Last week, there were a couple big, breaking, developments in the anime world involving two companies involved with Sailor Moon, Kodansha and Geneon. Kodansha is a manga giant in Japan, and was the publisher of the Sailor Moon manga in both its novels and in their magazine, Nakayoshi (which is almost like Shojo Beat, filled with manga for girls). Geneon was responsible for bringing the movies, S and SuperS seasons to North America. Unfortunately, Geneon shut down North American operations abruptly last winter, leaving many series in limbo. Of course, Sailor Moon has been long gone for a few years now, so it had no releases implicated when this happened.
Kodansha to Directly Publish and Sell Manga in September
Kodansha, has had a few forays in publishing outside of Japan. They have published some reference books, dictionaries, and books about Japanese culture and language translated into English. The books were translated and published in Japan, and then exported around the world. Many years ago, they also tried to publish bilingual manga, which seemed like a good idea – speech bubbles contained both Japanese and English. However, they were very expensive, and they stopped publishing these when Tokyopop licensed the English rights to many of them. Last week, the company took another major foray, and announced that they were going to publish and directly sell manga beginning this September. Traditionally, Kodansha licensed some of their titles to Tokyopop and Del Rey, and to a smaller extent Viz. Kodansha has been watching the Manga market in the United States and has noticed it is on the rise, and that there is some competition between the manga companies with their books and magazines. We have a slight feeling Tokypop’s recent meltdown (**) had a role in accelerating their business strategy. Currently, their holding company Kodansha USA holds ¥210 million (around 2 million USD). They will be based out of New York and Yoshinobu Noma, a senior VP with the company will serve as President of Kodansha USA. We are assuming that the format will be English only. There is no word as of this writing what titles will be included, but Del Rey has confirmed none of their Kodansha licenses have been pulled.
If/when the issues between Naoko Takeuchi’s Princess Naoko Planning and other companies involved with Sailor Moon ever get reconciled, it is likely that Kodansha would probably handle everything with the manga themselves. It is hard to say whether this will be a good decision or not, many fans did not agree with some of the translation from the first time that the manga hit North American shelves. Again, Sailor Moon fans will have to wait and see until the first few titles are published from Kodansha, and how good the quality may be.
Funimation Rescues Some Geneon Titles
The last we heard from Geneon, was that they were pulling out of the anime industry in terms of distribution and releases, and were going to focus more on managing their properties. There is some truth to that, lately we have been noticing a few Geneon movies airing here and there on Teletoon. On the flip side, it looks like Anime Current on G4 has stopped. The block has been replaced with Reviews On The Run (a terrible video game review show which plays too many times on the network in a day). In February, the company donated $138,000 worth of toys, CDs, and DVDs (we assume all overstocks) to the Kids Wish Network. It’s nice that the company was still able to give back despite the circumstances.
When the company announced it’s shutdown, Funimation was very vocal about acquiring certain titles and licenses from them. However, they made the mistake of mentioning Sailor Moon, whose license has been out of international hands for many years now. Funimation announced last week that they had signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Geneon, leaving Funimation with the exclusive rights for marketing, manufacturing, sales and distribution of several Geneon titles. So far, the list includes:
Black Lagoon Second Barrage
Kyo kara Maoh! Season 2
Rozen Maiden – Träumend
The Familiar of Zero
The Law of Ueki
The Story of Saiunkoku
When They Cry
One of our very devoted readers and biggest fans was very crushed when she could not find any more volumes of Saiunkoku, and has been hanging off the edge of a cliff since the release of Volume 2. When she heard this news, she jumped for joy and gave us this exclusive comment, “That’s Great!” We still want to know what has happened to the classic gems that Geneon held such as Akira, Appleseed, Lain, Fushigi Yugi, and many more. Some store owners we spoke to were a little disappointed that Bandai didn’t get the rights, for they prefer their pricing structures over Funimation’s (and we agree). Funimation plans to begin these releases sometime in late summer, though it is unknown if they will continue where Geneon left off, or start these series over.
**We have neglected to talk about Tokyopop’s current restructuring, however we have spoken to a few comic book store owners. It is their unanimous opinion that the company licensed “too much too fast” and invested a little too much in independent artists which didn’t sell as much as they had hoped. While some of the owners we spoke to encourage independent artists, some of the titles that Tokyopop published barely sold at all. One of them showed us an entire section in which he said over 3 shipments, he only sold two books. In one’s opinion, it’s not entirely the fault of declining manga sales, but more dependant on what titles were licensed and how they were marketed. This is not a problem with Viz, as they are “cleaning hous” in comparison to Tokyopop.