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?