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DelRey Manga Imprint Folds, Kodansha Steps In and Over

Kodansha - DelRey

Take a peek around the anime/manga blogosphere and today’s big news is evident. It was announced via e-mail press release that Random House’s sci-fi/fantasy imprint, DelRey, will no longer be releasing Japanese-licensed manga. Kodansha Comics, the manga-publishing arm of Kodasha USA, will be gaining license-hold of their titles which will be “gradually taken over by Kodansha USA Publishing on a per-title basis.”

Recent speculation about DelRey’s future as a manga publisher came about after Andre posted about the lack of listings for DelRey manga in Diamond Previews, along with noting some pushed back release dates on Amazon. This not too long after DelReyManga.com vanished and instead began forwarding to the mish-mash website, Suvudu.com. It generated a lot of discussion across blogs and forums but I think few expected things to happen quite this quickly. In this instance though, I’m inclined to say bad news is better than no news.

What’s unfortunate though is that this is so immediately perceived as bad news. I don’t say that with any implication I believe it’s unfounded, either. Oh, Kodansha, you have some work to do.

Seeing any manga publisher fold isn’t a pretty picture. In this instance  however DelRey isn’t disappearing so much as it’s being absorbed into Kodansha Comics. There’s definitely some potential good to come of this.

Publisher’s Weekly had some more detailed information pretty quickly after the initial story broke (first posted on Twitter by @debaoki). What stands out the most in the article is the following paragraph which outlines the intended relationship between Random House and Kodansha Comics after this shift:

“In an e-mail interview with Irie, he said that while Kodansha USA Publishing will now directly oversee the publishing of Kodansha-originated English-language manga licenses, Kodansha still plans to “to work with local partners in foreign territories.” He said that Random House will continue, “handling much of the publishing side, such as editorial, production, sales and marketing.” Irie will be based in Tokyo while KUP general manager Kumi Shimizu stays in New York.”

For those worried about design changes of future books, I think it’s worth looking at their re-releases of Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Both are in almost every way copies – from size, design, translation, lettering and even censoring – of Dark Horse’s original releases. From at least what we’ve seen so far from KC, which admittedly is very little, they sure don’t look like they’re going for any grand re-invention. Keeping in mind again that they’re essentially taking over DelRey titles instead of licensing-rescuing after the fact so that in itself makes things considerably different. I think it stands to reason that it’d be both the most logical and hassle-free route to maintain the original designs, pleasing consumers and retailers, plus avoiding all that time-consuming, money-requiring work of having them redesigned simply to… what? Stake a greater claim than their logo over it already will? For new series perhaps, but I can’t see it being the case for continuations.

That said, DelRey’s books had already been going through some big changes before this news was announced. Over the past few months, the first of DelRey’s many planned omnibus editions have come out, combining 2-3 volumes of manga of series both new and those previously released in singles. I’d theorized for a good while that this was DelRey trying to make whatever money they could back from licensing fees already paid out for individual volumes before they shut down. In light of today’s news, I still maintain there could be some truth in this. Full disclaimer that I could just have no idea what I’m talking about of course. Now however I also see the omnibus as the beginning of a paved road to quick completion of these series for KC. Now of the series they do pick and choose to complete, they’ll have much shorter amounts of time obligated to them. This leaves more room for what we can hope are many new series to come.

And what a collection of new titles we could have. Kodansha Comics having that name isn’t a coincidence and their direct tie to Kodansha (JP) opens up a huge potential library of titles to bring over. Seriously, check out ANN’s Kodansha page to get an idea. It’s hard not to get excited over the prospects of titles such as Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, Billy Bat, Princess Knight or Ookiku Furikabutte (among many, many others). But of course there’s always the question of what kind of ‘risks’ KC may be willing to take.

Another response from Kodansha Comics posted on the Publisher Weekly article was promising to this effect at least (and also for other companies looking to license Kodansha properties):

“Irie said Kodansha’s plan was to continue to “expand the manga market in the U.S. “ He said KUP will itself license its manga from its parent company and Irie emphasized that there would be “continued licensing of Kodansha manga to other licensees.””

Some consumers have already begun to hope that this direct-line to licensing could also translate to some savings for all wallets involved. I don’t see it as being all that likely ($35.99 for a re-re-release of Ghost in the Shell, really?) – but it would certainly be nice if the decrease (or removal?) of licensing fees from their budget could in turn benefit the buyers. Cheaper to publish, cheaper to sell? That’d certainly be nice, however unlikely.

At the end of the day though, we’re still in a messy situation purely based on the lacking faith most have for Kodansha Comics. They were originally announced in 2008 yet have since released only a few volumes of their oldies-redux, complete with old-school censoring and poor paper quality, and they had trouble keeping up with any of their set release schedules on top of that. Alas on top of ‘that’ they’ve had little to no communication with retailers or consumers, including one of my biggest pet-peeves – no website! That becomes especially frustrating now with such a big announcement. Currently KodanshaComics.com has the press release up (and by the looks of it a designer on hand presumably working on the full version) but anything past that is yet another wait-and-see.

At the end of day it’s sad to see DelRey going under like this, even while it appears more like a change of trimmings in terms of how it’ll affect manga-buyers. DelRey (or Random House I should say specifically now) will still do the heavy lifting (translation, editorial, printing, distribution) but Kodansha gets the credit and offers the big-gun, risk-taking support behind them.

So any news is good news I say… but ironic that despite it we’re still just stuck in another wait and see situation all the same. Good thing we have that two-hour NYAF panel to look forward to and… oh wait, it’s been cancelled already. Alas…

Your thoughts, readers?

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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13 Responses

  1. Andre says:

    I'm not sure how much licensing fees would change- VIZ still has to pay licensing fees to Shuiesha and Shogakukan from my understanding [which is why they've published Kodansha and Kadokawa titles in the past, along with Hakuensha's titles for the Shojo Beat line]. I imagine some costs might be decreased, and some barriers quicker to jump over, but even if Kodansha's costs are taken away, they still have to pay the authors their licensing fees, royalties and all the other costs that normally go into things.

    I'd seriously go for even an add-on to their Japanese website. All publishers need is an easily browseable catalogue- it's not much to ask for.

    Anyhoo, hopefully Kodansha might have some sort of presence despite the lack of panels- hopefully those attending will see what they can find out at NYAF

  2. Ryu Sheng says:

    Honestly? I'm surprised it took them so long. When Kodansha first announced they were going to be releasing stuff themselves i had an inkling of them taking over Del Rey.

    I would point out something about your post, the GitS and Akira releases of KC weren't remakes, they literally just reprinted the original Dark Horse releases and slapped their own logo on it. They did nothing work wise, on the series. Which is a shame, i was hoping we'd get an uncensored, unflipped version.

    I was expecting them to have announced this ages ago though, and when the website died i figured it was a dead cert that one of two things were going to happen. Either er'd have another CMX on our hands, or they'd be swallowed by another company.

    Though i have to admit i've been expecting Del Rey to die ever since they killed their UK branch and site. Sadly this leaves several titles i've been loving and collecting with no future *sigh*

    • I actually noted that exact thing about Kodansha's releases of Akira and Ghost in the Shell when I spoke about possible design changes of existing DelRey properties. If those two series were any indication, Kodansha isn't planning any big book makeovers and seems happy to have their logo on something.

      Sadly I think a lot of people say this coming for quite sometime but optimism always seem worth having with the manga industry these days. At least now we know, better than nothing! And who knows, Kodansha may be able to pull through – we're supportive enough to give them a third chance :)

  3. Aaron says:

    I guess I would say I'm cautiously optimistic right now I know Del Rey put out two titles I really liked (Kitchen Princess and Papillon – Hana to Chô)but who knows how Kodansha takeing over would affect them here's to hoping things will work out better.

  4. I don't know if you saw Christopher Butcher's critique of Kodansha's first releases, but he raised a good point: Kodansha erred when it decided to go with the flipped format that DH used 10 years ago. The books seemed overpriced, especially given the poor reproduction quality and lack of extras; other manga in the same price range — AX, A Drunken Dream, A Drifting Life — offer much more bang for the buck. Then there was the issue of censorship: several pages of Ghost in the Shell had been expunged from the original DH version, but weren't restored in the new edition. The trim size, too, was out of step with current practices; almost nothing is being released in that format, as it poses shelving issues for retailers.

    Bottom line: Kodansha's debut seemed kind of tone-deaf, as if they had no idea what current US market conditions were. Bringing Dallas Middaugh aboard is a smart move; let's hope the folks at Kodansha listen to him about pricing and format.

    • I completely agree with you on those editions, they were not at all at the quality or price standards of today. The only way I see them as a good thing now however is they're evidence that Kodansha is, frankly, being lazy in how they release. Doesn't exactly sound like a good thing but I personally hope that they maintain this 'laziness' if it means they'll maintain the format, price and design of DelRey's previously released books.

  5. […] Lissa Pattillo thinks we should hold off on the dismal predictions, noting that we may see continuity in design and editing and an expanded range of titles… or then again, maybe not. […]

  6. Lyle says:

    The only change I hope Kodansha takes is just turning those black and white, grayscaled colour pages of english editions of manga and revert them back to those vibrant iridescent colours they were in Japanese;) Fairy Tail needs it, but

    Code;Breaker is just begging for it!D:

    Unless the only thing Kodansha can do is stomp on top of Del Rey's logo.

    Then way to go on "expanding" the market=.=

  7. Oliver says:

    I don't think we'll ever get those colour pages as they're only present in the magazines, no? Even in Japan, they're reproduced in grayscale in the tankoubon, am I wrong?

    Here's my prediction: the new books will look exactly like the current Del Rey ones, except with the KC logo. If Dallas Middaugh is involved, and production is done by Random House, it looks like there won't be *drastic* changes.

    To me, at least, this news is a glimmer of hope amongst all those doubtful months when I thought I was never going to see more "Nodame Cantabile". I have a lot more faith now, so much that I bought "Moyasimon" volume 1. So happy!.

  8. Oliver says:

    What's not clear is who's in charge of choosing licenses. Will it be Dallas? Will it be KC? As we've seen, KC has no idea about the NA/UK market, but Dallas does. However, *if* it is left to KC, we might see some really vibrant and kooky series that we might not normally have gotten, hopefully.

  9. […] mangasphere had plenty to say about this too, as bloggers took up keyboards and give their own reactions. I’m not the only one not […]

  10. […] mangasphere had plenty to say about this too, as bloggers took up keyboards and give their own reactions. I’m not the only one not […]

  11. […] single volume and $19.99/US for omnibus editions. No word on the designs of these books yet but it remains fairly safe to assume they’ll be carrying on with DelRey’s designs and trim-sizes, if Akira and Ghost in the […]

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