WebToon is a new digital means of distributing commercial cartoon content to online communities all over the world. Webtoon was first developed and commercialized by South Korean portal service providers, such as Daum and Naver, the two juggernauts that have miraculously expanded their online manga market in South Korea to $900 million by 2018. What’s interesting is that these Korean portal goliaths are penetrating the Japanese manga market. The export of Korean webtoon platforms to Japan, including Line Manga, XOY, Comico, and Piccoma, is a newfangled development in the paperbased Japanese manga market that is gradually preparing to be more transnational than ever due to the smart phone revolution in the 2010s. For example, a Japanese spin off company from Naver, Comico, has demonstrated pivotal success by publishing several Japanese WebToon works that are being exported back to Korea or other countries. Based on the two case studies of ReLife and Lookism, two of the most popular WebToon titles in Japan from Comico and XOY, respectively, we examine the competitive advantage of the WebToon platform in the Japanese manga market, explain a new rise of Comico in the global WebToon market, and evaluate WebToon’s cultural value in the Japanese manga market via intermediality (or media mix). We find that the transnational consumption of Japanese WebToon is increasingly salient all over the world, as Japanese WebToon originals adopt effective storytelling strategies. Simultaneously, the cultural value of the Japanese WebToon has also sharply increased due to intermediality.
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