For my October 2010 trip to Japan, I wanted to go to places I’d never been before, but also explore places I’d been more thoroughly. Really get a rich experience out of this trip. Roppongi is the former–a Tokyo neighbourhood that I’d consciously avoided on past trips. Frankly, the alternative descriptions of Roppongi as a soulless shopping district for the wealthy and a playground for drunken foreigners and the military… dissuaded me. But on a rainy Saturday afternoon, travelling to a massive indoor shopping mall appealed more than being outside (or staying in the hotel), and so off we went.
Oh, and I should mention, all photos in this post taken with my new Olympus Pen E-PL1, which I am learning to use and loving.
We took the subway (rather than the JR trains) to get to Roppongi, because you can’t really get there any other way. The subways are more complicated and intimidating than the JR, but honestly once you get the hand of them they’re phenomenal. Cheaper, they go to far more locations in Tokyo, and best of all the subway companies sign different vending machine contracts than the JR companies, and so there’s all kinds of never-before-seen drinks!
Herb & Relax Lemorea, for example, lists (seriously) CATNIP as an ingredient/selling feature. So we had to buy it. It tastes… Herbacious. And weird. Not unpleasant on the palette, but it seems to be flavoured with artificial sweetener, which leaves an unpleasant viscous feeling on the tongue and has an unfortunate aftertaste. Still, now I can say I’ve had a drink with catnip in it.
I’m sort of convinced we took the long way around, but this is the exit to Roppongi Hills shopping complex that the signage told us to take. It let us out at a bookstore, and a rain-drenched city street.
On the way into the complex, we spotted a little grocery store selling these ridiculously packaged apples. We got the least-expensive of the bunch, just to the right, at 490 yen for 3 apples–or about $5.50.
This is the photo where Andrew remarked “look at all the insane architecture you can build if you don’t have crazy Canadian weather!” It’s hard to explain, but imagine a large underground mall, with this three-or-four-storey escalator coming up out of the middle of it into a covered-but-open-to-the-air dome filled with advertising billboards; breathtaking in its excess.
And that led out into the courtyard of the West Walk and the Mori Tower, basically the main part of the Roppongi Hills complex. Lots of dramatic architecture here as well.
And pouring rain, and gusting winds up to 70km an hour. Did I mention that there was a typhoon off the coast of the country, making for ridiculous rain and wind? There was. Even this short open-air walk was a little gross.
Safely ensconsed inside, you can get an idea of the drama they were going for. Big spaces, lots of verticality and natural light. It’s really impressive.
Clean lines, polished and textured surfaces interacting… Hyper-contemporary. The whole thing felt like a rich-person’s bathroom.
I love this photo because it feels so warm and inviting. That’s more to do wit the camera than the space though.
The center of the space featured this amazing halloween display, simultaneously brilliant with its bent wood and real pumpkins, and kind of crappy by tacking dollar-store decorations all over it. Happy Halloween?
Up from my vantage point I was able to capture… off in the distance…
The Halloween marching band.
A group of costumed children have congregated around the pumpkin… What will happen?!
The band smacks right into the kids! The kids send their princess out as official envoy. One of the band’s assistants dutifully passes out candy to all of the children, before they take up their instruments and continue on, parading through the mall with their halloween songs.
Loved this display of watches, hated the design of the individual watches.
Joel Robuchon has a restaurant and bakery here! OMG! OMG! We had to check it out.
So delicious-looking! Aiee1 Sandwiches with real, fresh, delicious-looking ingredients. Sliced buffalo mozerella and more.
We bought 4 things. The first, a croissant. We devoured almost all of it before I got a picture, it was that good.
Then, a gorgonzola-dolloped bun, but the bun was a hearty bread… Omg so good. Just… just amazing.
Fearing a repeat, I immediately photographed the last two items before we inhaled them as well. On top was a truly amazing four-cheese, honey, and walnut pastry, and on the bottom is the single greatest croque monsieur I’ve ever had. It’s pretty hard to fuck up ham and cheese, but no one has ever gotten it this right before either. It exploded with flavour, and was still warm too.
Actually, here’s the video we took where I was over the moon about our experience:
Basically, the bakery at Atelier by Joel Robochon is amazing, inexpensive, and delicious. Get to it. It might even be worth going back for the actual restaurant, just to see if it’s as awesome.
The marching band played through our seating area.
Oh, on that, you’ll see all the green carpet and flags above, that’s one of the sponsor-spaces for the Tokyo International Film Festival, going on right now and taking place entirely within the Roppongi Hills complex.
Then we went to the Roppongi Hills Art & Design Store, conveniently located at the entrance to the Mori Art Gallery.
So way up on the 52nd floor of the Mori Building is the Mori Art Gallery and the “Sky Deck”. For $20 you get access to the regular gallery, the special exhibition, and the whole skyview thing. Not a bad deal if the art is good and the view is clear. But as I mentioned…
…the typhoon made for some mediocre views. Still, you get a real feeling that 52 stories up is pretty far…!
The skyview area was decorated sporadically with Halloween-related decorations and items, though it really felt kind of sad and awful, honestly. Above you can see a waste of $20–the cost of dressing up your kid in one of the available costumes and having them photographed in front of that scene. Considering it cost at least $5 just to get up to the top of the tower in the first place, you’d think they’d let people take pictures for free but…
The architecture is no less impressive though.
The classy entranceway into the ritzy 52nd floor bar.
The Mori gift shop…
You’re being subjected to a bit of blogging trickery here, I’m going to put the Mori gallery exhibition into it’s own post, up next. So let’s just pretend 2 hours have passed, and check out the gift shop!
Ahh! Famous art in plastic miniature, distributed via specialized vending machine!
Then we headed to the restaurant floor for a bite to eat. Every public building has a whole floor devoted to restaurants, sometimes 2 or 3. It’s awesome, you’re spoiled for choice.
We almost ate here, but the unmoving crowd of slack-jawed yokels blocking the menu–so we could see what they actually served in addition to just looking fun–prompted us to continue onward. We instead went to a very classy vegetarian shabu-shabu restaurant…
…that none-the-less spared no expense decorating the walls for halloween. :)
A gloomy view on a gloomy day, with Tokyo Tower obscured by the low-cloud-cover in the middle-right.
On the way out, we spotted possibly the greatest Halloween decoration yet. The office reception desk was vacant, save for this lone, unadorned pumpkin, watching over all of us. It summed up my feelings about the Roppongi Hills complex really–it’s all very impressive, imposing, but soulless and not-quite-there… in a way that I don’t think the folks in charge can even _see_. Still it was busy even on a rainy Saturday afternoon, they most be doing something right…
More Japan travelogues to come. :)
So, surprising no one (I guess) I am heading back to Tokyo today for a business trip with as much ‘pleasure’ as I can cram in there as well. Buying more stuff for The Beguiling, hopefully doing a bit of TCAF business, that sort of thing. As always it’s going to be a hoot.
The big change is that all of my photo-taking, and subsequent photo-blogging, will now be done with this beauty of a camera–the Olympus PEN E-PL1–which I am test-driving for the trip. Thanks to various folks for helping me set that one up, I should have some great photos to share this week and next.
Meanwhile, before I had a chance to break out the Olympus (shot with my Fuji Finepix), I spotted this rack at the exceptionally well-stocked-for-graphic-novels airport bookstore. Archie Marries…, Bone and Amulet on the bottom shelf, and… is that?
…yes! This is an airport bookstore that actually stocks Jason Shiga’s MEANWHILE…. That is awesome! I mean, it’s on a shelf with “Herman Classics”, which is less awesome, but still! And just around the corner on the same display…
Scott Pilgrim! Pokemon! And… THE NEW CHARLES BURNS!? This airport bookstore has more copies of these books in-stock and displayed than _most comic book stores_, which is why _most comic book stores_ make me incredibly sad. But wait there’s more!
The staff picks! Since they’re 95% DC, I’m tempted to say that DC’s Cdn distributor bought and paid for this section, but either way, that’s some great, prominent display for these books! That’s pretty incredible and an auspicious start to this trip…
On that note, let me share a couple more pics with you.
These are two pictures that I took of the Taiyo Matsumoto section of my bookshelf, just so they’d be on the camera when I was out shopping and I’d know what I already had!
Top photo (l to r): TekkonKinkreet Animation Book 2-pack, PEN magazine with comic article, 5-issues “Black and WHite” mini-series, Tekkon Kinkreet All-In-One Edition, GoGo Monster, Black & White 1-3, ZERO 1-2, “Brothers of Japan”, a novel Matsumoto did the cover for, Hana-Otoko 1-3 Special box set, Hana-Otoko v1, Blue Spring, Le Samurai Bambou 1-2 (French), Number 5 Omnibus Editions 1-2 & 4, No. 5 v3 (French), No. 5 1-2 (English), No. 5 volume 1 Gift-box edition with figure (Japanese), Cosmic Comix Magazine with Matsumoto interview, 100 & 101 Matsumoto art books, Something(?), French colour comics album.
Bottom photo (l to r): PING PONG Film book box-set edition with Paddle & Rubik’s Cube, Ping Pong 1-2 & 5, Ping Pong Special Edition Oversized version 1-3, and then a bunch of other stuff. Oh, and Bambook Samurai Volume 7 is on the top there, laying on it’s side.
Click for larger!
Alright, I’ve got a plane to catch. Expect lots of blogging this week! Take care!
So I went back to Japan in May of 2010! That was trip #3, and since I’d crossed the vast majority of ohmygodImustdothisthing things off my list, I dug a little harder into what was “going on” while I was in Tokyo, to see if there were any cool events, gallery shows, or comics things that I could visit while I was there. It turns out that Design Festa vol. 31 was all three!
Design Festa is a twice-yearly… Design… Festival… held at Tokyo Big Sight, the massive convention centre on the artifical island floating in the middle of Tokyo Bay (Odaiba) that also houses the world famous Comiket doujinshi convention, also twice yearly. Design Festa was started by Takeshi Murakami and friends in 1994, to give aspiring artists in Tokyo a chance to put their work on display in a commercial context… or as the website says “Making an artistic impact is not easy, regardless of talent but if many people get together and make an art movement, the possibilities expand infinitely!”
The event is comprised of more than 2500 “booths” of artists, with about 8500 individual artists participating in some way. Painting, sculpture, drawing, crafts, performance, commercial products, it’s all sort of smushed together to create one of the most vibrant spaces I’ve ever visited… and I attend comic book conventions for a living.
I think what was most surprising to me was the range of material on display. Though it tended to be very contemporary in scope (and often post-modern), there were still real elements of traditional Japanese arts that tended to come through. It was a pretty amazing thing to do on my first day in Japan, to be dazzled by all of these wonderfully talented young artists. I plan to visit Design Festa Vol. 32 when I go back to Tokyo this fall.
To see the full gallery, without all of my blabbing on, you can check out my Flickr set at http://www.flickr.com/photos/comics212/sets/72157625080240231/.
At the entrance to Design Festa, cosplayers, crossplayers, crossdressers, and people who just like to dress up congregated to see and be seen. Artistic events draw out artistic people of all stripes…
Click to keep reading! :)
I came across Spurge’s thoughts on NYCC last night, and the thing that stuck out at me was that he thought despite giving out 2900 press passes, the show did not get 2900 press passes worth of coverage. Now, while I might suggest that NYCC organizers Reed being able to sell access to 2900 members of the press is worth it’s weight in gold (let alone free admissions to the Comic Con), I will admit that my own coverage was somewhat anemic and so I thought I’d follow-up with my thoughts on the show.
I will also intersperse those thoughts with photographs so you don’t get bored.
My first thought on NYCC, and this is brutally unfair I know, is that Reed has utterly and completely blown it with this show. What I mean by that is that they had a chance, a real chance, at doing a book- and comic-oriented event, that engaged people with the work. There’s a lot of room within that description to have famous people and spectacle, but the promise of NYCC–to me–was that this could be a book show, a comics show, a successful event that could be the antithesis of San Diego Comic Con’s Freak Parade.
Make no mistake, New York Comic Con is a Freak Parade.
And that is exactly what the organizers were hoping for.
Like I said, this is a profoundly unfair thought… It’s not kosher to judge the relative success or failure of an event based on what you hoped it might be. Sure, that first year was more modest, with (to my recollection) less of a focus on stardom and more of a focus on creators/authors/artists. Modest, publisher-oriented booths, programming that centered equally on the business-side and fandom-side of things. Maybe it was the then-presence of a reasonably vital Wizardworld: Chicago to take some of the burden off of NYCC needing to be the North-East version of SDCC, but that first year, it looked like NYCC could turn into anything.
And anything is what it seems to have turned into.
Walking in the main exhibition entrance, one was greeted by a giant booth which blared Michael Jackson songs all weekend. There was a stage with dancers–you could even get up and dance with them–trying their best to capture and replicate the late pop-singer’s moves as directed by a videogame (out this Christmas!). It’s hard not to smile when you come across a giant stage with a Michael Jackson impersonator and backup dancers aggressively “Beat-It”-ing; it was a genuinely fun moment.
It just also happened to be the death-knell for NYCC as a comics/book event.
Massive video-game booths taking up huge swaths of the floor, give-away masks/hats/swag bags, all that was missing was a giant golden throne. Maybe they needed it on set.
So yeah, NYCC has become SDCC-East, which is personally disappointing (because I already _go_ to SDCC), but I think we’ve covered that. How did it succeed as SDCC-East? Well, the part of me that wants to be invited next year is inclined to be more charitable than I otherwise might, so let me say first and foremost that a the show was intensely marketed, and people showed up, and they had a good time. Those are, to my mind, the three most positive things I can say about the show.
Personally, I’d take issue with the way it was marketed, the number of people that showed up, and why people had a good time, but that’s because I’m kind of curmudgeonly.
Last one first: I had a great time in New York last weekend. Seriously, it was great, and the con was a good part of that, and I’m grateful for that experience. I met a lot of wonderful people and met people in person for the first time, it was valuable personally and professionally. That couldn’t have happened without NYCC being a big-enough draw to get all those folks, myself included, out to New York in the first place.
But has been pointed out online already, how much of an excuse does anyone really need to go to New York City in the first place? It’s AMAZING, I ? NY a great deal and would go every weekend, if I could afford it.
Not to discount NYCC’s good fortune at taking place in NYC , but I feel like that’s the starting point, the plateau: “Hey, this is New York City. People are gonna wanna come.” There are more people in NYC than in all of Canada; you’ve got a massive built-in audience, a massive talent-pool, it’s easy to get to, plenty of hotels, and an international tourist destination. Unless you don’t want people showing up to your event, it’s easy to get people to come to your event… or at least a hell of a lot easier than San Diego. Or Toronto for that matter. It’s easy to have a good time in New York, and hella-easy for nerds to have a good time if you throw a bunch of them in a big room together. That isn’t the best indicator of success, it might not even be a particularly good one.
Which brings us to the crowds: Thank Christ No One Died. I don’t say that lightly, I really don’t. The show was a zoo, particularly Saturday 12-4, wall-to-wall people. San Diego at its absolute worst. The aisles were too narrow in the main hall by at least 2 feet, and they were far narrower in the Small Press Pavilion on the south side of the convention centre. Worse still, the Small Press Pavilion was adjacent to artist alley, and the aisles didn’t match up creating HUGE human-traffic jams in the aisle that connected them.
This isn’t just bitching. I mean, it’s bitching, I’m not backing away from the tone of this as unnecessarily cranky, but Saturday at the show felt legitimately unsafe at points. I really felt like very little thought had gone into the layout of the hall from a safety/traffic point of view. Whether they had a layout that needed to be entirely trashed because of the construction or whether they came up with a bad design, the layout needs to be severely changed for 2011. Wide main aisles/throughfares to move people quickly from one end of the show to the other, fewer exhibitors crammed near essential services like escalators and washrooms(!), and what the hell was with the massive, empty space at the entrance to the south hall? Maybe we could’ve spaced out some of the Small Press booths into that space?
I will say that from an exhibitor POV, it was nice that the majority of medium-to-large publishers were clustered together making it easier to browse the stuff I was most-interested in. But honestly, it’s been like that since year one, and I feel like that’s more of a hold-over from previous shows than a conscious decision for 2010.
Which brings us to the marketing: Wow. Listed as Press for the event, I was put on the list fairly early and received at least one update a week from NYCC itself, and a hundred+ PR emails, almost exclusively from film and video game producers. I don’t know if the comics pubs just didn’t want to pony-up the dough to buy access to the press list, but the majority of comics promotion happened in the body of the NYCC emails, and again, felt paid-for or part of an in-kind promotion… and even then, they were exceptionally rare. No, both inwardly to subscribers and outwardly to the public, this was marketed as a POP CULTURE event, a freak parade by and for media-friendly Geeks, and a place to come and get your geek on. Come meet Stan Lee! Come see a J-Pop Band! Video Games! B-Movie Actors Film Guests! (There was comics content in almost all of the official NYCC emails I received, but it was always after other info, and other media.)
The marketing for the show, hell the whole website if you look at it, has a Carnival Barker vibe that’s… well, it’s successful as fuck. Seriously, it’s fucking amazing how many people showed up, talked about the show before it happened. It was happening. But this is starting to get into broken-record territory here–Reed STILL isn’t good at running consumer shows.
(Kind of telling that it took 20 paragraphs to get to the thesis…)
So Reed Exhibitions have integrated themselves with PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, a video-game show that started as a grassroots effort that topped like 70k attendees this year. They’re wholesale-running PAX East, in Boston, in early 2011. PAX has always been a well-run show, nearly seamless and exceptionally enjoyable as an exhibtor, and as an attendee.
Reed has done everything in their power to figure out why PAX runs so well, and attempted to duplicate it to the best of their ability. For example, at PAX, the volunteers are called “Enforcers” and they will bend-over-backwards to help you. This year (and I believe this is the first year), NYCC branded all of their volunteers as “Heroes” and their yellow volunteer shirts had “Hero!” on the back. The staff shirts were red… and I don’t think they had anything on them.
The problem was, every volunteer I encountered was unempowered. They had the barest of instruction, and didn’t even feel confident in that. There weren’t enough maps, and no one from one section knew anything about any other section, so no one could answer where anything was that wasn’t right in front of them. Any harder question was met with “ask my supervisor.” These weren’t random volunteers I asked either, these were people at the check-in desk. And this wasn’t just the first day, it was all weekend.
You can call your volunteer a ‘hero’ to thank them for helping out; I think that’s swell. But if you don’t give them any information, if you don’t empower them to basic questions, if you don’t even give them basic orientation, then you’ve done a poor job.
Which leaves you to rely on the convention centre security. I’ll say one thing about the Javitz Centre Security: They don’t give a FUCK. This was the antithesis of San Diego Comic Con in at least one way: there was almost no security, doing almost nothing, and by Sunday they’d given up entirely… which when you’ve got an overstuffed convention centre full of folks who’ve been invited in to stare at/be the freak show, creates more of those overcrowding problems I was talking about. A security “guard” at the south hall entrance couldn’t be bothered to tell people not to stop directly in the center of the narrow entrance way to talk. Literally looked over at them blocking the way, then looked away. I don’t like being the guy who shouts at comic book conventions, but “THERE ARE BETTER PLACES TO STAND” may have been uttered at one point. Loudly.
If one is going to be undiscerning about who one invites into their home, then it behooves one to make sure that one is prepared for what follows. I’d submit that NYCC was not, from a staff, volunteer, or security POV.
In Closing: I really felt like the show had a slapdash feel to it. Because Reed moved NYCC from February to October, they had more than 20 months between 2009 and 2010 to prepare the show, nearly two full years, and it felt considerably more poorly-organized than the 2009 show. I’m aware that as an event organizer (though on nowhere near this scale) I’m way more sensitive to organizational problems than the general public, and as such I try hard to pull back a little on criticism… and I did, honestly… (The programming, the integration of New York Anime Festival, the last-minuteness of their info going public). It’s tough because NYCC isn’t the show I’d run, but I can get over that to judge it in the context of the shows it’s decided it wants to be: SDCC and PAX. And honestly? It comes up short. Or at least this year it did.
So there are my thoughts on NYCC 2010. I had an amazing time, I got a bunch work done, and met some great people, but in the end I don’t think that’s going to be enough for me, for next year.
I’ll caption some of the photos later if I have time.
…ever since signing up as press for NYCC and SDCC, my daily PR count has more than tripled. Companies comics-related and nerd-specific are emailing me to let me know any time their clients so much as fart, and it’s annoying but it’s all only two clicks away from disappearing.
That said, my daily PR count isn’t a patch on my friend’s, Journalist Nathalie Atkinson. Over at “On The Fourth Floor” she lays down the law on how to be a good PR agent, and how to interact with journalists, and it’s both amazing and essential reading for someone with a product, service, or idea to promote.
Go check it out.
(The following was written on the plane on the way to New York City. By the time you read this I’ll be napping. – Chris)
It’s been 20 long, long months since I last hopped on a plane to head out to the New York Comic Con. This weekend’s show marks the first since NYCC up and moved their show from their initial late-winter/early-spring time period to the (theoretically) more-stable Beginning Of October time period. The show is, to my mind, the hallmark for the explosive boom in the popularity of comic cons over the last 4-5 years, with NYCC considerably over capacity in its very first year. It’s not hard to glance at the con schedule and see stories of shows reaching or past capacity, sometimes dangerously so. I think the mainstreaming of nerd culture is at the heart of it, the idea of shows like this as a gateway into not just the comics and graphic novels that inspire Hollywood, but direct access to Hollywood itself. Before 5 years ago it was basically impossible to meet an A-list Hollywood Celebrity—now they advertise their public appearances and your chance to meet them 3-6 months in advance, and all you have to do is be determined.
But that first NYCC was, I think, a tipping-point. Showrunners Reed had never run a consumer show before, only fairly sedate—though expansive—trade shows with the occasional consumer element. Their advertising wasn’t a patch on what it is today, and yet still in that first year the folks who showed up to the con nearly doubled the capacity for the allotted space. Their entire set-up was both ineffectual and inadequate, and the stressfulness of the situation was at a fever pitch for most of Friday and Saturday. It couldn’t be much fun for the folks trying to run the event, but as an observer? The cacophony was glorious… and what a story!
Since then I’ve seen the show grow and change considerably—I’ve made it a point to attend every NYCC so far after that fireworks first-year. I’ve seen the staff fight tooth and nail to increase the size of the show and their space within the Javitz Centre, with 2009 really feeling like the first year that the show had come into its own. I’ve seen Reed expand further into the consumer-show business, most-notably their partnership with Penny Arcade on the PAX shows in Seattle and Boston. I’ve seen them become incredibly media savvy, leveraging their number-two-within-the-industry position to attract an almost unheard-of selection of A-list guests to the big event. I’ve seen their preparation for the 2010 NYCC which, I have to say, has felt more than a little slap-dash considering the 18 month lead time they had to prepare. Now it’s time to see what 2010 has to offer.
Today I’ll be attending the ICv2 Conference focusing on Digital comics, and I’ll try to update with my thoughts throughout the event. Tomorrow, I’ll be attending Diamond’s retailer breakfast to see what my number 1 supplier has to say about the industry in 2010, and then following that up with some fun professional programming and apparently 2-3 video game demos. Saturday I’m on a panel and giving a lecture, and then Sunday I’m just going to get lost in the crowds.
Feel free to say hi if you see me around!
To my mind, there hasn’t been a worse publisher launch in the last 5 years than that of Kodansha USA.
I realize that this is a harsh statement, and I’ve refrained from making it for a while now in the hopes that the bumpy path they’ve had would smooth out, and that they might acknowledge and visibly attempt to fix some of their many, many problems. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case as of yet, and today’s announcement of an increase in their responsibilities is, at best, baffling.
The problems with Kodansha USA (also known as Kodansha Comics), as I see them:
1. Every single one of their releases to date have missed their shipping date, and they’re already on a _very_ generous shipping schedule. The result is that some of the bestselling perennials in manga publishing–AKIRA and GHOST IN THE SHELL have been unavailable for nearly 2 years now, and there are no answers to customer concerns why this is so.
2. The pricing on their work seems woefully out of touch with both the realities of the market, the popularity of the material, and their own Japanese pricing strategies. (Part of the blame on this goes to Dark Horse, who set those prices… nearly 10 years ago.)
3. Their reprints of AKIRA and GHOST IN THE SHELL are inferior to the Dark Horse versions in terms of print quality (smearing, reproduction) and paper stock (thinner paper). For the same price.
4. They went back and released an older, less-complete version of Ghost In The Shell, hurting saleability of the title.
5. They’ve been utterly and completely uncommunicative to the press. They don’t even seem to have a website.
So the news this morning that Kodansha USA will take over publishing all of Del Rey Manga’s many bestselling titles? Disappointment bordering on dread. Del Rey’s Tsubasa, XXX-Holic, and Negima, continue to be some of our bestselling manga at the store, and the high-degree of care in preparation that goes into fan-favourite and critically acclaimed titles like Moyasimon, and Mushishi is phenomenal. I have my issues with their publishing set-up (mostly around their scheduling of less profitable titles) but in short, they’re a solid, professional publisher producing great work in a timely fashion and with a great deal of thought about the market and industry–everything Kodansha-USA has shown themselves not to be.
The only thing that gives me hope is this quote:
“In an e-mail interview with Irie, he said that while Kodansha USA Publishing will now directly oversee the publishing of Kodansha-originated English-language manga licenses, Kodansha still plans to “to work with local partners in foreign territories.” He said that Random House will continue, “handling much of the publishing side, such as editorial, production, sales and marketing.” Irie will be based in New York along with KUP general manager Kumi Shimizu.” - From Publisher’s Weekly
To me, that reads as though Random House will be packaging the books for Kodansha USA, which is very different, monetarily, than their current set-up. See, publishers generally absorb the costs of “editing, producing, selling and marketing” manga. If they’re producing that work for someone else, they get _paid_ for it, which is a real reversal! Also, if Del Rey is going to continue marketing, I’m curious as to why Ali Kokmen was let go…
Elsewhere in that interview it is mentioned that the head of Del Rey Manga, Dallas Middaugh, will be moving over to Random House Publisher Services to handle distribution of the line (and I’m glad they’re keeping Dallas Middaugh, he’s very good at his job). So in effect, things will continue more-or-less as they are, except:
- Kodansha USA will be making the publisher-type decisions, like which series get released and how often
- Del Rey no longer has to pay for licenses
- Del Rey is now likely getting paid to package the books for Kodansha
- Del Rey is making a cut on the distribution of the books but the majority of the money’s going to Kodansha.
It looks like Del Rey has divested themselves of _all_ of the risk of manga publishing, moving into a packaging and distribution relationship. Smart move for the bean-counters at Del Rey! And I guess Kodansha USA gets to call themselves a publisher, which I assume will impress someone back in Japan, but they’re not really doing anything other than putting their logo on the book, so far as I can tell.
On paper this looks like it could work out… but then on paper communism looks like a viable option on paper too–it all falls apart when you get to the real world. As I’ve shown, Kodansha USA has a terrible record at absorbing existing licenses and shepherding them to the market. Will Del Rey Manga’s professionalism counteract Kodansha USA’s track record? I honestly don’t know.
But going by that track record, it could be as long as a year before current titles resume their serialization, if AKIRA’s re-publication schedule is anything to go by. I guess all involved have got lots and lots of time to figure it all out?