Another year, another Osamu Tezuka Kickstarter.
News of a new Osamu Tezuka Kickstarter came at the beginning of April. Previous Kickstarter projects for Tezuka licenses have all come from Digital Manga Publishing (New licenses of Barbara, Unico, AtomCat, and Triton, reprint of Swallowing the Earth). This time though? The publisher is a new-guy-on-the-blocker, Kansai Club Publishing. Billing themselves as a small company publishing manga from the 40s-70s, Kansai is coming out of the gates with a license of a collection of Osamu Tezuka’s shonen short stories titled The Crater.
According to the folks at Kansai Club, The Crater was a book that was going to be published regardless of whether or not this Kickstarter succeeded However, the company’s future depended very greatly on what people would be willing to pledge, and if they could sell their full print run of 2,000 units.
If you’ve looked at my position on Kickstarter on Manga Widget in the past, you’ll know that I am pretty gung-ho for it. Kickstarter gives creators and publishers a way to circumvent the regular restraints of publishing by using an old fashioned patronage model of economics. The patronage model is appealing to folks interested in art because it allows increased creative freedom and more risk-taking, and puts the risk of the venture on the consumer and not the entrepreneur. Unfortunately, this strength can also be a major weakness. Kickstarter does not offer you protections if a project creator decides not to deliver, and people can abscond with your hard earned cash without much retribution.
One thing that I find interesting is the opening orientation of these big Kickstarter projects. Almost without fail, they have started out with Tezuka titles. And while DMP is potentially looking at other works for its Platinum Manga Line, and Kansai Club has mentioned that they are interested in publishing older works and works by more contemporary authors like Junji Ito and Mitsuru Adachi, they’re both primarily focused on the work of Osamu Tezuka currently.
Tezuka has a pretty stable fanbase in the English speaking market.Part of the reason for this is Vertical Inc.‘s curatorial vision for Tezuka’s seminal works like Buddha, Message to Adolf, and others. His work transcends the traditional manga reader – alt comics fans, historical comics fans, and others are willing to pay for hardcover Tezuka manga. Couple this fan enthusiasm with a creative trust that seemingly wants to have all of Tezuka’s manga published in English, and this leads to license deals for Kickstarted projects that would otherwise have never happened.
The question is, though: Is Tezuka the jumping off point, or an end unto himself? I certainly am excited to see more Tezuka manga, but is Tezuka the opening arena of public fundraising, to be followed by other more exciting works? Is Kansai Club only doing a Tezuka Kickstarter because they know it will be a relatively successful venture? I hate to make this reference, but is Tezuka the level 1 tutorial mission for Kickstarter manga?
Another interesting question: Are there other exciting works out there, or is Tezuka the only product that’s readily available? This is a little bit facetious, because manga Kickstarters have existed in the past. But these Kickstarter projects either did not do extremely well, or were unsuccessful in obtaining enough funding. How many publishers/rights holders are cool with the Kickstarter methodology and risk? What happens if a big publisher allows a Kickstarter project to get off the ground, only to have it fail? What would the result be there?
The Kansai Club Kickstarter has hit $30,000 at the time of this writing, so barring some odd circumstances, this project is going to print, and it looks like the publisher is going to recoup some of its money already invested prior to the Kickstarter. I’m excited for The Crater, but I’m more excited about the future of Kickstarter in manga publishing.
What do you think? Is Tezuka the gateway to build operating funds? Is he the only guy you can get a Kickstarter license for? What do you think the future of Kickstarter and manga looks like? I’m interested in your thoughts here, or on Twitter @mangawidget.