Comics Worth Reading » Manga News http://comicsworthreading.com Independent Opinions on Comics of All Kinds Mon, 23 Feb 2015 22:16:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Cover, More Details Released for Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibushttp://comicsworthreading.com/2015/02/08/cover-more-details-released-for-kurosagi-corpse-delivery-service-omnibus/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2015/02/08/cover-more-details-released-for-kurosagi-corpse-delivery-service-omnibus/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 22:12:17 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37699 The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus Volume 1 cover

Dark Horse has now revealed the cover for the upcoming first Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Omnibus. Out in August, the $19.99, 640-page volume will reprint the first two books of the series. (Previously, it was thought to be 3.) If you’re familiar with the series, this cover should look very familiar — it’s the cover to volume 1 with the tagline “your body is their business!” replaced by a banner that says “omnibus edition”.

Although it can be gory, I enjoy the series by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki. It’s a very dark comedy about a mis-matched gang of five kids with vague supernatural abilities who get involved with bringing rest to the spirits of corpses. The situations are often pointed in commentary on the modern condition.

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Digital Manga Starts Overlapping Kickstartershttp://comicsworthreading.com/2015/02/03/digital-manga-starts-overlapping-kickstarters/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2015/02/03/digital-manga-starts-overlapping-kickstarters/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 13:24:55 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37656 Digital Manga continues to ride the Kickstarter wagon. Although their effort to reprint the Finder series is currently struggling, they announced a new Kickstarter, making two they currently have in progress with more to come.

Finder yaoi promo

Finder (not the excellent SF graphic novel series) is a title by Ayano Yamane that Digital Manga calls “undeniably one of the best yaoi manga series in BL existence!” I’ve never heard of or read it, so I can’t speak to that. What I can say is that

  • they want $45,000;
  • they’re effectively charging $15 a book (when many of them are $12 or so on Amazon;
  • they titled the effort “Finder Vol. 1-6 Restock” when they list seven books as offerings, confusing the casual reader;
  • with 13 days to go, they’re less than 60% funded, with over $25,000 pledged

Kicktraq has them expected to only get 85% of goal, based on current patterns, but they also predicted that the Tezuka Ludwig B wouldn’t succeed, and that managed to pull together success at the last minute. The Finder books are due out in April.

Digital Manga promises that if their Finder effort succeeds, “we’ll immediately start working on the next yaoi kickstarter.”

Alabaster Kickstarter

The new Kickstarter is for another Tezuka project, Alabaster. It’s a two-volume series about a vengeful guy with invisible skin described as “darker than Tezuka’s usual fare… a thriller suspense revenge story that touches on the dark side of humanity and the extent one would go to get even.” This one will ship in September, if they get the $29,200 they’re looking for by the end of the month. (Phrased that way, it starts looking like publishing as extortion. “You want this series, hunh? Better pay up!”)

They’re a good 40% of the way there in the first week, so the forecast for this one looks much more promising. That’s in spite of them asking $36 for the two books in print, $6 more than the expected cover retail price. It’s another $4 if you also want the digital companion “filled with data on Japanese culture, history, and Tezuka-style references.” That’s a new twist, paying extra for the endnotes.

They’re also launching “Kickstarter collectibles” to encourage fans to pledge for all their campaigns going forward. It’s a “collector’s edition” laser-printed wooden coin. That’s deviously smart, and it’s available at pledges of $72 and up. If this makes it to $39,000, they’ll also reprint Swallowing the Earth with better paper.

Digital Manga, on the Alabaster Kickstarter page, acknowledge that they’re running multiple efforts at once:

As you may know, we at DMI have another Kickstarter campaign running along with Alabaster. We’re aware that it may seem like a lot of work to fulfill everyone’s expectations and publish the series out in time. There are separate teams in the office working on different campaigns but we are in close communication with each other to monitor each other’s progress. Since this is a publishing house, the production team is used to working on various projects at once while maintaining quality control, checking and rechecking each other’s work.

I’m glad that they remember they’re a publisher. Sometimes it seems like they aren’t sure.

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Has Manga Become a Niche Category?http://comicsworthreading.com/2015/01/23/has-manga-become-a-niche-category/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2015/01/23/has-manga-become-a-niche-category/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 03:28:55 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37623 Ed Chavez, Marketing Director at manga publisher Vertical, has been answering a bunch of questions online recently, and his comments are quite informative.

One that particularly struck me was this answer to the question as to whether manga is becoming more niche.

Knowing that seinen still lacks, even though vocal fans ask for it, kinda tells me that readers either grow out of manga or only stick with a specific type of it… Essentially pigeonholing it (turning it into a niche).

Having talked to some comic/media critics I think it is becoming harder for them to get into manga also.

Will kids still consume the stuff? Sure. I mean, most manga pubs are seeing growth while stores are cutting manga shelves. But unlike the 00s, where a shojo boom introduced a whole new demographic to manga, there hasn’t been a culture-shifting movement recently to break manga out of this current position it has settled into.

I love manga. It kept me excited about comics at a time when I was ready to give up by giving me stories I was more interested in, particularly those starring young women.

However, I agree with what Ed is saying here. I find myself working harder to find series I want to follow. Many new releases seem to fall into pre-existing categories that have already demonstrated success: vampire romance, harem fantasy, adventure quests, and so on. It’s harder to find the kind of female-oriented story that so appealed to me (although Vertical is one of the few still releasing josei manga), or work aimed at adults.

There’s nothing wrong with being a niche — many products, such as superhero comics, have succeeded quite well for decades targeting a specific audience looking for more of the same they already follow. But with so much manga out there still untranslated, I’d like to see support for a wider age range of material. Why does the audience “grow out of it”? Is manga only selling now to customers who already like it?

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Read Shonen Jump for Free for a Monthhttp://comicsworthreading.com/2015/01/19/read-shonen-jump-for-free-for-a-month/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2015/01/19/read-shonen-jump-for-free-for-a-month/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 21:11:07 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37574 To celebrate the three-year anniversary of the launch of the English-language digital Weekly Shonen Jump, Viz Media is giving away four issues online.

Weekly Shonen Jump

Starting with the January 19 issue (today!) through February 9, you can read the magazine containing manga chapters for free at shonenjump.com or through these methods:

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, Weekly Shonen Jump and the special limited time promotion are available to readers in the U.K., Ireland, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand at ShonenJump.viz.com and through the Weekly Shonen Jump App for iOS and Android devices. Additionally in North America, the free Weekly Shonen Jump issues also will be available via the VIZ Manga App and Weekly Shonen Jump App for iOS and Android devices….

Each issue includes top titles One Piece, Naruto, Bleach; comedies One-Punch Man, Nisekoi, Toriko, and Food Wars; the supernatural action of Blue Exorcist and Seraph; sci-fi World Trigger; and the cardtastic action of Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal!

The English translation is available same-day as Japan, and a year’s subscription is only $19.99 US.

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Viking Manga Vinland Saga Put on Hiatushttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/22/viking-manga-vinland-saga-put-on-hiatus/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/22/viking-manga-vinland-saga-put-on-hiatus/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 03:07:09 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37377 I am sorry to hear this, because I very much enjoy reading Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura.

It’s a beautifully illustrated, historical Viking story involving fierce warriors and family legacies and brave women holding down the homefront. The series was being released in hardcover omnibus editions, each containing the equivalent of two paperback volumes, so each one was a lot of reading to descend into.

That may be part of the problem — I’m three volumes behind (there are five out so far) because it takes time and commitment to enjoy the series, being transported to another time and land. I should have been talking about it more, and more consistently.

Anime News Network heard from the publisher, Kodansha Comics, that the release of Volume 6 has been “temporarily suspended”, with Amazon showing a June 2017 release date. Let’s hope that more people discover the series in the meantime and raise demand for it.

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Update: Digital Manga Tezuka Ludwig B Kickstarter Succeeds!http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/22/digital-manga-tezuka-ludwig-b-kickstarter-not-expected-to-succeed/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/22/digital-manga-tezuka-ludwig-b-kickstarter-not-expected-to-succeed/#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 02:49:43 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37375 With three days to go (at the time of writing), Digital Manga’s Kickstarter to publish Ludwig B by Osamu Tezuka is not expected to succeed. Currently, it’s at about two-thirds of goal, 67%, having received less than $15,000 on a goal of $21,600.

Digital Manga logo

After the first two strong days, pledges never picked up. The company upped its Twitter mentions recently, although nothing for the last three days. And the audience, at least in many of the English-speaking countries, is distracted by the Christmas holiday and unlikely to come out in force in the next couple of days. Kicktraq expects them to end at about three-quarters of goal.

I’m sorry to see it, because I don’t think this bodes well for future Tezuka translation plans, after this second Kickstarter failure.

Update: I was wrong By the skin of its teeth — the Kickstarter funded with four hours to go — the Kickstarter has succeeded!

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Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Return Dates From Amazonhttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/21/kurosagi-corpse-delivery-service-return-dates-from-amazon/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/21/kurosagi-corpse-delivery-service-return-dates-from-amazon/#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 21:12:57 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37367 The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Volume 14 cover
The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery
Service Volume 14

This summer, Dark Horse announced that The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service manga series would be continuing. I’m glad to hear it, because I enjoy reading it, and we’d last seen a new volume with 13 at the end of 2012.

Now, Amazon has listings for two related products: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service Volume 14 is showing a release date of July 14, while the first omnibus edition, collecting books 1-3, is due September 8. I would have guessed that that would be the other way around, with a re-release of the early books to give people a good starting point for the continuation, but I’m not a publisher.

Either way, I’ll continue to buy. Particularly since the description for book 14 promises the team will see “competition from an evil rival version of themselves, not to mention an… American cartoon version of themselves?” Sounds great!

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Sgt. Frog Returns as Viz Digital Mangahttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/19/sgt-frog-returns-as-viz-digital-manga/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/19/sgt-frog-returns-as-viz-digital-manga/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:19:24 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37330 Sgt. Frog, a humor manga about a frog-looking alien residing with a “typical” Japanese family by Mine Yoshizaki, was originally published in the US by Tokyopop, which put out 21 volumes beginning in 2004.

Sgt. Frog Volume 1

The alien was supposed to invade, but he’s incompetent, and soon, there’s a group of his friends, all hanging out in the sitcom-like episodic structure. For readers, the chapters make fun of media and culture through their wacky situations.

I enjoyed the series at first, although it paled on me after a while. Now, if you’d like to try it, Viz has begun making the series available digitally.

On December 30, Sgt. Frog Volume 1 will be available for $4.99. Here’s the Viz description:

Sgt. Keroro, commanding officer of Planet Keron’s invasion force, has a problem. After blowing his cover and losing his top-secret weapon, the frog-like alien has been cut off from the home world. To make matters worse, he’s lost communications with the rest of his platoon. Now he has taken cover in the Hinata family household, where in exchange for doing his share of the chores, he gets his own room from which to secretly devise new plans of world domination!

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How’s the Digital Manga Tezuka Kickstarter Doing?http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/10/hows-the-digital-manga-tezuka-kickstarter-doing/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/10/hows-the-digital-manga-tezuka-kickstarter-doing/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 18:05:54 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37276 I was curious to know how the smaller, more affordable Kickstarter launched by Digital Manga at the end of last month to publish Ludwig B was doing, since they picked a rotten time of year to ask for money (although licensing needs and the desire to stay in people’s minds may have been factors in wanting to get back out there quickly).

Currently, with a little over half way done, they’ve reached a bit over half their goal (55%). But after the first couple of days, Kicktraq shows that pledges have dropped dramatically.

Ludwig B daily Kickstarter pledges

However, that site is also predicting, at the time of this writing. that the goal will be met. Many projects follow a similar U-shaped curve, with the most activity near launch and just before completion, but the problem here is that Digital Manga scheduled their project to end on December 26, so I suspect not a lot of people are going to be online in the last few days.

I suggest Digital Manga do more updating — there’s been only one update, a survey link posted last week — and work harder to get people talking on social media. If more people knew that these books are likely to NOT be easily available once the Kickstarter is done, their rates might go up. I’ll do more reporting as we get closer to the end, in two weeks.

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Second Round of Shonen Jump Start Storieshttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/08/second-round-of-shonen-jump-start-stories/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/08/second-round-of-shonen-jump-start-stories/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 04:45:24 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37260 Earlier this year, I wrote about Jump Start, Viz’s program of debuting new series in Weekly Shonen Jump the same day they launch in Japan. Beyond the first three titles, which I wrote about at that link, the following series have appeared in English:

The September 29 issue had the first (extended-length, it felt like) chapter of elDLIVE by Akira Amano, a space exploration story starring an oddball. He hears a voice in his head that always says negative things, but it turns out to be an artificial alien lifeform, as he finds out after being kidnapped by a cute imp to join the space police. The story, appearing in color, has a neat watercolor look to it, although I thought there were a few too many things going on.

Weekly Shonen Jump December 1

The next issue issue, October 6, introduced “Jump Back!”, rerunning the first chapter of the famous Death Note. October 27 added Hi-Fi Cluster (from the first round of Jump Start launches) to the regular lineup. The November 3 issue switched to the first chapter of Naruto as the Jump Back! feature.

Jump Starts began again on November 17 with Takujo no Ageha, a table tennis competition manga by Itsuki Furuya. In keeping with the dreams of the male audience, the series also features a gorgeous, popular girl named Ririka who’s determined to make the hero fall for her because she can’t believe he likes the sport more than her. (She lives at a table tennis center with her pervy grandfather.)

Ryohei Yamamoto’s E-Robot started November 24, featuring an erotic robot who uses her “boob barricade” to save the hero. She was created to bring about world peace and break the cycle of killing by “providing proof of the power of the erotic!” (I was oddly reminded of Wonder Woman here.)

December 1 brought Gakkyu Hotei: School Judgment, which is exciting because it has art by Takeshi Obata (Bakuman, Death Note, Hikaru no Go). The story is by Nobuaki Enoki and is about a grade school court, where 12-year-old students judge each other. There’s a surprising amount of legal information in this first chapter, about a classroom pet fish that’s been killed, while the case concludes in the December 8 issue.

It’s awfully neat seeing such new series, although it’s tricky. You can’t get too attached to them because you’ll likely only see three chapters. I hope to see more of Gakkyu Hotei: School Judgment, though.

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Win the First Manga Dogs Bookhttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/08/win-the-first-manga-dogs-book/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/08/win-the-first-manga-dogs-book/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:00:59 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37252 Manga Dogs Book 1 cover
Manga Dogs Book 1

I enjoyed the humor of Manga Dogs, and I hope you will, too. To win a copy of the first volume in this contest, simply leave a comment below telling me your favorite manga or comic about making comics or manga. A winner will be picked randomly from all entries on Thursday, December 11.

(U.S. addresses only, please. Winners will be emailed to confirm address. If email is not answered within 24 hours or a valid email address is not provided, a replacement winner will be selected. Your email won’t be used for any other purpose.)

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Digital Manga Adds Exclusivity to Kickstartershttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/07/digital-manga-adds-exclusivity-to-kickstarters/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/07/digital-manga-adds-exclusivity-to-kickstarters/#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 19:50:26 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37220 This interview with Hikaru Sasahara, president of Digital Manga, the company struggling with how to publish more works by Osamu Tezuka after their massive Kickstarter failed, has some new information I found surprising and troubling. Near the end come these paragraphs:

Digital Manga logo

The failure of DMP’s ambitious Kickstarter does not mean the end of DMP’s Tezuka program. Sasahara has planned all along to publish some Tezuka titles digitally via DMP’s Digital Manga Guild. In that system, the publisher, licensor, and localizing team (usually a translator, editor, and letterer) all defer payment until the book is published and then take a share of the revenue.

Oh, good. Let’s have fans handle translation for these most-important books. That’ll make for quality, consistent releases.

There’s one more twist: DMP’s Kickstarter funded books will only be available to purchase directly from DMP. However, once books are in print, Sasahara told PW, DMP will look to find a distributor to get the books into the library market.

“Outside of the library, we are thinking to limit Tezuka books only to our direct-to-customer channel, [meaning] all the backers of the Kickstarter campaign would be the first ones to get the book,” he said. DMP has excluded the Tezuka titles from its usual distribution contracts; Sasahara said they will not be distributed to retail stores or to Amazon but will only be available directly from the publisher.

This is stupid, short-term thinking, although I can see where it would seem desirable to blackmail fans to get those Kickstarter pledges up. If Tezuka works are so important to share in English, making the books available for purchase only through them is counter-productive. Avoiding the usual retail channels means that Digital Manga makes a lot more per book, but it makes these books seem like specialty products, not suitable for a general audience. Maybe that’s the right way to go, but it seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy. And one bound to create declining audiences, as the same few customers eventually get tapped out.

Marketing to a wider group increases potential for sales, but it is another cost associated with the product. If a publisher can’t afford to market a major new line of releases, though, then the question once again arises: how much of a real publisher are they?

And if you try to keep books from Amazon, here’s what will happen. Someone will start buying books from Digital Manga and then reselling them on Amazon at a higher price to catch the customers who would rather shop there, from a known quantity that meets its deadlines.

By the way, the latest Digital Manga Kickstarter is about halfway there, and scheduled to end right around Christmas, so they likely won’t get a big last day bump. If this one fails, I don’t know what will happen.

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Ito’s Fragments of Horror, Gyo Re-Release Coming Next Year From Viz Signaturehttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/07/itos-fragments-of-horror-gyo-re-release-coming-next-year-from-viz-signature/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/07/itos-fragments-of-horror-gyo-re-release-coming-next-year-from-viz-signature/#comments Sun, 07 Dec 2014 14:44:26 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37234 I’m not a big fan of horror comics, but I’ve been tempted by Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, because that surreal story of a town overtaken by spirals is less gory, more suspenseful and creepy.

So I’m excited to hear that Viz will be bringing out a short story collection from Ito next summer. Fragments of Horror will be published as a deluxe hardcover under the Viz Signature imprint (and I’m glad to see that’s continuing as well). Here’s the publisher’s description:

Fragments of Horror is the brand-new collection of delightfully macabre tales from the celebrated master of Japanese horror. An old wooden mansion that turns on its inhabitants. A dissection class with a most unusual subject. A funeral where the dead are definitely not laid to rest. Ranging from the terrifying to the comedic, from the erotic to the loathsome, these stories showcase Junji Ito’s long-awaited return to the world of horror.

According to Amazon, Viz will also re-release out Ito’s Gyo as a single volume in April 2015.

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Win Christmas-Themed Manga Serieshttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/06/win-christmas-themed-manga-series/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/12/06/win-christmas-themed-manga-series/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 14:44:39 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37203 Sweet Rein Book 1 cover
Sweet Rein Book 1

You still have a couple of days, I think, to enter Manga Report’s Sweet Rein giveaway, where you can win all three books in the series. The story is lightweight and silly, a great escape for the holiday season. It’s about a young woman who finds out she’s a Santa, someone mystically connected to a boy who can turn into a reindeer, and together they’re supposed to deliver gifts. I’ve talked about all three books previously: Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.

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Digital Manga Launches New, Smaller Tezuka Kickstarterhttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/26/digital-manga-launches-new-smaller-tezuka-kickstarter/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/26/digital-manga-launches-new-smaller-tezuka-kickstarter/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 03:16:08 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37147 After the massive failure of their overly ambitious Kickstarter to publish 31 books by Osamu Tezuka, Digital Manga is back with another try, one they’re calling “Smaller, Quicker, and Affordable”.

Ludwig B by Osamu Tezuka

It’s faster than I expected, frankly, but I suspect that Digital Manga started replanning long before the previous effort finished, given the amount of feedback they got from potential customers. This time, they’re asking for a more reasonable $21,600 to publish two volumes of Ludwig B, Tezuka’s unfinished Beethoven story created late in his life.

In the company’s Q&A, one gathers hints of the feelings behind the choice:

It is a fascinating drama with much emphasis on Ludwig van Beethoven’s rearing life and how he came to be one of the greatest music composers. Tezuka mentioned in his afterword that he relates to Beethoven in many ways, including to being a relocation freak himself. Beethoven changed his residence on 17 occasions in his lifetime, Tezuka moved 8 times before he got married. Tezuka actually visited Beethoven’s apartment in Vienna so you can imagine how much he was into his life while he was working on the title. The story takes you back to the late 1700 to early 1800 in Europe where the aristocrats frequently abuse and oppress the common people. As a commoner himself, Beethoven often encountered prejudice & discrimination but he bravely fought back and used it as motivation to end up being an official composer for the Royal Family.

Q2 – Why did you pick this series?
Because I can relate to the story so much. It’s like myself and my company, Digital Manga, where we are always pushed back by our big competitors with a lot more resources, connections, manpower, etc.

[…] Being poor makes you a great human being!!

The books will have a list price of $15.95, and Kickstarter supporters can get both in print for $32 (plus international shipping; domestic US is included), which seems fair. If you just want digital, the price is two-for-one, both volumes for $15. Many higher-priced tiers include collectible goodies as well. Estimated print date is next July.

Now, whether the previous Kickstarter titles will ever be tried again is an open question. I was once told, given my dislike of some of Tezuka’s old-fashioned “mature” works, that Rainbow Parakeet would be best for me to try. That was one of the titles in the failed effort. If it’s seen as tainted, that would be a shame.

In a statement included in the Kickstarter from the company president, they give this information:

So instead of publishing 50~70 books a year, we have switched the gear to 20~30 volumes. This change would substantially lower the cost of publishing including licensing fees, advanced royalties, labor, and other pertinent expenses. It would still take 20 some years to make all books available but it is way better than waiting 50~60 years. Under this revised schedule, we would still need to run each Kickstarter campaign with 1~5 books while leaving 1~2 weeks breathing period between each campaign in order to reach our milestone of rolling out over 400 books within the given time frame.

So expect to see a lot more Digital Manga Kickstarters this coming year. It remains to be seen whether they get declining results from using the method so frequently.

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Digital Manga Tezuka Kickstarter Fails Miserablyhttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/22/digital-manga-tezuka-kickstarter-fails-miserably/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/22/digital-manga-tezuka-kickstarter-fails-miserably/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 21:02:16 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37113 Last month, on October 21, Digital Manga launched a Kickstarter to publish in print many of Osamu Tezuka’s lesser-known works (since the best-known, like Phoenix, Black Jack, Princess Knight, and Message to Adolf have already been handled by other publishers, mostly Vertical). It was incredibly aggressive, seeking $380,000 in a month, to put out 31 books in six series. (Those titles are The Three-Eyed One Volume 1-13, Rainbow Parakeet Volume 1-7, Wonder 3 Volume 1-3, Alabaster Volume 1-2, The Vampires Volume 1-4, and Birdman Anthology Volume 1-2.) They ended up with just under $27,000, or about 7% of their goal, a significant failure. Given that their previous most successful Kickstarter only raised $49,411, this isn’t surprising.

Digital Manga Tezuka Kickstarter

Digital Manga first began running Kickstarters three years ago, first to reprint a traditionally published Tezuka work, and then, when that was successful, to publish a new book, Barbara. This strategy caused a good amount of debate. Later that year (2012), they put all releases on hiatus, before returning to publish in 2013. As far as I know, their previous Kickstarter promises were fulfilled. (And they were trying to move funding to their customers even earlier, offering preorders to secure sales as far back as 2009.)

This latest effort, though, stunned fans and commenters in its audacity and the amount asked for. There’s a catch, too — the $380,000 would only cover two of the titles, 20 books. To actually get all the books that were being promised as rewards, the company wanted stretch goals that totaled $589,000. That’s ridiculous, and it makes the campaign appear to be launching with false advertising. Sure, some Kickstarters have made that much, but those were ones with a much more widespread, current audience and more modern works.

All 31 of these books were promised to appear next year, an ambitious schedule for a company that has only put out 20 releases in 2014 so far, with nothing coming out since September (based on comic shop data). The books were promised with a cover price of $14 each, which adds up to a total of $434 if you were to buy all of them as a bookstore customer.

The reward tiers are rather complicated, as can be seen by the company having to use spreadsheets to indicate what promised items would be sent to whom depending on how much money they got. Many of the tiers used goodies and giveaway-style items — keychains, tote bags, posters, and other ephemera.

Quickly, the company added a reward of just all the printed books — but you needed to pledge $750, or about $24 a title. (I’m unclear on whether the tiers included shipping. If not, that makes for an even higher price. And at holiday time, when money can be tight, between gifts and travel costs.) That’s a lot for standard paperback format manga, without hardcovers or other upscale packaging. They later added a tier with $420 for all the books in digital, which comes a lot closer to cover price, and changed the all books level to $650 for print and digital.

This was stated to be based on feedback, which I read as their response to fans saying, “I’m not paying that.” While it’s a good thing to be responsive, this thrashing about gives the impression of a company that doesn’t quite know what it’s doing, or at least hasn’t thought things through. They seem to be wanting to see fans as a bank for their desires instead of a community that needs to be nurtured and might revolt. Many potential buyers complained that while they would support the release of all the books, they couldn’t commit such a large amount all at once.

The company president, Hikaru Sasahara, released a video and a statement, which began

We have recently learned that some of the backers voiced a concern that our tier pledges are too pricy and we would like to address explanations to this particular issue as we firmly believe our pricing is appropriate and legitimate.

That’s not helpful. If potential customers are saying, “no, I won’t pay, it’s too much”, responding, “is not!” doesn’t address the issue. I suspect that point is when many fans simply gave up on the effort. This chart from Kicktraq supports that assumption, with very little activity after the first week:

Kicktraq Daily Pledges

Kicktraq Daily Pledges

The president’s statement continued:

There are certain technical issues that are involved in our current endeavors of bringing the entire Osamu Tezuka manga library to the world and that may be difficult for the majority backers to understand.

So not only are people not supporting them wrong, they’re also ignorant. Someone get this guy a competent PR person, stat! You think I’m joking, but one of their project updates was an ad for a Sales Marketing Manga Specialist.

Seriously, the “invisible costs” he talks about are those that are typical of a publisher’s responsibilities — enough staff to do a good job, travel costs to work with the property owner, and so on. He also emphasizes how they want to get out all of Tezuka’s works in 5-6 years instead of 50-60. That’s admirable, but it may not be a goal the market can bear, and your accelerated schedule isn’t my problem. Perhaps your company, at its current size, isn’t the right venue for this, although I know that’s not an option under consideration. He acted as though customers weren’t flocking to the project because they didn’t understand, when the case was that they disagreed with the strategy and approach.

Another bobble — a week into the project, they noticed that Kickstarter rules prohibited “coupons and gift cards” so they had to change their rewards from an online bookstore gift card to a digital book.

Digital Manga Kickstarters have succeeded in the past with a relatively few number of backers. They have deep, not wide, support, which meant that they were trying to distribute a much greater amount of money across relatively few people. Given their $650 book level, they would have needed over 900 backers to pledge at that level. They got 115. Were they expecting the loyal to subsidize production (and pay extra per book) so they could price the individual releases lower later?

Their followup FAQ says, “we will rethink our overall kickstarter strategy in terms on tiers/stretch goals, etc, to meet the needs of our backers.” Let’s hope so.

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Yen Press Rescues Kaoru Mori’s Emmahttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/16/yen-press-rescues-kaoru-moris-emma/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/16/yen-press-rescues-kaoru-moris-emma/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 23:28:31 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37074 Emma by Kaoru Mori

This was announced last month at the New York Comic Con, I think, but the book is now available for pre-order. I’m thrilled to hear that the manga Emma is coming back into print from Yen Press. They currently release A Bride’s Story by the same author, Kaoru Mori, as well as a one-shot of her shorter pieces, Anything and Something.

Emma was previously published in the US from 2006-2009 by CMX, the now-defunct manga imprint of DC Comics. It’s the story of a Victorian maid and the young man of good family who falls in love with her. They struggle to overcome class differences while Mori draws the details of their life and her work in attractive, well-researched detail.

Yen will be publishing it in hardcover volumes. The first is due out next May. The list price is currently $35, which is a lot, but I’m unclear on whether it will contain the equivalent of two or three paperbacks. There were 10 volumes published previously, plus a related single volume, Shirley, which contained short stories done before the longer series. Yen might be doing five two-book volumes or four three-book ones with extras. Either way, I’m glad to see it available again. It’s a good read that I’m sure more people would like to enjoy.

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We Talk Recently Read Manga in Bookmarked!http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/13/we-talk-recently-read-manga-in-bookmarked/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/13/we-talk-recently-read-manga-in-bookmarked/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 22:51:25 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=37066 The Garden of Words cover
The Garden of Words

I was honored to be asked to participate in this week’s Bookmarked!, a column where Kate Dacey, Brigid Alverson, and a guest talk casually about what they’re reading this week.

Learn what I thought about the fifth volumes of the series What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Genshiken Second Season, and Judge, as well as a quick take on The Garden of Words. There’s also talk about Legal Drug and some other Vertical titles.

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Vertical Announces Digital Tezuka Cominghttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/08/vertical-announces-digital-tezuka-coming/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/11/08/vertical-announces-digital-tezuka-coming/#comments Sat, 08 Nov 2014 22:10:51 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=36953 Buddha Volume 1 cover
Buddha Volume 1

On their Tumblr, Vertical Comics has announced that all of the titles they publish by Osamu Tezuka will be available digitally in coming months. They plan to start with the out-of-print titles, Apollo’s Song and Black Jack (17 books).

Unlike other manga publishers, Vertical doesn’t have their own app nor do they use ComiXology. Their digital books will be available through “the Apple iBookstore, Kindle, Nook, and hopefully Google Play”. They’re planning for 2-3 books added every 2-3 weeks. Future titles include:

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How Manga Pricing Workshttp://comicsworthreading.com/2014/10/03/how-manga-pricing-works/ http://comicsworthreading.com/2014/10/03/how-manga-pricing-works/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:13:44 +0000 http://comicsworthreading.com/?p=36708 Over at the Diagonal, the Vertical Tumblr, Ed Chavez, the Marketing Director for the notable manga publisher, has put out some insight into how manga volumes are priced. (I’m assuming that Ed handles the Tumblr. It’s not credited.)

Vertical logo

First, in relation to an announcement of two upcoming titles, a fan complains that the seinen titles (those manga aimed at adult males) are priced at $13 instead of $10. The response includes some key facts about Vertical’s pricing:

  • All seinen releases are at least $12.95. This is due to the inclusion of color pages and the bigger format size.
  • Hardcovers are priced at $20 or above.
  • The price points for the company have stayed the same for six years.
  • Shonen and shojo titles are priced at $10.95
  • In Japan, seinen titles are also usually more expensive that shonen and shojo.
  • This is due to seinen generally selling less than the younger-focused genres.

A later post lists all of Vertical’s titles, with prices, since 2009. There’s a good discussion of pricing decisions there, based on the success of the market. I’m impressed to see a publisher being so open.

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