kodanshalogo.jpg[email protected] reports a Japanese report that confirms all those rumors about Kodansha entering the US market.

Japan’s highly respected Nikkei financial news service is reporting that Kodansha has set up a U.S. subsidiary “to publish and sell translations of its Japanese manga” in the U.S. starting in September. The reason for the move, according to Nikkei, is “to boost its earnings in America, where its income has been limited to royalties received from U.S. firms.

Kodansha setting up shop in the US does not invalidate the news that they are not immediately pulling licenses from US publishers, such as Del Rey, who have an existing relationship with the Japanese publishing giant. Kodansha has a huge number of properties to pick from, so there’s lot of stuff to go round, at least at first.

However, this could be related to the news that Dark Horse’s license to publish Akira seems to be in some question.



  1. Nahaha! Just like Viz with Eclipse in the ’80’s.
    I am not surprised that Cthuhlu was right.

    Kodansha had a relationship with Marvel in the 90’s, and had an employee from Kodansha that then-colorist Joe Rosas called “secret Agent Sam” because it was an open secret that Sam was there to learn about U.S. comics publishing.

  2. If this means they’ll finally be republishing Sailor Moon in the US, I will die with all sorts of happy. Good magical girl manga seem hard to come by these days!

  3. I wonder how the chaps at Oxford University Press are taking this news?

    Books In Print lists over 1200 titles published by Kodansha America, of which the sole manga title seems to be Schodt’s “Manga! Manga!”.

    Once Kodansha “enters” the category, what effect will it have on other manga publishers? (Perhaps Heidi should include Hokusai’s “Great Wave Off Kanagawa to future posts?)

  4. Uh… shouldn’t a few people say “I’m so sorry i was an arse” to that Lovecraftian deity who BROKE the news? And no, I am not that deity. I just think that all those folks who ripped this guy a new one should have at LEAST the decency to say, damn, you were right, I was wrong.

  5. In the short term, even if all open Kodansha licenses reverted to Kodansha’s new division immediately, I don’t see the market shaking up much. Kodansha might be the number one trade publisher in Japan, but Shueisha is tops in manga — especially in the key “shonen” (older boys) demographic. And as Shueisha and Shogakukan are, at the top, one company, and Viz is exclusive with both, a consolidated Kodansha in the US is still dwarfed by Viz. There are a few strong Kodansha licenses that could break out into the top 20 (the super buzzworthy Moyashimon, for example), but I think history has shown pretty well that production values and marketing have limited effects on specific series sales in the US — at least when it comes to hits. The perfect “Kodansha America” is destined to be number 2 (where Del Rey has been settling into as Tokyopop’s star falls), as long as the market keeps to current habits.

    Where Kodansha could really start shaking things up and leapfrogging past Viz is if they start treating the US (and other markets) as primary customers and not as an aftermarket. As folks often remind us, manga isn’t a genre — it’s just comics made in Japan. Japan’s manga industry is a well-tuned machine, churning out content with unmatched efficiency, but on the creative side, it’s all tuned to Japanese tastes, natch. By the time it goes through international taste filters, only a small fraction is palatable abroad. If a portion of the the pipeline, can be dedicated from conception, to catering to American (or German, or Muslim, etc.), perhaps we’d have more Narutos and less supernatural schoolgirl noise. Finding a balance between manga’s “otherness” appeal, and pandering to local preferences is no small task, but if Japanese publishers can find success with niche manga anthologies about everything from office romance to pachinko, I think they can handle shrinking the epicness (Americans don’t want 50+ volumes) and checking fan service (do 12 year olds really need camel toe?).

    Perhaps we could also see more simultaneous releases as the current time delay saps much of the excitement and surprise from any translated release. Fruits Basket, for example, has been finished in Japan for about 2 years – fans know that volume 23 is the last volume, and if they care to look it up, they can find a translation or spoilers online. The Tokyopop edition, however, won’t see its final volume released until 2009. Sure, it will likely still be selling well, but it’s more of an inevitability than event. This is a change whose time has long since come.

    Throughout the history of manga publishing thus far, the dissimilarities between the US and Japanese markets (phone book anthologies vs. monthly floppies vs. trades, weekly vs. monthly, vs. quarterly) has made it impossible to find a one-size-fits-all solution for both markets (see Raijin). Right now the Japanese market facing a host of problems (used market cutting into tankobon cells, growing preference for mobile phones cutting into anthologies, etc) while the US is facing problems of its own (slowing economy, bookstore contraction, shelf space, etc.). Japanese publishers know that they need to evolve – perhaps Kodansha (and Viz/Shueisha/Shogakukan) can find some solutions that work globally.

  6. *Ah-hem*

    If the guy (girl?) spreading rumours a couple of weeks ago had used his/her real name, I could apologise to them.

    I stand by what I said then — well, I don’t know if I stated it outright but I more that implied it: rumors without, you know, some sort of corroboration are worthless and more than a little irritating, at least to me.

    But it looks like ‘chthulu’ was right, so he/she/it can now call me a chump and loser with some authority, if they ever bother to show up again.

  7. Cthulu didn’t break the news; he or she leaked the news. There’s a huge difference, and until people in comics recognize and value that difference they’ll get the news they deserve.

    I am all for people leaking the news, of course. So hooray for Cthulu.

  8. And in fairness to Mr. Blind, an epic license recall by Kodansha, and innuendo to it being the source of trouble for some manga licensees, has not been confirmed. Del Rey is already denying such on their blog. So that portion is still debatable. And as long as we’re still in unsubstantiated rumor land, one may even speculate that Kodansha entering the market is in response to domestic publishers letting underperforming titles lapse, rather than the other way around.

  9. Actually, I now need to apologise to Mr. Spurgeon, because it of course is a difference between breaking and leaking, but unless people are content with reurgitating press release and think that posting a preview is “news”, then somebody leaking is pretty much all that is left.

    Those corporations treat their business like a business. The Comics News People don’t. They treat it like it’s a MySpace community with lots of linkage, not weighted nor analysed. That’s the difference.

    Calling up the PR flack for Del Rey to comment is barely scratching the surface when it comes to following up a rumour. What is he going to say? “Yeah, uh, we might lose licenses, we don’t know?” Of course he is not going to tell you anything, be it because he doesn’t know or he knows and cannot speak of it.

    I firmly believe that one of the reasons why things get leaked on the intrawubs so often is that there IS no actual business reporting going on, no watch dogging, no nothing — which was shown also by the recent Tokyopop discussion. Was there a news reporter looking at the contract? You know, like, an actual news service would do? No. It was a creator who spoke out very loudly, then another one, then Lea Hernandez (who is often very loud and way too often too correct for my liking, which means she is in the wrong business and should become an investment analyst.)

    If you look at how Newsarama is done and how CBR is done (let’s not even talk about Wizard), you can pretty much go to the company’s PR page and get the same kind of info. And those are the ones claiming they’re doing this professionally. That’s not reporting, that’s putting out a fan community with interviews and previews on the web. And that – in and of itself – is not NECESSARILY a bad thing.

    But it is NOT journalism.

    Journalism is putting out the things that those you report on DO NOT want the public to hear. Then you won’t have leakage (ahem) bubbling up, or at least those things could be dealt with in a proper manner. Now, this is not just a problem with comics, today journalists in the US are trained to do “community” journalism everywhere, let’s not offend anybody, do the kumbaya and get inserted well into the group of people you are reporting on. Which, in its worst excesses, can be of course be seen in political reporting from inside the beltway.

    As I once told one of my reporters (and this is a quote from somebody else, but damn me, if I can remember who said it first): “You REPORT on them. You are NOT ONE OF THEM. If it means to piss them off, do it. You are there for two things, and that’s the truth and your audience. And if you piss the people off you report on, you very likely have done something right”

    Of course, and this will come from the balconies now, “but there are only two main corporations, and if we piss them off, then they won’t talk to us anymore.” I have heard that before. And it’s wrong. I had to deal with people who are most likely worse than those at DC or Marvel, publicity-wise. I had to deal with Sony Europe, Sega Europe and Japan (and at Sega Japan, not only does the right hand not know what the left hand does, the index finger doesn’t knw there is a pinky on the same hand) and Microsoft Europe, and boy, they can threaten very well…

    … and I know how that works. They call your ad department, the account manager is pissing his or her pants, they call the Managing Director, the Managing Director calls you and asks you what the F**K you were thinking, and call those people right now and fix it, and then you call them and ask ONE thing, and ONE thing only:

    “Was the story factually incorrect?”

    And two out of three times, they start backing down, if you have made your homework. And if they keep on threatening? Then you run the story that they threatened you. They pull ads from you because you ran a story that was factually correct and they didn’t like? You make THAT your main story AND run the story that pissed them off AGAIN. You have no idea how fast those PR and marketing people will call you and go “well, we might have gotten off on the wrong foot here…”

    … because all over sudden you have dragged them into the spotlight, and if there is one thing a corporation doesn’t like is to have its ass dragged there, kicking and screaming, because then the other media will pick it up and THAT will become the story, and – oh dear – that doesn’t work too well, if all over sudden it’s CORPORATION STRANGLES FREEDOM OF PRESS.

    The latest, small thing that happened was that in Germany the software manufacturer Atari sued, yes SUED a games website … why? Because they didn’t like its review of their new ALONE IN THE DARK game. But instead of backing down, the guy who ran the site put it up there. Hey, we’re being sued because somebody didn’t like our review. And it ran like a wildfire through the mainstream press, and again, look who quickly backed down, and here’s a hint: it wasn’t the site.

  10. Seeing how Del Rey Manga is extremely selective about the titles they publish and keeps their catalog to a minimum, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kodansha decided to make this move based on a) not finding any other publishers to pick up their titles for the quality/price they’re asking and b) feeling like they could do a better job and make more money on their remaining titles by getting into the market themselves. As far as I see it, they have no reason to pull the titles they already have with Del Rey from the market when they have a wealth of titles still left unpublished in the US.

  11. Thomas, you totally cracked me up! :3

    Speaking of too correct: “It was a creator who spoke out very loudly, then another one, then Lea Hernandez.”
    If you mean the nuclear explosion of discussion of the Manga Pilots contract that was me first, followed then by Hope Larsen, which led to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s scathing deconstruction.

    “[Lea] is often very loud and way too often too correct for my liking, which means she is in the wrong business and should become an investment analyst…”

    You really know how to turn a girl’s head. Stop it. Stop it some more.

  12. Wow. The rumor from the elder god from R’lyeh got it right.

    Personally, I am kinda glad. Finally a Japanese publisher is cutting out the middleman. As much as I like US publishers who imported manga, I’m just as fine with them going back to focusing on US books. Of course I have to wonder how this looks for TokyoPop since that’s all they’ve ever relied on for most of their sales.

    Speaking of TokyoPop, it seems Sailor Moon fans think there’s some hope in that we might see that manga published in the US again.

    Meanwhile, I’m personally looking forward to some of Tsutomu Nihei’s newer works like Biomega myself. TokyoPop released a just okay release of Blame!. (The first volume had some fans complain about printing too dark.)

    A number of other Kodansha series have been picked up by Del Ray and Dark Horse. Plus some at TokyoPop. Though there are still plenty. Just check out the list of overall titles here:

    Now there is a bad case in history of a Japanese company screwing up direct sales to the US. Toei released DVDs of Slam Dunk and Air Master back in 2005. Geneon distributed. The DVDs were very sub par and neither ever finished being released.

  13. Wasn’t Kodansha the one that paid for Paul Pope (among others) to do a bunch of work that never got printed? Could this now see the light of day in North America? You can’t see me but I’m rubbing my hands with gleeful anticipation…

  14. I have some friends who used to be into comics years ago, and I have gotten them interested again. More than once they have literally called me from Midtown Comics or Jim Hanley’s Universe and said, “I’m here! Now what do I get? I don’t know what I’m looking at!”

    It’s weird for me, who has read comics since I can remember, 30+ years ago, because I think I know my comics, but that’s exactly the sort of reaction I feel when I try to figure out what to read as I try to explore manga.

    They say that one of the reasons manga is popular with the kids is because it’s not as insular a closed club as superhero comics, but then I read this:

    “Nahaha! Just like Viz with Eclipse in the ’80’s.
    I am not surprised that Cthuhlu was right.”


    “Kodansha might be the number one trade publisher in Japan, but Shueisha is tops in manga — especially in the key “shonen” (older boys) demographic. And as Shueisha and Shogakukan are, at the top, one company, and Viz is exclusive with both, a consolidated Kodansha in the US is still dwarfed by Viz.”


    Who is Cthuhlu?

    What is Shueisha and Shogakukan

    I feel stupid, and out of it, and . . . old!

  15. In the 80’s, long-gone Eclipse Comics partnered with Shogakukan (known in the U.S. as Viz). Eclipse published Shogakukan titles like Area 88, Mai, the Psychic Girl, Xenon, Kamui and Nausicaa.

    After a couple years (at most), Viz ended the relationship and struck out on its own as a publisher. It’s been…almost twenty years ago. (I feel a little dizzy reading that.)

    I guess I’m not surprised because I’ve a) seen this before and b) Kodansha is so big it makes sense they’d want to start a company here and do things their way. It also makes sense they wouldn’t.

    I am guessing the relationship between Kodansha and Del Rey is somewhat more professional. (Meaning I perceive Del Rey as more professional than Eclipse.)

  16. “Who is Cthuhlu?”

    An octopus-headed elder god who sleeps in Ry’leh and will awaken to eat the souls of mankind. Or, in this context, a poster who leaked the news about Kodansha on Chris Butcher’s website.

    “What is Shueisha and Shogakukan”

    Two major Japanese publishers, both of books in general and manga in specific. Along with Kodansha, they’re the big three. Shueisha and Shogakukan jointly own Viz Media, which seems to be the publisher of first resort for most of their books.

    “They say that one of the reasons manga is popular with the kids is because it’s not as insular a closed club as superhero comic”

    The less insular argument’s about just buying the books, and I think it’s pretty valid. Tracking industry news is a different beast.

  17. cbrown: What James said. This is all insider baseball here, but if you go into a comics store and pick up a volume of manga, even if it isn’t the first volume in the series, you will probably be able to figure out the story within a couple of pages. The vast majority of people who read manga aren’t following this story at all; they’re busy reading and making imaginary matchups of their favorite characters.