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Kodansha to take over Del Rey manga (Updated)

Last week, we noted that a number of Del Rey series had mysteriously disappeared from Previews and Amazon, and in the comments, we speculated that an announcement may be in the works.

We were right! On the eve of New York Comic-Con/New York Anime Fest, Kodansha and Random House (the parent company of Del Rey) have announced a major change: The Del Rey imprint will disappear as a separate entity, and Kodansha will publish its own books in the U.S., rather than licensing them. Random House stays in the picture, though, providing distribution and support through their Random House Publisher Services division. Longtime Del Rey editor Dallas Middaugh will transfer to that division.

UPDATE: PW has more, including the news that Random House will still be doing a lot of the editing and production work on the books. No word yet about the rest of the Del Rey staff, though. And it looks like Del Rey may survive as an imprint for non-manga graphic novels.

Full press release after the jump.

Kodansha and Random House Transform and Expand Their U.S. Manga Publishing Relationship

New York, NY – October 4, 2010 – Kodansha Ltd. and Random House Inc. have announced their plans to change and expand their manga publishing relationship in North America. The companies are shifting from a licensing relationship to a sales and distribution arrangement as of December 1, 2010.

The current relationship between Kodansha and Random House began in 2003, with the first titles debuting in 2004 under the latter’s Del Rey Manga imprint. Since then, more 500 volumes have been published, including many bestselling manga series.

Under the new arrangement, Kodansha’s subsidiary, Kodansha USA Publishing, LLC, established in 2008 and led by Yoshio Irie, will be publishing Kodansha-originated manga themselves directly in the U.S. English-language market with strong support from Random House Publisher Services (RHPS), Random House’s third-party distribution division. Del Rey Manga associate publisher Dallas Middaugh will remain with the program, transferring to RHPS.

“We are very excited to extend our relationship with Random House,” said Yoshio Irie, president and CEO of Kodansha USA Publishing. “Both companies see opportunity in the American manga market, and we look forward to working together to further the distribution and exposure of manga in the United States.”

“We are thrilled to have a publisher as distinctive as Kodansha USA Publishing join the Random House Publisher Services portfolio,” said Jeff Abraham, the division’s president. “Kodansha is one of the great worldwide publishing brands for the manga category, and we will do everything to support their efforts with our many booksellers and distributors who love selling manga titles.”

Del Rey’s ongoing manga titles which were licensed by Kodansha will be gradually taken over by Kodansha USA Publishing on a per-title basis.

Tokyo-based Kodansha established Kodansha USA Inc. on the occasion of their company’s 100th anniversary. Kodansha USA Publishing began by publishing Akira and The Ghost in the Shell in 2009 under the Kodansha Comics imprint. They plan to expand their strong line-up of manga under this exciting new collaboration with Random House Publisher Services.



So Kodansha’s lack of Manga releases (limited to Akira & Ghost in the Shell) was just so they could piggyback on Del Rey’s accomplishments? Are they EVER going to publish anything that hasn’t been translated by another company?

Wow. I hope RHPS makes use of Dallas’ expertise… they are becoming the preeminent book distributor of graphic novels in the United States! (DC, Vertical, Kodansha, Titan, Candlewick, Archie, Radical, Wizards of the Coast) RHPS also handles Egmont USA, the American division of what could be considered the largest comics publisher in Europe. E-USA only publishes prose novels right now… but then Kodansha America only published regular books for twenty-some years before the manga market exploded.

And DeBT… Actually, Del Rey piggybacked on Kodansha’s accomplishments… and I suspect there is an extensive catalog of titles which have not yet been translated. Also, every new volume of ongoing series will be produced by Kodansha, not Del Rey.

Unlike other licensed series which were cancelled by publishers, Kodansha’s series will not wind up in limbo. Fans win, since they can continue reading their favorite series. Bookstores win, as popular Kodansha titles are available from the same source. Random House wins, as they keep Dallas Middaugh in house. Kodansha wins, as they can expand their manga line.

What I’m more curious about is if Kodansha is going to put that Akito Shoten partnership to good use anytime soon, besides their already titles.;p

Torsten Adair, I’m curious about your statement that “Del Rey piggybacked on Kodansha” rather than the other way around. As Christopher Butcher said, Kodansha USA was founded on 2008, and ONLY released Akira and GiTS… at inflated Dark Horse prices.

The only exceptions I could possibly think of would be the Bilingual Love Hina volumes, way back before Tokyopop licensed that particular property. But those weren’t easily available in bookstores, and could only be purchased overseas. Until they announce a future title that’ll make the fans salivate in anticipation that hasn’t already been translated (or left unfinished), I’ll be keeping my reservations in check.

DeBT… what I meant is that Del Rey selected titles from Kodansha to translate and publish in the United States. They, and most other English-language publishers, licensed titles from Kodansha’s (and other Japanese publishers) catalog. Kodansha did the heavy lifting… finding talent, editing the stories, printing the magazines and books, building successful series which would then be marketable in the U.S. Of course, if it weren’t for Pokemon, the comics industry in the U.S. would be radically different and less successful.

Yes, every manga publisher has piggybacked/stood on the shoulders of Viz and Eclipse and Dark Horse. I remember working in bookstores in the mid-90s, knowing what Kodansha published in Japan, and wondering why they didn’t print manga via Oxford. Now the success has been proven, and Kodansha is reclaiming their licenses (as is their right) and printing their own titles, while maintaining a business relationship with Random House.

This *seems* like good news for all those people who are anxiously awaiting the next volume of the underperforming series. I imagine that because Nodame Cantabile is a national treasure in Japan, that it will have better odds under the Kodan USA brand (maybe?).

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