The World’s Greatest First Love Publishing Schedule Delayed

The World's Greatest First Love volume 1 cover

The World’s Greatest First Love: The Case of Ritsu Onodera was announced last June by SuBLime, and the yaoi community was happy. (The series was announced four years ago from Tokyopop but never came out before they shut down their publishing arm.) There’s a devoted fandom for works by Shungiku Nakamura (and an associated anime), and the plan was to release all eight books in the series bimonthly, starting in February 2015.

Except things didn’t work out that way. Volume 1 came out in mid-April. Volume 2 has now been rescheduled for the end of July, and the following books have been cancelled. SuBLime says that’s temporary, due to glitches in the approval process. In their news post earlier this month, they stated

The World's Greatest First Love volume 1 cover

As you may or may not know, when a publisher licenses a book from Japan, there are certain parts of the book we need to send to the Japanese publisher and mangaka for approval (the cover, color pinup, credits page, etc.). Until those items are approved, we cannot send the book to the printers.

This brings me to The World’s Greatest First Love. The approvals process is no different for this series, and Sensei (Shungiku Nakamura) must review all of the above-mentioned parts of the book. Unfortunately, Sensei’s current schedule is making it too difficult for her and for us to meet an every-other-month release schedule. Going forward, what we must do is wait for Sensei to approve the volume and then do what we call a schedule “drop in,” which we will start doing with V3 (V2 is unaffected).

What is a drop in? When we have a situation such as this one where we do not have a way to schedule the release dates ahead of time, then we must drop each volume into the release schedule as they are ready. Since this will affect volumes three through five, we will have to pull the current preorders down from retail sites, and that will cancel all existing preorders for those specific volumes. This is something that is out of our control as retailers will not allow us to keep a book up for preorder that does not have a set release date.

This strikes me as unusual. I would assume that, by the time a series is planned and announced for US release, most of the approvals have been taken care of. Or at worst, the schedule for such is understood. For a creator to hold up the process to the extent of not being able to commit to future release dates for books is not typical — particularly since without set dates, retailers can’t take preorders, which will damage sales plans and potentially depress print runs.

I’m not a huge yaoi fan, but I found the premise of The World’s Greatest First Love intriguing, since it’s about a privileged young man who winds up working as a shojo manga editor. Ritsu was a book editor, but since he was working at his father’s company, he got tired of accusations he only got his job because of connections. He aims to prove himself by moving to another publisher, but he winds up working in the shojo department even though he knows little about the genre. His new boss turns out to be his first love from high school, of course.

Unfortunately, while I enjoyed the bits of information about the manga industry (similar to Bakuman), the “love story” was pedestrian and way too typical of the genre in the wrong ways. I don’t like stories where one partner has to be pressured into admitting his feelings, because the idea of consent is important to me. The art also seemed generic, with the young man appearing childlike, which adds another level of creepiness.

The emphasis is, of course, on the soap opera, with various rivals for attention and such in between the forced kisses. I couldn’t keep some of the characters separate in my head (the two bosses look a lot alike), and when we got to the rape scene, where one character is being fondled, actually says “no! stop!”, and is ignored, I gave up on the series.

But learning how shojo editors put together a book proposal, with survey popularity results and marketing plans and estimates of publication numbers, as happens in the second volume, was kind of neat.

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