When Kodansha first announced their slate of series that would be released this summer, I was excited. Here was a new company taking over from Del Rey, and since the manga was coming straight from the publisher, it would be easier to get more obscure titles, more josei and seinen, and other manga oddities into print. I was excited to see some of the work from Morning and Afternoon, and I was hopeful that Kodansha would exceed my expectations of Del Rey acting in their stead.
They released their announcements list in mid-December, and since then I’ve been doing a fair bit of investigation into Kodansha‘s announced title list. There are a few titles that were getting reprinting (which I will get to in a minute), but there were a slew of new titles that I had never heard of. Let’s take a second to review what we know (and my first impressions).
Cage of Eden and Bloody Monday, (two series I’ve already done workups on) look to be some of the stereotypical manga that Del Rey is/was known for; overly complicated shonen titles with plenty of fan service (see Negima!, in comparison). Both Bloody Monday and Cage of Eden promise something other than the shonen stories that dominate Viz‘s Shonen Jump lineup, but that does not necessarily make them good reading.
Little information is available about two of Kodansha‘s other series, Deltora Quest and Mardock Scramble. Deltora Quest is a completed ten volume shonen fantasy about an Evil Shadow Lord, Seven Magic Seals, and the giant battle between GOOD AND EVIL, which honestly just sounds like a bad The Dark Is Rising. Mardock Scramble is a bit of an enigma, since its promise of cyberpunk noir seems at least a bit more interesting than a bad redo of a Susan Cooper novel, but information is scant. We do know that Viz‘s Haikasoru imprint printed the novel this manga is based on. However, my experience with adaptations of previous series seems to indicate that this will probably not be all that great.
Other titles are similarly uninteresting. Animal Land by Mokoto Raiku, the author of Zatch Bell, looks pretty poor. I wasn’t a fan of Zatch Bell, and I doubt that this series will get much traction in the shonen community. Another Pheonix Wright, Ace Attorney manga is also going to print. Weeeeeee.
Monster Hunter Orage is probably the most interesting of the series announced, but only because it is written by Hiro Mashima, the author of Fairy Tail.
Until the Full Moon, which is a boy/boy romance about a half vampire/half werewolf is getting a reprint. It was originally printed by Broccoli Books back in 2005, with excellent production values and a high price tag. I’m not sure what this reprint is supposed to represent, but it is one of the only shojo series that Kodansha announced in December. I am sure that some look at Broccoli‘s releases with fondness, but that was quite some time ago. Many new manga readers have never even heard of Broccoli Books. While I am happy to see Kodansha bring back this title, which is both bizarre and interesting, I don’t know how well its old-school art will be handled by a new audience.
Likewise, it is good to see Gon getting reprinted, but this will be the third time the series has been printed, and there’s only so much Gon a guy can take.
If you couldn’t tell already, I am not that impressed with Kodansha‘s announced releases. They all seem like fine titles for a certain crowd, and I’m sure that they will sell copies. I just don’t see a whole lot of value in them.
I haven’t read any of these announced series, and so I can’t doom them to mediocrity immediately. It is not as if these series are all going to be bad, but all of them are very… predictable. In a shrinking market where all series need to pay for their costs, printing “safe” series makes for an adequate return on investment, and I suppose that’s what the business of comics is all about. Unlike Viz, which has Pokemon, Naruto, and Bleach to give them some extra funds with which to print more experimental titles, Kodansha does not have that built up business. Theoretically, they don’t have as much financial room to work with. Realistically, Kodansha can publish whatever it pleases, but we are discussing business here, and Kodansha is not necessarily in the “make Alex happy” business.
Kodansha has time to develop its properties and generate some sales this summer. I think it’s probably a bit hasty to ask them for miracles as soon as they come out of the gates – at the same time, if Kodansha is going to just print the same old Del Rey manga, there’s no reason to get excited about them printing titles like Drops of God or Saint Young Men.
Note: Thankfully, we have publishers like Vertical Inc. to publish Drops of God! Check out my reaction here!
Still, comics like Saint Young Men are the reason why I was excited that Kodansha was starting its own imprint in the USA to begin with. I suppose my expectations are a bit too high. I wanted more complex, adult series to be released here in the States, and I am a bit disappointed that we don’t have any evidence of that yet from Kodansha.