The day began with a tediously long crosstown jaunt over to the Javits Center that took 30 minutes to go 10 blocks. WHY do taxi drivers INSIST on going crosstown on 31st St.? Even a bus moves faster on 34th. I asked my driver and he said 34th was the worst because you can’t make a left hand turn. We don’t understand what that has to do with being stuck behind a truck delivering gladiolas for 15 minutes…but…we disgress.
We started the day with a strategy session with the All-Star team we have assembled to cover this show: Kai Ming Cha! Calvin Reid! Brigid Alverson! Ed Chavez! Erin Finnegan! Laurel Maury! Laura Hudson! (We aren’t really manga experts, so we’re not part of the all-star team.) At 1ish the manga troops started assembling, from Tpop, Viz, Del Rey, Yen and near and far.
Milton Griepp kicked things off with a “white paper.”
We jotted down the stats, but the bottom line was Manga = still growing; Anime = not so hot. Manga sales are expected to keep growing for the next few years, although not at the fervid pace of the early years. Anime is having a harder time, since some outlets have gone out of business, consumers now expect complete season set pricing, not the 3 or 4 episode release, as before, and, yes, due to the competition of illegal dubbing and downloads.
A “state of the industry” type of panel then convened, with ANN’s Christopher Macdonald, Viz’s Lisa Coppola, Gen Fukunaga, President and CEO of FUNimation Entertainent, the inimitable Al Kahn, Chairman and CEO, 4Kids Entertainment, Lawrence Neves, Editorial Director, Pokemon USA and Rich Johnson of Yen Press. Kahn was at a previous ICv2 conference and made headlines when he said kids didn’t want to read any more. He was just as flamboyant this time, as Laura Hudson recounts at her blog:
Al Kahn: I think basically it’s over in Japan, for the moment… I think Japan is tired, I think manga is tired… [There’s] a tremendous reduction in the sale of manga on a weekly and monthly basis… [Japanese] publishers and creators don’t really care what you want. It’s a real systematic problem… We’ve walked away from Japan to a great extent… [I’m] very skeptical of the Japanese model. If you’re big in manga, you should be looking elsewhere, because it’s going south.
Rich Johnson: The term “it’s over” is somewhat inflated… [Sales] are cyclical… with valleys and peaks like any other industry… Bookstores were nowhere 10 years ago. People thought [it] were on [its] last legs… But can anyone think of a richer time in graphic novels [than now]?
Follow the link for the whole spat.
There wasn’t much in the way of revelations, although the fireworks whenever Kahn opened his mouth made it an entertaining panel. Next up was a look at the girl’s market for manga and anime; again nothing too newsworthy except for Tokyopop’s Lillian Diaz-Przybyl saying that the OEL model they had followed of giving new creators a three book deal hadn’t been a success and they would be adjusting it. The technology panel followed, and the basic idea reiterated by all the panelists (Jeremy Ross from Tokyopop, John Nee from DC, Daniel Marks from Viz and a fellow from Comcast whose name I don’t have in front of me) was that you can’t compete with free downloads or eradicate piracy; companies have to find a way to adapt the technology and make money off it.
The entire conference was covered in detail by the many members of the press present — we saw more pencils scribbling than at an SAT test — so if we missed anything we’ll be sure to link to it.