I’ve been over this before, but it bears repeating – print manga in the US is a lot more like anime in Japan than it is manga in Japan; it’s expensive, with a relatively small customer base. Manga in Japan only costs anywhere from 400-900yen, small enough that marketing to elementary school kids with their weekly allowances is a plausible strategy. In the US, the cheapest print manga start from $9, and can cost quite a bit more. This makes manga in the US a smaller, more exclusive market. At that price point, the proposition of just buying a $60 anime box set (there’s a pretty understandable overlap between the fanbases) starts to look a lot more appealing.
In more practical terms, manga was perpetually being walloped by anime in the US market. While the total gross of all manga tracked through bookscan in 2007 was just a hair under $109 million (all gross totals from that article unless otherwise linked), the total gross of anime DVDs in the US in that same year was over $300 million, a number surpassing not just the manga total, but the $183 million gross of the entire US comics market that same year. While more recent statistics regarding anime are hard to come by, that still speaks to a huge contrast in US sales potency for an industry where the 2013 annual gross of One Piece by itself (18,151,599*500~9 billion yen) tops the total of the top two averagers of the post-Evangelion era (Bakemonogatari and Madoka sold about 6.5 billion yen worth of disks between them).
Saturday’s slate is, as usual, packed. It’s also, in a less usual twist, clogged to the brim with sports. I’m saving Kuroko s2 for the nightcap, and for now going over the two adaptations of KMA-winning sports manga, old and new.
It’s fairly frequent among people who have started to get interested in anime enough to start knowing things about the people who make it find themselves encountering the names of certain directors and studios over and over. Kasai Kenichi excels at college life stories. Hiroshi Nagahama was the bold visionary who directed Mushishi. Perhaps one of the more preeminent studios in that regard are Madhouse and Gonzo, the studios behind Death Note and Gankutsou, respectively. They can flash those series names on “from the studio that brought you” title cards of the trailer for anything else they make, despite the fact that Madhouse made the Marvel anime and Gonzo hasn’t been run by the people who made Gankutsuou since 2008. I’m here to make the case for why Madhouse’s reputation, along with a number of others, may be a bit overblown. It’s not that they’re not making awesome anime, but they are picking source material that gives them a lot of help.
This situation with directors can sometimes be a bit like that of the quarterback in American football; they get too much credit when things go well, and too much blame when things go wrong. In reality, lots of factors beyond the men at the top contribute to an anime’s success. I’m here today to take a look at one in particular; the pre-production choice of high-quality of source material. What follows is a look at anime adaptations of Shogakukan/Kodansha Award-Winning manga, including observations based on both their relative frequency over the years, their strength as a function of which studio makes them, and their performance in the marketplace.
Masaya Tsunamoto’s 2010 KMA-winning professional soccer manga Giant Killing is a very unique piece of material. Unlike most sports manga, it follows the development of a team in a professional league over the course of a rather realistic season, where losses and draws are as common as wins. It also stands out for putting the focus of the narrative not just on the athletes and the disgraced ex-player returning from England to coach the team, but also on the team’s fans (from the 40-something fair weather fans who don’t travel well to the 20-something hooligans who cheer loud and riot louder) and its front office (who have to deal with bad press when things aren’t going so well).
Indeed, the story of the manga opens with staff from the front office on a trip to England, trying to lure the team’s former ace Tatsumi back to Japan as the team’s manager. And the very next story deals with the negative light in which the fans view Tatsumi, who quit the team at the prime of his career. Only after these two dynamics are introduced does the manga start playing any kind of soccer. It’s a three-pronged approach to soccer which gives the reader a much deeper understanding of the layers of culture within professional sports.
The series has recently been in the middle of an extensive gaiden arc, telling the real story of why Tatsumi left the team. It turns out that decision was less selfishness and more the fault of a system that forced him, albeit somewhat willingly, to the breaking point.
I thought it’d be a fun little exercise to try and pull out as many mangaka names as I could without relying on references. This is that list, written on lockdown mode and complete with the reasons why I remember them.
Based on what I’ve seen of reactions to Free on the internet, it seems like a large quantity of people are ruling it out with one glance at the promo material rather than 20 minutes of episode time. It’s becoming increasingly obvious how much of a shame that is, because this show is complete in ways it didn’t even have to be to be an enjoyable ride.
Keiko Suenobu’s Life is at the same time one of the most magnetic and most difficult* to read manga I’ve ever encountered, and incidentally probably the most justified winner of the Kodansha Shojo Manga Award since the shojo category’s inception in 1986. Both its difficulty and its magnetism come from its subject matter; a Japanese high school student dealing with social pressures, bullying, and uncaring parents who won’t listen when she tells them her tutor is blackmailing her.
Life is a dark manga that succeeds in being dismal in all the ways edgy action series often fail, featuring self-injury, severe depression, attempted rape, and attempted suicide very prominently. It’s an approach that works because the tone of the manga is very serious, in a way that’s somber rather than edgy. Suenobu isn’t trying to shock the audience, but to help them understand that the problems in the manga are very real for a lot of people (an approach augmented by the inclusion of blurbs by professional Psychologists at the end of each volume). This particular chapter is a prime example of why the manga as a whole is so utterly captivating while inducing so much emotional fatigue.
There are few things I treasure more in manga than the ability to surprise me on a page-by-page basis. I love Yuuji Terajima’s Ace of the Diamond, and this chapter did a pretty good job reminding me why, building tension around a straightforward confrontation using clever Eyeshield 21-style visual feints.
Courtesy of the super-discount section of Half-Price Books, I just picked up a bundle of fun for a little less than 25$. I bought a number of items; manga volumes of Land of the Blindfolded, Lone Wolf and Cub, and R2 (I usually buy some series I’ve never heard of before on principle), Final Fantasy X and X-2, and ten issues of Weekly Shonen Magazine. What am I going to do with that last lot? Well, first, I’m going to take advantage of my ability ot read Japanese and spoil myself the heck out of second-best baseball manga ever Ace of the Diamond, which is 4 years ahead of where scanlators are now. Second, I’m going to take a stab at every series running in that magazine and see if any is solid enough for a tankobon import, something I do occasionally. These two related ideas popped into my head immediately upon seeing the issues, and led me to some thoughts on the concept of a serial medium as it pertains to manga. I thought I’d share.
So if you’ve been following the Spring 2013 season at all, you’re probably aware of how much of a hubbub Aku no Hana has kicked up. The trimodal mal score distribution attests to the strong difference in opinion, which has caused tensions to flare up in any number of discussion forums. Forums nominally for discussion, anyway, because there hasn’t been much actual discussion going on.