In Asia, the online community pixiv needs no introduction: it has worked its way to 84 million active users, publishing over 118 million original works of art, manga, short animations and novels, generating more than 3 billion page views per month, and establishing itself as a major attending events such as the huge Comiket festival in Tokyo. Here in the US, artists and fans may be more familiar with comparable sites like DeviantArt and Artstation. But pixiv is hoping to attract new attention with two deluxe English-language art books featuring its most popular artists, some new licensing deals with globally popular properties and new efforts to attract English-speaking users.
“We are taking various measures to actively engage creators from around the world,” said Takahiro Kato, pixiv’s senior vice president of creator platform development. “We are expanding to English language editions of ours Artists in… artbook collection to provide the works of artists from all over the world, transcending language and regional barriers.”
The first titles released in the US are Artists in Taiwan and Artists in Korea, created in collaboration with San Diego-based Clover Press and the San Diego branch of Tokyo-based e-book giant Media Do International. A crowdfunding campaign to raise seed capital for the startup launched today on Kickstarter.
The company also collaborates with popular IPs in the US and internationally, such as Evangelion, Cyberpunk, hololive EN, Genshin Impact and others, to attract new users and fans.
Pixiv, a privately held company with about 300 employees, started in 2007 as a place for professional and aspiring artists to showcase their work, tapping into the vibrant culture of fan-made art and manga popular in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. As the demand for visual content in the comics/manga, video game, anime/animation, and commercial art industries grows, pixiv has become a massive platform offering education, tools, communication, merchandise, professional networking, business services, and more, featuring art in various styles, plus a growing assortment of prose novels, graphic novels, and serialized webcomics.
“Our mission is to create a fun environment for everyone who enjoys creative activities,” Kato said. “Pixiv provides a safe and convenient place to upload your own creations and the ability to archive your work. The community offers a way for creators to get support from fans, but also to interact with other creators. Artists often connect with other artists who have similar content or interests.
One of the ways pixiv has been able to grow its user-generated content community is by investing heavily in user programs, both online and in person.
“We focus on building bridges between companies and their brands/IPs, creators and fans by co-exhibiting at Comiket [a semiannual doujinshi festival/artists alley-style event in Japan that draws about 110,000 attendees] and other conventions [including Anime Expo in the US] as well as hosting online illustration competitions,” Kato said. “We also participate in art exhibitions around the world. At pixiv WEAN Gallery, a gallery in Omotesando, Tokyo that we co-manage with Twin Planet, we hold and support many “first solo exhibitions” of up-and-coming artists who we believe are future superstars. Overseas, we’ve also held traveling solo exhibitions at Taiwan’s d/art gallery and Animate Korea and exhibition spaces in Shanghai. There are plans to expand to other regions as well.”
An English-language pixiv site and app exists, but only about 15 percent of the company’s target market of artists and fans currently know about it, according to a company survey. Saying that the company needs to fight the perception that it’s only about “Japanese-style content” and expand its reach to all kinds of US-based creators.
Part of the problem is that the current construction of the site is a bit prohibitive for most North American users, as much of the content, comments and tags are in Japanese or other Asian languages, and some of the niche, adult-oriented content reflects tastes to an overseas audience. Kato said they are working with a crowdsourced translation platform to localize all of the site’s content, and the company offers full English language support.
Pixiv also recently clarified its policies on AI-generated art, which has become extremely controversial in the creator community, by allowing AI to work on the site but making sure it is tagged and rated separately. According to the pixiv website, “We are committed to long-term efforts to address creators’ concerns [around AI]common sentiments and legal restrictions so that everyone can enjoy the world of creation with peace of mind.”
North American creators and fans are likely to benefit from pixiv’s new marketing push. In addition to the global platform’s reach for artwork and artists seeking professional opportunities, pixiv provides another place for storytellers to build an audience for their novels and comics using the same UGC game that helped build Webtoon/Wattpad into a major publishing force .
While all of these plans are coming to fruition, fans can get their first taste of what the company has to offer from the two art books that launch today.
“The art of creating manga and manhwa continues to become mainstream globally,” said Clover Press Publisher Hank Kanalz. “Both books contain absolutely gorgeous artwork. We hope they introduce readers to more international artists and a new online community dedicated to art and illustration.”