There is a lot of speculation going on about Kodansha and it’s reasons for joining the US Manga market. I think it’s a little premature to speculate now, but I guess that’s what bloggers and fans like to do. This is obviously something Kodansha has had in the works for a while. You don’t get $2,000,000.00 in capital without some planning, and to throw in my .02 about this, I would say it’s Tokyopop restructuring that has more to do with things than Kodansha wanting to “cash in” on the US market.
Kodansha would have known when Tokyopop started having problems, and would have known which licenses they were going to give up on from them. Tokyopop has a lot of low sellers, but how much of that is from lack of any kind of marketing, or just plain bad marketing? Two titles I know I enjoy that they got from Kodansha, Kindaichi Case Files and Dragon Voice suffered from horrible marketing, and as a result, neither title took off like they could have. Especially Kindaichi. This title should have been marketed as a straight out murder mystery series, not some Japanese version of Scooby Doo.
Even with a downturn in the economy, the cut in half of TP’s books, and Kodonsha’s reputation could make them another force to reckon with–if they approach the US market right. They need to follow Del Rey’s lead. Start off with a few titles that have an established fan base. Maybe even rescue a title or two (Kindaichi), and make them decent. Tokyopop did a lot of schlock titles and look where it got them. Del Rey started slowly, and built their base not just quality releases, but with a variety. Dark Horse, for all it’s good points, keeps itself in a niche that just hasn’t gained a fanbase.
There also seems to be some debate if the manga market is stagnating or plateauing. Perhaps in the teen market, where the majority of the titles have been coming out, you could make an argument for either way. But the Tween and Mature markets have hardly been scratched. And I don’t think you can say that because there isn’t any interest. You can’t build interest in something your audience doesn’t know exists. There’s been some inway made to the Tweens with GNs of popular novel series’ like Warriors, and Cine-manga of TV shows. But mature manga, titles that adults can pick up and not feel embarrassed about (not that I ever do) are still few and far between. Why? Because publishers and book sellers don’t know what to do with them, just like the light novels. Change that, and you just might be able to cultivate an actual adult demographic. Especially since the teens that started this revolution will be looking for more sophisticated titles. They need to have something to move on to, or they will move on from manga.
Alright, I didn’t mean to make this into a rant. But, there you go.
Reminder: Volume 2 of Bizenghast is now available for reading at Tokyopop.com. Read it while waiting for the fireworks to start this 4th.
Tokyopop @ AX: As I suspected, even though Tokyopop will not have a booth in the dealer’s room, they will have a presense at AX, at panels and contests. They’re not going to let you forget about them just yet. The Q & A sessions should be interesting though. Someone ask for a list of dropped books, and stop keeping us in suspense. SDCC should show and even stronger presense, though not necessarily anywhere fans will see, beyond the panels they will surely still host. But, SDCC hasn’t been a comic con for at least 5 years. It’s all about the media and brands. What’s coming out; NBC and Sci Fi has already announced who they’ll be bringing from their new and returning shows. It’s also about shopping for new properties to make into movies and TV. You know the TP media division will be selling hard. It’s too bad most of it is stuff you wouldn’t want to see (Princess Ai/anything by DJ Milky) Don’t count TP out just yet.