Simon Jones rounds up reaction to Del Rey’s announcement of its inaugural foray into global manga and offers his own perspective at the probably-not-safe-for-work Icarus blog:
“Whatever one may feel about such transparent marketing-oriented books, the silver lining of such appropriations of the medium by big multimedia companies is that it advances the cache of manga as a culturally relevant phenomenon…
“I wasn’t all too thrilled with Tokyopop’s CineManga, but I’ve mellowed out over time… if those books manage to give manga more exposure to young kids, that’s one in the win column. Make 5 Wishes will hopefully do the same.”
I tend to agree. Make 5 Wishes doesn’t immediately sound like it promises to be an artistic triumph, and in spite of my well-documented fondness for manga aimed at tweens, I probably won’t be rushing out to snag a copy. But if it sells well with its target audience, it might give Del Rey more leeway to take chances with global creators who don’t have to collaborate with the TRL set.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Del Rey demonstrates excellent taste in the manga it chooses to license, and its production values are among the best in the category. But I sometimes have to remind myself that they aren’t some plucky boutique publisher. They’re part of a huge publishing empire, Random House, and they’ve got a partnership with one of the largest Japanese manga publishers, Kodansha.
In other words, they’re a corporate division. Miraculously, their status as such has not resulted in crappy titles, indifferently produced, but in really, really good manga. I don’t love everything they publish, but I love a lot of it.
At the same time, corporate divisions have to show results, particularly when they’re trying something new. Del Rey isn’t just trying to sell the audience on global manga; they’re selling Random House on it as well. So, as Tina Anderson suggested in comments over at MangaBlog, if it seems like they’re skewing the experiment in an excessively populist direction to guarantee initial success, they probably are.
If they keep rolling out global manga inspired by collaborations with pre-rehab pop stars or the cast of Hannah Montana, then I’ll gladly grab my torch and pitchfork. But as an opening gambit, this seems sensible.