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]
Publishing | Direct-market sales plummeted last month, down nearly 23 percent in units and more than 20 percent in dollars from January 2010. Marvel’s heavily promoted Fantastic Four #587 was, unsurprisingly, the top-selling comic, while Vertigo’s Jack of Fables, Vol. 8, led the graphic novel list. Retailer news and analysis site ICv2.com puts part of the blame for the year-over-year decline on the weather. However, John Jackson Miller notes that Diamond Comic Distributors shipped 23 percent fewer comics last month — 555 different comics and trades (including variants), compared to 683 in January 2010. “This is more than can be explained by the holiday difference; this would appear to simply be the old pattern of publishers holding fire at this time of year and releasing fewer items,” Miller writes. “Some years, that effect is more in evidence than others; this could potentially be one of the bigger years for this kind of positioning.” [ICv2.com, The Comichron]
Digital piracy | A Japanese government think tank has released a study that concludes online piracy of anime series actually increases sales of DVDs. “One point of critique based on the main conclusions of the study, is that the observed relation only appears to be correlational,” TorrentFreak cautions. “This may mean that the results could in part be influenced by significant third variables such as promotion and overall popularity. Since the report is only available in Japanese we were unable to confirm whether this was taken into account.” [TorrentFreak]
So, there was a big dust-up on the anime side of the blogosphere over the past two weeks, and since it was about piracy and global rights and other things that are relevant to comics readers, I thought it would be interesting to do a quick summary over here.
Basically, a U.S. company, Funimation, got the rights to show the anime Fractale online one hour after it was broadcast in Japan. This simulcasting is the holy grail of anime — nobody wants to wait months and months for a product that is already out somewhere else, so the usual solution is that bootleggers make their own subtitles and stream the anime on pirate sites. The simulcast gave anime fans a legitimate alternative. (Here’s Funimation’s Fractale page, which currently has three episodes up, if you want to check it out yourself.)
But some pirated versions of the anime got online anyway, and the Fractale Production Committee reacted by telling Funimation they could not simulcast future episodes until the bootleg videos were removed:
Legal | Two Los Angeles men accused of selling counterfeit passes to this year’s Comic-Con International have pleaded guilty to theft and were placed on probation for three years. Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, both 24, were each ordered to pay a $750 fine, complete 10 days of community service and pay restitution to the victims.
Prosecutors say the two photocopied Comic-Con badges and sold them on Craigslist to people looking for last-minute memberships. They were arrested in July after two of their victims attempted to enter the convention using the counterfeit badges, which the women bought for $120 each. [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Technology | Tech blog Chip Chick names DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson as one of its “Top 13 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010.” [Chip Chick]
Legal | The general affairs committee of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly has approved the government’s revised amendment to the Youth Healthy Development Ordinance, clearing the way for a vote by the full assembly on Wednesday. The controversial bill would further restrict sexual content in manga, anime and video games. A breakdown of the legislation can be found here. The Mainichi Daily News provides commentary. [Anime News Network]
Legal | In a surprise move, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has decided that the DC superhero- and Wizard of Oz-themed drinking glasses recalled last month because of high lead content aren’t children’s products and, therefore, not subject to recall. [The Associated Press]
Passings | Bluegrass musician and comic-art collector Don Lineberger, 71, died Dec. 5 after being pulled from a house fire in Valdosta, Georgia. Smoke inhalation is believed to be the cause of death. A banjo player who performed with the likes of Bill Monroe, Glen Campbell and Steve Martin, Lineberger was also known for his extensive collection of EC Comics memorabilia. Posters in this thread at the Collectors Society message board are attempting to compile a list of original EC work likely lost in the fire. [The Valdosta Daily Times]
Legal | A Swedish court last week upheld the copyright convictions of three founders of The Pirate Bay, billed as “the world’s most resilient bittorrent site.” Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, Carl Lundstrom and Gottfrid Svartholm Warg were convicted in April 2009 of copyright infringement, fined and sentenced to one year in prison. On Thursday the appeals court reduced the sentence to between four months and 10 months each for Sunde, Nij and Lundstrom while increasing the fine by about $2 million to $6.4 million. A decision regarding Warg’s appeal was postponed because of the defendant’s poor health. [CNET]
Legal | The Japan P.E.N. Club writers group and the Tokyo Bar Association last week announced their opposition to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s latest effort to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. [Anime News Network]
Welcome once again to Shelf Porn! This week’s shelves were submitted by David Doub, publisher of Dusk Comics, who shares his collection of manga, graphic novels and more.
And now let’s hear from David …
Legal | The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is resurrecting a revised bill to tighten regulations on the sexual depictions of minors in manga, anime and video games. An earlier version of the controversial proposal was voted down in mid-June. The new bill removes vague defining terms like “nonexistent youth” and reportedly avoids references to “characters younger than 18,” increasing the likelihood that the proposed legislation will pass. [Anime News Network]
Retailing | As the small independent retail chain Joseph-Beth Booksellers files for bankruptcy protection, its president warns of even tougher times ahead for bookstores. “I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” Neil Van Uum says. [Lexington Herald-Leader, via ICv2.com]
Anime News Network has picked up on a fascinating trend over on YouTube: Anime and manga fans who show off their swag to support the industry.
The manga industry’s push against scan sites, which resulted in the shutdown of OneManga, seems to have raised awareness across otakudom that watching pirated anime and reading bootleg manga online is illegal. The anime industry has been faltering for years—long before manga began to wobble in 2007—but the general tendency among fans is to blame the publishers (for high prices and bad translations), so this is an interesting shift. It also mirrors the trend of “haul videos,” in which shoppers show off the results of their latest shopping spree.
Retailing | Barnes & Noble, the largest book chain in the United States, lost $63 million in the first quarter, a vast decline from a $12-million profit it reported for the same period a year ago. The retailer pinned about $10 million in losses on its costly fight with billionaire investor Ronald Burkle, and warned that a proxy battle could push the company even further into the red. [Reuters, ICv2.com]
Passings | Paprika director Satoshi Kon, who began his career as a manga artist before moving into anime in 1995, died Tuesday from pancreatic cancer. He was 46. Kon made his directorial debut in 1997 with Perfect Blue, and went on to helm such critically acclaimed anime features as Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers and the aforementioned Paprika, as well as the television series Paranoia Agent. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | Kai-Ming Cha looks at initial efforts by manga publishers to provide digital content as legal alternatives to scanlations. [Publishers Weekly]