Goodbye Del Rey, Hello Kodansha USA

Goodbye Del Rey, Hello Kodansha USA

Goodbye Del Rey, Hello Kodansha USAWhen Kodansha announced they were creating a U.S. manga division a couple of years ago, I think we manga fans all saw this as Kodansha attempting to cut out the middle man and increase their profits. After all, if Del Rey can make a ton of cash off of a title like Negima!, how much more money would Kodansha make in profit by not having licensing costs? So, it was a matter of time before Kodansha did what we all expected them to do — take back all of their licenses. It started with TokyoPop but now has moved to Del Rey, who will now be completely out of the manga business with their parent company Random House handling Kodansha USA’s publishing and distributing.

I remember when Del Rey first entered the manga market. Amongst the first manga titles they licensed was Akamatsu-sensei’s Negima! Having been a huge fan of Akamatsu-sensei’s previous manga, Love Hina, I was really excited to read his latest creation despite the rumors that it might just be a ripoff of Harry Potter. Then Del Rey threw up a trial balloon that had me VERY unhappy — they were considering editing the manga due to the ecchi nature of the series. My immediate thought was, “if you feel the need to edit it, then maybe you shouldn’t license it, bozos!”

Fortunately, it was only a trial balloon and Del Rey decided to release Negima! in shrink wrap, a laughable practice considering that TokyoPop had published the seinen series Ai Yori Aoshi with its very detailed topless female nudity and with no shrink wrap. Negima! had only nondescript Barbie Doll nudity in it so I couldn’t figure out why they were so worried. Today, Del Rey doesn’t bother with the shrink wrap on current titles.

With that hurdle aside, the next major one for me would be how they adapted their manga. As you guys know, I want Japanese honorifics left in the adaptations and I want my manga to be accurate. When Negima! first hit the U.S. market, I was very pleased to see that the Japanese honorifics were retained. Not only that, but Del Rey made it clear that retention of honorifics was their company policy and that told me that 100% of Del Rey titles were going to have acceptable adaptations for me. As such, my manga collection is heavily weighted with Del Rey releases. ^_^

While Del Rey certainly lead the way to have other manga companies also retain honorifics in their titles, they’ve had their share of issues as well. For starters, shortly after Negima! began to be published in the U.S., I heard some fans complaining about the adaptation. It wasn’t until 2007 that I became fully aware of how the first five volumes of Negima! contained a great deal of rewrites, especially volume 1 (you can read about that here). They may have retained the Japanese honorifics, but the accuracy was out the door (which is why the early English adapted volumes indicate that Negi sucked at magic school when in fact he excelled at it).

Next, Del Rey allowed a couple of translator/adapters to drop the Japanese honorifics from a couple of manga titles (you can read my rant about that here). Then they released a Japanese novel and again dropped the Japanese honorifics. So I, as a huge consumer of Del Rey releases, was not happy about that at all, though I continued to support the titles I liked. The negatives, while certainly big enough to get me roaring, were never enough to outweigh the positives. ^_^

So now Kodansha U.S.A. takes over. From what it sounds like, Dallas Middaugh will still be in charge of things on the Random House side. How it affects the translators used is another question (I’ve made some inquiries and so far, it appears there are no changes) as is Kodansha U.S.A’s policy on honorifics and accuracy of adaptation. I’m hoping that nothing will change there and that Random House will be in charge of those decisions. We’ll see though.

Assuming the Kodansha U.S.A./Random House partnership sees me through the honorifics and accuracy aspects, maybe we’ll see some other positives. For example, I’d like for the original color pages from the original publication of the manga to be used in the volumes we buy. I don’t care if the Japanese tankoubons don’t have them but I would like them for the U.S. releases. Further, on a title like Negima!, I’d like to see the limited edition manga cover art printed as a page in the U.S. release. I’d also like to see Kodansha U.S.A. decide to release bloody pactio cards over here as well.

Another thing I’d like to see is the return of Kodansha titles like Love Hina (only with a new translation). Maybe we’ll finally get that.

Also, maybe now that Kodansha has a U.S. presence, we can get simultaneous, digital releases of manga chapters as they come out in Japan. That would freaking rule!

One thing that I wonder about are Dark Horse’s Kodansha licenses. Their biggest is Oh! My Goddess but I’ve heard nothing of Kodansha pulling those licenses. Indeed, Kodansha took licenses from TokyoPop and granted them to Dark Horse, including a number of CLAMP titles like Chobits and Cardcaptor Sakura. It seems odd to me that Kodansha wouldn’t want to have control over 100% of their licenses unless their deal with Dark Horse is similar to their deal with Random House.

Regardless, I shall watch this with great interest and a hand on my wallet in case Kodansha U.S.A. decides to go domestic on me. ^_~

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24 Responses to “Goodbye Del Rey, Hello Kodansha USA”

  1. Cube says:

    >>>I’d also like to see Kodansha U.S.A. decide to release bloody pactio cards over here as well.

    Word. What I’d pay to get my hands on those!

  2. Zeether says:

    The article on Publisher’s Weekly says that Kodansha USA’s expansion will also include “continued licensing of Kodansha manga to other licensees.”

    I hope we can get the stuff they pulled from Tokyopop released again like Love Hina and Initial D. The latter would make me very happy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I hope Negima and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei can moved to a volume release every 3 months and Im praying for Moyashimon to get a more consistent release rather than one volume a year.

  4. Ultimaniac says:

    Oh god, you reminded of the dreaded quidditch reference in vol 1 >_> And in Vol. 2 when the headmaster pronounced Yue’s name “you”

    I think the dialogue said something like “Now for you uh…Yue.”

  5. Nick says:

    So will all the current Delray manga be pulled then switched with Kodansha USA?

  6. Nick says:

    oh and since im missing a few volumes of negima, will kodansha have all the volumes re-released?

  7. This will be an interesting transition from Del Rey, a fairly decent pro-scanlation group to a staunchly anti-scanlation Kodansha USA.

    Now the interesting part is luring the people out of the interwebz (scanlations) to the manga volumes at manga stores and bookstores near you… Now I am imagining that people would support the authors, but there will be a small group that will still scan the manga and bonuses. Hmm… an incentive to get people to get the special edition of the volume.

  8. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @Cube — so would I.

    @Zeether — I think they will do so but we’ll see.

    @Anon — I think the release schedule will be up to Random House as they are the distributor.

    @Ultimaniac — Yeah, it was pretty bad. I can’t read the first two volumes from Del Rey any more.

    @Nick — I think that’s the plan. I’m not sure if all of the Del Rey manga will be pulled in favor of reprinted volumes with the Random House/Kodansha USA label or not. My experience as a bookseller says that for normal paperbacks, this would be done but I just don’t know if the same could be said for manga titles.

    As to re-releasing something, I’m sure that titles that sell well like Negima! will continue to have the older volumes printed as needed.

    @yakitatefreak — I don’t think that Del Rey was necessarily pro-scanlation.

  9. Sian says:

    i think that simutanious release might be slightly to optimistic … but i certainly see it as a possibility, specially if they get enough requests for it, that they’ll push it so it’s released (for a minor fee … would $0.95 a chapter sound high?) in US chapter by chapter at a regular rate 1 or 2 weeks after the Japanese

  10. There seem to be a few misconceptions that I’d like to help clear up if I may.

    Kodansha does not own any manga properties. They’re all owned by their original creators, for most of whom, Kodansha’s licensing division acts as agent. That means that Kodansha USA will still have to license titles from Kodansha’s licensing division or from the creator’s private agents — and pay competitive licensing fees. In other words there will be licensing fees no matter who gets rights to the series. Of course Kodansha, like any agent, has a great influence over the creators, but the creators get final say.

    In a similar vein, CLAMP is represented by their own agent (actually agency), and they can license to anyone they want without Kodansha having any say in it whatsoever.

    The shrink-wrapping, preposterous or not, was most likely a request from the book buyers, not a decision made by Del Rey alone. Some venues (like big-box stores) will only take a certain level of risque content — and very inconsistently at that — and if your content falls over their perceived line, they will reject it. I think shrink wrapping was a much better solution than censorship, and pulling off some shrink wrap really isn’t that much of a pain for the readers.

    The reason Negima was singled out for this treatment is that best sellers will always attract much more attention than those manga that don’t make it onto the list. When it comes to the editorial content of mid- and low-level titles, you can get away with a lot more than you can with a best-seller. When I worked in editorial at Viz, it was always much more fun to work on the second and third-tier titles. Top-tier titles always have committee after committee outside the company telling you to reword or redraw. And since Negima is still Del Rey’s top-selling title, its problem was its success.

  11. fg7dragon says:

    It finally happened! Hopefully there won’t be any more censored covers and the like!
    Now if they would just lay off the scanlation websites and let us enjoy ourselves…

  12. Zeether says:

    There was going to be a Kodansha USA panel at NYAF but it got canceled. I hope they will find a way to get in touch with fans because I have questions to ask and I’m sure you do too, ANB.

  13. Tim says:

    I’d be happy as long as Kodansha USA manages to rerelease Negima with brand new translations. For that I’m willing to rebuy all 27 volumes.

    (shurgs) It’s no different from when I rebought Yotsuba& when the rights were switched from ADV to Yen Press.

    Though with Negima, it’d be that times 5…. my poor wallet, but it’ll be worth it.

  14. Al Hudson says:

    I hope you remember me AstroNerdBoy, because I haven’t been around for a while, but I wanted to ask you about this. I saw your interview last night at Western Otaku and I think you did an outstanding job explaining how we Christians deal with nudity in anime and manga and how it’s not us but the progressive government who is out to force censorship on anime and manga.

    What I wanted to ask about though was an attack comment I saw there that left me speechless with its maniacal ranting. I took a screen grab just in case because I expected it to be removed shortly and thankfully it was. You rarely see venomous rage like this even in politics discussions, much less at an anime blog, so I was hoping you could shed some light on what that was all about. Who is this Wilcox bozo and what the heck is his problem with you?

  15. AstroNerdBoy says:

    His Internet name is whatever he thinks will get him noticed but to us, he is Psycho Troll. Like all psychos, there is no reason for his vitriol except in his mind. The fact that he’s been doing this for years should tell you the rest.

    Thanks for alerting me as we’ve forwarded this and all of his other rants to the FBI.

  16. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Oh, and before I forget, thanks Mr. Flanagan for the information. That explains a lot. ^_^

  17. jeff-morris says:

    One wee correction, ANB–the final volume of Ai Yori Aoshi was shrink-wrapped due to the adult content.

    Took me forever to get the thing off. 🙂

  18. Al Hudson says:

    Glad I could help. For years, wow… He almost sounds more like someone in need of psychiatric attention than an FBI case, but obviously they need to track him down first to put him on medication. As disgusting as this kind of behavior is, I can’t help but pity this person a little if this irrational hatred is all he has in his life. I hope they can solve the case soon, because you must be fed up beyond belief having to put up with this kind of attention for such a long time. I’ll definitely say a prayer for you and the speedy resolution of this and maybe even for the lunatic, because he sure seems to need help from God to be saved from himself. Hang in there!

  19. Krono says:

    I must say I’m somewhat concerned how this will work out. Kodansha taking it’s titles back resulted in Rave Master releases stopping three volumes short of completion. I’d heard Del Rey was supposed to have acquired the license, but that’s clearly fallen into publishing hell, probably partially as a result of this.

    I’m also concerned as Del Rey is the publisher of Fairy Tail. They’ve done a very good job on it, far better than Tokyopop did with Rave Master. Publisher priorities being what they are, the series is only up to 12 volumes of the soon to be 23 volumes. I will be rather unhappy if it falls into publisher hell as well, or if the new upper management starts pushing changes to translation policies that are working quite well for Fairy Tail.

    Also while this will hopefully result in some series that are out of print getting another print run, I’m not optimistic that any series that got a hack job translation like the early volumes of Negima will get new translations. That’s just not the way buisnessmen’s minds work without a lot of demand.

  20. cynicalicious says:

    All of this is why I’m glad I bothered to learn Japanese. (It’s not the reason why, though.)

    It’s a nice side benefit to not get jerked around by both JP and NA publishers anymore, and if I want to blame the translator for doing a crappy job, I just have to look in the mirror, crack a book, and study harder.

  21. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @Jeff — I didn’t remember that being the case but I’ll take your word on it considering that last volume pushed out there. ^_^;

    @Al — We’ll see what they do. All I could do was have a case file created.

    @Krono — The impression I’m getting from the few translators I’ve talked to who did work for Del Rey is that things still look OK. If William pops back in here, maybe he can toss in his 2-cents on the subject. ^_^

    @cynicalicious — Even learning Japanese, I will say that I wish that Japanese tankoubons were the size of American paperback volumes. I like the larger size we get here. I know going through my Negima! volumes to check certain text, at times I’m distressed at the smallness of the text in side chats that happen.

    This too reminds me that I need to get the books back out and start studying again.

  22. […] Kodansha USA basically booted Del Rey out of the manga publishing world to take over, I decided to be mostly positive in how I took this.  I ignored a lot of the concerns I had read then.  However, as Kodansha […]

  23. […] they are a changing.  Last year, Del Rey all but completely dropped from the manga publishing field (save for a very few titles like […]

  24. […] left with everyone (the “gradual takeover” qualification aside).  We were all saying farewell to Del Rey and wondering what the future would be like for titles such as Negima! and xxxHOLiC.  So why is […]

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