Breaking: Kodansha setting up shop in U.S.?

That’s what ICv2 is reporting:

Japan’s highly respected Nikkei financial news service is reporting that Kodansha has set up a U.S. subsidiary “to publish and sell translations of its Japanese manga” in the U.S. starting in September. The reason for the move according to Nikkei, is “to boost its earnings in America, where its income has been limited to royalties received from U.S. firms.

This could obviously be a blow to Del Rey, which gets many if not most of their titles from Kodansha. More on this as it develops.

UPDATE: Heidi points out:

Kodansha setting up shop in the US does not invalidate the news that they are not immediately pulling licenses from US publishers, such as Del Rey, who have an existing relationship with the Japanese publishing giant. Kodansha has a huge number of properties to pick from, so there’s lot of stuff to go round, at least at first.

UPDATE 2: Christopher Butcher has more, but it’s on double secret background. And Gia links to the original article.

LATE UPDATE: At the Del Rey blog, Dallas Middaugh reassures us that Kodansha hasn’t pulled any licenses and it will be business as usual at Del Rey. (Thanks, Doinkies!)

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  1. To be honest, this is nothing new. Since the rumors first started circulating i’ve been expecting this.

    As Heidi points out it’s effect on Del Rey will be minor, give the amount of works Kodonsha have. However i can see them not getting some titles that they may want.

    However the potential gains here are stagering, from a fan perspective. There are literally hundreds of titles that have only been available as scanlations. If they’re wise they’ll start to cash in on this.

    However i have to admit i’m concerned over how they’re going to be releasing. Most manga publishers have had to learn the hard way about what the fans want, and if Kodansha start from the beginning, it could be over before it begins. However if they play it right, they could easily dominate the market.

    Hopefully other original japanese publishers will follow suit and give the american publishers a run for their money. The end result would be all good for fans, since it would mean they’d have to listen to them more to keep them buying, rather than heading to other publishers.

  2. @Tiamat’s Disciple: On the other hand, Del Rey has been publishing some of Kodansha’s biggest series (xxxHOLiC, Tsubasa, Negima, Nodame Cantabile, etc). Doesn’t it seem likely that Kodansha would want to withhold future series of that caliber in favor of publishing it themselves?

    Not that I’m inclined to start panicking; I’m optimistic about the possibilities, but I’m reserving judgment until more details become available.

  3. I think that Kodansha publishing directly in the U.S. is just what this market needs. The current audience is wanting more varied licenses than are currently on the market, and a direct link to a Japanese company could be amazing.

    I think Del Rey will be alright. I doubt Kodansha would withhold all their licenses from them just because they’re setting up shop in the U.S.

  4. From Chris at comics212,

    “I can also confirm that Dark Horse no longer has the license for AKIRA (licensed from Kodansha) and that Tokyopop has canceled Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad volumes 13 and 14, and this is a Kodansha-licensed title as well, so it looks like they might have lost that license”

  5. I’ll only be optimistic when they hire Blackwater to do their IP enforcement.

  6. I will reserve judgement. Although they have a ton of great titles, this is an intereting time to jumping into the American manga publishing market.

    I will just say the western market and fan is very different than the Japanese one, and I hope Kodansha understands that Del Rey and Dark Horse understand that market.

  7. @Ryan: Beck was dropped by TP for lack of sales.

    @gia: True, however they have a wealth of other titles that can and probably will be just as good and profitable. You’re forgetting that Kodansha have hundreds if not thousands of titles to to draw from. Some of which have huge followings in scnalations. If they can get those released, then they can easily give Del and DH a run for their money.

    @Sabrina: I agree, i doubt they’d cut off Del just yet. I think they’ll wait until they’re full established. Cutting of Del now would be like burning bridges behind you :) If for some reason the venture failed, they’d of lost both sources of income. Keeping Del and the others on hand would give them a reserve income.

    @John: Actually i don’t think there is that much difference between the japanese and western fans. We both want the same things, it’s just the delivery method thats different. Manga in japan is a huge thing, but over here it’s limited, and its the publsihers that have caused it to be limited. Having a japanese company publishing directly could breath new life into the stagnating market. As for Del and DH understanding the market, i wouldn’t say they do yet. They’re certainly getting there, but they have a long way to go before it’s safe to say they understand the market.

  8. I don’t have a lot to add here, except that I’m interested when I hear people refer to the US manga market as the stagnating one, while pointing out that Japan is booming for manga. While the sum total sales is obviously way higher on the Japan side, I’ve been hearing for a while now that manga publishing in Japan is the one that’s faltering— and THIS specifically is why the majors over there are so eager to look into licensing non-Japanese IP and getting a more direct line into overseas manga markets.

    On the idea about US companies really understanding the manga market— I agree that Del & DH are not (yet) the best examples to give. DH has obviously been doing it a longer time and historically has done a lot of fantastic work, but neither have a great track records in the last 18 months with establishing new, successful long-running series. The recession stateside is core to a lot of that surely, but the swatch of failed/discontinued series means that nobody’s figured this out quite yet.

    Just my quick two cents

  9. I mentioned Del and DH because they both carry Kodansha titles.

    When I saw “understanding the market” I guess I should be more clear.

    Kodansha is a gigantic publisher and they have a way they go about doing things. Having worked in Japanese companies in the past and dealing directly and indirectly with Japanese publishers in the present. “change” and “flexibility” are not the first adjectives that come to mind. This may be why the manga and magazine markets are seeing some troubles in Japan now.

    The market in America is stronger, but at no where near the scale it is in Japan. For every Fruits Basket there must be 200 titles that never sell 5000 copies or make it past a third volume. I don’t know think that is so much the case over there (also tankoubons sell for 1/3 to 1/2 the price they do over here).

    Of course all fans want high quality comics, but in Japan you have comic magazines directed towards businessmen, housewives, very young kids, etc. so I do think there is a difference in the breakdowns of the Japanese and American markets.

    I wish Kodansha the best, and look forward to hearing more about what’s going on, but if they are coming because they think the American publishers are drinking their milkshake I hope they know that that milkshake only comes in a child-size cup.

  10. Thanks for the details John, your perspective on things is always appreciated :)

  11. I think its good that Kodansha is setting up shop in the US but I think they have to make sure to put alot of focus on the marketing than just putting thousands of titles out over here.(some of which people probaly havent heard of) The market for manga is good in japan with the manyyyyy magazines they put out, the accesiblity of different titles on cellphones, tv spot ads for manga etc.. but here in the US its not so much as a big boom right now. I know there are alot of fan followers of scanlations on the internet and such but that doesnt say that every popular scanlation title will be popular as fruits basket if licensed. Bottom line, im happy that they might bring some titles im looking for. (young adult/joesi titles) But i think that if newcomers come in and dont know what their looking for then they’re going have to do some searching themselves as to which titles are good. (which might take awhile)

  12. I like John’s milkshake analogy, but I think it would be more appropriate to say that it’s the straw, not the cup, that’s small. The “shake” — the content that Kodansha has to offer — is a constant, regardless of your point of origin. The question is, should this initiative be a major one, is Kodansha content to own the straw that we suck from, or would they be willing to change the flavor, to make us suck harder (er… this analogy doesn’t sound so good anymore…).

  13. doinkies says

    According to Del Rey’s blog, Kodansha has not pulled any titles from them and they are still going to be publishing manga:

  14. I’m optimistic about this because the moment I read it, one thing popped in my head. Show of hands if your first thought was…. FINALLY, A NEW EDITION OF SAILORMOON!

  15. Oooh, and Hataraki Man. Yes please!

  16. @jun: *raises hand* You are not alone ;)

  17. @Jake: my fragile milkshake analogy was that Kodanasha thinks American publishers are drinking their mikshake as in manga dollars from US fans. Japan has almost a 5 billion dollar manga market in a country half the size of the US. The American manga is probably 1/20th that size. (Please correct me if I am wrong…but about 250,000,000 dollars a year). Of course, that isn’t nothing, but it ain’t 5 billion.

    We know the market in the US is plateauing, so if we add in more content, that means something is going to have to give, and my fear it will be Seven Seas, Aurora, Brocolli, and those small but dedicated publishers that really do put the variety out there.

    Now if Kodansha has a new idea of how to get more people into manga, I am all for it, but I doubt Americans are going to want to read it on their phones any time soon. My fear is (and is completely based on nothing) we are going to see cheaper quality books at lower prices. American books are not marked up to the extreme, so if Kodansha wants to shave off price points (and I have no reason to suspect they do, just a guess) we are going to lose quality in paper, presentation and probably translation. I hope that isn’t the plan because I’d rather pay 12 dollars for something I’ll read again and again that is built to last than 6 dollars for a book that falls apart in my hands.

  18. I don’t see the manga market as plateauing, it’s stagnating.

    Manga only reaches a small portion of those who’d actually enjoy it fr various reasons. If Kodansha brings over some of the tactics they use in japan then i think the market could start to grow again.

    Something needs to be done before the market collapses completely. Also, wh is everyone assuming kosansha are going to release cheap and crappy titles?? There’s been no hints of any sort on their quality but almost everyone seems to be assuming they’re going for cheap and crappy.

  19. @Tiamat

    I am not sure what “stagnating” means but we have gone through a boom the last five or six years and now the expected increase in sales from the previous years is a flat-line. I am not being smarmy when I say that is a plateau.

    I have been posting here and there today, so I don’t remember what I said where, but the market is falling in Japan. Not to devestating levels, but it fell below 5 billion USD for the first time in a long time in 2006 or 2007.

    If Kodansha has a brand new marketing strategy to introduce manga to those who would enjoy it but don’t know it, I am 100% behind that. We haven’t heard anything yet to support that notion, and I, personally, would be surprised to hear that was the plan. As I read it, they are saying “Why are we paying other publishers to put our titles in English when we can do it ourselves?”. That worries me a little, as there is no evidence they can do it themselves.

    I am one that suggested that Kodansha might reduce price points as a potential selling point. As I have said, I have no evidence that this is the strategy beyond the fact that the Japanese manga industry is 20 times bigger than it is in the US and they have half as many people AND manga sell for about 5 bucks a pop there (tankoubon, not the weekly and monthy magazines). That fear I presented is just that, a fear, and based in nothing but the business model in Japan and the knowledge that change is a B for large companies.

    We can only wait and see what will happen and I hope the impact on American publishers will be minimal.

    If no change is happening at Del Rey, and they will be announcing their publishing of Kodansha titles through 2010 then I have to ask, why is Kodansha opening offices in the US?

  20. @Ryan: While Del Rey hasn’t been publishing manga as long as some other companies, I think it is an excellent example of how a US manga publisher should behave. Perhaps because they are a part of Random House as opposed to a startup manga publisher, they stick to their deadlines and have much fewer mistakes than any other publishers (except maybe DH? I don’t read their titles). At the moment, I can’t think of any mistakes. I only wish their prices were lower, like…

    Viz! While they have mistakes second only to Tokyopop, they are really fast at releasing new volumes, and they pick up new titles pretty quickly. Additionally, they tend to keep the original covers or at least don’t use horrible ones (TP). With their SJ and SB manga lines’ lower prices (while not as low as in Asia for the same titles, they are at least level with a nicer quality publication, e.g. with pretty paper and metallic ink), I think the manga community will eventually start demanding lower prices.

    Going back to Del Rey, they’ve finished (albeit short) ES, which is by Fuyumi Soryo (made famous in the US by TP). They also have oh-so-popular Air Gear and CLAMP titles, not to mention my personal favorite, Nodame Cantabile, which, last I checked, was around 26 volumes or so.

    At any rate, I hope Kodansha brings over those fat magazines at low prices!


  1. […] over at MangaBlog was where I first read of it, and some of the comments made by others got me thinking, and thus […]

  2. […] “I wish Kodansha the best, and look forward to hearing more about what’s going on, but if they are coming because they think the American publishers are drinking their milkshake I hope they know that that milkshake only comes in a child-size cup.” – John Thomas […]

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  4. […] Currently, Del Rey Manga is mostly titles licensed from Japanese manga publisher Kodansha. Now, as Brigid reports, Kodansha plans to open their own American office. […]