NYCC: CPM and Be Beautiful

The big news at the CPM panel was not new title announcements but the fact that a number of previously announced titles are scheduled for release in the next couple of months.

CPM managing director John O’Donnell came into the panel brimming with energy and attitude and started right in with a discussion of his company’s troubles over the past year. “In January, our our largest customer, Musicland, which is 30 percent of our sales, filed for bankruptcy,” he said. “Most annoying!”

“Then Tower Records, 5 percent of our sales, filed for bankruptcy. Most annoying!”

As a result, CPM had issues with getting paid and had to deal with it by cutting back its production schedule. “We apologize for any inconvenience it caused,” O’Donnell said. “There’s nothing worse than getting into a series and having it disappear.”

By then, O’Donnell had clearly won over the sparse but enthusiastic crowd. He went on to show a series of trailers for new and existing titles. (You can see the trailers on the BeBeautiful website; just click on the title and there will be a link to the trailer). Like everyone else at NYCC, O’Donnell mixed new and existing series together in one long list; in fact, the only title covered thas isn’t already in stores is Midaresomenishi: A Legend of Samurai Love. Yes, a samurai yaoi manga. Vice president Masumi O’Donnell announced the release schedules, which included a couple of one-shots that aren’t listed in their current catalog, although I think they have already been announced: Casino Lily, by Youka Nitta, due out in May, and Virgin Soil in July. Because the Japanese publisher Biblos, which published Embracing Love, also went bankrupt last year, John O’Donnell said that series is up in the air after vol. 6. “Everything has to go back and be renegotiated with the author,” he said. “I wish I could give you a straight answer, but I can’t. We’ll be back there next month for the Tokyo anime fair.”

Then he had a question for the audience: How do you feel about manhwa?

Not too good, said various audience members, citing weaknesses in drawing style and storytelling—the plots jump around too much, one person said.

“You sound like the Japanese we talk to,” said O’Donnell. “They say pretty much the same thing,” but he compared that to carmakers in Detroit complaining that the Japanese made little cars that no one wanted to drive.

The CPM strategy has been to find the top-selling manhwa in Korea, and the number one-selling manhwa-ga, O’Donnell said, is Hyun Se Lee, whose works include Nambul, Mythology of the Heavens, and Hard Boiled Angel. (Fun fact: That last one was originally titled “Angel Dick”; CPM changed the title, O’Donnell said, because “it’s not yaoi.”)

Again, none of this was exactly news because the titles are already out in the U.S., but we were treated to a video of an interview with Lee, and it looks like Lee’s Armageddon and Sook Ji Hwang’s Angel Shop are scheduled for release soon. Again, old and new were mixed together so it was hard to tell.

The panel ended with a book called Doggy Poo, which, according to O’Donnell, started out as a children’s book about a doggy poo who was sad because he was, well, a doggy poo, but ultimately, after a series of adventures, learned that There Is A Place In The World For Everyone. Supposedly a Korean student who was about to commit suicide saw the book, decided not to off himself, and went on to become one of the richest men in Korea; he built an entire movie studio just to make a Claymation version of this book. Although the movie leaves everyone in tears, O’Donnell said, most American publishers won’t touch it because it’s about… doggy poo. Anyway, the trailer is on the CPM website, and I must say, it is an awfully cute little doggy poo.

Did I just say that? I have now officially been in New York for too long.

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  1. Did anyone ask about Sweet Cream and Red Strawberries?

  2. Yup, Virgin Soil and Casino Lily are old licenses. At 2006 Yaoi-con they said they had just finished the translation for Casino Lily.

  3. I couldn’t get through 15 minutes of the Doggy Poo movie. I seriously think you have to be stoned to watch it all the way through… @_@

  4. Tommy Raiko says

    > As a result, CPM had issues with getting paid and had to deal with
    > it by cutting back its production schedule.

    For the sake of historical accuracy, it ought be noted that that wasn’t the only thing CPM did to deal with their problems. They also fired most of their staff.

    OK, granted, layoffs are a sad and unavoidable reality in the business world, and if those layoffs (or “downsizing”, or “overhead reduction”, or whatever euphemism you want to use) helped CPM survive as a company, then they had their intended result. But we really shouldn’t blithely overlook the human factor in the CPM story either…

  5. Yes, and my bad for not mentioning that. In fact, one of them was there—Peter Tatara, who is now director of anime programming for NYCC. Also, Peter and some other former CPM employees have formed Urban Alchemist, a manga-themed T-shirt company, which O’Donnell plugged at the beginning of the panel.

  6. Well that’s nice to hear. And, in fairness, I’ve been reminded that, when firing staff, CPM did make the effort to publicly state that employees had lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and suggesting that other companies with positions to fill should keep their displaced folks in mind. Of course, that offer isn’t severance pay or outplacement assistance, but it was certainly a nice gesture, which other companies probably wouldn’t have done.


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