Here’s the big news of the day: Viz announced that it had laid off some employees yesterday, and Publisher’s Weekly puts the number at as many as 60, or about 40% of the company. They closed their small New York office altogether, and the other cuts were reportedly spread out across the company. Gia Manry looks a little more closely and basically says “don’t panic.” Viz is a big company, and nobody thinks they will be closing their doors and quietly fading away, as Go! Comi apparently has done.
This comes as a particular shock because Viz not only owns the most popular properties in manga—Naruto, Vampire Knight, Fullmetal Alchemist, One Piece, Bleach—but they also publish the most acclaimed—Ooku, Oishinbo, Children of the Sea, everything by Naoki Urasawa. However, as publishing veterans know, acclaim does not necessarily equal sales.
Every year, retailer Brian Hibbs does an exhaustive analysis of bookstore sales of graphic novels, using Bookscan’s cumulative sales information for the last week of the year. Bookscan doesn’t cover every bookstore, and sometimes things get misclassified, but overall it seems to be a pretty good snapshot. But here’s the thing: Not one of the Viz Signature books shows up in the list of the top 750 sellers of 2009. Not one. You know what sells really well? Naruto and Vampire Knight, of course, and Death Note still shows up near the top despite the fact that the series ended a couple of years ago. What is sort of surprising if you only read blogs is that the Pokemon and Legend of Zelda manga also do very well, better than most of Viz’s other books. But Pluto, Ooku, Oishinbo, even Nana (not a Signature title but one that is hugely popular in the blogospheres) are all absent from the list. The picture may be different in comics stores, but that’s a niche market, especially for manga. If these books aren’t selling well in retail bookstores, then Viz has a problem.
This is actually a fairly common situation in publishing—everyone knows that your blockbuster best-sellers, the ones sold in airports and Wal-Mart, support your more literary, less bankable titles—and I doubt that Viz will stop publishing these series they are so obviously invested in. I’m just sayin’.
In brighter news, Yaoi Press tweets that Media Blasters has rehired one of the employees it laid off in March.
Dark Horse editor Carl Horn discusses “love and wonder” in manga, looking at Oh My Goddess, Cardcaptor Sakura, and an assortment of other series; it’s an interesting discussion of an important thematic shift in American manga. (Via Kate Dacey.)
ANN gets a tip about some kids’ puzzle manga showing up on Amazon as being published by Viz. Told ya so!
Brad Rice looks at this week’s new releases at Japanator.
At it can’t all be about manga, Cathy is having a really, really hard time reading GoGo Monster, because the layout is so confusing.
News from Japan: The 34th annual Kodansha Manga Awards have been announced; none of the four winners is currently being published in the U.S.
Reviews: Carlo Santos gives his take on a slew of recent releases in his latest Right Turn Only!! column at ANN.
Tucker Stone on Blue Spring (Trouble with Comics)
Kristin on vol. 2 of Crown of Love (Comic Attack)
Emily on Fine! (Emily’s Random Shoujo Manga Page)
Shannon Fay on How to Control a Sidecar (Kuriousity)
James Fleenor on vol. 1 of Kingyo Used Books (Anime Sentinel)
Sterg Botzakis on vol. 1 of Lone Wolf and Cub (Graphic Novel Resources)
Shawn O’Rourke on vol. 6 of Lone Wolf and Cub (PopMatters)
Christopher Nadoski on Mugen Spiral (complete series) (Mania.com)
Connie on vol. 1 of My Darling! Miss Bancho (Manga Recon)
Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane on vol. 20 of Nana (Manga Life)
AstroNerdBoy on Oh My Goddess! Colors (AstroNerdBoy’s Anime and Manga Blog)
David Brothers on vol. 16 of One Piece (4thletter!)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 46 of One Piece (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Bill Sherman on vol. 1 of Portrait of M&N (Blogcritics)
J. Caleb Mozzocco on vol. 1 of Ratman and vol. 1 of Red Hot Chili Samurai (Every Day Is Like Wednesday)
Michael Buntag on Ristorante Paradiso (NonSensical Words)