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Manga | Tokyopop announced Thursday at Anime Expo that it will return to publishing new manga from Japan, and it has also acquired some anime licenses. In addition, it is launching an app, PopComics, that will allow users to upload and share their own comics. Tokoyopop was the largest manga publisher in the United States at the height of the manga boom, but it closed down its publishing program in 2011. In the past few years it has been making a slow-motion comeback, selling some of its properties as e-books and print-on-demand books and publishing three new volumes of Hetalia: Axis Powers. [Anime News Network]
The 77th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece shipped today in Japan with a first printing of 3.8 million copies, marking the first time in four years the manga has slipped below 4 million.
While American comics companies would be breaking out the champagne bottles with numbers like that, Anime News Network reports One Piece publisher Shueisha released a statement clarifying that, “Aside from print publications, [Shueisha] also distributes its comics digitally, and our sales channels are increasing.” A digital edition of Vol. 77 will be released next month.
The bestselling manga in the world, One Piece first reached the 4 million-copy mark in November 2011 with Vol. 64, setting a record in Japan. The series reached a peak in August 2012 with 4.05 million copies.
Debuting in 1997, as of last year Oda’s fantasy adventure had sold more than 310 million copies in Japan alone. Despite the growing popularity of Attack on Titan, One Piece clung to the top spot last year, selling 11.9 million copies.
Welcome to Best of 7, our new weekly wrap-up post here at Robot 6. Each Sunday we’ll talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out on Wednesday.
So without further ado, let’s get to it …
Publisher Shueisha Inc. took out full-page ads in The New York Times and The China Times to celebrate One Piece‘s position as the bestselling manga of all time, with more than 300 million copies in print in Japan, and 345 million worldwide.
According to The Japan Times, the company launched a similar campaign across that country on Nov. 1, when the 72nd volume of the pirate adventure was released.
Illustrated by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda, the ads proclaim, “Hey, World, This Is The Manga!” U.S. readers are directed to Viz.com, the website Viz Media, for “free previews and more.” (The San Francisco-based company is jointly owned by Shueisha, Shogakukan and the latter’s licensing division ShoPro Japan.)
Viz is marking the milestone with a free digital retrospective that features an interview with Oda, a gallery of the manga’s first 69 covers, color artwork, and a new One Piece chapter from Japan’s Weekly Shonen Jump.
“One Piece has achieved something very significant, and the sales milestone speaks to the strong international appeal of the enduring characters and gripping story that Eiichiro Oda created that are universally loved in multiple countries by millions of fans of all ages,” Andy Nakatani, editor-in-chief Weekly Shonen Jump, said in a statement. “The continuing spread of digital technology will bring these action packed high-seas adventures to even more readers.”
In a true-crime story unfolding across Japan, stores are pulling products and venues are canceling events related to the manga and anime Kuroko’s Basketball because of a series of threatening letters targeting locations linked to the manga’s creator, Tadatoshi Fujimaki, the manga, and doujinshi (fan comic) events related to it.
The first threat letters, at least one of which may have contained deadly poison, were sent more than a year ago, but the pace seems to be accelerating: The sender has hinted he or she may commit a crime on Nov. 4, and a new set of letters has emerged claiming the perpetrator is negotiating with the editors of Japanese Shonen Jump, which serializes the manga.
On Monday, the Japanese manga, video and game rental chain Tsutuya confirmed it has removed all copies Kuroko’s Basketball manga and anime. The Yurindo and Reliable bookstore chains are also removing the books. However, a number of bookstores, including Kinokuniya, Sanseido, Junkudo and Miyawaki, say they will continue to carry the manga despite receiving threatening letters demanding its removal.
In addition, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain is removing Kuroko’s Basketball-themed snacks from 1,500 locations after receiving a letter that said, “I left food products laced with poison in 7-Eleven.” The letter included a photograph of the snacks. Another convenience chain has stopped carrying a line of Kuroko’s Basketball tie-ins, including character dolls and plush toys.
Legal | In the aftermath of last month’s ruling that DC Comics retains full rights to Superman, the heirs of creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are urging federal judge to dismiss claims that their lawyer interfered with the publisher’s copyright to the character. DC sued attorney Marc Toberoff in May 2010, accusing him impeding a 1992 copyright agreement with the heirs by striking overriding deals with them in 2001 and 2003. The families insist the publisher filed its claims two years too late, as the statute of limitations expired in 2008. [Law360]
Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen]
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.
Shueisha, one of the largest publishers in Japan, went into the red last fiscal year, a first for the company, but its manga division wasn’t to blame. The publisher took hits on ad revenues and real estate holdings, as well as slipping book sales in several categories, including literature, which went down 2.8%. Manga, on the other hand, did pretty well; sales of Weekly Shonen Jump, their flagship magazine (which includes the insanely popular One Piece) and individual volumes of manga were both up in the past year.