JManga is the online manga service that readers have been waiting for: Fresh manga in a variety of genres (including lesser-selling ones like sports manga), straight from Japan, on your computer, iPad, Android, or Kindle. They launched at San Diego Comic-Con with a panel, and Deb Aoki has provided us with the most comprehensive reporting on it yet by posting a transcript of the SDCC panel and an interview with six representatives of JManga and participating publishers Kodansha, Shogakukan, Futabasha, and Kadokawa Shoten.
JManga is a great idea, and there was a lot of talent in the room, but there’s only one thing that manga readers care about: The manga. And it was very troubling that in their big SDCC panel the publishers could not identify a single title that it would carry (although the Futabasha rep hinted pretty strongly that Crayon Shin-chan would be on there). When Aoki asked if the manga in the enormous banner over their heads would be included in the JManga portal, JManga rep Robert Newman answered:
My apologies, but this information cannot be disclosed at this time. We will provide you with more information regarding titles around the timing of the launch.
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fans last spring with the announcement that they would publish a new edition of Sailor Moon as well as the previously unpublished (in the U.S.) prequel Codename: Sailor V. There’s no word on the anime yet, but here’s an interesting sign: Anime News Network reports that Great Eastern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.
Kodansha Comics has been a bit slow to get off the ground, but now they are off and running. After irritating fans last fall by keeping mum about titles, they have announced a stellar summer and fall lineup that includes the classic Sailor Moon, the revival of older but popular series like Love Hina and Tokyo Mew Mew, and some interesting new manga like Mardock Scramble and Animal Land. If only there were a place on the internet where you could go to get information about those books…
And now there is! After months of representing themselves with a plain black-and-white web page with a single press release and nothing to click on, Kodansha launched their new website this week. It has an attractive front page that is heavy on their former Del Rey titles; you have to go to the “Titles” link to see anything else, and they don’t have cover images up for the new books yet. Clicking on a link brings you to the Random House catalog page for the book, which is a bit annoying; it would be nicer to see the books integrated into the site itself. Perhaps that will come? However, it is nice to see the books listed by release date—a lot of manga publishers are very vague about that sort of thing, but their predecessor Del Rey always did it.
Speaking of Sailor Moon, Deb Aoki of About.com sent Kodansha some questions about their new edition and they answered them, apparently anonymously. So things are moving forward, and it should be an interesting summer.
Kodansha Comics stole a bit of thunder from C2E2 today with the announcement that they are bringing a classic manga series back to the U.S. market: Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon.
Speculation has been bubbling around the manga world for a while that Kodansha would bring back Sailor Moon, which was originally published in the United States by Tokyopop (then known as Mixx) but has been out of print for years. A magical-girl story about teenage girls who transform into superheroines to fight evil, Sailor Moon was the first successful shoujo manga and anime in the U.S. and helped pave the way for the manga revolution that followed. Sailor Moon is one of those books people get sentimental about—for a lot of readers and creators, especially women, it was their first comic. It looks like Kodansha is going for those older readers, as they are describing their release as a “deluxe edition,” rather than keeping them cheap for teenagers—who would probably find it laughably dated. Kids are cruel that way.
Kodansha plans to launch the new edition in September and publish a volume every two months. They will also be publishing the prequel, Codename: Sailor V, which has not been previously licensed in the U.S. They original series will follow the sequence of the 2003 Japanese re-release but collapse it from 18 volumes into 12 for the main story arc plus two more volumes of short stories. It sounds like they are doing a new translation, and the books will have new cover art and freshly retouched interior art.
Click for a look at the cover of Codename: Sailor V.
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When the news that the Japanese publisher Kodansha and printer Dai Nippon had each bought a 46% share of the U.S. publisher Vertical, Inc., hit the internet on Wednesday, manga fans’ initial reaction was shock and dismay. Vertical is well known in manga circles for publishing a number of well-liked series, including Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha and the more recent Twin Spica and Chi’s Sweet Home. They recently announced two more series that had a lot of advance buzz, Tezuka’s Princess Knight and the wine manga Drops of God. When fans heard the news, many of them assumed these series would disappear or be put on hold.
Vertical marketing director Ed Chavez quickly got on Twitter to reassure them that Vertical’s manga plans would not change. In fact, when I spoke to Ed to clarify some of the details of the deal, he told me Vertical’s manga sales were up 650% between 2009 and 2010, which is pretty amazing when you consider that the manga market as a whole contracted during that time.
One of the things I wanted to know was which Kodansha bought a 46.7% share in Vertical: Kodansha Comics, which is publishing manga in the U.S., or parent company Kodansha? Ed said it was the parent company. This means Kodansha is pursuing two different manga strategies in the U.S. Kodansha Comics has taken over the former Del Rey line (which was owned by Random House) and is publishing manga directly, although they have hired Random House staff to edit and localize their books. The Vertical deal is different; Kodansha is simply investing in the company, not running it.
Here is the rest of my conversation with Ed.
Is this what they mean by Vertical integration? Kodansha, the largest publisher in Japan, and the Japanese printer Dai Nippon have made a major investment in the publisher Vertical, Inc., which is best known in the comics world for its high-quality editions of works by Osamu Tezuka (Buddha, Black Jack, Ayako) as well as an eclectic line of works by other creators: Twin Spica, the cute cat manga Chi’s Sweet Home, Felipe Smith’s Peepo Choo. Earlier this year they announced that they had licensed Tezuka’s Princess Knight and the wine manga Drops of God.
Anime News Network reports that Kodansha bought a 46.7% share of the company and Dai Nippon bought 46%. Vertical marketing director Ed Chavez said on Twitter yesterday that the deal had been in the works for some time, and that it won’t change the company’s manga schedule. Vertical will not restrict itself to Kodansha manga; in fact, more than half their 2012 books will be from other publishers. “No major changes, just financial stability,” Ed Tweeted, although he added, “and hopefully a return to more balance to our catalog. We’ve been manga heavy lately.”
Retailing | Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg reports that Borders Group may file for bankruptcy protection as early as next week. Additionally the struggling book chain, the second-largest in the United States, will likely close at least 150 of its 500 remaining namesake stores. Company stock plunged in the wake of the news. A Borders spokeswoman declined comment, but referred to a Jan. 27 statement from President Mike Edwards in which he raised “the possibility of an in-court restructuring.” [Bloomberg]
Legal | Rich Johnston and retailer news and analysis site ICv2 look at potential trademark issues surrounding Marvel’s “Who Are the Mystery Men?” They note that cartoonist Bob Burden owns the trademark to the one-word “Mysterymen,” while Dark Horse and Universal Pictures control the two-word “Mystery Men” — both relating to the characters created by Burden and the 1999 movie adaptation. Dynamite Entertainment also has laid claim to “Super-Mysterymen” for its Project Superpowers series. “I have not heard from Universal yet, but I’m sure Universal will proceed in an orderly and propitious manner,” Burden said. [Bleeding Cool, ICv2.com]
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 Graphic.ly), which would allow fans to do their own translations right on the site.
What a difference a year makes! A year ago today, the iPad not only didn’t exist, it hadn’t been officially announced yet. People read comics on their iPhones and iPod Touches, but the screens were too small for a good experience (and therefore, no one wanted to spend much money on them). The iPad changed all that, with a big, full-color screen that is just a tad smaller than a standard comics page (and a tad larger than a standard manga page), and publishers started taking digital comics seriously. The distribution was already in place, thanks to the iPhone—comiXology, iVerse, Panelfly—and now the publishers not only jumped on board with those platforms but also started developing their own apps.
The digital comics scene is still developing, but the iPad was the game changer. For many people, it was the first time that they could comfortably read comics on a handheld screen. Now, it’s just a question of marketing—this year, publishers will grapple with bringing comics to a wider audience, outside the existing readership, and balancing the digital marketplace with the established brick-and-mortar retail structure.
Here, then, is a look back at our digital year.
Kodansha Comics announced its first season’s offerings yesterday, and it looks like the lineup is a mix of old and new, including several series that have already been published in the U.S. by other publishers. The good news for many fans is that most of the manga published by Del Rey, which Kodansha is more or less taking over, will continue under the new imprint.
The new titles are
- Monster Hunter Orage, by Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima
- Deltora Quest, the anime version of which is currently playing on The Hub
- The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
- Mardock Scramble, a sci-fi manga that is also an anime
- Animal Land, by Zatch Bell creator Makoto Raiku, which “tells the hilarious and heartwarming story of a baby raised by animals”
- Bloody Monday, a thriller about a computer hacker racing to stop a terrorist plot
- Cage of Eden, which they describe as “Battle Royale meets Lost by way of Negima!”
- A new Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney manga series
In addition, they will be reviving Gon, the wordless dinosaur manga, which was originally published by CMX, and Until the Full Moon, by Fake creator Sanami Matoh, which was originally published by Broccoli.
When the news broke last week that Kodansha would stop licensing its manga to Del Rey and publish them under its own imprint, some commenters reacted with dismay. Aside from being unimpressed with the first few releases from the Japanese publisher, American readers are not happy with Kodansha’s complete lack of accessibility to the public — no content on their website, no press releases and very few interviews.
So when the Kodansha panel abruptly disappeared from the schedule for New York Comic Con & New York Anime Festival, online reaction was sharp and rather resentful. Fortunately, the Kodansha honchos seem to realize that things were going off-kilter and authorized Dallas Middaugh, who will continue to edit the publisher’s books under the new arrangement, to address what exactly happened.
And what happened was not a sudden cancellation, but rather a miscommunication, Middaugh explained. Kodansha had originally planned to do a panel at NYAF but decided to cancel it at the end of August. “We realized that we were a little off schedule,” he told Robot 6. “We really weren’t going to have any titles to announce, and without any titles to announce, we didn’t see any point in having the panel. I contacted the [New York] Comic Con folks and told them ‘We got nothing, please cancel the panel.’ And in their defense, I did say ‘What’s the latest we can get back to you if we decide we do want a panel?’ That day came and went, we had canceled the panel, they unfortunately took it as a yes and ran the panel information, and we were surprised the panel was listed.”
So what looked like an abrupt cancellation was actually a correction.
Publishing | Retail news and analysis site ICv2 concludes its two-part interview with Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, who addresses the struggle between “tightly interwoven continuity” and accessible comics: “… You run the constant battle of people saying ‘we need one-shots for people to jump on to,’ but the ordering trends don’t play to that a lot. The ordering trends play to ‘is this tied to an event.’ It was very evident with DC’s Brightest Day and Darkest Night orders. It was very evident during Civil War. So you hear that said a lot but most of the sales are very contradictory to those desires. Making books as easily entered into as possible is something we try to pay close attention to. I’m not going to deny that we don’t get lost in our own soup sometimes which is the nature of serialized story-telling. It’s hard to keep the revenue numbers without tying in books to leverage off the big books.” [ICv2.com]
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.
Editors from Kodansha’s Morning magazine announced the winners of their fourth annual Morning International Comic Competition this weekend, and they seem to be happier than they were last year. The judges in the 2009 competition complained that “many of the current entries have focused on bishojo, giant robots, ninja and the like, leaving a very narrow impression of ‘manga’ style.” They expressed overall dissatisfaction with the entries and asked prospective creators to think about some different types of stories, and to emphasize this, they changed the name of the contest from Morning International Manga Competition to Morning International Comic Competition.
Talking to Publishers Weekly Comics Week, Sean Michael Wilson, the editor of the alt-manga anthology AX, reveals that the Japanese publisher Kodansha is bringing out a line of mature manga works. (It’s not clear whether Wilson is referring to Kodansha USA, Kodansha’s US manga publishing arm, or Kodansha International, which is a different division.)
Either way, this sounds like an intriguing project, both in the way it is being done and the books they are working on. Wilson is actually writing the books, which are adaptation of Japanese prose works, and they are going to be published in English in Japan and then in North America and the UK. Wilson has four books scheduled; the first are Hagakure, an adaptation of In the Shadow of Leaves, a guide for samurai, and Yakuza Moon, the true story of a woman born into a Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) family.
Wilson is also working on Gekiga Freaks, the manga biography of Masahiko Matsumoto, whose Cigarette Girl is due out next year from Top Shelf, but the publisher for that project has not been determined yet.