Manga fans lose servings of Broccoli


POSTED: Monday, December 01, 2008

The manga industry is increasingly becoming a showdown between the haves and the have-nots.

Among the haves, of course, would be Viz. As I noted last week, Viz will be rolling out even more “;Naruto,”; capitalizing on what's been an audience eager to read more adventures about the titular ninja and his friends and rivals.

Yet in the same week that the “;Naruto”; news broke, another, sadder news item broke as well: One of those have-nots, Broccoli International, parent company of manga publisher Broccoli books and dormant anime publisher Synch-Point, announced it would be pulling out of the U.S. market at the end of the year.

The most visible effect of this closure to fans will be the loss of Broccoli Books. Broccoli has released books stateside since 2003, with its flagship character, the maid-costume-and-giant-bell-bedecked cat-girl Dejiko of “;Di Gi Charat,”; starring in its first manga, “;Di Gi Charat: Dejiko's Summer Adventure.”;

Broccoli's most recognizable titles were based on properties that were popular in Japan but had cult followings in the U.S. at best, including “;Galaxy Angel,”; “;Juvenile Orion,”; “;Disgaea”; and “;Coyote Ragtime Show.”;

Toward the end of its run, Broccoli also released an issue of Cosmode USA, an American version of a Japanese magazine about cosplay (costume play), and opened up a new manga imprint, Boysenberry Books, which specialized in publishing stories in that boys-loving-boys genre known as “;yaoi.”;

The company built a reputation in the industry for having high production standards and open communication channels with its fans. The paper used in its books was a much brighter white than most other books in the industry, and the company was also the only one to regularly offer free dust covers to readers who wrote in and asked for them. Employees also posted regular production updates to a company blog at www.bro-usa.com/bb_blog—a blog that now looks to chronicle events to the bitter end.

Also shutting down will be Synch-Point, an anime publisher that published only five titles over its lifetime, four of which garnered respectable audiences: “;Aquarian Age: The Movie,”; “;Di Gi Charat: The Original Series,”; “;Leave it to Piyoko!”; and the abandoned “;I'm Gonna Be an Angel.”;

Synch-Point's best seller by far, though, was its fifth series: the cult hit “;FLCL,”; that rather odd series featuring a pink-haired girl riding a Vespa who bonks people over the head with her electric guitar, a boy who lives in a town where a giant iron spews steam, and a robot with a TV as a head. The “;FLCL”; phenomenon really took off when the six-episode series aired in Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup, and it wouldn't surprise me if another anime publisher rescued the license and reprinted it sometime down the line.

License rescues could be in store for the manga as well—according to the Broccoli blog, the Japanese publishers regain the rights to their books at the end of the year and are free to shop them around to other U.S. publishers. For now, though, so long, Broccoli ... you'll be missed.