Webtoons Are Cool, But They’re NOT The Future Of Anime (Here’s Why)

webtoons are not the future of japanese anime

I have to laugh when I see sites like CBR talking about Webtoons being “the future of anime”.

People will say anything when hype starts to settle in because they get over excited.

Take a look for yourself.

cbr webtoons

What’s even funnier is how a tiny tiny portion of the anime community takes it seriously, especially when It’s coming from “non” anime sites who make all kinds of wild statements.

And to my surprise – even Fornever World (an anime YouTuber) did a video on it.

fornever world webtoons video

I respect the opinion, but this is absolute nonsense.

Webtoons are NOT the future of anime, that’s #1. I’ll argue that point to the grave.

And Fornever World saying “MAJOR problems for the manga industry with webtoons takeover” is nothing but hype.

The manga industry will still be sitting in its throne 10 years from now regardless of the “webtoons” hype train.

You can hold me to that (let’s bet on it).

 

Webtoons will never be the future of anime or manga

The anime shows that sparked this exaggeration are:

  • Tower Of God
  • God Of High School

And other webtoons being adapted by Crunchyroll (an Anime Motivation partner).

The hype behind these shows and the current success of Tower Of God has people overly excited. And convinced Webtoons will “do some damage” to the manga industry.

Or even threaten it. But that optimism and energy is misplaced.

Why?

Well, let’s talk about it.

 

Webtoons Aren’t The Future of Anime, Here’s Why:

 

1. It’s a fad that’ll dominate in South Korea

webtoons google trends

I like statistics because it represents facts, so let’s look at Google Trends.

Since 2015 Webtoons have been gaining some traction online. And as you can see on the chart – it’s been steadily growing over the last 5 years.

Since the coronavirus pandemic it’s JUMPED more than ever (not surprising), and some of this comes down to Crunchyroll’s involvement as well.

So why is this a fad?

Well lets look at the data.

 

webtoons vs manga

As of right now – comparing Manga to Webtoons is almost too dumb to be a joke.

The blue line is Webtoons, and the red line is Manga.

It’s so small it doesn’t even represent 10% of Manga’s growth or popularity as it stands.

This is from a worldwide perspective.

manga vs webtoons japan audience

And when you break down the data and focus on Japan exclusively (instead of globally) webtoons is barely visible.

In fact the blue line in Japan is so dead compared to Manga it may as well be a flat-line.

Japanese fans don’t care.

Even on Instagram – webtoons has 1.3 million hashtag searches vs Manga’s 43.9 million.

Webtoons has had over 5 years at this point. If it was really gonna be the future of anime I’d expect more from it.

Or at least more relevant signs that point to it being so apparently big in the future.

Crunchyroll (or any anime company) adapting webtoons into anime doesn’t mean webtoons is “the thing” all of a sudden. Especially when Crunchyroll is a western anime company.

Nobody cares about webtoons right now (compared to Manga) and the stats don’t lie.

Related: Top 30 Countries Where Manga Is Popular In 2020

 

2. Webtoons is to anime what UK Hip Hop is to the USA

uk hip hop vs usa

A video was done on UK hip hop and why UK rappers fail in the USA.

We all know Hip Hop started in the US and no other form of Hip Hop to this day has ever, and will ever replace the original Hip Hop sound.

UK Hip Hop, no different to J-Pop is just an “addition” to the industry and nothing more.

Not to discredit it, but that’s just facts.

 

Webtoons work the same way

webtoon and manga

Webtoon’s biggest selling point is the fact it’s FREE.

You can download the app and start reading manhwa for free. And you can pay for “faster” access and things like that.

Manga on the other hand is paid for. If it’s free you can guarantee it’s pirated.

FREE is one of the reasons people think Webtoons will be the future of anime, or why they think Webtoons will become a major part of the industry.

Another reason is the fact Webtoons are full color just like anime. But are these things really enough to make manwha the future of anime?

Not at all. It’s an overstatement.

 

3. The Japanese are still reluctant as always

The Japanese ride or die for their culture. And hardly ever allow outside cultures to “overtake” their own.

From a perspective of preserving your own culture, it makes sense to do that. But in the case of Webtoons, this is the reason why it won’t ever take off to the point of surpassing Manga, or “threatening” the industry.

The Japanese are hardly enthusiastic about streaming online, anime outside of Japan, innovating with licensing, or innovating in the anime industry full stop.

I’ve talked about it time and time again.

So it’s ridiculous to think Webtoons will be given the chance to get in the way of Manga.

That’s not to say Webtoons are no good, but to say before it can even reach that level, Japan has to let it through its locked doors.

I don’t see Webtoons reaching that level of quality anytime soon.

Relevant: Why The Oscars Has No Interest In Anime (Or Japanese Films)

 

4. Webtoons is based on a “free” model

webtoons

Unlike with Manga, there is no offline industry for Webtoons.

Artists don’t make money offline, there’s no “industry” to speak of offline either.

There’s no businesses dedicated to printing it because everything is based on Webtoons (the website).

Artists make money ONLY if they’re featured on the site, and reach over 40,000 pageviews.

That’s where the money’s at.

This is great for people who wanna read webtoons because it’s digital. And digital is the future and always has been.

But from the creators point of view, it means their webtoon career is dependant on one source. A source that from the outside looking in, seems unprofitable and is only standing because it’s owned by a big Asian company.

naver company owner of webtoons

It also means the amount of Webtoons that will be adapted are few and far between compared to the sheer amount of Manga that has and can be adapted.

Only the rare few will make it through, and the quantity of those webtoons that will be adapted is comical compared to Manga.

Those Webtoons would have to be insanely successful to compete or in Fornever’s words: “overtake” Manga.

The odds aren’t in its favor.

I’d blame part of that on the model of “free” and Webtoon’s strange place in the comics industry.

 

5. Fans are too accustomed to Japanese Manga

For one thing to replace another, it has to be 10X better. Or so much more convenient that it has potential to “become the future”.

Amazon Kindle is an example of that.

The Kindle took books offline and brought it online, then made it digital. And even made the prices cheaper.

Kindle for the most part replaced the traditional way we read books.

Proof of this is seen in the amount of bankrupt book businesses.

webtoons south korea

Webtoons is an addition to the comics industry in Asia and the world.

It’s not so revolutionary or a big deal that it can fly into the industry and replace Manga as if it’s inferior in every way possible.

And just like the case with UK Hip Hop – people are too accustomed to the “usual” hip hop from the USA.

Where it started.

Sure Americans might appreciate UK Hip Hop (or J-Pop), but not to the point where it can replace original Hip Hop.

Manga is the same.

Fans appreciate Webtoons, but they’re not so blown away that they believe it’ll replace Manga (business or otherwise).

The same is true for Anime companies who adapt Manga or these days – Webtoons.

I’m sure the success of current and upcoming webtoons will only prove my point as the years go by.

 

I’m not saying Webtoons aren’t relevant

Webtoons ARE relevant. South Korea has started something special and there’s no denying it.

The growth of Webtoons is obvious.

But to claim it’s the future of the anime industry (as CBR claims), and the manga industry “is in trouble” is nothing but fear-mongering.

It’s not a reflection of reality, and the reality will never play out that way in future.

What do you think?

 

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4 thoughts on “Webtoons Are Cool, But They’re NOT The Future Of Anime (Here’s Why)

  1. Alice Harcourt says:

    All this noise about Webtoons, & Tower of God, in particular, seems screwy to me. I started watching ToG this season, only to give it up a few episodes in cuz I just got bored. The whole show comes off like a weak prelude to a much bigger story I just can’t bring myself to care about. Maybe I’m just not “tuned in” to what’s cool, which is usually the case!

    • Theo J Ellis says:

      Or maybe the majority of T.O.G’s audience are the people who’ve read the webtoons. I noticed something similar when The Promised Neverland aired in 2019.

      Most people who “liked” it were Manga fans who wanted to see everything get animated. People who never seen the material beforehand felt differently about it.

  2. Jake says:

    Nice data backed analysis. Do you think animated Webtoons can find an anime-related niche with Western audiences in a similar manner to Avatar the Last Airbender? Avatar benefits from nostalgia and high quality, but animated Webtoons could similarly serve as the “gateway drug” to anime for a new generation of Western audiences.

    • Theo J Ellis says:

      That’s actually a good point. I think Webtoons could be a gateway drug for the west in particular, similar to Avatar of RWBY like you said.

      There’s a niche for that.

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