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Manga Before Flowers — NYCC08: Really? That was it?

by  in Comic News Comment
Manga Before Flowers — NYCC08: Really?  That was it?

You know, I really thought I was going to get a column out of New York’s Comic Con. Somehow, even after all the licensing announcements have been made and new graphic novel initiatives revealed I’m feeling very, very uninspired.

Sure, I will want to pick the Haruhi manga and light novels (snatched up by Yen Press) or check out the releases of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (licensed by Del Rey). And I do love me some manga anthologies — Yen+ put out by guess who! — so that goes on the “must-have” list for sure.

(Random aside: DMP predicts Flower of Life volume 4 will come out in Spring 2009. Gawd, people, really? Thank you, bloger Gia, for asking that all important question!)

But otherwise? Wow, not much seemed to happen manga-wise.

Which leaves me in the awkward position of having very little to discuss here this week.

And yet somehow, in spite of life’s difficult obstacles, I manage…

Now, with the exception of Yen Press (which really did reveal a significant license with Haruhi and also gave us important details about their upcoming manga anthology), nobody else seemed to have anything to report that would excite the U.S. manga reader. Are the companies just holding out for the summer convention season (CC: San Diego and Anime-Expo)? Well, okay, I suppose I can see the logic of that.

On the other hand, my sense is the manga market is pretty crowded over here at the moment — enough manga is coming out on a monthly basis that makes it almost impossible to read everything we might be interested in….add a bunch more licenses on the fire before other series have ended and well. There are a limited amount of dollars for manga, and with more choice those dollars end up stretched between more companies.

For instance, let’s look at my April Previews Order.

CMX: 2 books

Del Rey: 1 book

DMP/JUNE: 2 books

Go! Comi: 1 book

Tokyopop: 4 books

Viz: 5 books, 1 manga magazine

Magazines: 1

Total cost: $172.71.

Yeouwch. (Good thing I work at my LCBS for credit otherwise I could never put in an order like this).

Now, the smaller and newer companies tend to get pushed out, as do introductory volumes to new series. The 2 volume ones I ordered were REAL by Inoue Takehiko published by VIZ (a mangaka with an excellent reputation in the states, thereby reducing the “risk” of an unknown, to me at least, title), and Martin & John by Hee Jung Park published by Tokyopop (the company is trying to create a “brand” with this artist and I ordered this volume on the strength of the her title Fever but also because of the title’s added potential BL factor — yes, I’m very shallow). I did order Shirley by Kaoru Mori from CMX, but since the manga is complete in one volume it really doesn’t count, as far as I’m concerned, as a “new” series, since Mori is just doing what she did with Emma on a different scale and set in a different time period.

The titles I really wanted to order but couldn’t justify?

Silver Diamond vol 1 by Shiho Sugiura (published by Tokyopop)

The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-Chan by Ai Morinaga (published by AnimeWorks)

Goong vol 2 by Park SoHee (published by Yen Press).

Also, because I’m a fan of their series Chocolat, I’ve had to resist ordering two new titles from creators JiSang Shin and Geo, titled Very, Very Sweet and Rolling, both of which are being released this summer. (While I enjoy Chocolat quite a bit it certainly isn’t a masterpiece and, therefore, I can’t really justify ordering other titles by the same creative team.)

So what on-going titles am I ordering from my local comic book shop? Titles I already know I’m invested enough to want a complete collection. After School Nightmare 8, xxxholic 12, Fruits Basket 20, Nana 11, Skip Beat 13, Suppli 3, High School Debut 4, Gin Tama 7, Your and My Secret 2, Penguin Revolution 6, Hero Heel 2, Don’t Blame Me 2.

Notice that most of those volume numbers are getting pretty high (20 for FB, 12 for ‘holic, 13 for Skip Beat and 11 for Nana).

I had a point, I think, about this…oh yes, it was, “do I really want more manga in the market?” Well, of course, the little manga fanatic in me thinks, “hell yes!”, the adult in me who “manages” my finances (and I’m using the word “manage” here in the most liberal sense of the word…or really, whatever part of me hides when I log on to ebay is probably the one that pays the bills) winces to think about the lengthy previews orders I’m going to be returning to my store this year. Maybe it is simply time for licensing to slow down and let demand catch up a bit with supply — i.e. don’t we need more consumers buying a wider range of titles if the market is going to maintain healthy growth on a yearly basis?

I don’t think it is too presumptuous of me to say that that the hope we all share for the U.S. manga market is that when kids graduate from Naruto they will continue to their love affair with manga and that what is currently a popular culture for young teens will slowly but steadily become a popular culture for young adults and later adults as well. At least, this is certainly my hope for the market. I think in order to see this happen companies who don’t happen to dominate the Japanese and U.S. graphic novel rankings (i.e. Viz for those of you too lazy to click on the links) must be able to maintain a presence in the market place, somehow squeezing out a place themselves on the bookstore shelves. After all, if we build it (i.e. the industry we want) they will come. Won’t they?

And perhaps one day, josei titles might be one of every 10 manga releases, instead of one of every 50 (hey, a girl can dream after all!).

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