.
Still, the Demon Slayer manga box is probably an exception and not the rule for preorders. It has risen to become one of the best selling manga ever (despite its relative shortness compared to most bestselling shounen and/or Jump titles), the anime is still ongoing, and box sets in general have been selling well. So this is a case of a perfect storm for not having enough copies to match initial demand. Seven Seas likes to add in their emails, “Remember, pre-ordering is one of the best ways to help your favorite series succeed!“, but right now, it’s one of the best ways to avoid waiting months for your manga fix.
It’s still a crazy situation though, and preordering doesn’t help for older titles. You never know what volume has a slightly lower print count or which series ends up bombing and is put on the backburner by publishers, but even older titles like Naruto which you’d expect to still be in circulation or have a healthy secondary market supply has volumes which are backordered. I mean, volume 1s are typically the cheapest to buy since some readers decide not to continue with the series, but the original volume 1 is currently more than cover price even for heavily used copies!
So if there is something you’ve been wanting to pick up, be sure to occasionally check on stores’ stock and know their order practices. Amazon, for instance, usually puts items on limited backorder when they go out of stock before removing the option completely. Right Stuf usually only stops accepting orders of limited edition items, so very few manga or light novels are unable to be purchased unless they’re very old titles. Places like Walmart or Target usually completely halt orders once their stock is exhausted.
So ordering from some places require a lot of luck while others don’t. Otherwise, fans will just have to remain patient and hope the printing backlog clears up faster than the California ports.