NY Times Graphic Books List Biased Against Manga?

Erica Friedman, yuri manga publisher, has posted an open letter to the New York Times:

I am increasingly concerned about the obvious bias against manga in your bestseller lists. I have no idea who writes the synopses, but it is apparent to all of us in the manga world that that person *does not like manga.*

I’ve noticed some discrepancy myself in how the writeups plugging the bestseller lists (which come in hardcover, softcover, and manga versions, so the American titles show up separately) tend to point out and talk about the American comics but not the manga. I put it down to the writer having more traditional comic interests, but I do think it is fair to ask for equivalent levels of coverage. Even if it means getting help from someone who knows and cares about manga. What do you think?

6 Comments

  1. To me, there isn’t any “bias” on the list. You don’t read that list for reviews. It’s just a list of the best-selling manga (using whatever arcane method they use). From what I’ve seen they just give you a slight idea of what the book is about. I don’t think they spend much time doing the blurbs. I remember when all those Naruto volumes were on it, a lot of the captions were identical. I thought the Yotsuba comments were kinda meant to be funny, because really that’s all volume 6 was about. Really. I think they should get someone that actually likes manga or at least actually reads them, but I doubt the person that compiles the Times fiction bestseller list has actually read the books on it. And maybe some manga bloggers are trying to fulfill some ludicrous pipedream of writing for the New York Times. And maybe their complaints are merely fishing expeditions to that end. So in the end, I don’t care what they blurb on the list, as long as they aren’t saying “This manga sucks”. The one example I saw in the letter was Yotsuba, and the complaint was pretty weak.

  2. Have you looked at the way the items are presented? The separate posts that they do weekly that say “here are some interesting points about this week’s list”, for example, tend to ignore the manga in favor of American comics.

    In the Yotsuba case, I think they just cribbed from the publisher’s description, which starts “Yotsuba recycles! Gets a bike! Learns about sticky notes! And drinks some super-yummy milk which she then decides she has to share with EVERYONE!” Since the NY Times description says “In this chapter, she recycles, gets a bike and discovers sticky notes. Really.”, the connection is obvious but it doesn’t give the same flavor. The “Really” sounds more snarky than they may have intended. I agree with you that they ought to get someone who reads manga, or at least is willing to google for more information, so they have more to go on.

  3. Did you read the blurb on the back cover of the manga Yotsuba volume 6? Its pretty horrible in its own right:):

    “Yotsuba’s getting a biiiiike, Yotsuba’s getting a biiiiike!! Didja know the wheels of a bike go round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round and roun– oh, Yotsuba’s getting dizzy…whoooooa…”

    Compared to this, the NYT comment wasn’t very bad. I think the fact that Dark Horse puts out about one volume of Eden a year is more disrespectful. And the fact that Kodansha is going to put dozens of titles in limbo with no word as to their future.

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  5. Unfortunately, most of the manga on the NY Times Bestseller List is the latest volume of Popular Shonen Manga X. What can a reviewer say about volume 50 of Naruto? “The hero defeated the enemy with his secret evil technique. His power level was well over nine-thousand.”

  6. If I’m mentioning Naruto 50 to someone who may never have heard of it, I think I’d start with a one-sentence premise: Naruto is an aspiring ninja, etc. Then a sentence about the particular volume. Summarizing isn’t hard, it just requires you knowing more about a book than the paragraph on the back cover.

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