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“Why yes, I love the smell of freshly printed manga in the morning.”
While buying the latest English volumes of Blue Exorcist and Attack on Titan recently, some thoughts resurfaced on why I still prefer print manga. With JManga biting the dust, people are wondering about the future of manga digitally. To tell you the truth, print is still the primary focus for the manga market overall and a preference that I still love for reasons I’m about to get into below.
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To all you folks who want to draw manga, I found an interesting post on a MangaHelpers sub-forum on Weekly Shonen Jump about how new manga should try to appeal to readers. There’s one snippet I would like to highlight and it’s this:
“I guess the main question a mangaka needs to ask themselves in order to write a successful manga is ‘Why?’. Why should we care about your manga? Why should we bother to read it beyond the first chapter? And with such a selective magazine (Weekly Shonen Jump), the mangaka better have that question answered before chapter 1 gets published. I think that’s what separates the exceptional mangaka, like (Yuusei) Matsui and (Eiichiro) Oda, from the mediocre. I guess it’s also what defines the expression ‘doing your homework’.”
Which leads to another lesson regarding the importance of asking “why”: never stop learning. There’s always something deeper beneath the surface.
You can read the rest of the post as it is pretty in-depth. Makes you think about when the next worldwide smash hit manga will come.
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Originally, this was supposed to be an article about self-awareness and how it could be the key to help saving the manga industry. And then out of the blue, the big digital manga initiative that was considered to be a “savior of manga”, JManga goes kaput. So what now and does Japan even care?
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Yes, this is the only title. Look how pretty Masakazu Katsura’s art is!
On all seriousness, Matt Blind of Rocket Bomber recently asked manga bloggers to give thanks to the manga industry for all their hard work. He also asked folks to highlight what manga titles we’re thankful for on Thanksgiving 2012. I decided to join in on this feast since hey, creators and publishers really do look out for their fans. With a bit of Jimmy Fallon quirkiness, here are some notable manga series (both licensed and a few unlicensed titles) that make me go, “Arigato, Soushite, ARIGATO!”
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Pop Quiz: What will happen when two of these iconic characters are eventually gone from the spotlight?
Wow, VIZ Media. They’ve been getting a lot of attention lately, huh? After reading Zach Logan’s editorial “The War On Manga”, I decided to browse the many comments on the entry. One excerpt from a comment stood out to me, especially given with how sales in the U.S. manga industry haven’t been looking so grand for quite some time. This is the excerpt:
Viz is now jointly owned by Shueisha, so the real strings are being pulled straight from the top. Naruto and Bleach will be ending within 2 years tops. What is their business plan when 2 of the Big 3 are no longer propping up house?
Given the fact that Naruto and BLEACH are ranked as the top 2 manga properties in the U.S. at the moment, are both appearing to finish up in the future, and have EXTREMELY huge fan communities, is Shueisha really doing anything to make sure that there will be a new holy trinity alongside One Piece? Yes, scanlations are a big issue, but another key issue is how to get a new generation of fans (and potential buyers) in the West to be interested in reading manga going forward, given that Shonen Jump material is still the starting point for a majority of new fans.
Once Naruto and BLEACH are done, what can VIZ turn to as their main titles (besides One Piece) for promoting Shonen Jump Alpha when it really takes off? The other Shonen Jump Alpha titles they have (Bakuman, Toriko, and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan) look to be hitting it off with fans, but are they as special as those two titles? Do these titles really relate to teenagers and young adults as well as Naruto and BLEACH have? The closest popular title that can take a spot in the trinity is Hunter x Hunter, but the title is published irregularly and that just won’t do when it comes to generating sales.
As of right now, it feels like Shueisha will just keep on riding One Piece’s popularity going forward since it’s become a cultural symbol in Japan. That doesn’t seem to help VIZ at all, as One Piece isn’t super-popular in North America when compared to Japan. Perhaps a Shonen Jump Advanced online magazine featuring Blue Exorcist, Rosario + Vampire, and D.Gray Man could be in the makings.
I’m sure there has to be some aspiring artists who will rise and be inspired by the likes of Eiichiro Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, and Tite Kubo, like how Akira Toriyama was an inspiration to them. Though as Bakuman has hinted with the low birth rate these days in Japan (which decreases the chances of a super-popular mainstream manga), the hopes of that happening are dim.
Manga in the U.S. isn’t going to die immediately if Naruto and BLEACH end. However, it feels that there has to be some simple Shonen Jump battle manga (no disrespect to One Piece) that appeals to teenagers/young adults to get the ball rolling and spark interest in the wide world of manga itself. While some fans may find them boring, the success of extremely popular titles (i.e. “typical Shonen Jump” titles) helps to give non-popular titles a chance to breathe life. Back when I was a teen, Dragon Ball Z, one of the most popular Jump series of all-time, was the reason why I got into manga. I started buying many manga volumes and developed a taste for other series that have better stories as I got older. The U.S. manga industry NEEDS popular, teen-friendly Shonen Jump titles to sell, no matter how cliche or overrated they may be, in order to stay afloat since Shonen Jump is still the top manga imprint in America. For now, Blue Exorcist appears to be a good successor to Naruto/BLEACH for VIZ, even though it’s a JUMP Square title.
Then again, I wonder if Japanese publishers truly care about the West at all when it comes to promoting manga internationally. Here’s a tweet for thought.
Such is the life of one being involved with manga in the U.S. or west of Asia, is it not?
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Here’s a scenario that I want everyone to imagine with me. Ready?
Think back to a time where computers didn’t exist yet. Think back to when it was very difficult to find information about anything you wanted. Think back to when sharing one’s interests over a huge communication channel was almost impossible without going to a big-name media outlet. Now, hold those thoughts and ask yourself if the Internet has the changed the way you think about manga. Regarding manga, the Internet has truly made it global, but with a price. I sometimes wonder if the Internet is both the creator and destroyer of manga fandom.
Before the Internet became popular, the only way I found out about manga news was through the defunct WIZARD Magazine. I remember the first manga I heard about from WIZARD was Masamune Shirow’s Ghost In The Shell. After reading about the controversy surrounding Ghost in the Shell (i.e. the cybersex scene), the whole idea of manga began to appeal to me. I was watching Chinese dubs of Dragon Ball Z at the time and my interest in Japanese media continued to grow. When I found out Dragon Ball was originally a manga, I browsed text summaries of the original manga series online back in 1999. You don’t know how obsessed I was with looking for information on DBZ at the time. Thankfully, VIZ Media released the Dragon Ball Z manga in America and I bought all the volumes. The same thing also happened when I followed Rurouni Kenshin in the early 2000s’. I was reading text summaries of chapters online, visiting fansites to satisfy my cravings, and later bought all the volumes because of my love for the samurai epic.
Fast forward to the proliferation of scanlations. I decided to follow BLEACH (during college around 2005) after hearing some of my friends watching the anime. I bought the first few volumes from VIZ and was hooked. What happened next was I began using the Internet to find out more information about the characters. I found out about what was currently going on in the BLEACH manga from a fansite at the time, which was Sosuke Aizen being revealed as the main villain. That just piqued my curiosity even more and I wanted to know what happens next. As a result, the world of scanlations entered my life. I was pretty ecstatic to know that I can keep up with what’s happening with BLEACH. I also discovered many other series through scanlations as well. I was still buying manga and didn’t really think about how scanlations affected the manga-publishing industry.
And now here we are with the manga industry in a huge state of flux. What does that tell me? The Internet (the power of the creator) is great for manga since it exposes everyone to a wide variety of series and creates passionate fan communities, but the Internet (the power of the destructor) gives off this illusion to certain people that manga easily grows on a tree and everything’s dandy, when things really aren’t fine.
I don’t know about you, but there is one thing that bugs me about scanlations. Scanlators and aggregator sites often put up a disclaimer message telling everyone to buy and support a manga series if it’s available in their region. But, what if the manga is not available in their region and possibly never will be? What if the reader is an 8-year old? Also, I know a few people who work full-time that read scanlations and are not even interested in buying physical copies of manga. Do scanlators even understand their intended audiences and their consequences as a whole?
The Internet has made me believe that manga will be an online-only interest globally and will stay that way (though it seems like it already is). Outside of Japan, manga is still very niche to a majority of people. Combine that with free scanlations and you have a recipe for “fun interest that appeals mostly to Internet folks”. Though part of me believes the Internet is perfect for manga because most people like to read things online these days and they LOVE images on the Internet.
Another thing was that before the Internet, I thought every manga title out there was godly. Since the increased popularity of the ‘Net, I realized that there’s a lot of “junk” to sort through before you even get to the good stuff. Sometimes, I wonder how certain titles became published in the first place. Such is the harshness of reality.
One question does plague me: should the manga community accept those that read scanlations of a certain series and don’t really buy any form of merchandise related to the series (yet are extremely passionate about it) as members of the community? Would someone care to enlighten me on how those fans should be viewed?
With these inner thoughts in mind, I continue to research the crazy world of manga online and offline (I still buy volumes of manga) as many series have worked their charm upon my visage. Oh Internet, you’re as tempting as a bishojo girl nagging her “big brother” to spend time with her and leaving him with a colorful array of conflicted feelings.