The Japanese publisher Kodansha and anime company Toei had big news for Sailor Moon fans today: They will be producing a new Sailor Moon anime, to debut next summer.
The original Sailor Moon manga (published by Tokyopop) and anime helped kick off the anime and manga revolution, bringing a whole new cadre of fans, especially women and girls, into the world of comics. Fans have been speculating about the return of the anime ever since Kodansha USA started re-releasing the manga, with a new translation and new format, last year. The manga has been hugely popular in the U.S., with the most recent volume spending four weeks on The New York Times graphic books bestseller list.
The new anime was announced today by Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi and the idol group Momoiro Clover Z, which will perform the theme song, during a 20th anniversary event that was streamed live on the Japanese site Nico Nico. Voice actors Kotono Mitsuishi and Tohru Furuya, who played Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask in the original, participated in the event, but it’s not clear that they will be in the new series (although the Sailor Moon fan site Moon Chase says they will). While details are sketchy right now, it appears that the anime will be released simultaneously worldwide.
The official press release (in Japanese) is up at Kodansha’s Japanese website.
Digital comics | George Gene Gustines takes a quick trip through the landscape of digital comics, dropping in on Mark Waid, comiXology’s David Steinberger and Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite Comic. Much of this is familiar territory to regular readers of this blog, but hey, it’s The New York Times noticing digital comics! [The New York Times]
Digital comics | FreakAngels writer Warren Ellis looks at three recent digital comics, noting how they all limit themselves to “two-tier storytelling”: “Accepting and exploiting new limitations is always part of a new format. These three projects, though, can’t produce even a full-page spread without some serious scheming and dancing.” [Warren Ellis]
Publishing | David Gabriel, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, says that Marvel is putting “the biggest marketing investment that we’ve ever put into a series or an event” behind its upcoming Avengers vs. X-Men event. The campaign will include online, social media, radio and television promotion. “They’re actually treating every issue as an event, because there’s a different fight going on in every issue, and I’m told that they are pushing every single issue through all 12 issues,” Gabriel said. “The story itself has three acts, and each of those acts has a natural marketing hook to it, so they’re pushing those as well.” [ICv2]
Publishing | While DC’s New 52 has been good for comics sales overall, there is a dark side: Sales of pre-reboot collected editions are down. ICv2 also lists the Top 10 comics and graphic novel franchises in a number of different genres. [ICv2]
Legal | The Justice Department brought more charges of fraud and copyright infringement against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleagues on Friday, but also revealed that Megaupload isn’t all that mega: The file-sharing site had only 66.6 million users, not the 180 million previously claimed, and fewer than 6 million had ever actually uploaded a file. The indictment mentions one user who uploaded almost 17,000 items, including copyrighted movies, which were viewed 34 million times. [The Washington Post]
Just a week after Bandai Entertainment announced it would stop releasing new material — and laid off three of its five employees — another anime and manga publisher looks like it is hitting the shoals. Media Blasters announced yesterday it’s laying off 60 percent of its staff, although there is no plan to cut the catalog.
Media Blasters is chiefly an anime publisher, although it does have a small line of manga, under both its own name and in its adult line Kitty Media. This 2007 Publishers Weekly article mentions the company had a catalog of about 20 yaoi titles and was planning a shift from shonen to yaoi. Three years later, it canceled most of those titles. Blogger Lissa Pattillo commented back then that quality had slipped quite a bit:
The big news in anime and manga circles last week was the announcement that Bandai Entertainment will stop releasing new anime and manga. The current catalog will stay in print, and the company will focus on licensing its products to other companies, but three of its five employees have been laid off.
Like manga, the anime industry in the U.S. has been troubled for a long time, and it’s tempting to blame this on piracy. Indeed, that’s exactly what Charles Maib of Kotaku did. Maib admits he doesn’t follow the anime and manga scene much any more, but that doesn’t stop him from delivering some strong opinions. What Maib does know is what it was like to be an old-time otaku, when you made your own fansubs with love and VHS tapes and chewing gum and chicken wire (which may have been technically illegal but wasn’t harming the industry at all), and also how much work it is to make your own content. Maib himself is a content creator, and he has a long paragraph where he explains all the steps you have to go through to make an animated cartoon.
And nobody seems to care. “Consumers have become selfish monsters who are strangling an industry that is already on its knees,” he says, and he points the finger squarely at fansubbers and other pirates, and those who avail themselves of their services:
We created the beast, and we continue to feed it. We’ve reached the point that it’s not uncommon for major websites to publish links to pirated content. Pirating has gone mainstream, and unless we as consumers have the fortitude to reverse our actions, allow the market to work as it should, and develop the patience to wait for new products to become available in our region, or even not become available, the face of the internet and digital media will change. It’s inevitable.
Artist, musician and our buddy Akira the Don has released a new mixtape, titled Manga Music, featuring “a tribute to the monumental works of Manga Entertainment, who this year celebrate 20 years of serving us Westerners with the very finest anime.” Each song samples and is named after one of their releases, such as Evangelion, Full Metal Alchemist, Crying Freeman and, naturally, Akira.
“Twenty years ago I was a little boy living by the sea in North Wales gaping in awe at their advert for Akira in the back of my Dad’s copy of Vox magazine,” Akira the Don wrote on his site. “A little while later I was pushing a big VHS cassette into its slot, an a few hours after that my life was changed forever.”
Sailor Moon was the first shoujo manga to catch on in the United States, and the anime succeeded in part because of organized fan campaigns to keep it on the air. The rights for both the manga and the anime had both lapsed by
1995, 2005, however, so both have been officially unavailable here since then.
Kodansha Comics galvanized fans last spring with the announcement that they would publish a new edition of Sailor Moon as well as the previously unpublished (in the U.S.) prequel Codename: Sailor V. There’s no word on the anime yet, but here’s an interesting sign: Anime News Network reports that Great Eastern Entertainment has listed four Sailor Moon items for future sale (no prices or details were listed), all bearing a Toei Animation logo. (The page has mysteriously disappeared since ANN posted it, and it doesn’t look like Great Eastern responded to their request for comment.) As an alert commenter at ANN points out, Toei, the owner of the Sailor Moon anime, was shopping around “refurbished” episodes at the MIPTV market in Cannes last year. Perhaps someone bit, either there or elsewhere. The fansite Moon Chase reports (from an anonymous source) that there is another deal that has to be finalized at a higher level before the anime can be licensed in the U.S., and they are skeptical about this latest development, but some enthusiastic folks are speculating that an announcement could come as early as Funimation’s panel at SDCC.
Judging from the reaction I got when I wrote about Sailor Moon at MTV Geek, there’s a huge fandom out there that is anxious to get their manga and anime back. While Kodansha’s deluxe-edition manga seem to be aimed at older readers reliving their youth, the anime has a lot of teen appeal, and if it is re-released in the U.S., we could see history repeat itself.
Credit where credit is due: Marvel has consistently referred to Warren Ellis as one of the creators of their new anime, although the exact wording is a bit vague; most recently, they referred to the four anime series as “guided by New York Times best-selling author Warren Ellis.” Ellis raised an eyebrow about that on his blog, saying that he just wrote the outlines, and not much of his work is left in the final product. But he was OK with that; it was the “New York Times best-selling author” part that really got him:
When the hell did that happen? I think I would have heard about that, right? I’m already confused about my name being used in press releases when I’m not credited on the screen, but making shit up? I presume this is the magic of PR that I hear about.
Well, no: Greg Pak pointed that Ellis had one book on the hardcover graphic novels best-seller list, the oversized edition of Absolute Planetary 2. Ellis remains unimpressed; since the book cost $75, he said, “One presumes it’s a dollar-number calculation rather than a unit-number count.” He adds:
I did note on Twitter that I was surprised the NYT did such a thing, because I’ve seen book top the Diamond best-selling GNs list with 6000 sales, at which point Bendis said “don’t pull that string. The entirety of our world will unravel.”
My advice: Just bask in it, Warren!
We got to see the first episode of the Iron Man anime at New York Comic Con, but it was subtitled, not dubbed. Now Marvel has posted a clip of the dubbed version on their website, so you can hear for yourself what the voice actor playing Tony Stark sounds like.
The anime will start running on the G4 network on July 29.
Annual additions to the Oxford English Dictionary, “the definitive record of the English language,” always draw media attention because when a word or phrase is enshrined in the 127-year-old OED it becomes “official,” legitimate. It’s no longer just regional slang, professional jargon or an annoying acronym; it’s in the dictionary. Look it up, Mom!
This year’s updates are no different, drawing notice for an OED first — the heart symbol becomes the dictionary’s first graphic entry — as well as the inclusion of such text-messaging/online abbreviations as LOL and OMG. Thankfully SMH didn’t make the list of 45,436 new definitions (this year, at least).
But one that did is hentai, a noun that the companion Oxford Dictionaries — the OED site is subscription-only — defines as “a subgenre of the Japanese genres of manga and anime, characterized by overtly sexualized characters and sexually explicit images and plots.”
Which I guess will all help make that errant “OMG I <3 hentai” text immediately, if embarrassingly, understandable.
As the drama in Japan continues, we are reminded that comics are everywhere. Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy has been ferrying food and supplies to the victims, charting his progress on Twitter as he goes.
On this side of the ocean, the response is less dramatic but no less heartfelt: Creative types are coming up with all sorts of benefits for Japan. Comics Alliance has a nice roundup of events and art sales, and Daniella Orihuela-Gruber and Michael Huang have set up Anime and Manga Bloggers For Japan, a site where blogger can direct their readers, with links to Doctors Without Borders and Shelterbox. The fan-run One PIece Podcast is planning a 24-hour podcast marathon this weekend that will feature many bloggers and voice actors and hopefully raise $25,000 for the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. At the Otaku USA site, editor Patrick Macias explains why he is endorsing the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund. Dane Ault, of Monkey Minion Press, is auctioning off an original Swamp Thing cover on eBay. And Pinguino Kolb updated me on the We Heart Japan art auction, which happens tomorrow at Meltdown Comics in LA, saying that they are flooded with art and expect lots of celebrities to stop by, so if you’re in LA right now, that’s the place to be—and if you’re not, stay tuned, because they expect to do several more fund-raisers later this month.
In the wake of last week’s devastating earthquake in Japan, organizers have canceled the Tokyo International Anime Fair, set for March 24-27 at the Tokyo Big Sight.
The announcement, made on the event’s official website, pointed to concerns about the safety of participants and attendees, given unstable transportation services and power shortages. Last year’s fair drew more than 130,000 attendees.
According to Anime News Network, the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, located on Odaiba island in Tokyo Bay, suffered unspecified damages during the quake.
This year’s fair, operated by the Tokyo metropolitan government, had been boycotted by a group of 10 manga publishers, including Shueisha, Shogakukan and Kodansha, following the passage of a controversial amendment further restricting the sale or rental to minors of manga and anime containing “extreme” depictions of sexual acts. As a result of the protest, the number of companies participating in the event fell dramatically, from 244 in 2010 to 161 this year.
Comics artist, designer and photographer Pinguino Kolb, and voice actress, director, writer and producer Stephanie Sheh have pulled together an art auction, under the name We Heart Japan, to benefit the victims of last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The event will take place at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood on Thursday. Yes, this Thursday: In less than a week, the two have pulled together donations from a number of local artists as well as the anime companies Bandai and Geneon, the anime streaming site Crunchyroll and the anime convention AM2. They are still looking for donations, though; if you are a Los Angeles-area artist and want to contribute framed sketches, paintings or digital art, contact information is on their website (or direct-message them via Twitter). Anime actors and cosplayers will also be there to mingle and sign autographs; check the Facebook page to see who’s coming.
“Japan has always been a huge inspiration for those working in anime and comics, and we’re doing this show as a way to give back to the community there,” Kolb said in an e-mail to Robot 6.
Proceeds will go to the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund, which will work with Japan’s Give One initiative to relay the money directly to local charities that are helping with the relief efforts. And more events are in the offing; follow them on Twitter to get the latest news.
Anime News Network notes that yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the release of the first Pokémon game, Pokémon Red and Green. That game gave rise to a whole series of other games, as well as four anime series, numerous manga series, feature films, and even chapter books. (The chapter books presented a unique challenge for the authors, who had to somehow allow the Pokémon to express complex thoughts and emotions with a one-word vocabulary: their names.)
It also helped shape the manga industry as we know it today. A few years ago I talked to manga translator and scholar Matt Thorn, who was a freelance translator for Viz in their early days. Thorn described the atmosphere as “laid-back” and the company itself as having only three employees, including the president, Seiji Horibuchi. “For [parent company] Shogakukan, it was almost a vanity project,” he said. “They didn’t expect it to make money.”
And then Pokémon came along. Recalls Matt,
One day, I got a call from Shogakukan Productions. They said, “We’re going to try to promote Pokemon in the U.S., and we’d like you to help.” I said, “I’d love to, but I’m really busy these days, so I’m afraid I can’t. And to be honest, I don’t think Pokemon will fly in America.”
Despite Matt’s misgivings, of course, Pokémon went on to become a media phenomenon in the States, and Viz is now the largest manga publisher in the business, thanks at least in part to that initial burst of energy from Pikachu and his pals.
Publishing | The 61st volume of Eiichiro Oda’s insanely popular pirate manga One Piece sold more than 2 million copies in its first three days of release, according to the Japanese market-survey firm Oricon. It’s the fastest-selling book in the Oricon chart’s nearly three-year history, breaking the previous record set by the 60th volume of One Piece, which sold more than 2 million copies in four days. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | Heidi MacDonald talks to Dave Bowen, Diamond’s director of digital distribution, about the newly announced deal with iVerse Media that will allow retailers to sell digital comics in their stores: “The retailer will login using their Diamond retailer login and be presented with the opportunity to create store-specific, item-specific codes in whatever quantities they need. Then we’ll use some approved cryptographically secure method to generate random codes for the retailer to use. And we’ll format those in a PDF which they can then print out. Likely what will happen is, it’ll print easily on Avery 30-up laser labels. So what you have is a sheet of Avery laser labels with a bunch of different books and codes on individual labels. In that case the retailer takes that material and secures it and then when someone wants Transformers #16 they simply ring the sale and give the label or sticker or cut-out to the consumer. [...] It’s really very simple. Then the consumer that has that code, which is live, they could literally step out of the line, pull out their iphone or ipad or whatever other device and redeem the code and begin reading the material.” Meanwhile, Todd Allen dissects what he describes as “a particularly silly digital download scheme.” [The Beat, Indignant Online]