Kodansha USA to Replace Del Rey Manga at Random House — Updated

Looks like Andre’s speculation was right after all. Kodansha USA Publishing just sent out the following press release:

Kodansha and Random House Transform and Expand Their U.S. Manga Publishing Relationship

Kodansha Ltd. and Random House Inc. have announced their plans to change and expand their manga publishing relationship in North America. The companies are shifting from a licensing relationship to a sales and distribution arrangement as of December 1, 2010.

The current relationship between Kodansha and Random House began in 2003, with the first titles debuting in 2004 under the latter’s Del Rey Manga imprint. Since then, more 500 volumes have been published, including many bestselling manga series.

Under the new arrangement, Kodansha’s subsidiary, Kodansha USA Publishing, LLC, established in 2008 and led by Yoshio Irie, will be publishing Kodansha-originated manga themselves directly in the U.S. English-language market with strong support from Random House Publisher Services (RHPS), Random House’s third-party distribution division. Del Rey Manga associate publisher Dallas Middaugh will remain with the program, transferring to RHPS.

“We are very excited to extend our relationship with Random House,” said Yoshio Irie, president and CEO of Kodansha USA Publishing. “Both companies see opportunity in the American manga market, and we look forward to working together to further the distribution and exposure of manga in the United States.”

“We are thrilled to have a publisher as distinctive as Kodansha USA Publishing join the Random House Publisher Services portfolio,” said Jeff Abraham, the division’s president. “Kodansha is one of the great worldwide publishing brands for the manga category, and we will do everything to support their efforts with our many booksellers and distributors who love selling manga titles.”

Del Rey’s ongoing manga titles which were licensed by Kodansha will be gradually taken over by Kodansha USA Publishing on a per-title basis.

So Del Rey Manga is going away in favor of the Kodansha branding beginning at the end of this year. That makes a certain amount of sense for Kodansha — this should buy them U.S. market presence easily. It remains to be seen which titles get transferred, or whether this change causes reevaluation of what should be released.

Update: This Publishers Weekly article has a few more details on the business structure and Kodansha USA history.

Kodansha USA will be under the direction of president and CEO Yoshio Irie, who is based in Tokyo. The US branch will be lead by general manager Kumi Shimizu in New York. This is the part that might be of concern:

While Irie emphasized that KUP will gradually take over Del Rey’s licensed manga, he also said that they will evaluate each series on a per-title basis to decide which series KUP has “the capacity” to continue.

For those sympathetic to anyone losing their job during these tough times, this part is also not promising:

Although a Random House spokesperson told PW that the new arrangement would not affect non-manga graphic novels published by Villard/Del Rey, they declined to comment on the status of remaining Del Rey Manga staff, such as licensing manager Mutsumi Miyazaki and editor Tricia Narwani, who have both worked with Del Rey Manga line virtually since its beginning.

Irie wants to “expand the manga market in the U.S.“ both through Kodansha US Publishing as well as “continued licensing of Kodansha manga to other licensees.”

Update 2: Reactions are fearful, for the most part, based on Kodansha USA’s iffy track record so far. Retailer Christopher Butcher says, “there hasn’t been a worse publisher launch in the last 5 years than that of Kodansha USA.” He bases this statement on their missing release dates, high prices, poor publication quality, and their lack of communication. The thing is, he’s right about all of that, and fans know it.

David Welsh, for example, wonders what will happen to Del Rey Manga’s backlist. Will those books be kept in print by Kodansha? I hadn’t even thought of that, but reviewing the list of Del Rey manga I’ve reviewed, there are some really good reads there. I hope they do stay available.

It gets worse, though. On Twitter, Butcher speculates that “30-40 percent of the Del Rey line is done.” Sometimes original publishers tend to have, let’s say, generous expectations as to how much money they should make from their works in new markets. If the decision-makers aren’t as familiar with the current state of the U.S. market as they should be, then we might be seeing higher prices and fewer releases.

Similar Posts: Kodansha Goes Digital, Ignores ComiXology § Another Bad Manga Industry Sign: Del Rey Lays Off Ali Kokmen § Kodansha to Open U.S. Subsidiary; Manga Pricing to Change? § Kodansha Comics Done Rescuing Del Rey Titles § Smart Moves at Boom!

19 Comments

  1. Tommy Raiko

    Well. I guess that Kodansha Comics panel at New York Comic Con that Andre had mentioned suddenly got more interesting…

  2. Ha ha! Yes, I hope there will be some good information coming out of that. Unfortunately, I’m not going to the con, but I’m sure there will be solid reporting after.

  3. Tommy Raiko

    On the other hand, someone just tweeted that that Kodansha USA panel no longer appears on the NYCC/NYAF schedule:

    http://twitter.com/animealmanac/status/26373711089

    Which, if true, sounds like an auspicious beginning for this newish Kodansha endeavor…

  4. I just saw that. Oh dear. On the other hand, if they don’t have the details pinned down yet, it might be better for them not to have it. If they don’t have information they can release, people are only going to be frustrated by an hour of “we don’t know right now”.

  5. It does appear that Kodansha has cancelled their Sunday panel. To be fair, it appears that Viz has cancelled their panel too.

    Chris Butcher points out that Kodansha has yet to release a book under it’s own name on time. Also the quality of the books are lower than average for manga of the same price point and format.

    Given the number of manga bloggers that will be at NYAF this weekend. If Kodansha isn’t ready to answer a lot of questions, it’s best to cancel the panel.

  6. I can’t help but hope that they’ll re-release Sailor Moon and maybe pick up Kindaichi Case Files again. But I’m probably more likely to see Pumpkin Scissors than Sailor Moon or Kindaichi…sigh…and I don’t have much hope of ever seeing a new volume of Pumpkin Scissors

  7. Makes me feel like I should run out and get the volumes of MUSHISHI I don’t already have, so as not to get stuck with inferior reprints as I work my way through the series. (I find them hard to read all at once.)

  8. If there are books you want from Del Rey Manga, you may want to buy them now. You never know what might happen to the backlist during a time of adjustment.

  9. Tommy Raiko

    For what it’s worth, former Del Rey Manga Publisher (and still involved in Kodansha Comics in some way, but I can’t find what his title is in the new system) Dallas Middaugh has come out of hiding to clarify/spin that the Kodansha panel at NYCC was not canceled suddenly, but rather was never confirmed:

    http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/10/nycc-10-kodanshas-panel-was-not-canceled-it-was-never-scheduled/

    Sounds like just a miscommunication between parties. Still, reading Middaugh’s explanation, it does seem that technically, the Kodansha panel was indeed canceled–it’s just that it was canceled well in advance of when the convention’s panel programming was to be made public, and therefore shouldn’t have been become an issue.

  10. Thanks, Tommy. I think the question of whether or not they had a panel is really just symbolic of how little information fans think they’re getting from Kodansha — and they clearly want more.

  11. Gah, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is one of the few series I follow religiously, I will be *extremely* disappointed if it gets dropped from the roll. At least volume 8 still seems to be on track for release…though it’s been pushed back by like, 2 months already.

  12. [...] comfortable and predictable, too reminiscent of other manga for me to continue with it. Which is a moot point now, anyway. This volume has two extras, a short story at the end showing how Teru and Hinata [...]

  13. Awww…man. This doesn’t sound good. I was hoping to apply for a job with DelRey as a translator after I finish college. Wonder how this’ll affect me.

  14. [...] — I believe that Del Rey’s seven titles mark the end of their imprint, since Kodansha takes over December 1, which is next week. (Yargh! Where does the time go?) From that batch, I reviewed I Am [...]

  15. [...] Kodansha Comics announced their much-awaited lineup of manga. Since they replaced Del Rey Manga at the beginning of this month, fans have been eager to hear which ongoing series will be [...]

  16. [...] their manga line gone, Del Rey is now concentrating on trade paperbacks in the same format, often with ties to [...]

  17. [...] Ando (Kitchen Princess), because of its lame-duck status, as one of the last releases from the now-departed Del Rey Manga. I recently picked it up on a whim (to fill out a mail order, if you must know), and now I’m [...]

  18. [...] Comics effectively replaced Del Rey Manga in late 2010. Their release plans then were a mix of new-to-US titles and reissues, some in omnibus [...]

  19. […] Arisa. I loved the first book, three years ago, released from Del Rey Manga shortly before they ceased publishing. However, by book 3, I was disagreeing with the author’s pacing and character choices. I […]

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