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Huge news: Kodansha arrives!

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The wait is over as Calvin Reid  finally confirms Kodansha’s entry into the US Market:

After years of speculation about its plans, Kodansha, the largest publisher in Japan and a prolific manga licensor to U.S. publishers, is establishing an office in New York City to publish and sell manga directly in the U.S. market beginning this month. The new line of manga will be called Kodansha Comics, which will be published under Kodansha USA Publishing and distributed by Random House.

Kodansha USA Publishing is headed by Yoshio Irie, v-p and board member at Kodansha, and general manager Tomoko Suga, a familiar figure in the U.S. manga market and U.S. comics conventions through Kodansha’s relationship with Random House. Kodansha Comics will launch with two classic manga titles, the postapocalyptic sci-fi epic Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo and the metaphysical sci-fi police thriller Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune. The two series have been published in the U.S. by Dark Horse Books, and both offer an extended array of multimedia franchises that include animated films, video games, prose novels, merchandising and more.

According to the piece, Kodansha will continue to work with a number of its licensed publishers.

Kodansha is Japan’s largest publisher, and their huge line of manga had been variously licensed to Dark Horse, TokyoPop and Del Rey.The confirmation of the move — which has been evident for over a year, since the Tokyopop and Dark Horse licenses were ended then — marks the beginning of what could be a major player in the American GN scene.

The full transcript of the interview with Irie will appear in tomorrow’s PW Comics Week.

  1. Nice to see it’s official. And the interview will be nice.

    Two Akira volumes, one Ghost In The Shell, each volume over 300 pages long. Both Volume 1 titles will ship next week.

    For those who are keeping score:
    Kodansha America, Incorporated
    451 Park Ave S.
    Flr. 7
    New York, NY 10016-7390
    USA
    Toll-Free Phone: 800-451-7556
    Distributed by: Oxford University Press

    Graphic Novel ISBN prefix: 1-935429

  2. For those who are keeping score:
    Kodansha America, Incorporated
    451 Park Ave S.
    Flr. 7
    New York, NY 10016-7390
    USA
    Toll-Free Phone: 800-451-7556
    Distributed by: Oxford University Press

    Graphic Novel ISBN prefix: 1-935429

    Still, I’m confused. This article talks about “Kodansha USA Publishing” as the name of the company publishing these “Kodansha Comics,” not the already existing “Kodansha America.”

    Kodansha America may be distributed by Oxford University Press, but the article says that it’ll be Random House that’s distributing Kodansha Comics.

    Does Kodansha now have two different divisions publishing books in the U.S.? I guess that’s it, but that’s weird, isn’t it?

  3. As near as I grok it:

    Kodansha America, LLC is the sales and marketing arm for both the new Kodansha USA Publishing company and the old Kodansha International.

    Kodansha USA Publishing will distribute “Kodansha Comics” via Random House. Kodansha International with continue to distribute “Kodansha” titles via Oxford University Press.

    Kodansha International was and is based in Tokyo, Kodansha America and Kodansha USA Publishing are both based in New York.

    Kodansha International was and is focused on academic titles and other non-fiction titles including cookbooks, architecture, and general reference (like the new Otaku Encyclopedia).

    Kodansha USA Publishing is all about the manga.

    While this seems confusing to American observers, the major companies of Japan are all conglomerates made up of affiliated companies (often including and centered around an “in-house” banking co.) instead of being a single monolithic corporation. The idea of setting up a new company for a new line is as natural and everyday to them, as the debut of a new imprint would be for an American publisher.

    references:
    http://www.kodansha.co.jp/english/company/affiliated.html
    http://www.kodansha-intl.com/contents/top.php?plang=en
    http://www.kodansha-intl.com/contents/info2BookSellers.php?plang=en

    no URL yet for a “Kodansha Comics” website — and I’ve looked. Right now KodanshaAmerica.com points to the K-Int’l web site.

    and if I can be forgiven the sin of linking to myself:
    http://www.rocketbomber.com/2009/09/03/business-is-booming-2-kodansha-puzzles

  4. I’ve worked with Kodansha for many years now. I have almost no faith in them pulling off this publishing venture. If they do, it will be for the same reason they are still in business at all; they have successful properties that are popular and make them money, in spite of how horribly inefficient they are at every aspect of the publishing business. In this day and age, could you fathom prepping a book for production, burning the files to disc, (which in itself is fairly archaic) and then sending your ONLY copy of said book to be published without ever even bothering to archive the files for any future use? A kid making a fanzine wouldn’t do something so stupid, but the big K does it regularly. Considering it took them almost three years to get one person to move to NYC to set up this “office”, they’re not exactly instilling a lot of confidence. They have zero grasp on the American market, no clue what people here will actually read or put up with. They wanted to print a manga prose novel here in the US reading right to left. It’s impressive that people will read regular manga like that, but who would read type written like that? And do you know why they wanted to do that? Because the handful of illustrations in the book were done reading right to left, and the artist thought the idea of his work being presented in a flipped format was “offensive to him and his skills.” Flip a whole book and pretty much doom it to no sales for one person’s pride–and K went along with it, because they live in mortal fear of their artists. It’s all the definition of hubris.

  5. Appologies… my data was found on Bowker’s Books In Print database.

    What is the hidden zeitgeist this year is how major book publishers are now major publishers and distributors of graphic novels. Random House, in addition to Pantheon, Crown, Del Rey, Knopf, also distributes: DC, Titan, Kodansha, Vertical, and Wizards of the Coast.

    Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Scholastic all have significant GN lists. Might we see migration from Diamond Books?

  6. Torsten–
    All those publishers you listed are actually only one publisher. They distribute to the book markets, but Diamond still distributes to the direct market. That’s pretty much it’s only real purpose, getting GN’s into specialty shops.

  7. Kan… Diamond Book distributes to the book market. Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Top Shelf, Slave Labor… While not as big as mainstream houses, they do a great job of promoting graphic novels to librarians and educators. (See: Diamond Bookshelf) They offer 12,000+ titles to the book trade, which includes bookstores AND libraries, a far more lucrative market than comicbook shops.

    Also, some specialty shops (see: Beguiling) are now going “direct” to the publishers for stock, as Diamond Comics’ backstock (and frontlist) is not comprehensive. Diamond may offer better discounts, but only on items they carry.

  8. To the (digressive, but interesting) question of whether we might see migration from Diamond Book Distributors to other “real book” distributors, anything is possible, but my guess is that that might only be a real possibility for Diamond’s bigger book trade clients–Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, and maybe a few others. I don’t think many of those “real book” distributors would be all that interested in taking on any but the biggest, most proven GN publishers for distribution. (That is to say, Random House picked up DC Comics for trade distribution; they didn’t pick up, for example, Zenescope.)

    I also suspect Diamond Book Distributors would be highly motivated to keep their big clients in the fold, so they might compete very hard to stand up against whatever deals those publishers might secure from other companies.

    Further digressing, I do think what’s more interesting to see is how “real” publishers are continuing to poach talent from established comics/graphic novel publishers–Dash Shaw’s new book coming from Random House/Pantheon, not Fantagraphics; that sort of thing. That’s (to me, at least) a more likely and lasting change to the comics landscape than “real publishers” taking on entire lines of graphic novels for trade distribution.

  9. Not being funny, but did *no-one* spot the listing for Akira & Ghost in the Shell under the Kodansha label in Previews 2 months ago? I mean, it’s still a really thick catalogue, and it was tucked away in the back-of-catalogue stuff, but still…

  10. “That’s pretty much it’s only real purpose, getting GN’s into specialty shops. ”

    Sorry for the omission, what I meant was Diamond’s only real purpose as far as “real” publishers are concerned is getting GN’s into specialty shops. Of course Diamond distributes to other markets, but the distribution the big houses have in place with the big buyers is far more extensive and profitable than anything Diamond could offer them, so there’s no reason to use them as such. Just in the same way you don’t dig a ditch with an icepick, use the right tool for the job.

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