Kodansha confirms U.S. manga plans


POSTED: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Prying news out of people in the anime and manga industry — aside, perhaps, from new-product announcements — can be a tricky proposition at times.

So it went for Kodansha, one of the major players in the manga-publishing market in Japan. As I wrote in late June, rumors swirled for more than a year about Kodansha entering the U.S. manga market under its own banner after years of licensing its series to other U.S. publishers, most notably Dark Horse, Tokyopop and Del Rey.

Back then I felt that with three major summer conventions coming one after another in July, the time was right for Kodansha to finally reveal its hand. But Kodansha didn't announce anything at those conventions, nor at a fourth major event — the New York Anime Festival last month.

Clues continued to pile up. First, Amazon's Canadian Web Site and Right Stuf listed new versions of “;Akira”; and “;Ghost in the Shell”; for pre-order under the Kodansha Comics label and not with the previous rights-holder, Dark Horse. Then, Kodansha took back the rights to all its manga published by Tokyopop. Still, though, there was no confirmation that anything was in the works ... until last week.

That was when, in what amounted to a coming-out party with Publishers Weekly, Kodansha announced that — surprise! — it would be publishing manga in the U.S. under the Kodansha Comics imprint, and — double surprise! — the first two series it would be publishing would be “;Akira”; and “;Ghost in the Shell.”; Titles will be distributed by Random House — parent company of Del Rey, it should be noted — and volumes of both are scheduled to be released today.

In an interview with Calvin Reed of Publishers Weekly, Kodansha USA Publishing head Yoshio Irie said that while the company will still license series to U.S. publishers, it will also focus on releasing titles that “;have the potential to draw in new readers, of any age.”; The lone new title announced in the interview, a manga adaptation of the “;Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex”; anime, appears aimed to do just that.

Whether Kodansha will find success in the current market remains to be seen — I still think the U.S. manga market is plateauing, with too many publishers and not enough readers.

But there's no denying that Kodansha has a great catalog, with out-of-print classics like “;Sailor Moon”; and interrupted series like “;Initial D”; or “;Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad”; among them. Later this week I hope to have a piece on “;Otaku Ohana”; looking more in depth at the chances for some of these series to be released in the U.S. Please watch for it.



» Aiea Library Anime Club: 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 99-143 Moanalua Road. This month, librarian Diane Masaki will be screening the first few episodes of “;Ghost Hunt”; ... and in honor of Halloween, attendees are invited to come in costume. For more information or to RSVP, e-mail Masaki at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Jason S. Yadao is the author of Rough Guides' “;The Rough Guide to Manga,”; available this fall. For more anime and manga news and commentary, check out “;Otaku Ohana”; at blogs.starbulletin.com/otakuohana. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jsyadao or e-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).