Ken Akamatsu Archives | Robot 6 | The Comics Culture Blog

Comics A.M. | Trade deal could pose threat to fan comics

Comiket 88

Comiket 88

Legal | Anime and manga fans in Japan are raising concerns that a proposed provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership would threaten the existence of doujinshi, fan-made comics that are often parodies of commercial manga. Many established manga creators cut their teeth on doujinshi (and some return to it even after their series hit the big time), and the biggest comics expo in the world, Comiket, is devoted to doujinshi. The works are self-published and made in small batches, sold to fellow enthusiasts at large and small conventions, and Japanese publishers generally ignore them. Under current Japanese law, only the rights holder can bring a copyright complaint, but the TPP would allow complaints from third parties, including the creator of a rival doujinshi. “If creators can be prosecuted without complaints from rights holders, it could lead to some kind of snitching battle between fans,” said Negima creator Ken Akamatsu, himself a former doujinshi-ka. “Places for people to share their work will also disappear.” [The Japan News]

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Comics A.M. | Kodansha launches ‘Magazine Pocket’ manga app

Magazine Pocket

Magazine Pocket

Digital comics | Japanese publisher Kodansha has launched a free Magazine Pocket manga app for iOS and Android devices, which in addition to titles already serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine features two exclusive spinoffs: Fairy Tail Spinoff: Twin Dragons of Sabertooth, springing out of Fairy Tail, and Brass of Diamond! Seidō High School Wind Instrument Club, based on Ace of Diamond. The app boasts more than 30 titles, with some chapters offered for free and others requiring a fee. [Anime News Network]

Retailing | “In Hungary there is little or nil culture for comics,” says Arpád Barabás, owner of the Budapest comic shop Trillian. “The main reason is that between 1946 and 1989 there was nothing except for the Boy Scout propaganda publications in this genre, all other things having been prohibited.” Barabás, who goes by the nickname Grif, is working hard to fill that vacuum, mostly with imported comics, but because of the cost, very few have been translated into Hungarian. [The Budapest Times]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Naruto’ creator looks ahead to next series



Creators | In an interview to be published in Japan next Friday, Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto says he plans to spend some time with his wife and child, and take a long-delayed honeymoon, before starting his next series. And as he is about to turn 40, he hints that he may not be up for another weekly series. [Anime News Network]

Comic strips | The first color Sunday funnies appeared on Nov. 18, 1894, in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. David Shedden observes the 120th anniversary of this innovation with a look back at some popular comic strips and footage of New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia reading the funnies over the radio during the newspaper strike of 1945. [Poynter]

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Comics A.M. | Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Tony Auth passes away

Tony Auth

Tony Auth

Passings | Tony Auth, editorial cartoonist for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1971 to 2012, died Sunday at age 72. Auth, who won both the Pulitzer and Herblock prizes during his lengthy career with the newspaper, began drawing as a child, when a lengthy illness confined him to bed for a year and a half. He graduated from UCLA in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in biological illustration, and worked as a medical illustrator for a time. He began his cartooning career doing a weekly cartoon for a local alternative newspaper and then started drawing a thrice-weekly cartoon for the UCLA Daily Bruin. He left the Inquirer in 2012 to pursue digital cartooning and became the Digital Artist in Residence for WHYY’s News Works. In addition to his cartooning work, he illustrated 11 children’s books. His editorial cartoons have been collected into two books, and Temple University has begun fund-raising for an archive of his work. Michael Cavna has a roundup of tributes from Auth’s colleagues at Comic Riffs. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

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A Month of Wednesdays | Some DC, some manga and ‘All Star’

ALL STARAll Star (NBM): The latest graphic novel from Joe and Azat‘s Jesse Lonergan, All Star gets a lot of mileage out of its setting in both space and time. The space is an extremely small small town of Elizabeth, Vermont, a place with little to do and little chance of escape for the young, caged tiger types who are coming of age there. The time is 1998, and Lonergan returns again and again to the sports, politics and pop culture of the time for knowing gags, commentary on the events of the story or even just color.

Our protagonist is Carl Carter, the cocky, hot-shot all-star of the title, a fantastic baseball player whose skill could take him far from town once he graduates, and has made him one of his school and town’s most popular residents, much to the chagrin of his long-suffering brother (who is also his teammate).

One night, after drinking way too much at a party, he and his best friend make a stupid decision, one that gets his friend expelled from school and sent on a completely different path than Carl, who suspects his baseball skills and the importance of the sport to his school got him off light.

He begins soul-searching from there, and realizes too late how screwed-up his world is, and actually has been for a while,  but it’s too late to do anything about. A tragedy — in the sense that it ends sadly rather than happily — All Star captures small-town adolescence perfectly (perhaps all too perfectly, depending on a reader’s mood and propensity for elegiac nostalgia), and is actually a great deal of fun, despite the down ending and the heavy melodrama.

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Comics A.M. | Council OKs San Diego Convention Center expansion

Comic-Con International

Conventions | San Diego City Council has given final approval to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, viewed as necessary to keeping Comic-Con International in the city past 2015. The project still faces a legal challenge to a financing scheme involving a hotel-room surtax, as well as state regulatory approval, leading the city attorney to caution that the targeted 2017 completion date is just “a goal.” Whether Comic-Con organizers can be convinced to sign another three-year extension to their contract remains a big question. [NBC San Diego]

Conventions | Most of Heidi MacDonald’s article about New York Comic Con is behind a paywall at Publishers Weekly, but she pulls out some stats at The Beat: Ticket sales are up 190 percent over this time last year. As the capacity of the Javits Center is somewhere south of 110,000 people, this means the ReedPOP folks won’t sell any more tickets than last year, but they are selling out faster. Three-day and four-day passes are already gone, only Friday tickets remain, and ReedPOP vice president Lance Fensterman expects everything to be sold out by the time the show begins. [The Beat]

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Akamatsu: Japanese copyright changes threaten fan comics

Doraemon doujinshi

Here’s a quick thought experiment: What would happen to you if you made your own Mickey Mouse comic and sold it online or at conventions? You would expect to feel the wrath of Disney pretty quickly, wouldn’t you?

Yet doujinshi, fan-made comics, are a huge part of Japanese culture, and many of them involve characters from existing manga series. And Ken Akamatsu, creator of Negima and Love Hina—as well as his own doujinshi—wants it to stay that way, which is why he is speaking out against Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade agreement would make copyright laws uniform among the nine signatories, including the U.S. If Japan signs on, Akamatsu says, the new regulations would have a chilling effect on the doujinshi market.

Japan’s current copyright laws allow publishers to tolerate a certain amount of remixing of copyrighted characters, although there are limits: In 2007, for instance, the publisher Shogakukan took legal action against the creator of a Doraemon doujinshi that not only perfectly mimicked the look of the original manga (one of the most popular in all of Asia) but also sold over 13,000 copies.

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Kodansha to bring back Tokyo Mew Mew, Love Hina

Kodansha Comics unveiled their fall lineup today, and in addition to the already announced return of Sailor Moon, they will be bringing two more classics from the early days of licensed manga: Tokyo Mew Mew and Love Hina, both with new translations and a pocketbook-friendly omnibus format.

Both series were originally published by Tokyopop. Tokyo Mew Mew is a classic shoujo battle manga, featuring super-cute girls whose DNA has mysteriously mingled with that of various animals; they fight to save Planet Earth using ribbons and marshmallows and other sweet, girly things. Love Hina is a classic harem manga about a hapless slacker who gets kicked out of his parents’ house and ends up living in a girls’ dorm. Hilarious complications ensue! Readers who can’t get enough of boys accidentally barging into the shower may also enjoy Kodansha’s other series, Negima, by the same creator, Ken Akamatsu.

But wait! There’s more! The fall list will also include followups to two other older series. Shugo Chara-Chan! is a four-panel comic strip based on Peach-Pit’s 12-volume series Shugo Chara, which will end in September. And for the boys-love crowd, @Full Moon is the sequel to Until the Full Moon, which was originally licensed by Broccoli and is being brought back by Kodansha this summer. With its supernatural overtones (one character is half werewolf, half vampire), this seems tailor-made for the supernatural-romance crowd.

For those who can’t get enough, the full press release is after the jump.

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Has pirated manga become ‘property of the internet’?

Akamatsu's legit manga download site

A blog called Welcome Datacomp has translated a discussion of manga piracy between manga creators Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima), Minako Uchida, and Kazumi Tojo that took place on the Japanese social media site Togetter about the prevalence of scanned and fan-translated manga on the internet. Akamatsu is experimenting with his own free manga site, but even so, he sounds pessimistic: “Am I too late? I get the feeling that [my project to release free manga PDFs] won’t be enough at this point.” He goes on to say

Hasn’t illegally scanned manga, propagated so casually like this, fallen into the category of “property of the Internet”? You won’t be able to eliminate it. The only thing we can do at this point is [launch our own free websites with the] “advertising model”. (Because charging people would be difficult.)

The most recent illegal scans are very high quality, and the translations are exceedingly accurate. (^^;) If there’s no respect for original authors on the net, then obviously the official versions will lose out.

The creators express dismay that people who would not shoplift from a physical store have no compunction about reading pirated manga; as Tojo says, “It seems like people will pay for things they can touch like vegetables, but they think it’s a waste to pay for intangible data.”

It seems like the creators are talking about both scans in Japanese, which are read locally, and fan-translated manga for other markets; they cite one example of a publisher being told by fans to change a name to the one selected by a scanlator. And there’s an interesting side discussion on the decline of the cell phone, which was once a popular platform for yaoi and erotic manga. As people switch to smart phones, the options dwindle: Apple doesn’t allow adult manga in the iTunes store, and Akamatsu says Kindle doesn’t either (I’m not so sure about that), but the fans reassure him that Android allows it, making that the platform of choice for ero manga fans.

Negima creator working with Google on online manga site

Welcome to J-Comi!

Manga creator Ken Akamatsu (Negima, Love Hina) has been pioneering an interesting business model: Putting out-of-print manga online, for free, as PDFs with no copy protection. The site, J-Comi, is supported by ads, and Akamatsu put his money where his mouth is by posting all 14 volumes of Love Hina on the site, which is still in beta.

Last week, Akamatsu announced that he is working with Google to develop a comics reader that will track readers’ location and interests and deliver targeted ads. That’s actually not such great news for readers—comics viewers seldom work as smoothly as a PDF, they won’t allow the comics to be downloaded to an iPad or other device, and everyone hates ads—but I guess you have to pay the bills somehow.

What makes this site a big deal is the names attached: Akamatsu has persuaded two of the biggest manga publishers in Japan, Kodansha and Shueisha, to play along. When the second beta test period begins, on January 11, the offerings will include Belmonde Le VisiteuR, from Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, which is also the home of the blockbusters Naruto and Bleach, as well as Hōkago Wedding (Afterschool Wedding), a previously unpublished 50-page story, and Kōtsū Jiko Kanteinin Tamaki Rinichirō (Rinichirō Tamaki, Traffic Accident Investigator), an older series from Shueisha’s Super Jump.

Akamatsu’s plans also include finding a way to allow readers to post comments alongside the comments (this sounds vaguely like, which would allow fans to do their own translations right on the site.

Negima creator to launch free manga site

Ken Akamatsu, the creator of the manga Love Hina and Negima, is launching a new site that will post out-of-print manga, for free, as simple PDFs, with no DRM (copy protection). The difference between this and a scan site like, say, is that the manga will be posted with the creators’ permission and everyone will get a cut of the advertising revenues from the site. (Oh, and the site is in Japanese, but it’s a model that could work in the U.S. as well.)

If this doesn’t immediately seem like a good idea, take a look at the comment thread on our post on the shutdown of the pirate site HTMLcomics: Many of the people who were using it were reading out-of-print comics that weren’t available anywhere else. While one portion of the comics audience lives for each Wednesday’s new releases, there are plenty of people who are quite happy, even eager, to read older comics. On the other hand, people generally aren’t willing to pay a lot for them, unless they are rare. Akamatsu’s site will bring people over from the pirate sites and generate a trickle of income from works that otherwise wouldn’t be bringing in one thin dime.

There is a placeholder here, but no site yet. The beta version will go live on November 26, and Akamatsu plans to start with a big splash by posting all 14 volumes of Love Hina. That should get him some eyeballs. Once they tally the clicks, the final version of the site will launch in January.

Ken Akamatsu talks shop

Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina and Negima, discusses his schedule and a bit about his process in this short video made by Mark Bernabe of Masters of Manga. His schedule is rigorous, but his veteran status seems to have earned him a bit of leeway.

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