Dark Horse: Teasing You With With Manga Release Schedules We Have No Intentions of Keeping

Dark Horse: Teasing You With With Manga Release Schedules We Have No Intentions of Keeping

Negima!? Episode 24What I’m about to write is probably the most difficult thing I’ve written when it comes to my opinion.  That said, recent events have compelled me to get up on the old soap box, grab the megaphone, and then preach to the choir. However, maybe some good will come of this.

Dark Horse.

As one of the pioneers of manga publishing in the U.S., Dark Horse has been a player in the business for a long time.  OK, back then, they didn’t believe that Americans would accept unflipped manga (you know, because we aren’t in Japan and thus shouldn’t read our books backwards) and they inserted a fair amount of domestication to attempt to make their product more acceptable to a general public.  They attempted to get folks on board with the concept of manga published like an American comic book (Oh My Goddess) which failed but they did try.

Eventually, Dark Horse decided to abandon the notion of flipped manga and decided to republish their Oh My Goddess series unflipped and as the Japanese tankoubon.  They even updated the translation to be more real to the subject matter, though they wouldn’t go full out on honorifics.  For the first ten volumes of Oh My Goddess, Dark Horse even reproduced the original color pages as they appeared when first published in Afternoon magazine.

More recently, Dark Horse has stepped things up even more with their license rescues of CLAMP titles such as Chobits, Cardcaptor Sakura, Clover, etc.  These titles included a great deal of color artwork, color manga pages, and at least in the case of Chobits and CCS, the new translations contained full Japanese honorific usage.  Dark Horse’s treatment of the CLAMP license rescues has shown a great deal of commitment to quality and that is something they should be praised for.

Dirty PairThat said, there’s one thing that Dark Horse just frustrates the heck out of me over and that’s their bloody release schedule.

Back when I decided to go ahead and give Fairy Tail a “go,” I ordered all of the remaining seven manga volumes released by Del Rey.  At the same time, I ordered The IT Crowd DVDs and to complete things, I decided to go ahead and order Magic Knight Rayearth to continue my CLAMP education.  After several days and my order wasn’t going through, I decided to find out what was causing the delay.  It didn’t take me long to discover that Magic Knight Rayearth, which was supposedly scheduled for release on January 18, 20011, was STILL not released.  I had to cancel that from my order in order to get the rest of my loot.

If this had been the first time that Dark Horse had done this, then it wouldn’t matter to me.  However, I go back to the days of Oh My Goddess when the decision was made to start releasing the series unflipped and re-release the old volumes in an unflipped, proper form.  A release date would be announced for “volume X” and then that release date would keep getting pushed back.

When Dark Horse announced they’d licensed Ah! My Goddess: Colors, I was very happy because while I already had the Japanese book, I wanted the English copy too.  Unfortunately, that book got delayed so many times, eventually I just stopped looking for it.  It was a year later before I even bought the thing after checking on a whim to see if it were still in limbo in terms of publication status.  (You can read my review of that book here.)

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood 17So as you can see from these few examples, Dark Horse has a long track record of announcing a release date for a manga title, then delaying it multiple times.  Even now, in addition to Magic Knight Rayearth being pushed back indefinitely, volume 2 of Cardcaptor Sakura omnibus edition has already been pushed back and apparently is held indefinitely as well. That’s pretty frustrating.

As I’ve said in my recent reviews of some Dark Horse manga titles, I don’t mind waiting for high quality materials and Dark Horse is delivering high quality goods for the most part.  However, putting out a release date and then delaying it multiple times is not a way to stay in the good graces of your manga customer base.  The way I see it, when a company says, “We will release such-and-such manga on this specific date,” it means that the book is ready for prime time and that it is just a matter of rolling it off the presses, packing them into boxes, and shipping them to stores and customers.  It should NOT mean, “well, we’d like to release it on such-and-such date, but we haven’t even translated it yet and the dog ate the source materials from Japan so we have to basically start from scratch again.  Oops, now the dog took a dump on the translator, who has subsequently quit so now we have to find a new translator and we have to take the dog to obedience classes.  Maybe we’ll get the book out a year after we initially said we’d have it out.”

To me, a partial solution to this problem would be to not put out a release date unless Dark Horse is 99% sure they can meet it.  That way, fans aren’t given expectations that are then subsequently crushed when Dark Horse has to repeatedly delay the release of their product.  Then, Dark Horse should do a better job of getting the word out about titles they’ve licensed but for which seemingly have an insane waiting period between announcement and eventual release.  I realize that as a company, they don’t want to air dirty laundry or reveal anything else that might put them at a disadvantage, but fans would prefer to hear something rather than silence.  And no, I don’t consider publishing a few words on a industry-known message board to be getting the word out.

Well, I got that off my chest and feel better for it.  I love the quality Dark Horse has put into the recent titles I’ve purchased.  However, the routine delays in getting product to market has long ago gotten old and in my opinion, Dark Horse should address this issue.

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14 Responses to “Dark Horse: Teasing You With With Manga Release Schedules We Have No Intentions of Keeping”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I feel your pain…

    I have a similar problem with a DH title, Translucent. I’ve been waiting for vol. 4 for some time now. I had seen it up on Amazon as shipping back in August 2010, but that never happened.

    It’s not just Dark Horse. I’ve noticed that a couple of other manga publishers, VIZ and Del Ray (before the Kodansha takeback) stopped giving out release dates on upcoming stuff. It ticks me off because I use the information to know when a particular volume is coming out.

    Maybe it’s because of the “uncertain economy” that’s causing them to keep tight lipped about this. If you don’t say you’re going to publish it, no one can get mad at you if you don’t.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Shit happens, dude. I’m sure they have their reasons and I don’t see what the big deal is having to wait a little longer. Ranting about it isn’t going to speed things up anyway. I’ve seen you say you have a huge backlog of things to watch, so you could look on the bright side and get on those while you wait instead of getting upset over this.

    The problem with fans these days is that they have to get everything now now now, or else. People look for excuses to trash talk companies, refuse to buy and pirate instead. Yes times are tough and spending a lot on anime and manga isn’t an option for many, but if people don’t buy that means trouble for companies and it’s not unexpected if release schedules slip due to the budget getting too tight. Too many fans don’t think about that though, all they do is complain.

  3. James says:

    Where’d you get those sell dates?

    In many cases, this isn’t just a Dark Horse or even a manga problem. When a book is solicited, Amazon (or your distributor of choice, but Amazon’s infamous for it) will put in a date without having any data. There are plenty of times when an author will be writing a sequel but won’t have finished. Until the author’s done writing, there’s no way of knowing when the book will be released, so when the date’s come and gone, Amazon just pushes the release back, but again the selection’s completely random. And that’s just because they set up the system so they have to put in a release date.

  4. Lan says:

    Why don’t you just take their release schedule into account? We all know full well that EVERY release is pushed back, so just keep this in mind when purchasing.
    I’ve been buying the unflipped editions of Oh My Goddess from the beginning. Back then they promised that the re-releases would meet the white spine editions in 2012, and so far at least this is proving true. So it’s not all that annoying.

  5. William says:

    Why blame Amazon for publishers pushing upcoming release news for publicity purposes without even knowing when the books can be published? That’s what breaks the system, not the fact that Amazon mandates a release date–by all rights a release should have one, that’s why it’s called a *release* date. Some people must think the date applies to press releases or something. If it’s not yet possible to give a book a release date, it’s too early to announce the release, period.

  6. fernan says:

    it happens, Dark horse comics though something like big o! was a quality anime show, wtf where they thinking, either way i guess we;ll just have to wait.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I support your complaint. Thought it might be a Kodansha issue with the CLAMP titles and the lack of GATE 7 mangettes news, but GATE 7 is a Shueisha title and from the few other comments, it’s a DH issue. And why are publishers around the world pushing out manga at a faster pace than the US once. Not more mind you, just faster as in, they are at volume 21 while the US is at 7. Back to the issue, I don’t think Amazon makes up dates. DH used to have certain titles on their website with the same dates…and now, they don’t. What’s up????

  8. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Hmmmm…

    It’s not just Dark Horse. I’ve noticed that a couple of other manga publishers, VIZ and Del Ray (before the Kodansha takeback) stopped giving out release dates on upcoming stuff.

    Well, they didn’t completely stop giving release dates. At the end of last year, Viz did push back several titles to this year in March for some reason (Hayate the Combat Butler being one of them). Del Rey did occasionally push out a title’s release date. However, for the most part, they release on schedule whereas Dark Horse has never kept a release schedule for anything I’ve purchased.

    If you don’t say you’re going to publish it, no one can get mad at you if you don’t.

    True, but DH is saying “We are releasing this book on such-and-such date” and then pushing the date out several times before they finally release it.

    I’m sure they have their reasons and I don’t see what the big deal is having to wait a little longer.

    It isn’t a matter of waiting a little longer. The manga in question had been scheduled for release on January 18. So, I put out an order for several titles and expected to wait until the 18th when everything would be shipped to me. When after a while only one DVD was slated to be shipped and everything else held, then I get irritated when I have to dig out the trouble and find that Dark Horse has pushed the release date out again.

    Ranting about it isn’t going to speed things up anyway.

    Well, it made me feel better! ^_~

    …it’s not unexpected if release schedules slip due to the budget getting too tight.

    Except in Dark Horse’s case, they are notorious for not being able to keep a release schedule and it had nothing to do with budgets. Now, I buy anyway but my whole point is that a company shouldn’t be telling consumers, “we’ll have this product for sale on this specific date” but then keeps changing the date. A release date should only be given when the title has a 99% certainty of being released on that date, not wishful thinking.

  9. AstroNerdBoy says:

    When a book is solicited, Amazon (or your distributor of choice, but Amazon’s infamous for it) will put in a date without having any data.

    My understanding, based on having worked many years in both the book publishing and book selling side of the business, is that the publisher provides the release date. On the seller’s side, a popular author’s title could then be advertised as coming up for sale on that date. Therefore, when a release date is given, it should mean that this product will come to market.

    As to Amazon, when I went to purchase the Max Headroom DVD set, there wasn’t a date listed until they received one from the distributor. So while I can’t say they don’t make up dates, my gut feeling is that they take whatever dates the publisher/distributor puts out.

    As to MKR specifically, I’m told that Dark Horse pulled the book from their release schedule in December 2010 but have coded it for re-solicitation.

  10. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Why blame Amazon for publishers pushing upcoming release news for publicity purposes without even knowing when the books can be published? That’s what breaks the system, not the fact that Amazon mandates a release date–by all rights a release should have one, that’s why it’s called a *release* date. Some people must think the date applies to press releases or something. If it’s not yet possible to give a book a release date, it’s too early to announce the release, period.

    Yeah, what you said. ^_^

    …either way i guess we;ll just have to wait.

    Well, as I said, I don’t mind waiting so much, though that can be frustrating too without any news (Del Rey and School Rumble suddenly springs to mind).

    Back to the issue, I don’t think Amazon makes up dates. DH used to have certain titles on their website with the same dates…and now, they don’t. What’s up????

    As I said earlier, I’m told that Dark Horse pulled their release schedule for some titles and they even removed them from their website. This is something they’ve done in the past and then put everything back out a few weeks/months later. So I’m not concerned that licenses have been pulled from Dark Horse or anything, but what it tells me is that their stuff wasn’t close to ready for publication.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Just to let you know:

    http://www.darkhorse.com/Manga/Upcoming

    Dark Horse seems to have rescheduled the release dates of volume 2 of Cardcaptor and volume 1 of Magic Knight Rayearth.

    Hopefully, this means Dark Horse has finally decided on meeting these new dates^-^

  12. O-chan says:

    Hey, I’m back!
    This is specifically why I have my comic store put a hold on Berserk and Oh My Goddess volumes for me, DH’s release schedule is so schitzo that at least I’m guaranteed to get the volume WHEN it is finally released.

  13. AstroNerdBoy says:

    @Anon — Thanks for the updated dates. I’ll have to update my chart.

    @O-chan — WB. ^_^

    I do all my books online to get the best price. Thus, when I put out an order and one of the books ends up not being released as advertised, often, they usually hold up the whole order. ^_^;

  14. […] in February, I ranted about how Dark Horse is notorious for constantly delaying releases of manga titles they have […]

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