Today is International Women’s Day, so this seems particularly timely:
MangaBlog was honored with a visit from manga scholar and translator Matt Thorn the other day. He checked out the archives and put this comment in an old post on Four Shoujo Stories. I’m pulling it up here so everyone can read it.
I’m afraid it’ll be a cold day in Hell when Four Shojo Stories is back in print. Now that more than a decade has passed and everyone I knew at Viz has moved on, I suppose there’s no harm in revealing the truth behind the short shelf-life of _Four Shojo Stories_. Anthology paperbacks are all but unheard of in Japan (which is ironic, since almost all the manga magazines are anthologies), and the commonly accepted rationale boils down to “artist ego.” Viz had permission to do all four stories, separately, as comic books, but they never got or asked for permission to put them together in a paperback. When they asked me to write the intro, I asked, in surprise, “They gave you permission to collect these stories?” The editor (now retired) said, “If we ask them, they’ll say no, but if we go ahead and do it, they may complain, but what can they do about it? Pull the book off the shelves?” Well, that’s exactly what they (Shogakukan) did. When the editor in Tokyo responsible for these three artists (and who was later to become my colleague at Seika University!) found out about the book, he popped a gasket. The two top guys at Viz had to go to Tokyo and apologize. (At least they were spared harakiri. (^_^) ) As far as I know, there are a few thousand copies of Four Shojo Stories locked away in a warehouse somewhere in San Francisco. Meanwhile, if you want to get your hands on one of the few that made it into readers’ hands, you can buy a used copy through Bookfinder.com for a mere $60-$155. (^o^) Or you can take the cheaper route and download a scanned torrent at…um, never mind.
This really resonated because I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about how particular the Japanese are about rights. That’s why, if you look at promotions that involve online manga, for instance, you’ll see more American and Korean creations than Japanese.
Anyway, if you want to know more, Connie at Slightly Biased Manga beat the odds and found a copy for $7, and she just posted her review. Also, if you haven’t already, check out Matt’s site for lots of background info on shoujo manga, especially the classics.