Bone to Pick

March 23, 2010

Last night, on my way home from work, I was listening to the ANNcast podcast, episode 28, the one with the interview with Kurt Hassler of Yen Press.  Near the end of the episode, they read off some questions take from fans on Twitter.  One of the questions was about license rescues.  Kurt’s response to it really bugged me.  He started going off about why fans think they (Yen Press) would go “trolling” for titles from other publishers.  The hosts of the show weren’t much better, basically likening license rescues to dumpster diving.

Really?  This is what Kurt Hassler and Yen Press think of fan requests and the titles they love and want to see completed legally?  Does he really think that fans consider Yen Press to be a dumping ground for lost titles?  Or could it possibly be, that fans respect what Yen Press does with their titles and are hoping to see a title they love, but wasn’t completed because the original publisher went out of business or cut back to their cash cow titles, completed with a publisher they know will do it justice?  Do they  really think everything published by other companies is just trash, and not even worthy of their consideration?  Because that is exactly how Kurt came off with his mini rant.  If he had just limited his answer to the statement he made AFTER the rant, I would wouldn’t have been upset.

We all have titles we love that weren’t completed for one reason or another, and wish for some knight in shining armor to riding in and save them.  That’s why they’re called license RESCUES, and not license trolls.  Try being a little more considerate of fans that are trying to do the right thing in seeing the titles they love completed in English legally, and not just resorting to the scanlations that were scorned earlier in the interview.

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13 Comments for this entry

  • I went back and give this another listen… For those interested, the relevant comments start at around the 46:00 mark.

    Remember that “trolling” has a pre-internet definition which refers to fishing, without a negative connotation; I’m guessing that’s what Hassler means here, as it makes more sense than the internet definition. But either way, I can understand Kurt’s frustration about being hounded to license and release titles which may appeal to a handful of hardcore fans, but would not be profitable enough for them to waste their time on and/or popular enough to get them a good amount of street cred for releasing it. It’s another case of the industry’s profit motive butting heads with Otaku Entitlement Syndrome.

    You ask, “Does he really think that fans consider Yen Press to be a dumping ground for lost titles?” I would say that he probably hears from “fans” who consider Yen Press to be such quite often. I am incredibly grateful that Yen picked up and continued Yotsuba, but I know that that was an exceptional occurrence – for an exceptionally good comic.

    I totally agree that Zac Bertschy’s a douchenozzle, though.

    • How many people are aware of the “pre-internet” definition of trolling? When I heard that, I got a very negative feeling from it. “Trolling” now implies trying to stir up trouble, and seemed to be what he was implying with his tone of voice as well. I don’t think a publisher should consider fans asking about titles they like, hardcore or no, is stirring up trouble.

      And I’m sure so does Viz, Del Rey, and Tokyopop, but I don’t seem them talking down to the fans making those requests. Once you open that door though, and do a license rescue, don’t get upset when people start asking for more.

  • Charmaine Webb says:

    Too bad Mr. Hassler as a publisher has such an attitude. I understand not all titles should be rescued but not to listen to the people that buy from you is bad business. I also understand everything that they tell you or request can’t be done but you should never put them down in a public forum.

  • ” I don’t think a publisher should consider fans asking about titles they like, hardcore or no, is stirring up trouble.”

    Remember that Hassler was talking about Yen Press trolling, not the fans. But I agree with what you’re saying – surely people asking these things do not have bad intention. But as I said, I would imagine that constantly being asked/demanded to license or “rescue” unsellable titles is not one of the fun parts of Hassler’s job.

    • @Garrett Yeah, I get that, now that I’ve calmed down some. As you can see, the comments had me riled up some. :)

      I think that’s what bothered me most about it. It seemed to be a chore for him to even hear about them. And as far as I’ve seen/heard, no fan has ever “demanded” Yen Press pick up something. Maybe it’s the people I hang out with. But again, I don’t think the requests were out of line for Yen Press. They were for light novels, which Yen does seem to be cultivating as a line. And I have to listen to inane and repeated requests at my work, but I wouldn’t tell anyone off in the way he did.

      @Charmaine I agree 100%!

  • One of the questions to which Kurt replied was mine, and though I was disappointed by his answer, I was more bugged that he thought DVD had been released in its entirety by DramaQueen, which isn’t the case. I’m fully aware that expecting publishers to keep up with the releases of *other* publishers is quite silly, but it just made it clearer that that beloved manhwa title isn’t getting a new home any time soon.

    • I get the feeling that Kurt just likes to talk about and license books *he* likes, which is nice and all if he tasted represented everyone, but it doesn’t. I don’t think he pays much attention to the manhwa either and leaves that to JuYoun Lee. He spent a lot of time promoting the Japanese titles like Soul Eater (a lot!), Higurashi and Black Butler. Not a manhwa mentioned once.

  • Alpha says:

    @ Lori, Kurt does care about the manhwa too. There was that time when the Pig Bride manhwa was listed on ” The The 2009 Manga Hall of Shame Inductees”, Kurt had actually seen that and then, worte a post telling everyone why he was shocked as to why Pig Bride was on that list and showing pride in what he had licensed, he defended Pig Bride as well as the author. How many manga companies out there had defended their product after it had been listed as the “worst?”

    • @Alpha: Kurt was defending Pig Bride for being on a “worst” list, he was defending against a specific charge made by Kate about the author. He explains that in the podcast. While he mentions he’s like Pig Bride, as do many other readers, he definitely didn’t sound as enthusiastic about it as he did the other titles. And I do understand the economics behind why or why not Yen Press would consider picking up an older series. That wasn’t my beef with him. It was the attitude he gave about just being asked that rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t care if he says it’s not economically feasible to do a license rescue of a certain title, just don’t go off on the fans who ask about it.

  • Alpha says:

    As for the “trolling”, I don’t think that Kurt meant any harm by that, its just that the way he was phrasing it was off. In the ANNcast podcast, Kurt mentions that he looks out for the new series, its not like he wouldn’t want to pick up those wonderful series that had been dropped, but rather he has to also take into account the sales of those series, like, “how many people have already bought this series?” ” Or if they have already bought this version will they get Yen Press’?” So series like Soul Eater or Black Butler are still new because they haven’t been translated/licensed yet, and already have a fresh fanbase ready and waiting for the those manga volumes.

  • @Alpha – In my experience, fans tend to ask for license rescues of series that have been abandoned by their original publishers, not series that have already been completed. It’s not an issue of “people bought this already,” except for in the case of a few introductory volumes.

  • Just to prove my point… Today I was visiting Yen’s site and came across their own post about the interview: http://yenpress.us/?p=2252

    If you check out the comment thread, you’ll see there’s a great deal of “Please license this! Please license that! You’re going to continue releasing this, aren’t you? Are you going to reprint that?” Plus a little more Spice and Wolf cover whining to top it off. Scheez…

    • And that’s the price you pay when you’re the newest manga publisher on the block. That isn’t to say that Viz, Tokyopop, and Del Rey don’t hear the same thing just as constantly. I don’t really care how many times Kurt and Yen Press have to hear about it. They can just deal with it with a “No.” and move on. Just don’t disrespect the fans asking about the return of a series they love. He can get frustrated and rant all he wants in the privacy of his office. But on a public forum like a podcast, a simple “We’re not looking at rescues.” is suffice.

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