Like a lot of people, I can’t keep up with all the titles I want to read, so some have to fall back and wait to be caught up on. Usually this isn’t a big deal. If it’s a recent series, within the last two years or so, and the publisher hasn’t gone under, or lost the license, catching up is usually as easy as getting online to Amazon or some other online retailer and ordering the missing volumes. In trying to do this though, I’ve run into some stumbling blocks, and it is absolutely perplexing to me as to why.
With Tokyopop’s closing, a lot of attention has been paid to the loss of the Japanese licenses. Of course, this is what most manga fans are concerned with. The loss of such an extensive line, for what will probably be forever really hurts. But Tokyopop had another line of books that were actually doing quite well, that as a parent, I am acutely aware of losing; the HarperCollins YA adaptations.
Manga has had a tough go of it lately. Publishers have been cutting back on titles and people, and now, we’ve seen the first casualty of 2011. Tokyopop, one of the three biggest publishers of manga in the US is closing down its publishing division. I’m not going to go into the details about why this may have happened. I’ve already given some of my thoughts in this post, and other people have dissected Tokyopop’s 14 year history already. No, I’m looking at the final message from Stu Levy, president of Tokyopop. After the announcement was made, he put up a message at Tokyopop.com, now long gone, but other people posted copies on their own sites. He talks about the history of Tokyopop and it’s accomplishments, and then gives himself a pat on the back with this:
Fourteen years later, I’m laying down my guns. Together, our community has fought the good fight, and, as a result, the Manga Revolution has been won –manga has become a ubiquitous part of global pop culture. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished – and the incredible group of passionate fans we’ve served along the way (my fellow revolutionaries!).
“Won” the revolution? Really? And how do you come to that conclusion? Tokyopop can definitely claim starting the “manga revolution”. Comics for girls were practically unheard of in the late 90s and early 2000s. Manga has been responsible for creating more readers of comics, some that even jump over to floppies. But Tokyopop isn’t responsible for that. They had some hits early on with Sailor Moon and Fruits Basket, but if anyone was responsible for bringing manga out of shadows and into light of mainstream, that has to go to Viz Media, and their mega hits with Dragonball, Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto and Bleach. It’s these titles that really sold and made the mainstream really take manga seriously, not Tokyopop’s catalog of mostly ‘B’ and ‘C’ list titles.
Survived the revolution, maybe I could see. But how is it a win when you start-up something only to drop it before it has a chance to go anywhere? Where would the US and Europe be right now if Patton had had the same follow-through as Stu did at Tokyopop? How is it a win when the company had to go into reorganization in 2008, putting several titles on “hiatus” and putting even more on a once-a-year release schedule? With all these lost battles, how can anyone claim to have “won?”
I really hate this excuse to get out of Doge. I’ve heard the same thing from old-time, former anime fans who want to give an excuse for no longer being interested in anime, and need to justify all the time they spent promoting anime through clubs. If Levy was so “proud” of what was done, why was he so anxious to pull the plug, especially when Tokyopop was starting to become relevent again? They had some good titles coming out that was making people (like me) take them serious again.
Please, Stu, just spare us the lip-service and tell us the truth. You weren’t getting the attention you wanted anymore as a publisher and wanted the spotlight again as a “director”, so you’ve left thousands of “fellow revolutionaries” out in the street and killed lots of titles that will probably never see the light of day. Good job Stu.
Viz finally made their big announcement. The new digital platform that they are making their manga available on that will expand their audience is….iOS for iPhone and iPod/iPod Touch. This is a “new” platform….how? The iPad is nothing more than an overgrown iPod Touch. The first apps for the iPad were iPod apps with a new resolution (mostly). So for Viz, porting over their iPad manga just meant a change of resolution, and maybe some touch up here and there. But that doesn’t make it anything new or exciting. They are still courting the same audience. While this will give them a small boost as people with only iPhone/iPods will now have access to their manga (a large number being teens), it’s not really expanding it like an actual platform jump would.
In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Viz vice president Alvin Lu said the reason for going in this direction was:
It’s a natural extension obviously, being as that we’re on iOS with our iPad app. It broadens our reach with mobile devices significantly, also obviously. For the fans who graciously requested the app be made available on a more widespread device—this is a step or two in that direction.
It’s certainly not a step up. This more like a step to the side, something that Viz is very good at and has done before. I hope they don’t try and call this an “evolution”, because going from one device to another on what is essentially the same platform isn’t evolving. It’s treading water at best.
I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. But when Viz spoke last month about going to a new platform I thought (and hoped) that would mean something non-i, non Apple. I should be used to the disappointment I am met with time and again. I had a much rant-ier post I was going to do, but I’ve toned it down a lot. I guess I just had my hopes up way too high. I’ll try to be more jaded with the next announcement.
Is putting out apps for the Android easy? Maybe not, but you know what? The things that aren’t so easy are usually the ones that end up really being worth it.
Viz Media has really embraced digital publishing in the last few months. Ever since they announced their iPad only app, they have been releasing new volumes practically every week. They now have over 100 volumes from their Shonen Jump, Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump Advanced lines available for download, mostly from older well-known titles such as Dragon Ball/Z, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Vampire Knight , Otomen, and Ouran High School Host Club. They have also started dabbling releasing digital content before or in the same month as print releases, with Bakuman and Blue Exorcist.
When ever there is a disaster, whether it’s an earthquake, tsunami, or both in the most recent case in Japan, calls immediately go up to donate to the Red Cross, or any of the dozens of other charity organizations set up to send relief to the people affected by the devastating event. But there is another group that is just as affected, if not more, that rarely gets any attention. Pets.
Recently Viz has announced a new round of releases. A lot of the titles in the announcement aren’t new. They are just release dates for titles previously announced, or running in Shonen Jump, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! 5DS, Psyren and Mameshiba. But there were some new titles announced too. One of them was Pokemon Black and White, which is based on the new Pokemon video game that was just released in the US. This really isn’t a big surprise. Viz has been releasing Pokemon in one form or another since the early 2000’s.
The news broke Tuesday that Tokyopop had gone through another round of layoffs, which this time included long-time editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, another editor Troy Lewter, and Line editor Asako Suzuki. The Manga tweet-verse was abuzz about the news mostly with sympathy for the folks laid off, and a lot of wonderment of what Tokyopop was thinking to let go of some great people. Most of the speculation for the lay-offs was that is was a desperate cost-cutting measure. With Borders going under, Tokyopop seems to be losing a big outlet, that also owes them money. But a lot of people
Over on her blog, The Manga Critic, Kate Dacey talks about how she’s moved away from reading longer manga titles, that now she has a “fear of committment” for titles more than 4-5 volumes long. Johanna Draper Carlson of Manga Worth Reading sympathizes with Kate and talks about some longer titles that she’s lost interest in as well. Reading these two posts made me think about how I look at the titles in my collection. I have several titles that go well beyond 10 volumes. In fact, I think I might have MORE titles that go over 10 than not. Is it because I’m really committed to these titles? Not so much.
I’m a collector. I love to collect things. Books, comics, toys, if I have an interest in it and it’s part of a series, I’m probably gonna get it. All of it if possible. And in a lot of ways, that how I’ve treated my manga. It’s become something I collect more than something I get to read. Just like the toys on the shelf and the comics in boxes, manga has become in many ways something with holes to fill in and a lined shelf of different colored spines to look at. I don’t even always read everything I collect. I have a run of The Wallflower from 1-15 and I haven’t read a volume of it yet. For a while, I was getting the volumes to keep my collection complete, and ready for the day I would start reading it. (That day still hasn’t come yet, but I sense it’s not too far away.)
I don’t shy away from long titles, and even though I don’t read everything I buy immediately, I can’t say I’ve lost interest in too many titles because of length. I suffer more from the same ADHD as Kate does. My problem is to not stop buying even when my attention has drifted to other titles. I know I’m just filling in holes when I buy or trade for manga. But you know what? I’m okay with it. It makes me happy to find a volume that fills a spot that’s been empty for long time. Sales and trading is a great way to feed this since they don’t happen often, and the discovery is more exciting than just going out and buying the missing volumes. I didn’t think I enjoyed the chase of collecting, as a discussion with my husband revealed is what he enjoyed about it. He’s a hunter. I seem to be more of a stalker. I’m happy to just watch and wait, and then strike when the time is right. I still get the thrill of collecting, I just spread it out.
Vertical is a publisher that never fails to surprise, or deliver. Whenever licensing time comes up, Marketing Director Ed Chavez would get on Twitter and ask for license requests. In variably, there would be several people who would pipe up with Princess Knight, Osamu Tezuka’s first shojo, and invaribly, Ed would shoot the request down. Now we know why. On Anime News Network’s AnnCast, Ed was a guest where he announced not one, but two licenses, one of which was the oft-requested Princess Knight. The other was Drops of God, a wine manga that has been getting some press in the media for the affect it can have on a wine’s price that is featured in the title. It was hinted at last April by the creators that the manga had been licensed in the US, but no publisher had stepped up. Now we know why.
I have to give Ed a lot of credit. He has quite the poker face/text. From his tweets in the last wrong, I got the distinct impression that Princess Knight was off the table as a request. He had said they were working on a Tezuka license, but with his catalog, that could mean just about anything! From the reaction to the news when it broke on twitter, I don’t think anyone suspected Vertical would get either of these titles! That is being a good marketing manager. Vertical really scored when they got Ed for that position.
I myself am looking forward to Princess Knight. I read the preview that was run in Shojo Beat for it’s 5(?) anniversary, and I really liked it. It definitely has a lot of merit beyond its historical significance. Drops of God….I’m not so sure about. I don’t drink wine. I have no interest in wine, so a manga devoted to going out and finding the 13 best wines doesn’t sound all that interesting. But, I’ve been wrong before. Most of the praise that it has gotten is for its detail about the wines, but according to one twitter-er, the title is written by the same time as writes Bloody Monday, another title that I’m really looking forward to, so this is a wait and see.
Back in 2009, I wrote a post expressing my desire to see the manga series Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro licensed after its end was announced in Japan, based on the anime series from 2007. It’s been a long 4 years, hoping and waiting for that announcement that said I would finally get to read the adventures of my favorite demon detective, and now I believe we are half way to that point. Viz Media has confirmed that the anime will begin streaming on the Vizanime.com website in February.
Why does this give me hope of a manga license? Look at the last time Viz started streaming an anime; Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. They streamed nearly the whole series before they announced the license of the manga, officially. What did Viz say when asked about Neuro? It’s “not on the schedule through September”. That doesn’t mean it won’t be announced though. Con season is starting to gear up. I wouldn’t be surprised if Neuro isn’t one of the licenses announced at San Diego Comic Con, assuming a listing for it isn’t found for it before then. Anime licenses have been a good gauge of manga licenses for the last several years, especially with Yen Press. I sincerely hope it becomes the same gauge at Viz. I REALLY WANT this series!!!!
Once again, I dive into the list making with a “best of” list for 2010. All of the titles on this list are books I’ve read at least one volume of, and most started this year. The few exceptions should be obvious.