Manga Pod this!

Before we go into this, let’s just get this out of the way now. We are well aware that manga and anime are just commercial products like any other, and they exist to make a profit. Oh yeah and theres tons of links to be found.

As I mulled over Tokyo-Pop’s announcement about Manga Pods, I felt my anger at marketing in general overflow! I feel the crash of the manga market coming down and I am powerless to stop it. It will have nothing to do with what fans have done. It is what marketers at these companies are doing. Ani-manga and World Manga are prime examples of this. Let me say, thank god people aren’t buying this crap or else we would have a real problem on our hands. But they keep producing it, in the hopes that changing the name of what it is will change our minds. The newest marketing name? Manga-Ai. Yeah, I love manga, but I don’t love garbage and I certainly don’t love a company telling me what I should love.

It reminds me of something that happened in the late 90’s in the American comic book industry. In the beginning of the decade, there was this boom of comic love and I was a part of it. I started reading comics in 1994 – This was when X-Men started becoming the mega popular hit it is now and there were some other great stories and artists coming out. But as the decade continued, the market started growing at an insane rate. A lot of small companies started up and died in the same breath and bigger ones were producing tons more titles. They were putting out books without compelling or original writing and variant covers and throwing it on the shelf. They thought it would sell because the market was growing. Well, it all collapsed and for a few years it almost looked like American super-hero comics were going to completely die out thanks to their own ambition. Luckily, that was not the case. They pulled through it, but not without a lot of people losing their shirts and jobs. Comics are back on the rise and I am able to enjoy it again. Right now it is a good time to be a comic book fan. If this collapse happened to the American distribution of manga, I don’t think we would see it survive. Comics have a long history, 60 years worth, in America. Super-heroes are still a staple. Lesser titles will surely die out, but we know that Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, The X-Men, and The Fantastic Four along with others will surely live on.

That’s not how manga works. In general, it’s very rare to see a series with two, three or four decades worth of history and still running. Especially in the American market. Manga is this ever-changing series of stories that are shorter and have an ending. It doesn’t have a steady foundation here in the US. That being said, an industry that did have this foundation still had the floor fall out from under them.

But will a crash kill manga? I’m would bet even money on that fact that even a catastrophic crash could not wipe out manga in America. If and when there is an apocalyptic crash, I see manga fans losing a lot of diversity we take for granted now, but not the death of the manga industry. I see any burgeoning genres dying off and only the most robust titles and genres surviving. I see josei titles, sports manga, and any other oddball niche titles dying off like they had super-cancer-AIDS. I see seinen surviving but being horribly crippled. You will be able to buy some seinen from Dark Horse and maybe some crazy popular fanscan titles but nothing that was not a guaranteed seller. I can’t see shonen and shojo dying off, but I see the surviving manga companies being selective about what they license and licensing sure sellers and maybe testing the waters with the occasional oddball title.

As for a manga crash, I can’t see it being as bad as you make it out to be, Narutaki. I personally think this period of seemingly endless growth for manga is soon coming to an end (heck some people will argue that it’s already coming to an end). But I also think we will just see a readjustment in the industry like we are seeing in the American anime industry. Heck, ADV Manga’s near death and massive scaling back of its licenses shows that there is already some adjustment in the industry.

Well, okay…I admit that I may have over dramatized. My anger was spewing out of control! Thank goodness, Hisui, that you were here in time. I could have been predicting the end of the universe next.

So marketing as a whole basically thinks the public is stupid. And for the most part they are right. We fall for their stuff, but there is always that one thing they don’t hook us with but they continually try to.

Narutaki, you should now by now that marketing is evil, evil, evil, and more evil. Their bread and butter is to make up stupid buzzwords to sell stuff you don’t need and quite possibly don’t even want. My only problem is they seem to be trying to pick a buzzword for American comics with a manga art style that hardcore anime fans and the Internet will accept. The problem is the Internet hates EVERYTHING (except porn and stupid memes and it sort of hates them too)! The people who are going to accept Amerimanga are casual manga fans who don’t really care. They also don’t care what you call it. So I’m not sure whom they are trying to win over.

Well, listen up industry! I am not buying American “manga” because it has a catchy name. It already has a name! It’s called independent comics and graphic novels! I am not buying it because it’s not good and relies on stereotypes and cliches and is only made to jump on the manga train. If its not Japanese, it’s not manga. Just as Korean comics are not manga, but rather manhwa. It can be manga inspired, manga influence, but its not manga. It’s a graphic novel or it’s fan-art.

Before I get my head bitten off about this comment, let me explain: Context matters. Thank you AWO for reminding me of this fact. It matters a hell of a lot. In Japan, manga means comics – All comics. Just as anime is short for animation – All animation. In America, these terms are not blanket terms. They are specific, they mean Japanese animation and Japanese comics. I would never say, “Did you see that new anime by Pixar?” Just as I would not say, “Did you read the new Avengers manga?” Of course there are a few exceptions like the Spider-Man manga, and Kia Asamiya did do some Batman. So, when a company calls something a manga, and its clearly not by anyone Japanese, I tune out because of sheer resentment.

Well one has to keep three things in mind. The first thing to remember, is that manga is expensive to license. The second, is certain manga companies have first shot at licensing titles from Japanese publishers leaving the leftovers for less connected manga companies. And thirdly, it’s an additional cost on top of licensing a manga to make merchandise of a manga you have licensed.

So it’s much easier from a company like Tokyopop to find wannabe cartoonist and pay them slave wages for a mediocre imitation manga. If the comic is super successful then they can merchandise the living daylights out of it. And if it’s not successful it still does not have to sell anywhere near the numbers that a manga has to for the company to break even. Plus you don’t need to hire translators and deal with people being upset with how you translate into English. You also don’t have to worry about people bitching about edits because you control the content. Also most novice comic artists are not necessarily that great at negotiating contracts so you can probably get a better rate out of them then you would out of a publishing company or a professional artist.

What all the companies that make Amerimanga want is the next Megatokyo. Megatokyo started out as a pet project web comic and became this huge Internet juggernaut. Megatokyo jumped from publisher to publisher because it’s author, Fred Gallagher, had the ability to jump ship to better contracts when they were offered to him. I don’t know any of the details behind Fred Gallagher’s contracts but I’m sure he makes CMX a decent amount of money and I’m sure their profit margin (not necessarily actual profit) is much higher with Megatokyo than it is with most if not all their manga titles. So you can see how that would be an alluring idea to American manga companies.

With that said I liked Drama Con. If there is any hope for the idea of manga art style with American artists its somewhere in Drama Con. It took a good idea, namely a comic that takes place at an anime convention and it’s pretty well written and drawn. It does not try to ape manga, but has it’s own idea and runs with it. I think that it’s proof that Amerimanga could be good even if it’s often not. There are good artists out there in America who have good stories to tell while using a manga art style but I don’t see a lot of them coming out right now. Mostly from the reviews I hear that most Amerimanga is mediocre. I could go into why I think that is but that’s another rant.

I’m not saying that American comics aren’t good. As I said earlier, I read super-hero comics and I love them. I’m just insulted that they think they can push mediocre books out the door and slap manga on it and like zombies we will be drawn to buying it without a second thought.

In most media, there are casual fans and hardcore fans. The hardcore fans make up a small percentage but are usually very vocal. Sometimes hardcore fans can sway the tides, but usually they won’t change the numbers enough for anyone to really care. For example, take something like the SpiderMan movies. Sure there was some outcry from hardcore comic fans, but these movies were a huge success. Even with anime you can be a casual fan. I know some. You can watch some on TV or see some on the big screen but you don’t collect merchandise or watch fan-subs. Do you know any casual manga readers? I don’t. I’m sure there are some, but my point is they aren’t the majority. Hardcore fans are.

By the way, there are casual manga fans. They are the kids you always see reading manga in the aisles of bookstore. They read a lot of manga but they only buy popular titles aka Fruits Baskets and Nate the Ninja … I mean Naruto.

But, Hisui, no one actually cares about those people.

P.S.
Where the hell is Trigun 12?

Narutaki Currently!
Watching D.Gray Man
Reading Gentlemen’s Alliance
Listening to Abingdon Boys School

Brainwasher Detective Currently:
Watching Hokuto no Ken
Reading Scrapped Princess Novel 2: Song of the Forgiven
Listening to “We Are!” by Hiroshi Kitadani

2 thoughts on “Manga Pod this!

  1. Link says:

    Hi A-chan!

    I agree with the above post…ers. I suppose they could rename the “Graphic Novels”, “Manga-ai” if it only was tagged onto works translated for us with the original artist etc. But I doubt it’ll happen. Can you blame the marketing? Realisticly no, they’re just doing their job. But we’ll do it anyway cause we know what they aim to do.

    Fan base that has a strong hardcore audience is a good thing. If enough speak out, it can be changed, especially if it ends up hurting sales that much. Though I don’t know if the “National Manga-Loving Americans Society Against Mislabeling Graphic Novels” will be a big organation or not. Hooray NMLASAMGN! … That’s long :D

    In closing “They read a lot of manga but they only buy popular titles aka Fruits Baskets and Nate the Ninja … I mean Naruto.” But I like Naruto ; – ; *cough*

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