Is Viz sexist?

As I was looking over the July books (see post below), I noticed something that I guess I knew but never really registered before.

Viz charges girls a dollar more.

No kidding. All their Shonen Jump books are priced at $7.95 or $7.99. The Shoujo Beat books are $8.99.

Why? Is it more expensive to translate Hikaru No Go than Crimson Hero? I seriously doubt it. And it’s not like there is a big difference in print or paper quality, at least not that I can see. As for demand, Naruto just cracked the USA Today top 30, yet it’s one of their cheapest manga. It seems like a shrewd business model would be to charge top dollar for the hottest properties.

I realize that this isn’t a deeply significant issue, and also that some girls read shonen and some boys read shoujo. But I’m really, really tired of getting charged more for girl stuff. My husband and I go to the same hairdresser and get essentially the same haircut, yet I pay $10 more. Men’s clothes are consistently cheaper than women’s for the same level of quality. And we have to pay more for our manga as well? Boooooo!!!

I’d like to say we’re going to boycott Viz, but they’re too addictive. And the books are still cheaper than Tokyopop, which are $9.99 all across the line. But I’ll be checking a little harder with inter-library loan before I shell out that extra dollar for a Viz book, because with the quantity we buy, the price of sexism gets high in a hurry.

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Comments

  1. The problem with the theory is that it only takes into account Shonen Jump vs. Shojo Beat. Not all of Viz’s male-oriented manga are $7.99 — most of their Action line (anything that wasn’t published by Japanese Shonen Jump imprint) is still $9.99. But all of the recent shojo releases have gone from the Shojo imprint to the Shojo Beat imprint at the $8.99 price point. So the girls are getting a wider variety of stories at a discounted price (over the industry norm) than the guys are.

    Also, have you seen the top-ten lists from Bookscan? It’s all Shonen Jump. Nearly all of those titles are kicking butt in the marketplace whereas there are only three or four shojo titles place in the top ten. (So the $7.99 price is a discount for volume, Maybe?)

    I’m no huge Viz fan, but I don’t think you can or should read sexism into a company before you have exhasuted alternative theories. My bet is that Shueisha is giving Viz a discount on royalties betting that the lower price will draw in more readers (the royalty version of a volume discount).

    Viz was the first company to do shojo comics as any knid of going concern. So given their track record, I would blame their pricing strategy on good, old-fashioned corporate greed over sexism any day.

  2. IIRC, Viz gave an official explanation for this when Shojo Beat was announced. The market for shoujo is smaller at the moment and they didn’t expect they could move the amount of Baby and Me volumes to make the $7.99 price point profitable. They, of course, made noises about having a genuine interest in growing the shoujo market to the point that they could price SB and SJ volumes the same. I guess we’ll see what happens if SB ever has titles that do as well as some SJ titles do.

  3. I realize that it’s only the Shonen Jump titles that are priced so low, but that’s a big list—much bigger (because it’s older) than the Shoujo Beat list. I also agree there could be some discount on the supply end that is keeping the prices down.

    With regard to Naruto and friends burning up the top ten lists, it could be the causality goes the other way—the books are selling so well because they are so cheap. After all, the prices are set before the books are shipped, so there is no way for Viz to know they would have done so well.

    I don’t think Viz management are raging sexist pigs, and I really appreciate that they have helped open up a whole new genre for girls and women. In the end, you’re right, the price difference is due to corporate greed. But I do think there is a hidden, perhaps unconscious, sexism in that. If your job is to make as much money as you can, and you can charge women more than men for a comparable product, then of course you’ll do it. Just like my hairdresser.

    Brigid

  4. See, I’ve always thought Viz’s price structure was more guilty of ageism than sexism. We have Shonen Jump at $7.95 (presumably aimed at the youngest readers), Shonen Jump advanced skewing slightly older and coming in at $7.99, Shojo Beat older still and $8.99, and then the main line and Signature at $9.99. Then there’s Del Rey upping the price on their mature line, too.

    I’m pretty much a manga omnivore, so I laughably tell myself it all balances out in the end, but it is kind of weird.

    Oh, and thanks for mentioning the Borders program to me! I didn’t realize it applied at Waldenbooks until I was up at Borders over the weekend and signed up, and I’ve already used my first coupon! Yay! 25% off the new Joe Keenan novel!

  5. David: Always happy to help a fellow addict!

    I see your point about ageism, but how come the boys only have to pay 4 cents when they get older, and it’s a buck for the girls??? Still, I think you’re onto something there.

    Lyle: I’d love to see them price SB and SJ the same. Unfortunately, that will probably happen when they raise the SJ prices, not when they drop the SB price.

    Brigid

  6. My guess is that it also probably costs more to license Shonen Jump titles since they are more popular.

    On another note, I don’t really think it has quite as much to do with corporate greed as it has to do with the desire to stay in business. If they don’t recoup their costs by charging more for titles that sell less, they’d pull the title altogether. And if they don’t make a profit, they loose the ability to license new titles (not to mention the motivation to stay in business). Too bad Ayn Rand never got a chance to do manga (or not). ^_^’

  7. danielle leigh says:

    the price issue with Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat is not sexism IMO but issue of quantity of material. Most Shonen series (like Naruto and Prince of Tennis) have weekly chapters, while most Shojo series are published monthly in Japan. That means something like 7-8 volumes might be published for one year of Naruto chapters, but, at most, 3 or 4 volumes could be published out of chapters of a series like Hot Gimmick.

    Naruto has something like 28 volumes published in Japan already and is still being published weekly. Hot Gimmick, which ended last year, ends at 12 volumes. There is also a significant difference in the actual story or information related in a volume of Naruto and a volume of Hot Gimmick. I think in the end Shojo is a better deal for girls — most series are between 5 and 12 volumes (with exceptions like Hana Kimi and Boys Over Flowers, which go past 20) and these series END (which I like because I don’t want to keep on buying a series like Bleach which shows no signs of slowing down at 20 volumes in Japan).

    I’ll end up spending $120 or so on all of Hot Gimmick but if I kept on buying Naruto it is unlikely I’d ever know for sure how much I would end up spending if I wanted to complete that collection. (Which is one reason I’ve given up entirely on buying Shonen Jump series, even if I do enjoy them. I’m a collector-type and don’t like the uncertainty of never knowing when a series may end…especially since it may end up being something like 40 volumes!)

  8. That’s an interesting point, Danielle. I remember being really horrified when I found out that Case Closed (or Detective Conan) stretches on for 50+ volumes. I can’t even imagine sticking with it that long, even though it’s a title I enjoy. So while I might wish that, say, Paradise Kiss, Alice 19th, or Ultra Maniac might have gone on a bit longer, the sense of closure and containment is a definite part of the appeal.

  9. Hi Brigid,

    I should point out that the prices on the JUMP line go up from $7.95 to $7.99 not based on the target age, but based on when the first volume came out. Viz increased all of their prices line-wide to end in .99 (instead of .95), but to keep things consistent (and easy for us poor retailers), all of the series that started at .95 are continuing at .95. Which is why Prince of Tennis is $7.95, but WHISTLE, which started a month or two later, is $7.99, even though they’re ostensibly the same book. ;)

  10. Simon Jones says:

    Viz’s pricing reflects market conditions, not overt sexism in their ranks. More so than most other media, the economy of scale plays a huge part in production costs. The higher the print run, the lower the cost per book. If a title can move 50000 copies, as Naruto does, they can price it below 7.99 and still make a big profit.

    Pricing is not about reaching the most audience, but about maximizing profit…these two things are not the same, so a lower price isn’t always justified. If they estimate they can sell 22,500 copies of a title at $7.99 but only 20,000 copies at $9.99, they’re going to go with $9.99.

  11. what do u mean when hot gimmick ended last year? vol. 12 hasn’t been released yet

  12. Manga Chick says:

    well duh! hot gimmick ended last year IN JAPAN! (that IS where it came from) Which reminds me, i haven’t read hot gimmick yet, but it’s on my ‘Manga I want to own’ list! hehe


Trackbacks

  1. […] I’ve had a flurry of paying work, so posting will be light this week, but Christopher Butcher has posted a nice response to my Is Viz sexist? post that includes an interesting discussion of manga pricing. […]

  2. […] I have to say I really like Brigid and her Mangablog because it elicits such great topics of conversation. The recent example being the “Is Viz Sexist?” debate which brought out some intuitive comments from Chris over at Comics212. The whole shebang as I’m sure most of you already know was about the fact that Shonen Jump titles from Viz Media are placed at $7.95/$7.99 whilst the Shojo Beat titles are at the more expensive $8.99, my own opinion is more fool Viz. If you can sell some titles at a higher price, sell all of them at a high price; Chris talks about this very point. Commerce is also the great equalizer though. While Kenshin and Inu Yasha and NARUTO all do very well on the charts, I heard more than once in New York that publishers and book-buyers are starting to wonder whether Naruto would have sold just as much at $9.99 as it did at $7.95. Because if it would…? That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars that went ‘missing’. And the average Shonen Jump manga takes up just as much space on the rack as the average Tokyopop manga, or Del Rey manga. […]