Kodansha Files: Manga in Uncharted Waters

by on January 25th, 2014
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Ten years ago, manga took the US by storm and cemented its place in pop culture. Kodansha Ltd, in particular managed to beat out its Japanese competitors by licensing its vast library to numerous overseas markets. However, with the global recession, declining manga sales and shrinking retail outlets, Kodansha along with other manga publishers needed to go back to the drawing board.

It no longer made sense for manga publishers to solely license their titles to TokyoPop ; they no longer needed an intermediary to re-release their work. With the introduction of new technologies and scanlations incidents increasing, Japanese publishers needed to upgrade their “traditional business model.” Viz Media , a Japanese manga publisher, responded to the new developments by making their presence in America a focal point. (More on that later)

Kodansha Ltd, on the other hand, had yet to take the lead. That was until July 1, 2008 when Kodansha USA was incorporated.

Kodansha USA Timeline – July 10, 2008

1997 – Mixx, before it became known as TokyoPop, started translating Kodansha titles and publishing English editions of the Sailor Moon, Ice Blade and Magic Knight

2003 – Del Ray Manga and Kodansha create a “creative partnership. This came about following an alliance between Random House and Kodansha.

July 1, 2008 – Kodansha USA was incorporated.

Article: The Kodansha Fallout: More Manga Changes?

By: Benjamin Ong Pang Kean

http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080710-Kodanshamanga01.html

The Changing Manga Scene-What Does the Future Hold – July 21, 2008

Jake Forbes, a former TokyoPop editor states, “I think the days of licensed-based publishing being big business are over.”

He continues,”‚ĶJapanese publishers don’t need a middleman. Viz [Media] is the evidence and exception to this – they are perceived as
a licensee, and to a large degree they function like one, but they are also owned by the companies that provide most of their content, the biggest manga
publishers in Japan, Shueisha and Shogakukan (which in turn share the same ownership, but maintain the appearance of competitors in Japan).

By: Benjamin Ong Pang Kean

http://www.newsarama.com/comics/080718-MangaFuture.html ,

Kodansha Sets Up to Publish Manga in U.S. – Oct 05, 2009

“In recent years speculations over its plans have grown as Kodansha allowed many of its American licenses to expire. Indeed, in recent weeks Kodansha announced that it would not renew any of its licenses to Tokyopop-among them such hit series as LoveHina , Chobits, Rave Master, Beck, Initial D and Sailor Moon.”

By Calvin Reid

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/adult-announcements/article/15206-kodansha-sets-up-to-publish-manga-in-u-s-.html

Random House to Shift Manga Publishing to Kodansha USA Publishing – October 4, 2010

“Kodansha and Random House announced that the US division of Kodansha will take over publishing over all Del Rey Manga titles as well as their own manga, starting in December [2010].”

“[It] will be under the direction of president and CEO of Kodansha USA Publishing, Yoshio Irie.”

Reid continues, “…The Del Rey Manga list has been licensed entirely from Kodansha Ltd. under a co-publishing agreement between the two houses. While Irie emphasized that KUP will gradually take over Del Rey’s licensed manga, he also said that they will evaluate each series on a per-title basis to decide which series KUP has “the capacity” to continue.”

Remember this name, he will play a bigger role in reshaping Kodansha Ltd. in the future. He will also play a large role in making Kodansha USA a force to be reckoned with. (hopefully).

By Calvin Reid

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/comics/article/44698-random-house-to-shift-manga-publishing-to-kodansha-usa-publishing.html

Conclusion

Traditionally Japanese manga publishers used an intermediary such as TokyoPop and Del Ray Manga to release their titles overseas. At the time this made perfect sense– these publishers had a presence in US markets. However, Viz Media broke against the grain by making their presence in the US market a center focus. Kodansha Ltd. may have taken longer to follow, but this eventually followed suit. The creation of Kodansha USA is a clear sign that Kodansha Ltd, intends to break uncharted ground and become a force to be reckoned with.

Will this shift in the business model pay off? Can Kodansha USA truly rival Del Ray Manga? And how will emerging technologies affect its success?

Those answers and more in The Kodansha Files Oct.30 entry (well at least some of those answers will be).

Latesha Goodmna

An Unconventional Publisher Confesses


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