Japan has long prided itself on being a manga powerhouse, but intense competition from overseas has left the industry at a crossroads.

Emerging as a threat is the growing popularity in Asia of the South Korea-born web comics collectively known as "webtoons" — a portmanteau of web and cartoons — that experts say are overshadowing the global presence of manga. The past several years have seen these South Korean web comics make forays into Japan, where they have quickly carved out a fan base among "digital native" youth who are increasingly shunning the traditional print formats in favor of titles read on apps.

This changing landscape begs the question: Should Japanese manga publishers, who have for years invested first and foremost in developing print content, jump on the webtoon bandwagon to strengthen their outreach to a foreign, tech-savvy audience?