Time for part four, the last chunk of my look at English manga publishers. Aren’t you glad it’s the last time you’ll have to see my lazy reuse of the same header image? Today it’s my take on DramaQueen, Aurora Publishing, Go!Comi, Kitty Media and Del Rey.
DramaQueen… well, suffice to say they’ve been a pretty big disappointment for the last couple of years. While they started out strong, with lots of titles, they’ve since spiralled down to hovering on the line of death. Worse of all was how difficult, to often downright impossible, it’s been to get answers from any staff members over their current position. It left a lot of uncertainty from readers who awaited new books that would never come and licensed titles that would never even see DQ’s sparsely updated website. Even now, with some more clarification from a staff member over on their forums, it still seems more like a sinking ship and I’m unfortunately expecting a full close-out over a triumphant come back.
As for the books themselves, I did like the small size of them and the dust jackets but past that I wasn’t overly impressed with their work on some. Font inconsistencies in the books that didn’t seem to have any purpose were often rampant in several titles, plus a few gutter issues and occasional spelling errors. I’m not expecting perfection but after the same problems time and again, I found myself a bit disappointed. Either way, if DQ does make a comeback, I’ll remain a customer out of loyalty to their titles but a customer sadly on the fence about them otherwise.
Go!Comi is another of the smaller manga publishers out there and holds numerous hidden gems that I hope all manga readers have a chance to read sometime. I love the psychological After School Nightmare and the chilling Cantarella, among others. Their published book, Japan Ai, is also one of the cutest books you can find out there! Their title library isn’t very large but it seems safe to say Go!Comi chooses quality over quantity. This is also true in relation to their books, which don’t have a lot of frills, but make up for it with simple high-quality translation and design.
On the company-front, Go!Comi has a really nice website with easy to find information and the occasional preview for their manga releases. Staff members also don’t take long to respond to people’s questions, concerns or conversation on their forum which is always a nice touch. With their full-coloured web comic (soon to be released in print) and upcoming Oplay project, they’re also a company who is trying several different ways of using the internet as a powerful tool.
My only problem with Go!Comi is that their titles aren’t as easily accessible as other books outside the internet. While you can ask places to order them in for you, generally they aren’t titles you’ll find automatically ordered in by independent shops or the larger chain store, Chapters. Overall though, Go!Comi has been doing a nice job so I hope they keep it up!
Del Rey (website)
DelRey is one of those publishers I know I can go to confidently. Of their series that I collect, I find them to be of high quality. The size of their books, the interior work, cover designs and the translation notes are generally always top notch (I bumped into a few little problems in recent books but I’m hopeful they’re temporary!).
I love their work with XXXHolic with the care taken to choosing a paper for the cover that’s different from their other books, and their translation notes that include both cultural and CLAMP references for XXXHolic and it’s parallel series Tsubasa. Their series Air Gear is a great example of quality writing with care taken to maintaining the mood and speech-styles of the characters. I won’t go about listing all their series I’m collecting but I find Del Rey really seems to take care to treat each series individually, making sure it’s handled in a way that best suits it instead of carbon-copy release methods for all of them.
Overall their choice of works from partnering Kodansha have been great choices and of varying genres, making sure there’s a little for everyone. I can find their books in almost all the places I go shopping for manga, including stores and online, so it’s never difficult to get my fix of their catalogue. A good website makes sure I can find the information I want about their books and their blog keeps readers up to date on some of the company’s events including con appearances.
I’m happy to hear the recent news of Kodansha’s US branch shouldn’t affect Del Rey too much, because it’s a company I look forward to receiving lots more great material from in the future.
Kitty Media (website)
I’ve purchased several of Kitty Media’s yaoi mangas over the years. Although while some spelling errors, and unattractive fonts have bothered me in the past (not to mention the cat girl on the spine, it’s rather visually intrusive for a logo), overall the books have been of fair quality. Not a lot of frills but everything you need is there. I also like the size of the books, the strong binding and the affordable prices. Recently their release of Crimson Spell’s volume one has been, I’d say, their highest quality release to date and I look forward to more like that in the future. In terms of story quality, it’s another quality over quantity situation and I find you can always count on KM books to be entertaining and with lots of gratuitous sex scenes, something they pride themselves on as a company specializing it in for the most part.
My biggest nitpick? The website. They’ve mentioned redoing it now and again but I’ve yet to visit it and find it manageable. Its Flash interface often glitches and makes finding what information is there difficult to locate. It’d be nice to something simpler that at least has all the book information potential readers are looking for.
Aurora Publishing (website)
I haven’t had a lot of experience with Aurora Publishing books compared to others so far but I have purchased a variety of titles from them so far, both under their main shoujo imprint and their boys’ love imprint. While I think their translation and design work with their titles is really good, I’ve had some qualms with their paper choice and binding. While some books are better than others, for the most part the books feel far too stiff and I often need to crack the spine just to read parts of the interior. It seems to be getting a bit better with each new book of theirs I own so I’m hoping things will continue improving like this.
Generally nice quality books and pleasant, coordinating websites work well in Aurora Publishing’s favour as a whole I’d say. I think their books could use a little more in the way of advertising (newly licensed titles or released ones always seem to sneak up on people without notice somehow), but overall it’s a general thumbs up from me.
So there you have it for now, some of my thoughts on the English market’s manga publishers. I realize some aren’t here but I only wrote about those whose books I own. This means there could be a part five in the future with some new publishers popping up and many books left to read, so who knows? In the meantime though, I’m thankful for such a diverse collection of companies and happily return to my overstuffed bookcases and store shelves with lots more entertainment from them to come.