Kodansha's U.S. debut falls short of promise


POSTED: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A rather large envelope arrived at “;Cel Shaded”; Central last week containing two unexpected surprises: “;Ghost in the Shell”; and the first volume of “;Akira,”; the first two manga bearing the Kodansha Comics imprint in the U.S.

Regular readers of this column will recall that I wrote last month about Kodansha, one of the leading manga publishers in Japan, and its plan to begin publishing its own manga stateside. The idea seemed promising at the time - Kodansha has such a rich catalog of series to mine, and getting even a small percentage of them into the hands of American readers would enrich everyone involved.

If the re-release of “;Akira”; and “;Ghost in the Shell”; is any indication, though, American fans might have to temper expectations.

While it's nice to have these manga classics back in print, it doesn't look like much effort was put into enhancing the earlier Dark Horse editions. “;Akira”; features a new introduction by artist Katsuhiro Otomo and a postscript by Dark Horse President Mike Richardson. “;Ghost in the Shell”; features an introduction by Richardson and a postscript by artist Masamune Shirow. Those are the only enhancements; the translations remain the same.

“;Ghost in the Shell”; deserves special mention not for what was added, but for what was taken out. Back in 2004, Dark Horse released what it touted as a new edition “;restored ... to its original collected format - and more adult treatment - as published in Japan,”; according to that book's back cover. Apparently “;as published in Japan”; doesn't hold much weight with Kodansha Comics, as their edition features Dark Horse's translation from 1995, missing scenes and all.

As someone who read the 2004 version, it's pretty obvious where the cuts were made. A scene in which main character Motoko Kusanagi engages in lesbian sex (present in 2004, absent in 2009) has a way of ingraining itself on the brain, after all. It's understandable in the context of trying to reach a wider audience, but disappointing nonetheless.

One would hope that Kodansha would avoid the pitfall that other Japanese publishers like Toei, Gutsoon and Broccoli, who brought their products direct to the American audience encountered: underestimating what they really want. This is, admittedly, a shaky start.

'nemu*nemu' Pups hit the Road

The winter craft fair season is in full swing - I have a whole pile of baked goods from the Hanalani Schools craft fair last Saturday to prove it, yum - and Audra Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga, co-creators of the online comic “;nemu*nemu,”; are joining the circuit starting this week. They'll be at the Noelani Elementary School Winter Craft Fair on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and they'll have their usual selection of plushies, books, T-shirts and other “;nemu*nemu”; merchandise in tow, along with a few new items. Visit www.nemu-nemu.com for a complete schedule of upcoming events ... along with the cutest comic on the Internet, of course.

Get into the holiday party spirit

Speaking of the holidays, Oahu Anime Explorer sent out an open invitation last week for its annual holiday party. This year's edition, being held Dec. 12 at Kaneohe Hongwanji, will feature all the elements that made last year such a blast: quiz games, Pictionary, a mystery gift exchange and, of course, a karaoke after-party at GS Studios in Waikiki. For more information or to RSVP, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).