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U.S. anime industry mourns pioneer's death


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POSTED: Sunday, April 25, 2010

While we have been celebrating all things anime and manga these past few weeks with Kawaii Kon passing through, several recent industry reports have been sobering.

I was actually gearing up to tweet something about the Kawaii Kon closing ceremonies last Sunday when I learned of the passing of pioneering anime producer Carl Macek. Animation historian and former business partner Jerry Beck first reported on his blog that Macek, 58, died a day earlier from a heart attack.

Fans of translated anime owe a debt of gratitude to Macek, who was one of the champions of bringing anime to the United States in the 1980s. He produced "Robotech," the mid-'80s English-language amalgamation of the anime series "Macross," "Southern Cross" and "Genesis Climber Mospeada." "Robotech" was regarded in an essay by anime historian Fred Patten as "arguably the single anime title to have the greatest influence in bringing the existence of Japanese animation to the awareness of the public."

Macek and Beck also co-founded Streamline Pictures, an anime distributor, translator and publisher that brought such films as "Akira," "Robot Carnival," "Vampire Hunter D," "Laputa: Castle in the Sky" and "My Neighbor Totoro" to American audiences. Macek also did extensive work on producing English dubs, from 1980s classics all the way up to the present day with "Bleach" and "Naruto." Robotech.com has a nice tribute to Macek, including comments from several anime industry figures, at http://www.hsblinks.com/2bn.

Over on the manga side of the ledger, pop culture news/analysis website ICv2.com recently reported in its "State of the Comics Industry" white paper (available at http://www.hsblinks.com/2bo) that U.S. manga sales dropped 20 percent between 2008 and 2009, going from $175 million to $140 million.

This comes on the heels of a 17 percent decline a year earlier from the industry's peak of $210 million in 2007. Accordingly, the number of manga volumes being published is also declining, from a peak of 1,513 in 2007 to a projected 968 this year. It's looking increasingly like quality, rather than quantity, is going to have to carry the manga industry through this downturn, with only the savviest, hardiest publishers surviving.

Perhaps it was that industry downturn that prompted Yen Press' surprise announcement on Wednesday that it was discontinuing its print manga anthology, Yen Plus, after the July issue, moving instead to an online publishing model. The end of Yen Plus leaves three publications devoted to anime and manga on newsstands: Otaku USA, the last U.S. news magazine; Shonen Jump, Viz's still-popular manga anthology; and Neo, a British import.

 

A QUICK KAWAII KON WRAP-UP

It was great catching up with old friends again at Kawaii Kon last weekend. Apparently quite a few people shared in the fun with me; the weekend's attendance this year was 4,877, up 398 from 2009.

This year, though, the end is only the beginning. Check out "Otaku Ohana" today — the address is listed below — for some tidbits I missed from my daily convention reports, and check back in coming weeks as I slowly make my way through the hours of audio I recorded to write up reports on several panels. Oh, and if you visit, I'll also have a picture of tag-team partner-in-fandom Wilma Jandoc and myself in full-on cosplaying mode. Just sayin'.

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Jason S. Yadao is the author of Rough Guides' "The Rough Guide to Manga," now available. 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).