Tag Archives: Del Rey

Kodansha USA Becomes More Than a Deadbeat Publisher

It was made public a few days ago that Kodansha USA would be having a launch event today at the NYC Kinokuniya store. Manga fans across the internet were abuzz with excitement and demands that the publisher print what they want or else. I personally set my licensing announcement bar pretty low. All I hoped for was a new volume of manga that had never before been published in English and I’m happy to say that Kodansha  USA delivered that and more!

Lissa Pattillo of Kuriousity has a great comprehensive post up, but I’ll give you the basics. (Also, Scott VonSchilling did a great job of livetweeting the event.)

Kodansha USA will be publishing these former Del Rey titles beginning in May 2011:

Arisa, Fairy Tail, Negima!, Ninja  Girls, Shugo Chara!, Air Gear, Negima?! Neo, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, The Wallflower, I am Here!

Many of these titles already have another volume listed for release later in the summer, so if you’re particularly worried that Kodansha USA is going to publish one volume more and then ignore the series to focus on others, that won’t be the case. It seems like Kodansha USA has carefully prepared which series it was going to focus on first and will be devoted to giving them a bi-monthly release schedule.

On top of that, Kodansha USA listed a small wealth of new titles to be published (also following a bi-monthly release schedule) including: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Monster Hunter Orage, Deltora Quest, The Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Mardock Scramble, Animal Land, Bloody Monday and Cage of Eden.

Kodansha USA also rescued two titles- GON from CMX and Until the Full Moon from Broccoli Books. Both are series I’ve heard good things about, so I am excited to hear that I’ll get to try them out. Another interesting announcement was that CLAMP favorites Tsubasa and XXXholic would be continued to be published under the Del Rey brand. Perhaps a concession to Del Rey for handing over their entire manga publishing line?

Michelle Smith of Soliloquy in Blue said on Twitter that this is probably the best manga industry news we’ve seen all year. I’m inclined to agree. Hearing that Del Rey’s manga line up was lost to a sort of deadbeat publisher was awful news, but Kodansha USA has now delivered and is on it’s way to becoming a more serious manga publisher. With the loss of multiple other companies this year, the Del Rey/Kodansha USA switch has now turned into a win. In six months, there will now be a bevy of new manga on the shelves and that’s more than enough to make me happy. I’m not terribly interested in any of the titles announced yet, but there is hope for the future and I will be sure to take a look at what’s coming out once I start seeing Kodansha USA at my favorite booksellers.

You may remember that I commented about what Kodansha USA should do next to turn mistrustful fans back into loving fans a few months ago. I asked simply that Kodansha USA hold some kind of informational event ASAP, that they at least publish one new volume of never-before-been-published manga, that they license something big and that they blow our minds. They’ve now delivered on three out of four of those requests. (Kodansha USA rep Dallas Middaugh, formerly of Del Rey Manga, said that they had nothing to say about Sailor Moon yet.) Once again, I’m awfully pleased with them, but I still have some potential next steps:

1. Shape up the website:

This isn’t a potential so much as a necessity. Right now Kodansha USA’s website is one page. To say it is sparse is a vast understatement. Now it’s been updated with the news, but it looks very unprofessional. Once cover designs start coming in, build a proper website with listings of the summer releases and a company news blog. Once that’s done, start on social media, get a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Even if there’s nothing to post now, at least it’s there to play with in the future. Kodansha USA also might want to start looking into digital publishing

2. License something big:

So far, a few of the titles taken from Del Rey have hit the New York Time’s best sellers list, but it would really help establish the company further if an extremely popular title was published. Again, Sailor Moon is a prime candidate, but something already popular amongst U.S. fans would also work. Something with a large enough and loving enough fanbase that there will be sales despite pre-existing scanlations. There are too many well-known titles in Kodansha’s catalog to really pick a few myself and it’s difficult to determine what will spur good sales, but I’m sure Kodansha USA can fish around for something good.

3. Keep announcing licenses:

I imagine the next reasonable time for license announcements would be summer, right when big cons like Otakon, Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con roll around. Having Kodansha USA at any of these events would be ideal, not only to promote the company and the new releases, but to assure fans that the company isn’t just sticking to what it’s already picked up. Plus, it will be good for Kodansha USA to keep its name in the news. If they could do something like bring over a popular mangaka, that would be even better. (Although I wouldn’t count on it.)

Best of luck to Kodansha USA. I can’t wait to pick up some titles and check out their editorial style!

What are you hoping to see from Kodansha USA next?

Advertisements

18 Comments

Filed under manga, news, opinion

Del Rey Folds; Kodansha USA to Take on Their Titles

If you pay attention to manga news at all, you’ve probably heard that the Del Rey Manga imprint has folded and Kodansha USA will be taking over on a title-by-title basis. The manga blogging community has been sharing the news as fast as it possibly can. Melinda Beasi was the first to post after Deb Aoki broke the news over Twitter.

Some are saying this is no surprise after it was revealed that Del Rey had no new volumes being released after November 2010.

While it certainly feels a bit upsetting, there is hope for the future of your favorite manga being published by Del Rey. For one, it seems like Kodansha might be getting serious. But at the same time, Kodansha USA has an awful publishing track record, having only done re-releases of Akira that were no different from the old Dark Horse version.

No doubt that right now Kodansha is looking to get their shit in order and isn’t thinking like an American fan who might be grieving at what they see as a loss. Here are some suggestions for them to transition a little bit more smoothly and ease the minds of fans…

1. Do a Q&A panel at NYAF– It seems Kodansha has pulled their panel at NYAF this weekend, which has caused more panic in fans than understanding. Most likely, the people at Kodansha USA feel like they just don’t have anything to tell their fans yet. Forget that. Turn off the PR speak and turn it into a Q&A panel and beginning sharing the details behind this move. If it’s possible, tell the fans when they can start to expect new Kodansha releases, even if specific titles aren’t set in stone yet. It’ll assuage manga fans fears that Kodansha is just a giant corporation toying with their feelings. I’m sure that NYAF will be more than happy to prioritize getting a Kodansha panel back up, so do it ASAP! (And if NYAF is no longer a possibility, I suggest finding the next large anime con and setting up a panel immediately.)

2. Actually publish something new- I’m pretty sure that most manga fans would breathe a sigh of relief if they heard Kodansha was releasing a new volume of an old series or a new title at all. This one is pretty simple, so my suggestion to Kodansha is that you work on this first. Just name one new, never-before-published-in-America volume of manga and when it will be published. If Kodansha wants to keep all the attention it’s getting right now, try and do this before the end of October. The end of the year at the most. Once we get into 2011 and we STILL haven’t heard a single peep from the company, fans will not think well of Kodansha USA at all. My guess is that this change has been relatively long in coming, so Kodansha must have an idea what’s going to be published first and foremost by now.

3. Make a big splash- Ever since Kodansha started pulling the licenses of their titles from American manga publishers, Kodansha has been much like Cuba–everyone else can get the cigars, but Americans can’t. There are many fantastic titles hidden in the Kodansha vaults, so please, Kodansha, don’t keep all the top notch Cohibas locked away in a drawer. Publish Sailor Moon or another popular title that fans have been clamoring for and our attention will be solidly fixed on Kodansha. I know this goes against the previous suggestion, but if it’s done in tandem, I think it could really work well for Kodansha.

There are, no doubt, more things Kodansha could do at this point, but these are what the company needs to do in order to show us it’s not just for show.

Here’s some titles I think Kodansha should publish as soon as possible…

Sailor Moon Omnibus– Omnibi are a great way to get a re-release out to the masses. Plus Sailor Moon is old enough that while many fans think of it fondly, there are plenty more fans who have NEVER gotten the chance to read it, but have probably heard so much about it. Really a no brainer.

Hataraki Man Well, Kodansha (or at least the English-language site for the Japanese side of things) thinks this manga is good enough to be profiled on the site! I personally love this manga, so this suggestion is a tad bit biased, but the shoujo manga that Del Rey published was usually well-received and this is just a tad bit more mature…

Hajime no Ippo or Ashita no Joe– Kodansha, this is your chance to show us the classics that we always hear about in manga. These two get referenced left and right in manga. I know sports manga doesn’t have the best track record, but perhaps these two are good enough to change the minds of US manga fans everywhere. I know I’d certainly be curious since I can think of about 10 different manga that have mentioned Ashita no Joe off the top of my head. (There are more, I just know it.)

Saint Young Men I can tell you right now that a number of people think this manga is too controversial for the US just because it portrays Jesus (despite the fact that it’s pretty tame, I know.) Controversy tends to be a great bookseller, so surprise us all and take a leap of faith. I’m sure your company will get tons of exposure and I’m sure that’s something Kodansha could use right now.

One last bit of advice, Kodansha. Just blow our minds RIGHT NOW and we will be your manga-buying slaves for a long, long time. Right now you’ve nothing to lose by being quick, but you’ll lose a lot by being lazy or paranoid about what you can tell us yet. This is the time for a fast and loose game.

20 Comments

Filed under manga, opinion

The Evolution of Manga Editing

My friend Dave threw me a behemoth of an idea my way last night as I was searching for a blog idea that would strike my fancy.  He suggested that I explore the evolution of manga editing, which honestly sounds more like a research paper than a blog post. It would cost me a lot of time and money in order to fully explore the evolution of manga editing, but here’s my go at the idea with only a few series as examples and my own experience under my belt.

So far I have been an editor on little over a dozen manga. As far as manga editors go, I am pretty sure this is a pretty paltry number, but I kind of, sort of just hit the one year mark of working in the manga industry (if you count internships.)

These days, manga editing is really streamlined. Each major company has its own style book and rules to follow and more likely than not, more than one editor reads a manga before it goes to print. Then again, most of the manga publishers these days have been around for years or have other publishers backing them with expectations, rules and editorial talent. There aren’t too many start-up companies around either.

Less than ten years ago, however, it was a bit of a different story. It was only seven years ago that TOKYOPOP first published Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances) by Masami Tsuda. Since there are only two names I recognize on the credits page (the COO and the CEO), I hope no one takes offense to me picking one of my employer’s titles or that the company doesn’t take offense to my criticism of an old series. (Although senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl tells me that all the mistakes I pointed out were corrected to the best of TOKYOPOP’s ability in the omnibus editions.)

I’ve been slowly re-reading Kare Kano over the past few weeks and the first few volumes were utterly painful. There are many things where I’m surely one of the very few who noticed, but there are numerous instances where Japanese text wasn’t erased before the English text was put over it, where the artwork or tones were erased and never replaced properly (or at all) and text intruding awkwardly on artwork, amongst other things. Sure, the editing improved after the first few volumes and I’m more than sure many things were corrected for the omnibus edition of the manga, but I have to say-no wonder legally published manga had/has a reputation of lower quality when compared to scanlated manga! Not that I think it’s true anymore…That was seven years ago, when TOKYOPOP hadn’t even been around for seven years yet! And now, I know for a fact that TOKYOPOP editors are aware of these past mistakes and know what to look out for. You won’t easily see any garish use of photoshop to replace screentones that were erased in the lettering process or an aside comment that never got translated. The company has sharper editors and sharper touch-up artists these days, but back then they were still learning the ropes.

Viz, however, had nearly 20 years to perfect it’s editing craft when it made (what I think) is a fairly big mistake of a different kind. In the first volume of From Far Away by Kyoko Hikawa, someone left the word “hella,” a Northern California slang word, in a line. When I first read From Far Away, it struck me more because I really dislike the word (being from Southern CA and all), but now it just seems like an amateurish error that they left it in there when the character never ever uses similar slang past the first chapter. (There is an instance of “omigod” in the first chapter, but I feel that it’s more forgivable because it’s just a slight variation on a very common phrase.)

Is this “hella,” however, as grave a manga-editing offense as messing up the artwork and forgetting to remove Japanese text under the English? Yes, because editing manga in the U.S. isn’t just about making things look just as shiny as the Japanese edition, it’s also about creating an ease of reading for the audience. Editors don’t want readers to be caught up in trying to understand a phrase and it’s important to keep a character’s voice sounding consistent to the readers, so using a fairly local slang word is likely to bother them and create confusion when the character does not continue to speak that way. Is it worse that they didn’t continue to use slang to make the character sound like a young girl through out the volume or worse they left in this one inconsistency? I don’t know, but either way it’s an error.

What I watch for in my editing process is a long list. Basically, I look for mistakes that have been made in the art after the manga has been lettered, I look for all the grammatical and spelling errors you would expect, I look for ways to re-write lines so that they sound smoother in keeping with the manga and the character saying them and I look for other things such as making sure the text doesn’t stray too far out into the bleed zones, making sure the size and format of the text conveys the mood and feel of original and making sure words are hyphenated properly. If there are lines that have not been translated into English, I translate them myself or get the help of someone more fluent than I am. If the translators or re-writers have left multiple choices for me to use in the script, I choose which one is the best and/or write in an explanation of some kind. I never catch every mistake that’s been made whenever I edit, but I figure that will improve with time and, in the mean time, I have other editors supporting me and finding what I missed. It’s a tough process and I’m 100% sure that other manga editors have let mistakes slip through and go to print. For example, Del Rey’s version of Mushishi regularly has text cut off. Either half a sentence will disappear at the ends of a page or you’ll have to seriously crack open your manga’s spine to get at it.

Even so, the way manga is published in the U.S. has improved greatly. There is little or no fear of reading a book right-to-left, which not only makes things more authentic to the reader, but easier for everyone who’s ever had to face changing dialogue because a character is now on the left side instead of the right! While there is major censorship around at some companies (and by censorship, I mean someone has a pair of pants on that they didn’t have before),  no one is re-writing entire manga with American names and American references anymore.  I’ve no doubt in my mind that what I’ve learned as an editor is based on years and years of figuring out what works, what doesn’t and finding the little things that no one caught before. I believe that the editorial process will only continue t0 improve the quality of manga as we editors work on more and more titles. The mistakes that I found, made long ago, are already obsolete in the manga made by those companies as it is!

Geez, Dave. Thanks for the great topic.

11 Comments

Filed under manga

Manga Moveable Feast: Mushishi vol. 1-4

The first time I came across Mushishi was when my really awesome college anime club watched it about two years ago. I picked up the manga in bookstores to take a peek, but it wasn’t high on my list of things to buy. So I never did. UNTIL NOW. -cue dramatic music-

Said club having really terrific taste in anime, I rather loved watching Mushishi although it usually hit me as kind of slow. (It showed right before our dinner break, so I guess I was just anxious for some grub or something.) That was awhile ago so picking up the first four volumes of the Mushishi manga felt familiar, but still rather fresh.

Mushishi is about a “doctor” of sorts named Ginko who researches and deals with cases of mushi, semi-mystical and bug-like primordial beings that coexist alongside plants and animals, but act in many different ways, be they parasitic, otherwise harmful or completely docile. The manga chronicles Ginko’s adventures in no particular order with self-contained plots in each chapter. While some might say it would be easy to start at a random volume, I still feel like it’s best to start at the beginning where Yuki Urushibara is making the effort to explain the mushi and what Ginko does.

Urushibara is specifically unclear as she states in her postscript that there isn’t a particular time attached to Mushishi, although she suspects it is sometime between the Edo and Meiji periods. I’m glad she made this choice because it would be a lot more difficult to do this story in a modern setting, like some manga might which always strikes me as a little B-rated fantasy flick-ish. Thanks to this, Mushishi retains a mystical and timeless quality as it really should be.

Ginko is a really cool protagonist. He seems like a real person despite his strange surroundings who tries very hard at his job and really likes mushi a lot. He regularly attempts to make all the right decision for everybody, but isn’t totally against doing something that will benefit himself or something that technically breaks a taboo. My favorite chapters throughout the first four volumes (I’m planning on picking up the rest on Saturday, so perhaps I can do a second post right before the Manga Moveable Feast ends) are “The Sea of Brushstrokes” (vol. 2) about a girl born with a mushi sealed inside her right leg who must write about killing mushi in order to expel it, “The Fish Gaze” (vol.3) which is about Ginko’s past and how he got his strange features, “Picking the Empty Cocoon” (vol. 4) about a girl who takes care of a certain kind of mushi and the loss of her sister to this mushi and “In the Cage” (vol. 4) about a family that is trapped inside a bamboo grove by a white bamboo mushi.

This manga reminds me a lot of Natsume’s Book of Friends mixed with Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (in a sort of action-packed with interesting characters way) so if you like either of those manga you’ll probably be interested in Mushishi.

The art starts out a bit on the difficult side of sketchy at first, but eventually comes into it’s own as the manga moves on.  While I’m perfectly content with the style, if you really really like super clean artwork, then this manga isn’t for you.  All in all, I think it really suits the story and it’s mysterious subjects, but I won’t lie that a few years ago I probably would have frowned a little at this style. I used to really admire clean lines.

While I rather like the art and the story, I have some complaints from a editor’s perspective. From volume 1 I was extremely annoyed by the choice of font for the narratives. I was really hoping it would go away after the first volume, but no such luck. It also had some spiky strokes (usually white  lines around the font to make it show up against darker panels, etc.)  that just looked so unnatural to me. I know this is kind of a really picky thing to complain about, but font choice is pretty important and this particular font pretty much reminded me of the way Papyrus is misused for every single “ancient”-looking thing out there. I hate Papyrus with a passion if you can’t tell. I personally would have chosen something that looked more handwritten and similar to the wavy brushstrokes that are used to draw the mushi.

Another problem I had with the book was that Del Rey seemed completely unaware that some of the dialogue was in the bleed zone. (The bleed zone is some buffer space given so nothing important, like dialogue, will be cut off in printing.) This happened consistently through four volumes and it just REALLY pisses me off to have to practically crack the book’s spine just to get at some text in the middle or to see half of a line of text disappear at the bottom of a page. To me this says: SOMEONE WASN’T PAYING ATTENTION, takes me out of the book and makes the whole thing a lot harder to read. They also advertised “special extras” on the back of every volume, but if the special extras were the inclusion of a few pages of the next volume, I could have done without the anticipation. Sure, it’s not in the original Japanese version, but extra pages (in Japanese) of the next volume are NOT that special to me. Am I jaded? Perhaps, but it’s not like I was buying Mushishi for these “special extras” anyway. Overall, the packaging is nice and I like the paper they used for the covers, which isn’t glossy and makes the watercolored cover art to look really awesome. All the covers are pretty, but volume 4 (pictured above) is my favorite so far.

Finally, and this is probably an artistic or editorial decision on the Japanese side to let some of the tones slip over into the word balloons. I don’t know why it bothers me so much because it does seem to fit the whole feel of Mushishi, but it just seems so lazy to me. It’s not that consistent either, although I noticed it usually happens to balloons in landscape scenes. In the end, I guess this is all just stuff I would correct as an editor, if I was the editor.

As whole, I wouldn’t skip Mushishi just because of my little editorial nitpicking. It says something about this series that even after I’ve seen the anime (which is basically a verbatim adaption of the manga), I’ve been more than happy to buy the manga. (Not just for the Feast, but it was an excellent excuse.) I’d even be willing, in a few months time, to pick it up for a casual re-read.

If you would like to read more about Mushishi, check out the other Manga Moveable Feast entries at Manga Worth Reading! Thank you to Ed Sizemore for hosting this month’s event!

8 Comments

Filed under manga