Tag Archives: Dark Horse

Tech Friday: Emerging Digital Strategies

Ignoring the digital world has finally become impossible for the comics world. Over the last several months, mostly after the debut of the Apple iPad, comic publishers have been announcing their digital plans for the future. The big two, Marvel and DC have put their faith in Apple and Comixology. releasing apps and titles through these platforms. At the New York Comic Con, two more publishers, more relevent to manga readers, have announced more of their digital plans.

Dark Horse Comics announced their digital strategy at their panel on Friday. Instead of going through Comixology, they are creating their own platform for selling their books. This strategy is supposed to be available across all platforms and on the web. For the iPad/iPhone, they will have an app that will connect to their platform, and therefore bypass the Apple censors. For the most part, I agree with Dark Horse’s strategy. Making their titles available on any device, be it a smart phone, computer or tablet is the smart way to go. With most American comics being in color, I can understand skipping the e-book readers such as the Kindle or the Nook. I think it’s funny though, that Dark Horse has turned around so fast. It was only a year or so ago that Michael Gombos, Asian director of licensing for Dark Horse was ridiculing the Kindle and requests for digital comics. As of now, they have no plans for their manga/manhwa titles to go digital. While I can understand the difficulty with manga, I wonder why they aren’t at least trying with their manhwa. Yen Press doesn’t seem to have any difficulty with their manhwa licenses in getting them online. And it could really help their manhwa books to make them available to a wider audience.

Yen Press also had some new digital announcements. At SDCC, they announced Yen Plus, their manga magazine was going online and would be available on the web, so any web-enabled device could read it, but it wasn’t available for download. This is understandable. The magazine is supposed to give people a chance to try out titles so they will be the collected books later. At NYCC, they announced their intention to release an iPad app and online storefront for the downloading of entire volumes of manga and manhwa. It is a completely proprietary platform, with the app being an iPad exclusive. For now, they are starting with their OEL and some manhwa titles (probably the ones already available in Yen Plus). Volumes will be priced at $8.99 which averages out to $1.49 a chapter. Kurt Hassler is said to have emphasised the importance of buying from the Yen Press store, to get leverage with Japanese publishers to show the value of digital distribution.

As much as I would like to support Yen Press and their digital distribution, I do subscribe to Yen Plus digital, I can’t say I agree with this new strategy. Both Dark Horse comics and Yen Press are using proprietary platforms, which I think is completely the wrong direction to go. An open platform that can accommodate as many readers as possible is the way to build an audience. Dark Horse is at least promising to be cross-platform so PC, Mac, and any smart phone running Android, iOS, or Windows Mobile that is web enabled will all be able to read their comics. And I thought Yen Press understood that, as Yen Plus can be read across platforms as well. Making their first download app, not just iOS, but aniPad exclusive is a big mistake. Walling the manga up in Apple’s dungeon isn’t going to get people reading it. The iPad may be selling well now, but it’s not going to be well enough to make Japanese Publishers sit up. A look at the way things are going with iOS and Android seems to be a repeat of the Windows/Mac  wars of 1990’s, and we all know who won that. With Apple trying to be more and more like Big Brother, it won’t be long before the shiny newness wears off, especially with Android tablets starting to come out, the first of which is the Galaxy Tab. Really, how can going with a platform that rejected more than 30% of manga submitted be a good thing.

Don’t lock manga up in the dark, dank dungeon of Apple. Let it flourish in the light of open platforms, or at least platforms that don’t care about controlling everything you see and do.

This Week in Manga 5/22-5/28/10

TWiM

May Movable Manga Feast

This month’s movable manga feast featured the Vertical title To Terra… a sci-fi shonen from the 70’s. It was hosted by Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic blog. Reviews for the title were a lot more varied than on previous titles. People definitely had their opinion of this series and had no problem expressing it. You’ll find an introduction to the series and all the links to the participating reviews at the top link.

Well, That’s a Surprise

Here’s something that shouldn’t shock reader of Hunter x Hunter. It’s going on hiatus. Again.  What is this? Once a year at least, this title has to stop? Is this something in Togashi’s contract? If he hates writing this series so much, why doesn’t he just cancel it. Or hand it off to an assistant. At least do something to give fans closure. This is like a bad relationship, and someone’s gotta stop the vicious circle.

This Actually Is!

Dark Horse, which has started to feature titles on Facebook, recently had one entry on Ghost Talker’s Day Dream, which included the news that the series would be returning in September. The title was previously reported cancelled, so this is very good news for fans. It is a seinen horror action, so it’s written for adults. It can also be rather graphic, so be warned if you’re thinking of checking out this title.

Talkin’ ’bout a Solution

Over on Twitter, Erica Friedman of Okazu blog decided to take things into her own hands (sort of), and start crowd sourcing for a solution to the problem of illegal distribution of manga. After outlining the “Problem”, responses started to come in for a “Good Solution”. After the first session, the conclusion was:

To reiterate: The first wave of the Good Solution for Manga: Browser platform, pay and POD are a must, open-source on language and region…

…creator community, rewards to creators from user focus.

To see more of the responses, search Twitter for “yuricon”, “Problem”, “solution” and you’ll get most of the conversations.

Back to the Problem

Robot 6 helps to point out why illegal distribution is a problem, and why publishers need to implement their own “Good Solution”. Google recently released its list of the 1000 most visited websites based on their Double Click Ad Planner, and One Manga, the aggregator site that hosts illegal scans, placed at 935. It beat out many corporate sites such as NFL.com and ToyRus.com. If this doesn’t convince publishers that a “Hulu of manga” is needed, nothing will.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s all out war on the list this week, between Viz and Yen Press.  Starting with the Hardback books, Twilight has once again reclaimed the top spot from Kick Ass. Down on the manga list, Yen Press has also reclaimed the #1 spot with Black Butler vol 2 with Black Bird vol 4 falling back to #2. Pandora Hearts vol 2 debuts and takes the #3 spot, forcing Naruto vol 47 back to #4. Black Butler vol 1 holds on to #5, as D. Gray-man vol 17 falls three to #6. Kobato vol 1, the new CLAMP series, and debuts on the list at #7 followed by Rinne vol 3 at #8. Yotsuba&! vol 8 holds onto #9 and Rosario Vampire: Season II vol 1 falls four to #10. Interesting list, as Yen Press and Viz alternate up the list with Yen taking all the odd number and Viz getting all the evens. It’s also the start of the battle of the blacks. We’ll have to see if next week, the Butler can hold out, or if the Bird will take back it’s #1 spot.

News From Japan

More Manga We’ll Never See

ANN reports of a new manga launching in Japan that we’ll never see legally stateside. It’s a shojo title for the movie of the TV series Macross Frontier, the 25th anniversary TV series, and sequel to the original Macross, which was one of the three series’ that made up Robotech. This particular title is actually about one of the characters, Sheryl, who is the pop idol at the beginning of the series. This manga tells of her beginnings. Due to lawsuits over copyright issues, the US has never had an official release of a Macross series since Macross Plus, and it doesn’t look like things will be changing any time soon, which is a real shame, because is any series could popularize mecha titles in this country, it would be Macross.

Manga For Your Ears

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Spiraken Manga Review

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What I’ve Been Reading

  • Tena on a S-String vol 2
  • Yotsuba&! vol 8
  • Shonen Jump July 2010

This Week in Manga 4/17-4/23/10

TWiM

Who’s Going Down?

ICv2 reports that manga sales will drop to below 1000 volumes for 2010.  The drop in sales was seen more in bookstores than in the direct market, and they speculate that shojo fans getting older, distracted by other things (Twilight) and lack of hit shonen anime is hurting sales more than scanlations.  Some of these elements make sense.  I can see the drop in sales from bookstores being more, since ordering through the direct market through Previews can often net you a 30% discount on many titles.  It’s my preferred way to buy.  And fans, male or female, have priorities shifts as they get older, especially in the 20’s, where kids become adults and must establish themselves in the real world.  I know that’s where I stopped collecting comics and watching anime.  Work and starting a family became much more important.  I wonder though how much the “Cartoon Network” effect really drove sales.  I can see it driving the sales for first volumes, but like the anime that they are based on them, once a series hits a lather, rinse, repeat cycle, no amount of TV promotion will keep a series selling.  Personally, I’m not concerned about the drop in available volumes.  There was too much coming out in 2007, and most of it was mediocre.  We’re just seeing the reaction to that as fans put their money with the good series.  I am concerned about some of the mid-level publishers who have gone silent.  They provide a good alternative to all the mega long, mega his titles.  I hope they can weather this economic storm.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

C2E2, a new comics and entertaiment convention in Chicago was this last weekend.  There weren’t any manga panels, but Brigid Alverson caught up with Dark Horse comics and asked about the CLAMP Mangaettes that were announced at SDCC 2007, and have yet to materialize.  The word?  They are “on hold”, while Dark Horse builds up their association with CLAMP through reprints of several of their older titles.    So if you were hoping for some new CLAMP, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  You won’t find it at Dark Horse any time soon.

Yen Plus Goes Paperless

Found via Twitter.  Yen Press announced it first through its twitter feed.  Yen Plus, their anthology magazine would be going digital.  Details are still sketchy, but the gist of it is that the last print issue of the magazine will come out in July, and then go to a digital distribution.  Current subscriptions to the print will be refunded, but there’s speculation that digital version will require a subscription, and not be free like the Viz Signature line from Ikki Comix.  This is an understandable move by Yen Press.  Manga magazines are more about promotion than making money, and going digital takes out a lot of the risk.  But I’m with a lot of the commentors on the blog post.  I prefer to read on paper than digital.  Digital just isn’t portable enough yet.  I can pick up a magazine and take it anywhere to read.  A digital version will need a device to read it on, and could greatly limit the audience that can read it.  We’ll just have to wait for more details.

More Scanlations on the iPhone/iPad

With the release of the iPad, software like Manga Rock is getting more and more attention.  This software for the iPhone/iTouch (and by default, the iPad), let’s you not only read scanlations from Onemanga.com, it keeps track of what your reading, where you left off, and let’s you download it to read later.  This isn’t the first app to appear on the Apps store as both Jason Thompson and Brigid Alverson have pointed out, and probably won’t be the last.  Publishers (US and Japanese) have to come to terms about digital distribution and get their official work out at reasonable prices before these apps become too entrenched.  One interesting thing I noticed about this Manga Rock app though.  It doesn’t allow access to some of the bigger release titles.  Commentors on the iTunes store have mentioned that there’s no Naruto or Bleach or Shaman King.  That makes me wonder.  Are these guys blocking licensed manga, or are the more popular manga reserved for the paid, “full version” of the app?  Any one with an iPhone/iTouch/iPad wanna drop the $1.99 to find out?

NYT Best Seller List

I didn’t think it would last.  Last week the list was dominated by One PieceThis week, nary a sign of the Straw Hat Pirates. Not one volume survived.  Oh well.  Let’s check in on Twilight.  Still #1 on the Hardback Comics list?  Yup.  There’s at least one thing you can count on.  Another? That Viz will hold the top five, starting with Rosario Vampire Season II vol 1 at #1 again.  Naruto vol 47 retakes it’s #2 spot, and Gentleman’s Alliance Cross vol 11 moves up to #3, while Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 4 falls back two to #4.  New Viz Signature title Dogs vol 3 debuts at #5, while Black Butler vol 1 moves back up to #6.  Inuyasha vol 47 debuts at #7, and Vampire Knight vol 9 returns at #8.  The only other non-Viz title, Soul Eater vol 2 returns at #9, and Bleach vol 30 rounds things out at #10.  Viz still dominates the list with 8/10 titles, but it’s not too surprising that it was a Yen Press title that helped keep them from taking the 9th again.  Yen doesn’t have the behemoth catalog that Viz does, but it’s got some titles with sticking power.

Manga For Your Ears

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

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What I’m Reading

  • Legend of the Five Rings: The Crane Scroll 3
  • Mushishi Vol 1

Lucky Charms

St. Patrick’s Day is a decidedly American holiday that really isn’t celebrated or even mentioned outside of the US.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good manga you can enjoy with your green beer and corn beef and cabbage.  Now, admittedly, some of these titles are a stretch, but in the spirit of good fun, here are some titles you might find in a pot of manga gold.

Continue reading Lucky Charms

It Wasn't Funny the First Time

I knew I shouldn’t have done it.  I saw the con report for the State of the Manga Industy panel from NYAF at Manga Recon, and knew I should skip it.  But, being a masochist, I didn’t.  So now I have to write another rant about the ignorance of Michael Gambos.  Now, I don’t know if it’s just that no one else cares, but the panel was happy to let Gambos speak for them on digital distribution and make his silly little comment about the Kindle.

Continue reading It Wasn't Funny the First Time

Halloween Manga

It’s that time of year again when ghosts and goblins come out to play. Do you want to get into the Halloween spirit, but just don’t know what to get? Well, here’s a list of manga that I’ve either read, or know something about enough to recommend (or warn you away from).

I first posted this on my Tokyopop blog, but I’m bringing here with a few updates.  Well, I thought it was going to be just a few, but every time I start to think I’m done, I come up with another book!  I tried to keep the books in this list to more appropriate to a Halloween theme, than just ghosts, vampires and monsters, etc.  It would take forever to list ALL manga with those in it!

Continue reading Halloween Manga

Review: Hellsing Volume 8

Hellsing Volume 8
By Kohta Hirano
Publisher: Dark Horse
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Horror/Action
Price: $13.95

Rating: ★★★★★

London is already bathed in blood, its citizenry almost entirely slaughtered by vampiric, reborn Nazi soldiers. And marching through the rivers of blood–thousands of extreme Catholic warriors in creepy cloaks. But the focus of this chaotic either volume is the return of Alucard, the slave-paladin of the British Protestants, who’s just piloted an aircraft carrier up the Thames to join the fray. It’s a crazy face-off between three gory armies and their primary killers, and if you think that sounds nuts, wait until you dive into the crimson-stained new volume of Kohta Hirano’s creepy-cool Hellsing manga series.

Now, I generally don’t read blood-spilling horror manga, but for Hellsing, I make an exception. My husband started getting this series originally, but, having nothing to read one day I picked it up, and was instantly hooked. This volume is a good example why.

We are still in the middle of a battle that started back in volume 6 with first the vampiric Nazis and then the invasion of the Catholics to take back Protestant England. It was not a good day to be a Londoner. England’s protectors, Hellsing, is down to three warriors, but one is really all they seem to need: Alucard. He makes a grand entrance, and holds control for the rest of the volume. It is all about him. Literally. We learn who Alucard really is and see his past, as he defeats one enemy after another on the ground. This also leads to another battle with Alucard’s arch rival, Father Anderson. This volume goes non-stop from beginning to end, with only short moments catch your breath with some plot teasing. This fight still isn’t over.

The art is as bold as the story telling. Thick black lines really give the characters definition, and the blood runs so thick, that some pages seem almost completely black from it all! And Alucard is hot in all of his incarnations!

Hellsing is a title that totally lives up to it’s hype. The art is fantastic, and the story strings you along just enough to keep you coming back for more. And Hirano-sensei’s zany extras are enough to want to buy the volumes alone! They makes the long wait between volumes worth it.

Making the Tough Calls

It was really hard getting through Previews this month. In the catalog, May is Manga Month, so along with all the regular series, there were new ones coming out that had to be evaluated. Top that with a weakening economy, and you get some really tough decisions to be made with this month’s order.  More after the cut.

Continue reading Making the Tough Calls

Bride of the Water God Volume 1

When Soah’s impoverished, desperate village decides to sacrifice her to the Water God Habaek to end a long drought, they believe that drowning one beautiful girl will save their entire community and bring much-needed rain. Not only is Soah surprised to be rescued by the Water God-instead of killed-she never imagined she’d be a welcomed guest in Habaek’s magical kingdom, where an exciting new life awaits her! Most surprising, however, is the Water God himself…and how very different he is from the monster Soah imagined.

Bride of the Water God Volume 1
Bride of the Water God 1By Mi-Kyung Yun
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Rating:Teen
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

It’s a journey through Wonderland, Korean style, as we follow Soah’s adventures in the land of the gods. Will she find happiness with her new husband, the Water God Habaek, or does a worse fate await her?

As serious as all that sounds, Bride of the Water God is a good mix of comedy and drama. Although the romance hasn’t really started yet, you can see it in filtering through slowly. Habaek and Soah are essentially strangers that have been put together in this “arranged” marriage. There are plenty of missteps and misunderstandings, some humorous, others not. But, despite outward appearances, there is an undercurrent that Habaek does have feelings for Soah. The potential for a real romance is there, if Soah can break through the emotional wall Habaek seems to have around him.

The characters are well-developed, and we learn about them through their actions. There aren’t any descriptions or inter monologue about anyone. What you see is what you get, and that really draws you into the story. You have to really look at the characters to pick up the subtle cues that are put in to define them. Habaek, which seems cold and brooding, also has a warm and tender side that only shows when he is watching Soah sleep. Despite being Gods, all the characters have their humanistic qualities that make them easy to relate to.

Mi-Kyung Yun’s art is absolutely gorgeous! Her characters are beautiful with lots of delicate line work. Their clothing has the look and feel of ancient Korea, with lots of intricate designs. The care she puts into her work really shows, and just adds to the overall feel of the book.

The only thing I didn’t like about this volume was the disjointed way the chapters were fit together. Splash pages were the only way to really tell you were moving from one chapter to another, and at one point, I had to go back a re-read a transition because I thought I’d missed a page or two. While only a minor distraction, it did leave me wondering.

Bride of the Water God is among Dark Horse’s first foray into the world of shojo, and it does so with great success. The art, writing and characters all come together to make a wonderful story that any girl would love to read.