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Manga Before Flowers — NYCC08: Really? That was it?

You know, I really thought I was going to get a column out of New York’s Comic Con. Somehow, even after all the licensing announcements have been made and new graphic novel initiatives revealed I’m feeling very, very uninspired.

Sure, I will want to pick the Haruhi manga and light novels (snatched up by Yen Press) or check out the releases of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (licensed by Del Rey). And I do love me some manga anthologies — Yen+ put out by guess who! — so that goes on the “must-have” list for sure.

(Random aside: DMP predicts Flower of Life volume 4 will come out in Spring 2009. Gawd, people, really? Thank you, bloger Gia, for asking that all important question!)

But otherwise? Wow, not much seemed to happen manga-wise.

Which leaves me in the awkward position of having very little to discuss here this week.

And yet somehow, in spite of life’s difficult obstacles, I manage…

Now, with the exception of Yen Press (which really did reveal a significant license with Haruhi and also gave us important details about their upcoming manga anthology), nobody else seemed to have anything to report that would excite the U.S. manga reader. Are the companies just holding out for the summer convention season (CC: San Diego and Anime-Expo)? Well, okay, I suppose I can see the logic of that.

On the other hand, my sense is the manga market is pretty crowded over here at the moment — enough manga is coming out on a monthly basis that makes it almost impossible to read everything we might be interested in….add a bunch more licenses on the fire before other series have ended and well. There are a limited amount of dollars for manga, and with more choice those dollars end up stretched between more companies.

For instance, let’s look at my April Previews Order.

CMX: 2 books

Del Rey: 1 book

DMP/JUNE: 2 books

Go! Comi: 1 book

Tokyopop: 4 books

Viz: 5 books, 1 manga magazine

Magazines: 1

Total cost: $172.71.

Yeouwch. (Good thing I work at my LCBS for credit otherwise I could never put in an order like this).

Now, the smaller and newer companies tend to get pushed out, as do introductory volumes to new series. The 2 volume ones I ordered were REAL by Inoue Takehiko published by VIZ (a mangaka with an excellent reputation in the states, thereby reducing the “risk” of an unknown, to me at least, title), and Martin & John by Hee Jung Park published by Tokyopop (the company is trying to create a “brand” with this artist and I ordered this volume on the strength of the her title Fever but also because of the title’s added potential BL factor — yes, I’m very shallow). I did order Shirley by Kaoru Mori from CMX, but since the manga is complete in one volume it really doesn’t count, as far as I’m concerned, as a “new” series, since Mori is just doing what she did with Emma on a different scale and set in a different time period.

The titles I really wanted to order but couldn’t justify?

Silver Diamond vol 1 by Shiho Sugiura (published by Tokyopop)

The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan by Ai Morinaga (published by AnimeWorks)

Goong vol 2 by Park SoHee (published by Yen Press).

Also, because I’m a fan of their series Chocolat, I’ve had to resist ordering two new titles from creators JiSang Shin and Geo, titled Very, Very Sweet and Rolling, both of which are being released this summer. (While I enjoy Chocolat quite a bit it certainly isn’t a masterpiece and, therefore, I can’t really justify ordering other titles by the same creative team.)

So what on-going titles am I ordering from my local comic book shop? Titles I already know I’m invested enough to want a complete collection. After School Nightmare 8, xxxholic 12, Fruits Basket 20, Nana 11, Skip Beat 13, Suppli 3, High School Debut 4, Gin Tama 7, Your and My Secret 2, Penguin Revolution 6, Hero Heel 2, Don’t Blame Me 2.

Notice that most of those volume numbers are getting pretty high (20 for FB, 12 for ‘holic, 13 for Skip Beat and 11 for Nana).

I had a point, I think, about this…oh yes, it was, “do I really want more manga in the market?” Well, of course, the little manga fanatic in me thinks, “hell yes!”, the adult in me who “manages” my finances (and I’m using the word “manage” here in the most liberal sense of the word…or really, whatever part of me hides when I log on to ebay is probably the one that pays the bills) winces to think about the lengthy previews orders I’m going to be returning to my store this year. Maybe it is simply time for licensing to slow down and let demand catch up a bit with supply — i.e. don’t we need more consumers buying a wider range of titles if the market is going to maintain healthy growth on a yearly basis?

I don’t think it is too presumptuous of me to say that that the hope we all share for the U.S. manga market is that when kids graduate from Naruto they will continue to their love affair with manga and that what is currently a popular culture for young teens will slowly but steadily become a popular culture for young adults and later adults as well. At least, this is certainly my hope for the market. I think in order to see this happen companies who don’t happen to dominate the Japanese and U.S. graphic novel rankings (i.e. Viz for those of you too lazy to click on the links) must be able to maintain a presence in the market place, somehow squeezing out a place themselves on the bookstore shelves. After all, if we build it (i.e. the industry we want) they will come. Won’t they?

And perhaps one day, josei titles might be one of every 10 manga releases, instead of one of every 50 (hey, a girl can dream after all!).

9 Comments

Yeah, I feel bad for the smaller companies because it seems like Tokyopop and Viz dominate everything. Tokyopop throws out titles every week like people testing out spagetti on their wall but how many actually stick? How many actually reach an audience? They have a lot of titles out there that I’ve never heard of because I’ve never seen anyone talking about them.

So many of the series I’m following are from Viz so it’s harder for me to criticize them. But on the other hand I really haven’t started any *new* series from them lately. Most of the ones I’m following are ones they’ve been putting out for awhile.

I really respect companies like 801 Media, Blu (yeah I know it’s Tokyopop related), and Deux because I really get the feeling that they take a lot of care & thought into the small number of titles they release. I’m more likely to pick up a title I’m unsure of from them than a title I’m unsure of say at June just because those companies have a better track record with me. I’m able to keep track of what their upcoming releases are. With June, like Tokyopop, releasing so many titles it’s harder for me to weed out the good from the crap.

But to be fair I gotta say that I bought three new June books last week that I enjoyed a lot. But a lot of that has to do with:

1. Hot vampire dudes making out on the cover

2. This other title featured a mermaid. Merman. Although he doesn’t actually have a fish tail.

3. And the last one was by a mangaka that I already liked from her previous work.

“Good” doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be all that deep and profound for me. I’m all for manga teaching me more about the human condition but sometimes I just want to be entertained.

hi Amy!

Coudln’t agree more with you about Tokyopop — the “see what sticks” metaphor is quite apt. I have a “Is Tokyopop in Trouble?” column in just dying to get out…maybe this will convince me to actually write it…

Also, I think we are very alike when it comes to picking up an “unknown” title — The small publishers I “trust” a little more are Go! Comi and Aurora/Deux. Duex in particular has been a surprise and while I haven’t adored everything I’ve gotten from them I’ve certainly appreciated the effort the put into smart licensing and their releases.

I think my general point here is that my loyalty to certain TITLES (as opposed to publishers) is really what keeps me from picking up new series. There are enough good titles being released keeping my attention that sometimes I have a hard time justifying picking up even more just because I’m curious (for the record, I too got suckered into buying two June titles last week (the Vampire one and the Glasses one. What can I say — I’m weak when it comes to yaoi titles that look even half-decent.) If I have to choose between a new volume of NANA or an unknown title, it will probably be NANA everytime.

Definitely do the “Is Tokyopop in Trouble?” article if you have the time! I think they’re coasting a little bit too much on the success of titles like Fruits Baskets and instead of trying to get titles that reach that quality (or even half that quality) they have some big manga chart somewhere that they’re just throwing darts at and that’s how they’re picking some of these titles that are just fading into the manga abyss. They’re out there, sitting on store shelves but a lot of dust is gathering by them. I’d also be interested in seeing someone write up some information on all the ongoing titles Tokyopop has at the moment. I’m curious as to how many they have out there, how well they’re selling, and heck what some of them are actually *about*. They could be releasing some real undiscovered gems but how am I supposed to find them if they’re just throwing them out there with a bunch of bland and generic titles?

I hear ya on Nana….one of the great things about Viz (for people like me who mostly do online shopping since there’s no comic book store here & just small bookstores) is how online booksellers get their titles about two weeks before their release date. So I’ll definitely be ordering the new Nana & Skip Beat probably…today!

I hope I’m not blabbering on too much but there were some more things I wanted to mention! About what you said here:

“I don’t think it is too presumptuous of me to say that that the hope we all share for the U.S. manga market is that when kids graduate from Naruto they will continue to their love affair with manga and that what is currently a popular culture for young teens will slowly but steadily become a popular culture for young adults and later adults as well. ”

I think the kids that are *only* buying Naruto probably won’t continue buying manga when they get older. Just like the kids that only like Harry Potter but haven’t went on to read any other fantasy books. But the ones that buy Naruto plus other titles…I think there’s a better chance of them continuing as they get older.

I’d like manga to just become a mainstay of book culture. Why can’t the six year olds of today discover and enjoy manga themselves in a few years? I’d like the more youth orientated manga to become a constant thing, just like prose young adult fiction is. Just because kids grow out of young adult fiction (although a lot of adults still read that too!) it doesn’t just stop. The titles may change but the genre doesn’t disappear. So I hope it’s the same for shojo and shonen.

As far as more mature adult titles catching on….I don’t know. I belong to this community on livejournal (keep in mind that the members are from all over the world though & not just the U.S.):

http://community.livejournal.com/garagesalejapan/

where people sell their various Japanese items (manga, anime, jrock, etc.) and I’ve noticed that teens sell a lot of their manga when they go to college because they need money & they don’t have room for it anymore. So I guess all we can do is hope that the ones that completely give it up during their college years come back to it when they have more time & money.

Danielle Leigh

April 22, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Definitely do the “Is Tokyopop in Trouble?” article if you have the time! I think they’re coasting a little bit too much on the success of titles like Fruits Baskets and instead of trying to get titles that reach that quality (or even half that quality) they have some big manga chart somewhere that they’re just throwing darts at and that’s how they’re picking some of these titles that are just fading into the manga abyss. They’re out there, sitting on store shelves but a lot of dust is gathering by them. I’d also be interested in seeing someone write up some information on all the ongoing titles Tokyopop has at the moment. I’m curious as to how many they have out there, how well they’re selling, and heck what some of them are actually *about*. They could be releasing some real undiscovered gems but how am I supposed to find them if they’re just throwing them out there with a bunch of bland and generic titles?

I actually kind of want to do a TP score card — “would I buy this or even look twice at it?” may be the criteria for that particular chart….

And while I certainly have a few Tokyopop gems I’d like to share with an audience since the sheer amount of mediocre titles they put out is kind of staggering….I don’t know if TP is really in trouble or if just appears that way from the outside because they have sooooo many titles we just haven’t heard of / been exposed to (& wouldn’t care to be to be honest.)

Yeah my manga list is getting way too full. I’m collecting 10 ongoing series at the moment with a probably 11th to add to that. I don’t think i could handle that many more titles to pick up.

Forgive the newbieness here, but just for a personal note, I’ve been a (I suppose) quasi-fan of manga–I got started waaaaay back when Eclipse was THE manga publisher with only First Comics and Marvel/Epic making any type of inroads (Viz didn’t even come along till after Eclipse proved a semi-viability for manga, but I digress). I honestly preferred the monthly comic-book format; perhaps it was more expensive in the long run, but in that format, the books were easier to digest and they were much easier to try out if your LCS carried them; one issue at $2.95 a copy for 22-26 pages of story was much easier on the wallet than shelling out $10-$15 for something relatively unknown.
As to the comments about Tokyopop, I really haven’t picked up too many of the company’s titles (a couple of the Blu books plus the Star Trek volumes pretty much is it) but what I’ve noticed–primarily from Diamond’s weekly shipping schedule–is that it looks as though the vast majority of the company’s titles are released at the same time. Certainly, that has to have hurt manga in a large majority of comics specialty stores which simply don’t have the deep pockets necessary to absorb the cost of stocking so many titles, especially when those books are bought on a non-returnable basis; this naturally explains why the major bookstore chains are so deeply stocked with manga–the stores don’t pay for anything they don’t actually sell (five-fingered discounters notwithstanding) so stores can feel safer in stocking a dozen copies of the 36th volume of MangaTitleX while keeping 2-5 copies of the previous dozen volumes and at least 1 copy of the first two dozen volumes and STILL carry a seemingly infinite number of different titles (a comics specialty store trying that would go broke in a matter of months; generally, comics specialty stores can’t even afford to carry one copy of every single comic title published by the Big 4 Publishers plus the other majors like IDW, DE, Avatar, Devil’s Due and Virgin–some of the biggest comics shops can do so, but I’d guess a good 70% of Diamond’s accounts can’t).
Most of my manga purchases tend to be the “short run” titles. I really prefer to get titles that are single volumes but will go with 3- or 4-volume titles, and desperately avoiding anything beyond 6 or 7 volumes (the only title I own with more than 10 volumes–at present–is “Ranma 1/2″; I continued getting the book after the switchover from monthly comic to bi-monthly manga volume, so I have 14 volumes of it). I appreciate Tokyopop and Digital Manga for including the number of volumes their titles will have in the Previews catalog (I specify these two because they’re the ones I most often notice the “longevity factor” in their solicitations); this doesn’t necessarily mean that others do or don’t but I don’t generally notice the number of volumes for the title’s run. Viz, however, is particularly bad at NOT posting how many volumes a title will run but going by the extensive runs on many of their other titles, I’m very leery of ordering anything that even sounds remotely interesting because I’m afraid that something that sounds good will end up running 20 or 30 (or more) volumes, and I just really don’t want to commit myself to something like that, even if it is good. (I was initially hesitant for similar reasons for Fantagraphics’ “The Complete Peanuts” but finally went ahead with that because Peanuts is a pretty proven commodity. Most manga, even by creators with whom I’m familiar, still remains less proven. I loved “Lum: Urusei Yatsura” and “Ranma 1/2″ and even the “Mermaid” stories by Rumiko Takahashi, but her “Inu-Yasha” just left me cold.) I’m also more of a yaoi fan but, over the last few months, I’ve even cut back on them because, well, quite frankly, they’re largely all starting to look alike. I’ve become a bit more selective–I want something that offers something a bit different to the basic plot premise–but the real clincher will be how many volumes will be coming along.

Hi Danielle,

With regards to the idea you put forward of the manga publishers playing catch up, i think this is a really good idea, i collect a number of series, and find myself chomping at the bit waiting for the translators and the publishers to get the next books out, and feel that maybe a lot of people dont get into manga because the prospect of starting a series which may 23 volumes and have finished in japan, but is only on volume 11 in english (i’m looking at you HIkaru no Go) can put people of buying a series when they could just as easily (and FAR more cheaply) read the whole series online (not that i’m advocating such behaviour).
Its kind of muddled, but I think my overall point is that I think manga companies need to sort out the series they have out now, get them to completion, or as up to date as possible, and then maybe go out and try to find new manga to entice all those readers who now have that extra cash floating around now that their must read series has come to a satifactory finish.

[…] manga market, followed by some interesting comments. Danielle Leigh presents her own take in her Manga Before Flowers column at […]

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