ADV: Missing in action?

In this week’s Drawn & Quartered column from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Wilma Jandoc and Jason Yadao takes a look at ADV, a company that is becoming notorious for never finishing a series. They crunch the numbers:

Analysis of an database and Diamond Comics shipping lists shows that out of 79 series the company has announced since 2003, 43 have been canceled outright or put on indefinite hiatus. Another 11 were announced in 2004 but never released.

Jason and Wilma weren’t able to contact anyone at the company to figure out what is going on. However, in March 2005, according to this post from Thought Balloons, Publishers Weekly got word that ADV had laid off about 25 employees from its manga division.

Company president John Ledford pointed to a saturated market and discerning customers as contributing factors. “Anyone can see that there’s only so much shelf space available to manga and to anime,” he told PW. “We’ve adjusted our schedule to keep pace with the opportunities for shelf space.”

The restructured manga unit will focus on publishing “winners,” according to Oarr, who said the company will release about 50 titles this year, down from about 80 in 2004.

It sounds to me like he read the market exactly wrong; sales are growing, shelf space is expanding, and ADV has a product that people actually want. Take a look at this thread on the ANN forums. People are beating down the door to get the next volume of Yotsuba&!, but ADV won’t sell it to them. What’s wrong with this picture?

Communication seems to be a big part of the problem. The ADV manga home page was last updated in September 2004. (The anime section does get more attention.) Yotsuba&! isn’t even listed. Their catalog only lists the first volume of Cromartie High School, arguably their hottest selling property, and that listing bears the discouraging words “sold out.” And unlike other publishers, who have spokespeople that answer the phone and even drop in on forums, ADV wouldn’t even talk to a reporter.

Are they trying to chase readers away? If so, they’re doing a good job. But if they’re trying to sell manga, well, time to try another tack. Like giving the customers what they want.

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  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve bought their volumes of Tactics, Ray, and Peacmaker Kurogane..but alas they seem to not want to continuing these titles (which were fairly popular) It’s sad too, as a collector I like to have that sense of finishing a series, Which now in my collection I’ll have several incomplete ADV titles.

    They are an unprofessional company and since they can’t seem to get their act together I’ll never buy their product again. Their translation quality and lack of commitment practically chase me into the arms of better companies like Del Rey, Dark Horse or Viz.

  2. It’s probably safe to assume that ADV probably lost a large number of their titles, which means that it’s doubtful that they’ll ever get relicensed anytime soon. Stores got stuck with the previous volumes not selling…so why would another company invest in putting them out? Shame…

  3. It’s a shame, really, ADV has licensed some very nice titles: the lovely Aria, for one, which seems stalled at 3 volumes (I believe there are eight out in Japan), and the grim Gunslinger Girl (they managed to wait a year between the first and second volumes, then volume three came out in two months, then, nothing for about a year). I’ve also enjoyed Dream Gold and Desert Coral has an interesting look, though I haven’t read it yet.

    I think a part of their problem was that they didn’t have a good grasp on book distribution (as opposed to anime distribution), and dropped the ball. It was very hard to find their offerings in either comics shops or bookshops for the longest time.

  4. Jarred and I have discuessed ADV a bit and our frustration with the group cannot be measured. On one side they license hits – Louie, Gunslinger Girl, Those Who Hunt Elves, Cromartie, RAY, First King Adventures, ARIA…. Actually they have a good number of hits. Unfortunately, they were in our opinion the cause of the manga glut of 2004. They picked up so many unknowns in so little time (many manhwa titles and all those MagGarden titles) that had trouble finding readers. MagGarden was hard because they are crossover titles shojo-ish writing with fanservice. So it never hit the right readers. The manhwa titles were just not good. Their promise of 1000 volumes of manga with many unknowns in there buried them and sellers who could not move product.

    And along the way their good titles that were not going at Full Metal Panic!, Azumanga and Yotsuba levels were in trouble. Mahorabu was released in 2005 after most of the problems were beginning to settle down but it never got a second volume. Cromartie began to slow down… until it was nominated for an Eisner and then all of a sudden its schedule was announced at Amazon and subsequent Diamond Previews. Where that will leave good titles like RAY and Anne Freaks who knows. Right now the only series that is released on a regular basis is Orphen for some reason (not as good as Louie or RAY). Right now I don’t think their “winners”, especially those announced this year, are going to do any better. Sad thing is that FMP! is over. FMP? Overload is going to end soon. ChronoCrusade ends this summer. Leaving long waits for Yotsuba as their franchise title.

    ADV has a great library. They at times show promise with their production values but until they can release manga with some frequency their titles outside of Yotsuba will struggle, no matter how good the contents are.

  5. I get many mails asking me questions like “what happened to ADV?” or “when will the next Yotsuba come out?” Seems some people are hoping that their license expires so some else can pick the titles up.

  6. I really, really enjoyed Aria, Blue Inferior, and even some of ADV’s Korean titles. And I hope they continue sometime in the near future. Maybe the fan community could start a petition to catch ADV’s attention. Or someone (or group of people) could create a graphic banner requesting more ADV manga releases, and then websites post this banner to get even more attention. If there is an obvious demand for the return of more ADV manga, maybe they will finally notice and take action. As a company, the fans (people who support the company) should come first.

  7. Sirmackerel says:

    It makes me sad that Yotsuba is basically in limbo right now. :(

  8. Imperium Inferno says:

    Are there any signs that they might be recovering and/or reorganising? Ive been waiting a year for volume 4 of Gunslinger Girl after buying volumes 1-3. Ive also noticed that even Full Metal Panic releases at my local store have been rather random for the last year and a half.
    Do we even know when their licence on these good titles run out? Anyone have a clue?
    It would please me greatly if Gunslinger Girl went over to Dark Horse or some other publisher because this is just rediculus. A waste of a good market for good art with good plot.

  9. This is just insanity. I understand that this type of management is difficult, but really, if you can’t finish the series, why bother buying the license? ADV is having their cake and letting it rot.
    I’ve only ever bought one ADV title in my life, and that is Chrno Crusade. Once it ends this summer (They told us June ’06, and BY GOD it had better be here in June 06), I am never spending my money on an ADV title again. It’s not the wait that kills, it’s the uncertainty.
    And the “contact us” page on their website is down. Seriously, why even bother with a website in the first place if you’re not going to use it?
    Good questions, I think. Unfortunately, no answers. Not as of yet.

  10. I too have fallen victim to this. Happy Lesson had a second volume released in Japan back in 2003, but ADV only released the first. Steel Angel Kurumi ran for 11 volumes, but ADV only released 9 of them. The problem with these and other titles that ADV never finished is that people have spent hard-earned money on what is essentially an unfinished product. I feel that ADV is obligated to either finish these series, sell the rights to the series to another manga publisher who will finish them, drop the rights and let fan translators pick them up, or simply refund our money.

  11. I love gunslinger girl and my patience is wearing thin. The first 3 where awsome but I am desperate for more. The series is so great and was fairly popular. I wish it was licenced under a better publisher like tokyopop.

  12. You can always try to learn japanese or chinese and get the manga in its original version. I know chinese, and once I start comparing the english version and chinese version.
    I saw that there are a bunch of translation errors. so I wonder if the translation errors were caused by the japanese to english tranlation or japanese to chinese translation.
    there are some websites that sell in the chinese version it will cost you about the same as the english version.
    but some are only available in korean version.:(

  13. I agree. It’s really discouraging that ADV has just out of the blue stopped production with a majority of the manga titles they are licensing. What’s worse is that they didn’t even say they were putting certain titles on hold etc.

    When Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok manga vol 3 was supposed to hit shelves I had gone down to the bookstore a week after to find that it wasn’t out and the employees didn’t know when it was coming in. So thinking that it’s just a shipment delay I returned maybe a month or so later. Still not in. Then half a year later I find out it’s been dropped.

    Luckily the Japanese store sells the untranslated version for about 3 bucks a book. Hopefully soon ADV will pick up it’s act, because it seems that manga is selling more then anime.

  14. It’s odd, I was just discussing this today. I’ve been banging down doors trying to find the translated volumes of Gamerz Heaven, and this is why. I see that ADV is dropping more than just my Murakami-sama’s title.

    It’s disappointing to see good series disappear and lose readers just becauase its fallen into the hands of poor publishers. I hope that ARIA, Gunslinger Girls, and other ADV volumes get picked up by other publishers. I especially hope that Tokyopop picks up Gamerz Heaven, as they already have the rights to Murakami’s other works.

  15. well.. Yotsuba& is now up to volume SIX in Japan as of this month while it languishes via ADV at volume 3 after almost two years.

    I guess the ultra aggravation is that they SIT on the licenses. They could sell them off or release them but nope. I’ve made repeated emails, calls, and letters requesting some status from any contact point they have —- nada, not even a “fuck off”. Oh they did add the address I used to their “spamarama” anime advert machine. Normally one takes a website down if its dead (wasted bandwidth on their end) —- but there the ADV manga section sits.. unupdated since 2004.

    Very strange way to run a business…. almost psychotic.

  16. Seanna I totally agree. I have been waiting for the 3rd volume of Gamerz heaven for what feels like forever. I am an avid Murakami fan, and she is LOOSEING CUSTOMERS this way. I fear the only way that this issue will be resolved is by unfortunately, fan translator site picking up the seires and for us all to pirate it. That is the only way that seems to ensure companies pick uptitles, is if they see it’s popularity online.

    Now ADV has officially DROPPED it. It’s up to fan sites to pick it up until someone licences it again. Sad but unquestionable fact. If you want something, you have to do it yourself.

  17. OK, what is up with ADV? I always go to them first to get manga, especially Yotsuba, and now they just quit on us? Now i think they suck!