From printing press to blockchain, Shueisha jump-starts new era for manga art fans

Japan’s largest manga publisher builds on Stripe for a new project that brings limited-edition, high-quality prints of famous manga art to the world.

Shueisha, the publisher of best-selling manga, has launched the Shueisha Manga-Art Heritage (SMAH) project to celebrate the work of its artists. It brings artwork from beloved manga series like One Piece, Dragon Ball and Naruto to fans worldwide as high art, with gallery-grade prints, certified provenance, and a fusion of traditional and modern techniques.
Shueisha re-envisioned their mass-market artform, which usually retails for approximately $3, to meet the preferences of higher-end fans and collectors. The project combines traditional printing techniques for production with blockchain technology for provenance. The artwork is printed on 100% cotton velvet fine art paper with light-resistant ink using a 1960s Heidelberg flatbed letterpress machine. Each edition is limited to twenty copies. Fans and collectors can then bid to own one of these rare pieces. The provenance is maintained on the Art Blockchain Network, helping collectors ensure authenticity.

Selling art worldwide: the power level is over 9,000

Shueisha’s artwork is licensed in over a hundred countries and twenty languages, and includes some of the world’s most popular characters. Given anticipated demand for these limited-edition pieces, Shueisha chose Stripe to reliably and securely accept a variety of payment methods in over 130 currencies. In just a few minutes, they could start managing their worldwide operations from Stripe’s user-friendly, localized dashboard.

Shueisha’s first foray into building a global retail presence brought operational hurdles. Initially, they had to manually set prices for the pieces and send remittance requests via email to buyers. What first appeared to be an S rank mission had a simple solution: make the computer do it. With Stripe’s simple and quick API directories and user support, Shueisha fully automated the entire international remittance process, saving considerable time from developers and support agents, and eliminating costly mistakes.

Masashi Okamoto, head of Shueisha’s Digital Business Division said, “Thanks to Stripe, we were able to cut back on manual errors and realized an overall cost reduction. We’ve also been able to quickly scale globally, surpassing a million dollars in revenue for all the artwork that is now in the hands of fans and collectors worldwide in key markets like the United States, England, Germany, South Korea, France, Australia, and Canada.”

Stripe Dashboard works hard and never gives up

Okamoto explained that tracking the project’s growth became easier with the intuitive Stripe dashboard: “Stripe’s platform enables real-time remittance confirmations as well as visualizations on purchasing patterns and issues faced by buyers, which are really helpful. Seeing our daily sales in an easy-to-understand chart boosted our motivation!”

Leveraging technology to preserve tradition

Shueisha exists at the intersection of commerce and culture, publishing new material weekly but also acting as a custodian of manga as part of Japan’s cultural heritage. It works with museums, educational institutions, and Japan’s national archiving project to explore ways of preserving original prints. It continues to incubate new manga artists, experimenting with printing forms and materials such as traditional Japanese washi paper, and bringing Japanese youth culture to a worldwide audience through exhibitions, movies, games, and other spin-offs.

As for the future of the SMAH, Okamoto said, “We’re hoping that this project, which leverages technology to preserve tradition, will further build bridges across the world through one of Japan’s most beloved artistic treasures: manga.”