Following yesterday’s announcement that the Del Rey Manga imprint was folding into a distribution arm for Kodansha Comics, a US branch of the Japanese publisher, American manga watchers were NOT jumping for joy. Chris Butcher came right out and said it:
To my mind, there hasn’t been a worse publisher launch in the last 5 years than that of Kodansha USA.
Ouchie. Kodansha’s vvveeerrrryyyyy slow rollout of titles — two in two years — in demonstrably inferior editions and lack of communication are the signs that Butcher is talking about. However, some manga bloggers see a way out.
Daniella Orihuela-Gruber has a smart plan involving going public and bringing back such slam dunk hits as SAILOR MOON.
3. Make a big splash- Ever since Kodansha started pulling the licenses of their titles from American manga publishers, Kodansha has been much like Cuba–everyone else can get the cigars, but Americans can’t. There are many fantastic titles hidden in the Kodansha vaults, so please, Kodansha, don’t keep all the top notch Cohibas locked away in a drawer. Publish Sailor Moon or another popular title that fans have been clamoring for and our attention will be solidly fixed on Kodansha. I know this goes against the previous suggestion, but if it’s done in tandem, I think it could really work well for Kodansha.
Katherine Dacey is also concerned about the lack of engagement with the community:
What Kodansha hasn’t done is engage readers in a dialogue about its plans. Yes, senior management spoke to Publishers’ Weekly about the forthcoming partnership, but Kodansha has yet to create a proper website (the embedded link within the press release points to a non-existent page) or meet with journalists and fans face-to-face. (Kodansha’s New York Comic-Con panel, originally scheduled for 10:45 AM on October 10th, simply disappeared from the Events calendar with no notice.) I understand that Kodansha employees are reluctant to speak before the company has determined what and when it will publish, but in refusing to reach out to fans at all, they’re allowing fan and journalist speculation to take the place of productive discussion about the company’s plans. Let’s hope they get cracking on a new website soon.
David Welsh shows that the above two really are the hopeful ones:
But I would be lying if I said I was optimistic. It’s been over two years since word first leaked that Kodansha was taking its English-language distribution into its own hands, and the results have been rather pathetic.
Our own thoughts? Obviously Kodansha is a very zaibatsu Japanese company, with all the (to Western sensibilities) quirks and preconceived notions that many Japanese companies have when doing business over here. The fact that they out-and-out canceled their NYCC panel is telling — not even WildStorm did that!
Kodansha Comics needs to bust loose — a new edition of SAILOR MOON, the book that sparked the whole manga revolution, would show if this is a single- or multi-generation phenomenon. And with some of the greatest manga of all in their catalog — and modern, controversial titles like HATARAKI MAN, they could also show the way to the maturing audience for manga.
So…the jury is out. But it would be exciting if they tried.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.