Monday morning roundup

The latest entry in Jason Thompson’s House of 1000 Manga series is Monster Collection, a game-based manga that does more than just put its characters through their paces.

Scanlation updates: At du9, Xavier Guilbert takes issue with the standard narrative that is shaping up regarding the effect of scanlations on manga sales. At ANN Brian Hanson, a.k.a. The Answerman, engages his readers a bit on the topic, including this nice shoot-down of the argument that the publishers had better come up with their own digital distribution:

If Warner Bros. arrests the guy in Chinatown selling bootleg DVDs, they don’t owe it to anyone to send a guy down the street corner selling new DVDs of current films in theaters for one or two bucks.

The Hooded Utilitarian is hosting a roundtable on marketing art manga; I will be contributing, along with Erica Friedman, Ryan Sands, Kate Dacey, Ed Chavez, Shaenon Garrity, and Deb Aoki. Noah Berlatsky starts us off this morning with a brief introduction.

Derik Badman visited the Garo manga exhibit in New York, and he has commentary and photos to share.

The Toronto Star is looking at the status of girls in G20 countries as part of the run-up to the G20 talks in Toronto. Since this is MangaBlog, not The Economist, we’re only going to highlight this article, which actually makes an interesting point: Girls use cosplay and kogal culture as a way to evade the rigid, old-fashioned expectations of their culture. Why yes, that is a huge generalization, but you could also argue just the opposite, that the depiction of girls and women in manga (buxom, compliant, shy, and super-sweet) reinforce those traditional mores.

The next Manga Moveable Feast is going to focus on manhwa, and Melinda Beasi has instructions for all those who want to participate.

News from Japan: Comic Bunch and Comic Yuri Hime S magazines are both ending publication, although Comic Yuri Hime S will be folded into its sister publication, Comic Yuri Hime, which will go from quarterly to bimonthly publicaton. Canned Dogs has a bit of background on Comic Bunch.

gankutsuou1Reviews: Margaret O’Connell compares two fujoshi-oriented manga, My Girlfriend’s a Geek and Fujoshi Rumi, in an entertaining essay at Sequential Tart.

Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 8 of 20th Century Boys (I Reads You)
Ken Haley on The Art of Blade of the Immortal (Manga Recon)
Kelakagandy on vol. 4 of Black Bird (kelakagandy’s ramblings)
Melinda Beasi on vols. 1 and 2 of Black Butler (Manga Bookshelf)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 4 of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Johanna Draper Carlson on Dining Bar Akira (Comics Worth Reading)
Kate Dacey on vols. 1-3 of Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (The Manga Critic)
Becky Fullan on vol. 1 of Kurashina Sensei’s Passion (Manga Jouhou)
Leroy Douresseaux on I’ve Moved Next Door to You (The Comic Book Bin)
Connie on Maniac Shorts Shot (Manga Recon)
Eduardo Zacarias on vol. 25 of One Piece (Animanga Nation)
Lissa Pattillo on vol. 3 of Rin-ne (Kuriousity)
Sean Gaffney on vol. 3 of Soul Eater (A Case Suitable for Treatment)
Lissa Pattillo on vol. 2 of Stepping on Roses (ANN)
Marsha Reid on vol. 4 of Sunshine Sketch (Kuriousity)
James Fleenor on vol. 1 of World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing (Anime Sentinel)

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  1. Brigid,
    I cannot help but find irrelevant Brian Hanson’s argument — but then again, that’s what happens when you try and make some straightforward metaphor. And in my opinion, the obvious mistake that Brian makes there is widely spread among the industry, or at least among the commentators I’ve seen expressing views on the subject. What is this mistake? The idea that the scanlations are an equivalent product to the physical books.

    For Brian, the Chinese bootleg DVDs are exactly similar to Warner’s DVDs. But if you push the metaphor a little further, they are not. They are not cheaper copies of Warner’s DVDs. They are DVDs of movies that are still airing, and they are available right down where some people live. Therefore, Warner’s DVDs are very different in terms of service: availability, and ease of use. And that’s why some people are willing to take the risk of getting a bad DVD, or a DVD with another movie altogether on it (being actually ripped off in the process): because those elements have a real value in their eyes.

    It is the same for scanlations. Thinking that people are just wanting the physical books, only cheaper, is closing your eyes to a whole array of other motivations that exist and lead people to those scan sites. Those sites are references in terms of quality of experience: of course, there’s the very competitive price, but that’s not the only element that counts. There’s the very large offer (1000+ titles on Onemanga) including some titles that have not been picked up by any publisher, the up-to-date factor (following the Japanese serialization), the direct availability (right here, right now), and the high usability of the sites.
    Of course, it’s illegal. And of course, that’s a problem. But if publishers refuse to see all those other motivations, and decide to only focus on shutting down those sites, they will ultimately lose — or at least, they will never win. Sure, they’ll have a couple of guys behind bars, and they might feel good about it. But will it change anything to the situation? I don’t think so.

    Let’s get back to Brian Hanson’s metaphor. If Warner gets the street guy in Chinatown arrested, the next day another one will take his place. And then another one. And another. But if Warner takes the street corner and starts putting own their own set of DVDs, then they will make some money. Not much, for sure. But certainly more than zero.

  2. I dunno Xavier, I find it sort of smug to tell artists and publishers they should sell their product for next to nothing or free, while putting up with bootleggers whose product appears before them on the street [which Johanna pointed out at CWR today]. It should be up to the artists how their product is sold, and whether it’s sold online. If any business of online ed’s is to be meaningful, you have to get rid of the unfair competition first.

  3. That, and selling your stuff for next to nothing online might not actually work out economics-wise- the only reason those sites are around is they don’t have to pay anyone anything. It creates an articial sense of a low-value when the product- comics- is very time consuming and expensive to make.

  4. PS— That’s not to say free-content can’t work online. Just that it’s hard to tell [and I’m guessing unlikely] if it’d work on the scale of the aggregators if they actually had to pay people. Stuff like webcomics can work because webcartoonists tend to work by themselves on it on a parttime basis, updating a page once or twice a week, and only a handful have made large businesses w/fulltime employees out of it [which still requires good sales of merchandise to keep it afloat].

  5. Andre,
    I can understand, from the artist or publisher’s point of view, that this might seem unfair. But then again, I think that position stems from the belief that all downloads are missed sales. Which is utterly misguided, as some people have shown recently:
    Quoting from the introduction: “The cannibalization of sales that is due to file sharing is more modest than many observers assume. Empirical work suggests that in music, no more than 20% of the recent decline in sales is due to sharing.”

    You say it’s smug to tell them “they should sell their product for next to nothing or free”. I’m saying it’s a question of finding a workable business model. When you have a million people connecting daily or so on Onemanga, next to nothing multiplied by even 1% of them can amount to something significant. But for that, you have to talk to those people. Or you can refuse altogether — but then, that’s also your choice.

    One advantage of digital content, is the ease of distribution, and with it also comes the ease of putting out various packages to address various needs (and at various pricepoints). From the “all-access” subscription to the chapter-by-chapter purchase to the “current Jump issue” collection… there are plenty of ways to propose something interesting that people would be willing to pay for, with simple use, bonus content and an assurance of quality. That’s what iTunes and others are doing for music. Why shouldn’t it be possible with comics?

  6. I, for one, thought Xavier’s article had a lot of good points and I enjoyed it. At this point, the whole Scan Wars topic has kinda gotten a bit boring, mainly because articles like Xavier’s are few and far between. In the end, it doesn’t matter what we think. The pubs are gonna do what they’re gonna do, and the phantoms that run the scan sites are gonna do what they’re gonna do. The manga pubs are not all going to go out of business and every pirate is not going to get thrown in jail. And even if EVERY single manga pub went out of business, would the world be the worse for it? Would the earth stop revolving? I think the pubs are gonna end up losing money and energy in the effort, trying to catch pirates in the mist. I think, in terms of problems threatening our world, manga pirating rates….actually, it doesn’t even rate at all. I find it very hard to care about the problem. We are in 2 wars, people are out of work, people are losing their homes, the Gulf of Mexico is becoming an oil bucket, and there are some very nasty people in control of entire nations that would enjoy wiping us off the map. So forgive me if I’m not very interested in how all this plays out. But play out it will. But the people in control of the pubs aren’t smart enough to figure out a way to shape the future. They’re not young enough. They weren’t imaginative enough. They should have nipped the online thing in the bud and countered with their own…..almost a decade ago. Young people always outsmart the older generation. And I see that the older the fan, the crankier and more negative about the pirates they are. Viz is the only one that has even barely cracked the door of the future. But it’s too late. If there was a manga industry Steve Jobs, we would have never been in this situation. Instead we have Stu Levy. There was and is no visionary marketer or idea man/woman for manga. And I doubt there ever will be. The whole thing has been lackadasically left to wander around looking for a fanbase, abandoned and aimless. Don’t know why I’m even writing about it. I forgot. It’s boring.

  7. I don’t know what ANN reported, but Yuri Hime and Yuri Hime S are not folding – they are being folded together. Yuri Hime S is being consolidated into Yuri Hime and the combined magazine is going bimonhtly.

    It’s a good thing all around, frankly.



  8. Correct, Erica—ANN had it right, I flubbed it. I’m fixing it now.