“German and French sales of manga totaled $212.6 million last year,” says Jennifer Fishbein of Business Week, “making Europe the largest consumer of manga outside Japan.” The news gets better for publishers of the Japanese comic books; in Germany, manga account for nearly three-fourths of all comics sales.
You could expound all sorts of theories about that, including the possibility that a reading culture in which bandes dessinées like Asterix and Tintin have long been accepted would be welcoming to the multi-volume serialized manga format. (Fishbein notes another influence in the airing of Japanese cartoons on European television from the late 1970s onward.) But the main question, according to the article, is how to retain the readership as it enters into adulthood. I imagine it’s just a matter of finding, translating, and publishing the right stories—or, as is increasingly happening here in the North American market, finding writer-artists who have absorbed the manga style into their own personal visions. (See, for example, Brian Lee O’Malley‘s Scott Pilgrim series, one of the most fun books around.)
(artwork above from Kiyohiko Azuma‘s Yotsuba&!, which has also become a big hit with U.S. readers)