Well, it’s official; it’s been way too long since I’ve updated my blog, but finals and heavy coursework will do that to you. I’m in finals week here at University, so my free time is going to increase very soon (more time to read manga! yay!!). In the meantime, I have been working hard at http://www.eyeofthevortexonline.com, and the May edition is finally ready for your viewing pleasure. We’ve got a ton of great features this month, so check it out.
I clicked over to ICv2 earlier this afternoon and was shocked to see that Viz Media is canceling their Shojo Beat anthology magazine in light of economic issues. This disappoints me for a number of reasons, which I’ll get to in a moment, but I think it’s safe to say that overall this is fairly disheartening, especially for anyone that had subscribed to the magazine. I cannot say that I was one of those people, but it’s akin to when Newtype USA was canceled; something you enjoyed every month is now missing.
The most difficult issue with economic downturn is that you start to see what portions of a company’s business are profitable and which aren’t. This normally isn’t a problem, but when the product is something you’ve invested in emotionally, it can get a bit hairy. Viz is traditionally known as a manga publisher with a very strong shonen lineup, including the chart topping Naruto, Bleach, and Black Cat. Their shojo line is also strong, but doesn’t get near the amount of attention that the shonen does.
The strange thing is though, that manga as a whole, is a comic s0ld to women (at least in your major book retailers). Shojo Beat is the heart of the girl’s comics movement, a collection of the “normal” girly magazine stuff with comics specifically written to be enjoyed by girls. And, when most of your bookstore market is the young female audience (who doesn’t have Twilight to distract them this summer), it seems like an inopportune time to cancel the anthology. More appropriately, it would seem, now is the time to give the anthology more press, more promotions, and try to tie it into product lines and get it into the hands of its chosen audience.
In contrast, Shonen Jump has received a lot of tie-ins with other products, giving it some cover recognition in stores, with its Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and other promotions. It also has Saturday morning cartoons to back it up, giving it more eye appeal to the younger crowd. Can we say that for Shojo Beat? Did it ever really get its chance to shine? Or was it more of a background player to the antics of Naruto and his other shonen buddies?
One of Viz’s interesting moves is that they’ve promised to send all Shojo Beat readers a free copy of Shonen Jump, which is well intentioned, but for the most part, seems misguided. The people who enjoy shojo and shonen are completely different, and the subject matter in Shonen Jump is far different from the content of Shojo Beat. You may get a few converts, Viz, but the people that would read both anthologies are probably already doing so anyway.
While I’m sure funds are tight in manga world right now, I don’t know that Viz is doing bad enough that it absolutely needed to cancel Shojo Beat. I’m sure Shojo Beat wasn’t profitable. I’m not actually sure that Shonen Jump is profitable. I think it was probably the right business move.
But as I say this, we see the loss of a very specific, important piece of the manga puzzle. Manga is meant for anthologies, like fish are meant for water. It has been my joy to subscribe to Yen Plus, and I’m currently looking at Shonen Jump, because I think the anthology is so key to the way manga is written and should be read. In losing Shojo Jump, we lose a part of that experience, and we lose a quality publication which has inspired and entertained consumers since it was originally published.
Viz has promised to continue the series in the magazine through their paperback manga volumes, but the effect is certainly not the same. It seems like such a tragedy that such an important portion of the manga industry in Japan is so lacking here in the USA, and the loss of Shojo Beat further removes manga from its traditional format here.