How Should a Manga Publisher Cancel a Series? Viz Ends Gin Tama

Gin Tama Book 23, due out from Viz in August, has been labeled by them the “Final Volume”. This is only true of the U.S. publication run — the series is still going in its native Japan, with 39 books out so far. Some fans have gotten upset at Viz “lying” about the status, but me, I figure they’re being honest about this being the Final [Viz] Volume, with no plans to continue publication. I’d rather see that than an indefinite hiatus, which has much more uncertainty and disappointment attached, at least in my opinion.

The expected assumption is that sales were disappointing. Gin Tama is a very long series, and it’s unlikely that anyone will jump on board at this point, with over 20 volumes published and no free media (cartoon) support. Some expect Viz to come out and say “this series is being canceled because it didn’t sell well enough”. That strikes me as unlikely. It’s not good business or marketing, and especially in the case of a translated series, it runs the risk of insulting the creator or native publisher.

How should Viz have handled this? I’m not sure what fans really want in this case, honestly — unless it’s for Viz to keep losing money putting out another 20 books. They aren’t happy when Viz says “we’re done”, and they aren’t happy when the publisher doesn’t say anything.

Serialized comics, of whatever nationality, tend to decline in sales over time. U.S. superhero comics fight this through publicity stunts — someone dies! — but to work, that requires a familiarity with the characters among the pool of potential readers that manga doesn’t have. The manga equivalent would be a cartoon show or a DVD release, but for this series, that’s already been done here. U.S. comics also change out creative teams, but that doesn’t make sense in manga, which has friendlier policies to authors.

Some have vowed to stop buying series from Viz until all volumes are released. That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that will ensure no more long series are brought over to the U.S. It’s unlikely anyone would start on such a lengthy publication in the current market, anyway. (To be fair, some have pointed out that some very long series weren’t known to be such when they started — which is an argument against quick U.S. reprinting.) I am sympathetic to those disappointed by having a comic they like canceled under them, even though I’d never heard of the series until all this came up a couple of weeks ago. (Vertical’s Ed Chavez says Gin Tama sells better in the U.S. than the much-praised 20th Century Boys. However, I’m guessing the latter gets much more critical praise and attention for the company.) I’m also sympathetic to those who are less likely to start a new series after being burned, even though there are other long-running series Viz is continuing to release.

There’s a whole gamut of reactions at this Anime News Network Forum thread. I laughed a little at the “oh, I was going to start reading this, but now I won’t bother” comments. 22 books in, if you haven’t started yet, no wonder the series isn’t succeeding. (Others at the thread have more balanced perspective; overall, there’s a nice spread of reactions.) If you want to demonstrate that Viz made the wrong decision, Gin Tama Book 22 is out in two weeks. Greatly increased sales might convince them they made the wrong decision. If it was to come back, a relaunch with a new “first volume” might give the series new life.

Similar Posts: Viz Selling Selected First Volumes Half-Off at BN.Com on Manga Mondays § Has Viz Canceled Inubaka? § Yay for Mad! Sales Going Up § Are You Willing to Commit to Long Series? § Comic Bestsellers

16 Comments

  1. Regarding 20th Century Boys selling less than Gintama, I think the thing is that Gintama is listed under SHONEN JUMP. Shonen Jump is the “super Holy Grail, mainstream, relevant manga that sells TONS of copies & recognized everywhere”.

    Gintama is seriously catered to a Japanese audience. It must be really tough to translate so many Japanese references, though isn’t Sayonara! Zetsubou Sensei the same.

    I wonder how Kodansha Comics USA would handle Gintama if it weren’t a Shonen Jump title.

  2. It’s a shame, I actively collect and read Gin Tama. This series actually really won me over from the first few pages of the first volume. I watched the anime a bit, but I think I prefer this story in manga form. This is one of those situations where I feel no guilt about moving on and reading any available scans (I hope there are some). I purchased 23 volumes officially and I even bought myself an awesome Gin figure, I want to give them my money for the official material, but it just doesn’t work out in the end.

    If a lot more of my series go on indefinite hiatus I’m going to start questioning if I’m just throwing away my money by buying manga series officially.

  3. I always have to laugh at people who say they wont buy andmore Viz titles becuese a title they liked got canceld talk about cutting your nose to spite your face.

  4. Jim Kosmicki

    20th Century Boys has a higher list price and is part of the Signature Series – it doesn’t have the same sales expectations as a Shonen Jump branded title – I still can’t believe Ultimate Muscle keeps coming out – it’s my guilty pleasure Shonen Jump title – it’s just so damn goofy.

  5. It doesn’t bug me that they are quietly announcing that they won’t be publishing any more of the series, but it kind of irks me that they’re not acknowledging that there actually really is more. Something like “Final US Volume” or, like you had it, “Final VIZ Volume” would be more to my liking.

  6. Me too. Although “Final US Volume” may have been rejected because they feared it would drive people to scanlations — or they just might not have thought about it.

  7. How timely :( and now Tokyopop has announced it’s closing its doors in L.A.

    @ Johanna – You mean drive people to scanlations in general? Or just from Gin Tama? Because at this point it seems they don’t care that much about any potential income from Gin Tama.

  8. @Johanna

    I think someone mentioned that scanlators don’t want to bother with Gintama. Too much text to translate and it’s not that requested by many fans.

    VIZ probably never thought about it.

  9. Lovelyduckie, I meant drive people to scalanations of this title, and then onwards in a slippery slope. That’s what the publishers fear, it seems to me.

  10. I’m probably taking this too personally, but as one of those “oh, I was going to start reading this, but now I won’t bother” people, I have to say, I only have so much money to spend on manga. And when you’re a big fan of Shonen Jump, it all adds up. When you get into a SJ series late, there’s a lot of “catching up” to do, and it takes a toll on your wallet. Once you “catch up”, or if you start following the series when it first gets released, it’s easier to support a series, cos from then onwards you only gotta shell out money for a new volume every 3 months or so. Last year I “caught up” on One Piece and Eyeshield 21, which were higher on my priority list than Gintama (since I’m buying the anime, and buying the manga would be double dipping on a franchise, which I normally don’t do, but was willing/planning to for Gintama). Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough cash to pick up Gintama before it’s cancellation. Although my contribution may not have made a difference anyway. So my plan now is to use whatever cash would’ve gone to Gintama, to support a different series so it won’t get cancelled. And maybe when I get proficient enough in Japanese I’ll buy the Japanese tankobon of Gintama ^_^

    Umm, so…that’s my defence of my position ^_^; sorry for wasting your time >.<

  11. Please don’t take it personally. I don’t buy that way — it’s very rare for me to start a series if I haven’t picked it up from the beginning — so I didn’t understand that perspective. I appreciate you elaborating on it for me.

  12. My belief is that if a publisher is unable to finish a series, they should say so. “If you can’t commit, just say ‘I quit’.”
    Now, I’m not saying companies should tell the reasons why they won’t finish ‘x’ series (nor should fans track down the responsible parties and torture out of them why so-and-so series got the axe while far-lamer series kept going; seriously, not worth serving time for), but a “final volume” (like Michelle suggested) would be a start; not a solution, but probably better in the long-term, as opposed to, say, remaining incommunicado while inboxes are flooded with questions, hate mail and death threats as to why ‘x’ publisher has said nothing regarding ‘x’ title).

    There have been far too many series that I followed that fell one or two volumes short of completion before succumbing to silence (and presumed cancellation). Some examples include:

    -Ninin Ga Shinobuden (a.k.a. Ninja Nonsense) (3/4 volumes published by Infinity Studios)
    -Two Flowers For The Dragon (6/7 volumes published by CMX Manga)
    -The Good Witch of the West (6/7 volumes published by Tokyopop)
    -Mamoru The Shadow Protector (3/5 volumes published by DR Master… until I discovered last month that volume 6 was printed in Japan at the end of November 2009… and the series may still be ongoing.)

    Getting back to my original point, all I’m saying is a little honesty would help smooth over a few cracks. (That, and finishing series that are only a few volumes away from completion; if Viz can finish lower-tier series like “Yakitate Japan” [mmm... bread...], then what’s stopping them from pushing out the last few volumes of “Inubaka”? Trying to dissuade people from following scanlations only to drop a lesser-known series they were following will backfire and lose loyal customers- that’s not something to put on “indefinite hiatus”, especially in this economic climate.)

  13. [...] with a couple of bobbles when it comes to long-running series, Viz is still far and away my favorite manga [...]

  14. This is nothing but outright dickheadness!!! Gin Tama is considered as one of the TOP 5 SJ series in japan and for that sake alone it should keep going. It’s funny how they translate an uncensored version of tenjo Tenge, with it’s rapings, yuri references, sex, harsh violence and every third word is the F-one. But since it seems to be about money, I guess they’ve made their WRONG decision. Welllll….I just hafta read scans and wait for someone to continue Gin Tama. I sincerely hope those greedy pigs sitting on their butts in California, gets painful gallstones the size of an orange. i loved Gintama….and still do. Thanks a bunch, #¤%&*!!!!

  15. I think Gin Tama was a all around awesome manga. To hear that Shonen Jump is canceling the series is like killing somebody dear to you. And I don’t understand why in Vol. 23 why does it not have a final volume sticker? But it was strange how it didn’t have a preview for the next volume on there.

    First of all I want to say there are too many manga’s out there that are lame and should be canceled, but they still get continued.

    For example = Bleach because the anime is way past the manga volumes and the other is Naruto because nobody really likes Naruto anymore.

    But some of them are so old that they no longer can finish the story and so they quit the manga.

    Another thing is that they canceled Gin Tama at the worst possible time. The reason why is because in vol 26 I believe Kagura’s brother, Kamui makes a apperance as one of the most blood thirsty villains in the series. Volume 26 is really awesome because of Kamui and his former leader who is the King of the Night as well as king of the yato clan. So it gets really good.

    I do hope however that Gin Tama will be recontinued later on in the future.

  16. [...] Gin Tama ($7.99), which I know best for causing a minor outcry when Viz stopped publishing it in the US with book 23; perhaps this is an attempt to get enough attention/sales to [...]

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