Are They Nuts?!

I’m sure everyone’s heard by now about Viz’s insane idea to catch up One Piece with the Japanese releases.  They announced at Anime Expo that they will release 30 volumes in six months starting in January 2010.  That’s 5 volumes a month!  Back in May, when it was first announced that current One Piece chapters would start showing up in Shonen Jump, I wrote what I thought of that decision.  Viz was nuts.  I thought they would try to do it in the span before the chapters came out.  I was wrong about that.  But their response is no better.

one-piece-v21The Naruto mass releases may have worked for Viz so far because the first set happened before the economy took a dive and was broken up with a year in between to get 22 volumes out.  Add to that the outrageous popularity Naruto commands, and you can see why Viz could get away with it.  One Piece is a different story.  Even though it should be as popular, if not more than Naruto, it’s not.  It missed it’s opportunity to be a hit years ago when the anime was on TV and toys were on the shelf.  Now, it’s the loyal fanbase that’s reading it, that is definitely smaller than Naruto‘s.  But Viz is assuming a lot if they think that fanbase, which reads more than just One Piece no doubt,  is going to be able to buy it’s 5 volumes as well as their other titles every month for six months.  The first Naturo waved showed a drop in sales for Viz’s other releases.  The second no doubt did as well, and possibly more, as the economy had already started to take a dive.  There is no way fans and casual readers will be able to absorb this wave and the price increase in the Shonen Jump line.  It’s asking too much.

What really bothers me about this and the Naruto waves to a lesser extend, it that One Piece and Naruto have been in Shonen Jump magazine since the beginning (Naruto joined on the third issue).  It’s been 6 years that Viz could have done something about the gap between the US and Japanese releases.  6 years! They could have easily “graduated” the titles from the mag until the releases caught up and then put them back in the mag if it’s so important for them to be there.  But apparently it was more important for Viz to build a boys magazine that is based on anime, video game and card game properties than give a damn about the readership.

So what’s the point of jumping One Piece releases up now?  For the same reason Bleach was moved to Shonen Jump and Naruto has stayed shonen-jump-dec-2008through all it’s waves.  It’s all about the tie-ins.  Funimation was supposed to start showing simulcasts of One Piece in May, so the manga had to catch up to the anime so fans would watch (and hopefully) buy both.  Shonen Jump has been made and continues to be a promotional vehicle not so much for manga, but for the anime and other merchandising.  This has become the way of licensing.  If there’s an anime, the manga will be licensed.  If a manga is licensed, and an anime comes out, you can just count the months until the anime is licensed.    Shonen Jump features are and will continue to be all about the anime, the card games, the video games based on the manga.  I don’t read the articles in Shonen Jump because they are all just text commercials for products I don’t care for.  Can’t be about anything interesting or informative.  Apparently boys don’t like that. And Shonen Jump is just for boys, never mind all the girls that read it as well.

At least in Shojo Beat, some time and thought had to be put into their features.  Puts Shojo Beat‘s cancelation into a whole new perspective now, doesn’t it?

14 thoughts on “Are They Nuts?!”

  1. I concur completely. But Viz has plenty of money to cover up their screwups. A more sensible idea would be 2 volumes per month. Since when does the manga have to be caught up with the anime? They’re just thinking dollar signs and I think this whole thing might backfire on them.

  2. This is going to fail, epically. The idea of 5 volumes a month is just plain old nuts, even if the economy was stable.

    I thought it was nuts with naruto, and i still think it’s nuts. Sure there are loads of titles i’d love to see released more frequently, but you have to balance that with other releases.

    Also, Viz have the perfect medium to help catch up, the VizBig edition. Release one or two of those a month, and the series will still catch up, and fans wont be so out of pocket, and can buy other titles as well.

    Viz may have a lot of cash reserves, but mistakes like this will sap those badly, TP learnt that and it all but crippled them.

    But then, i think it’s time Viz made a catastrophic mistake. It might knock some sense into them

  3. I’m already behind on One Piece – the last volume I bought was volume eight, but I’ve always intended to try and catch up when I get the chance.

    This insane plan completely fucks that for me, as while I may be able to catch up to volume 20 at it stands, that’s some reasonably serious coin. Asking me to then drop even more serious coin on another 30 volumes in six months? NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

    It’s possible that I could try and stagger it, but there are two obstacles to that. Firstly, the usual case being that the longer a manga is out, the lower the discount gets. So waiting means I miss on the good discounts. Secondly, there’s always the risk that a volume may go out of print before I get to it. Mainly it’s the first reason, though – as I alluded to above, it all comes back to money. I’d want to catch up to get back to nabbing the volumes cheaply (taking the hit on the ones I’ve got behind on) – but if I catch up and then can’t sustain the purchasing (because money isn’t infinite!) so have to hold off getting the insaneowave volumes, then they’re not so cheap when I can get them… I’m rapidly losing any incentive to catch up.

    I really think Viz have overreached this time.

  4. I have to be honest and state that this article to me is what’s wrong with the anime/ manga market in this country. To be clear, you’re 100% right that the anime/ manga companies are buffoons who lucked into a hot property and have milked it as uncharacteristic Disney style licensing tools using for the most part–uneducated (in otaku culture)–soccer mom and or corporate shills– to dry and get ridiculous toy and coloring book deals done–rather than help to push key product.

    That said, you’re reasoning is just as off-base and represents the anime/ manga fan who think’s it’s all about them–the lone consumer of otaku content who thinks that because people like Naruto–then they’d really like (i.e. any unknown bizarre, niche manga).

    Both of you are wrong—this is a business and when in business that is foreign–treat the major properties with significant support that is relevant and stop with the BS.

    Should Viz have released One Piece sooner? YES! Ofcourse..we know why they didn’t though. Because they thought like you think–well if they like One Piece then they’ll LOVE Black Cat or Muhyo and Rohji and so on. Any fool can look and see why Naruto is a huge american property–Ninjas, blond white kids and monsters are always popular! Not to mention that it just happens to be insanely good.

    One Piece suffered from that corporate BS that I spoke of earlier–4Kids was more worried about coloring books and trading cards than in growing the brand on its’ own merit through the highly entertaining show.

    Still, I love the idea that you suggest–if Viz does this don’t they know sales of other books will suffer?? Ummm–yeah, they do. Sales are suffering anyway–all but Naruto. I’m willing to bet that common sense dictates–releasing One Piece and advertising it and Bleach with Naruto will run the approach of killing other manga lines from other publishers quicker than killing Viz’s big 3. In fact, it’s a little known fact to manga fans but not the industry that it’s Naruto/ Bleach and FMA (along with Vampire Knight) that keep Viz in business publishing these other gazillion books of limited returns. If you hadn’t noticed they are raising the price of all books to $9.99 (that’s what you should be arguing about).

    But, they get the loss of what do you do? Oh yeah, One Piece has damn near 50 volumes, ridiculous action, an engaging anime and cool characters. Perhaps with frequency for this..they can ignite interest for those few dollars. Better to do that—when u have such inventory than to keep releasing new works like Waq Waq that u have to market, solicit and try and drive awareness of.

    Barnes and Nobles and Borders (If they survive) will surely be limiting new orders)–last I checked..One Piece is in all stores..maybe not all volumes but they continue to stock it which means everyday new consumers are being made aware. While I can almost promise that great series Eyeshield 21, Gintama and Muhyo/ Reborn will suffer placement (disappearing from some stores altogether)…One Piece will not.

    I can’t promise it will be successful but I do think missing the boat on the fact that if u want to continue buying Manga in the store–strong titles with true blockbuster potential—is the ONLY way to keep your beloved past-time going. Instead of whining–convince your friends and yourself to support Oda’s masterpiece –every volume– when it hits next Jan.

    I’ll give you two concessions–One, would it be nice if Viz lowered the price of these accelerated volumes?? YES! That or a promo to get 2 free if u buy 3. Two, the Jan-start could usher in a more improved economy (I doubt it) which would make some of your arguments moot anyways.

    1. First, yeah, it is all about me. I’m my blog, and I’m going to rant on it whenever there’s someone I don’t like enough that it inspires me to.
      Second, ummm….I have no idea what you’re talking about. There are plenty of people out in the world who enjoy more than one manga. Viz has access to some of the most popular and best manga through Shueisha and Shogakakun. People are going to find more than just one series interesting. That’s just common sense….
      Well, I’m soooo glad you are such an expect in the manga industry that you know what other manga fans don’t. But anyone with even a rudimary knowledge of business will tell you, you can’t rely on one or two cash cows for you business. Look at Tokyopop. Everyone is wondering what’s going to happen to it now that Fruits Basket is done, and Chibi Vampire, it’s other big seller, is done. You have to have a diversified line and you have support the diversity to really survive. One Piece may be a great series, but it’s not burning up the sales charts. Pushing it out now isn’t going to change that. And in case you couldn’t tell, my asking if they knew was a rhetorical question. And please stop the sarcasm. Your doing it wrong.
      I’ve already ranted about the price increase. I don’t beat dead horses that badly.
      Encouraging people to buy One Piece now is too little, too late. You’re asking new readers to buy 21 volumes in six month and another 30 in another six months?! That’s even more insane!
      An improvement in the economy (which is only hoped for at this point and will be far from nationwide) will take at least another 12-18 months. No, it won’t make any of the arguments moot.

  5. “It missed it’s opportunity to be a hit years ago when the anime was on TV and toys were on the shelf.”

    No, it missed its mark because Viz didn’t do a successful enough job marketing it and let 4kids completely butcher the series’ image when they handed them the anime duties. There’s a reason One Piece is the most popular selling manga in Japan, even surpassing Dragon Ball at this point, and it’s not exactly fair to judge the series’ popularity on its own merits when these other factors have hindered it.

    But I do agree with everything else you said, it’s insane that they didn’t think to do this earlier or more gradually and Viz is showing itself to care less and less about its readership.

    1. I’m not judging. Viz should have pushed One Piece while it was still on TV (even if it was the 4Kids crap), and/or when Funimation got the license and started releases good sub/dubs. If they had done that back in the summer of 2007, realeased monthly, they wouldn’t have had need for this stupid push.

  6. If they really cared about catching up, they should have thought about that years ago when they got behind. I really hope this bites them in the butt big time, the best thing we can hope for is that they lose a boat-load of money and whoever decided this was a good idea gets canned.

  7. During the boom years, Viz probably never foresaw a drop in sales and popularity of One Piece. Years and years of a consistent seller is a good thing for the stability of a company. It would be precisely because of the economic slowdown that Viz most likely took a look at One Piece and suddenly realized that they have a series with declining sales and 30 volumes that they MUST publish. (Nobody cancels a successful manga their parent company relies on.) The decision wouldn’t have been made recently since such a drastic strategy requires renegotiation of contracts, so it may have been last Autumn when they made this decision.
    Okay, so they realize they have to publish it. If that’s the case, what if they published at a quick, but relatively normal pace, every other month — six a year — that’s still five years before they get through this mass of manga. As you mentioned, One Piece’s best years are over. Within five years, the One Piece sales might have completely tanked. So instead they rush One Piece out while it still has something of a following. Will people drop One Piece because they can’t keep up with it? Yes, but other present One Piece fans will follow it, either when the volumes come out, or gradually as they get money saved up to buy a new batch of manga. (Book publishing thinks in terms of the long haul.) Actual fans will be a little frustrated that they can’t keep up with their favorite series, but on the other hand, the books will be on the shelf. They can buy them whenever they feel like.
    I’m not a fan of the strategy either. I doubt even Viz actually likes it. But this is a compromise done while there’s still time to salvage profit (rather than the eventual loss) while One Piece still has a fandom.
    Note — although I used to work for Viz five years ago, we’ve completely parted ways since. (And I never worked in the Shonen Jump division.) I have no inside information; I don’t speak for them; and all of my above comments are purely conjecture. Just like yours and any other fan’s with an opinion.

    1. Thanks for the insight Wiliam. While I can rationally understand why Viz wants/needs to do this, it still gets my goat! And lashing out makes me feel better. 🙂

      I love my One Piece and I don’t want to lose 30 volumes with of story, but there is no way I can keep up with that. I will have to be one of those fans who drops it, unless someone bequeaths me several hundred dollars to keep buying manga.

  8. Personally, I consider the push a boon for me, because I am one of the aforementioned hardcore One Piece fans who wants all of the volumes in English now.

    So I definitely don’t think or at least don’t expect the push to be geared towards new readers, but it is a huge plus for anyone interested in the series since now you no longer have to wait months fo rthe next volume to come out if you’re getting into it.

    And there’s nothing wrong with gradually getting them. No one says you have to get them when they come out, and to the person talkign about discounts, you’ve got it the other way around; the longer it is, the more discounts pop up. I’ve never heard of anyplace having discounts and then dropping them unless it’s a limited time sale. But anyways, it’s not like people are talking about One Piece left and right and the anime’s blaring on TV, you’re really not missing anythign if you take your time collecting the series. Plus, what happens when vol 53 comes out? It would be months at least for the next volume to come out and then you can balance your purchasing then.

    So yeah, I don’t really understand why people are complaining. Yeah it sucks that we didn’t get this sooner and Viz is pretty stupid, but it’s their lost. We get up to date One Piece, we win.

  9. I think the demise of Shoujo Beat and this push forward for One Piece are connected. By canceling SB, VIZ will have the extra money to absorb the publishing costs for these One Piece volumes. I don’t like that females get sidelined by VIZ so easily, but seeing them invest into One Piece is great news. Long manga series always have the chance of cancellation and knowing OP is the number one manga in Japan, right now, is very frustrating to see. Maybe this will give it greater exposure as the numerous reader of SJ decide what to purchase during those 6 months.

    Two other points, Half Price Books, a major national used book store carries almost every volume of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece, so maybe that can now be the outlet for this large purchase for many of the readers or even try Powell’s. And secondly I think VIZ had to postpone this huge jump because of the OP storyline, the Princess Vivi/Alabasta story began over 2 years ago and is finally coming to it’s conclusion. Readers would be much more upset if they broke up that storyline.

    I doubt I will be able to pick up all the new OP manga but I will try to pick up most of it, since the series is so very, very entertaining. I just sincerely hope VIZ takes the time to fully inform the SJ readers, like they did for Naruto, what takes place for the crew in OP over those volumes of manga.

  10. I’m three days late here, I know. But I couldn’t leave this hanging.

    “I’ve never heard of anyplace having discounts and then dropping them unless it’s a limited time sale.”

    First, a caveat. I’m in the UK. If they do things dramatically differently in the USA (or wherever you may be), just bear that in mind.

    Secondly, a qualifier. I’ve worked in the book trade, so I’m not just blowing smoke here. That, and I buy *hundreds* of books a year, so it’s in my interests to find the best deals I can.

    That said, here’s how it works; here’s how places start with high(er) discounts and then drop them; and it’s down to two words. Frontlist, and backlist. New books versus old.

    (I’m taking it as read that I’m only talking about buying books online here. Brick ‘n’ mortar stores simply can’t match online on price. That’s an axiom, it really is.)

    The frontlist is where all the action is at. And thus, where all the discounts are. When a book is new – that is, when Amazon is taking pre-orders – is when the largest discounts are offered. Two reasons here, both linked. Firstly, Amazon don’t want to order books they can’t sell, so they want to get plenty of orders. Secondly, the more orders they get, the bigger the order they’ll place with the publisher, and then economies of scale come into play. The biggest order(s) Amazon will place will, with few exceptions, be the initial order(s) placed before publication and in the first few weeks (say a month, max) of release, as that’s when the demand will be highest.

    Then they start cutting their discount, as their orders with the publisher get smaller. They’re not making so many savings to pass on. So a pre-order discount of 30%-35% will go down to maybe 10%-15%, simply because at that point they can’t supply the book at a better price without cutting their own throat (which does happen sometimes, when blowing out the stock in question is better than having it sitting around their warehouse taking up space).

    When you get volumes more than, perhaps six months old, definitely a year or two old, then that’s right in the backlist. And with backlist titles, Amazon aren’t going to have many (any) copies sitting around their warehouse. If you order a backlist book, Amazon are only going to get a handful from the publisher. You’ll be lucky if there’s any discount to pass on at all. For me, buying a book (manga or otherwise) that falls into this category is almost painful. I have to balance the (comparatively) larger cost against how much I want the book.

    This, then, is the long version of why I’m not happy with Viz’s plan to release One Piece at such a rate. This is why if I defer purchase of some or all of these volumes I’ll end up paying more. This is why I may very well simply decide not to purchase them at all after all.

    Hope that clears things up some, if anyone’s still reading.

  11. I’m danish and I find you reactions really strange, how can you be mad and wonder if you can keep up?

    It’s not like the volumes will be, removed, burned and never reprinted if they’re not bought in the release month.

    That viz release the OP volumes doesn’t force you to buy them, it gives you a choise. All they do is making the volumes avaible in the US.

    I read a manga volume pretty fast, and after I buy it, and afterwerds I can’t wait for the next one. Then I think the best is, if the most of the series is avaible?
    If it stood to me(As a fan) Viz should just release ALL of the rest at once, to make me happy.
    The reason they don’t do it like that (And ohter puplichers neiter does it.) is because they have a bigger chance of catching people, and making them continue to buy the volumes if they release them a bit slower, but with a smaller interval between them.

    I can’t really see why anyone is arguring against the speed-up, the only thing it could hurt, it maybe viz themself, but that’s not really your problem is it?

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