Brands across the water

The most interesting item in the latest Publishers Weekly Comics Week is Kai-Ming Cha’s piece on Digital Manga’s new initiative to co-brand licensed titles with the original Japanese publishers:

“While manga has grown in popularity in the U.S., the Japanese publisher is usually cited only in the copyright notice while the book bears the brand of its American publisher. Japanese publisher names sometimes show up in ads for forthcoming U.S. titles. ‘You never see the Japanese corporate logo on manga licensed here,’ said [DMP president and CEO Hikaru] Sasahara… Sasahara noted that U.S. licensees rarely brand the name of Japanese publishers, ‘and that’s not good for [U.S. manga publishing] in the long run.’”

I’m not entirely clear on why it isn’t good for publishing, though I can see why the co-branding would be useful for publishers on both sides of the licensing equation. It seems like a logical (though not always reliable) extension of creator loyalty… someone picking up a CLAMP title no matter who publishes the licensed version, or demonstrating a genre-blind willingness to try anything by Fumi Yoshinaga.

It does strike me as something that would be more useful for smaller, more focused Japanese publishers that have more of a specialty or specific identity. Co-branding something as coming from a giant like Kodansha is kind of meaningless because its product is so varied. It would be like describing a food item as being from General Mills. Could be Haagen-Dazs, could be Pizza Rolls.

In those cases, it would almost be more logical to identify the magazine that originally serialized the story, which would narrow things considerably and give well-informed potential customers a clearer idea of what they’re likely to get. I think it will definitely be meaningful for DMP’s boys’ love/yaoi audience.

Oh, and this jumped out at me too:

“‘We’ve gotten three or four inquiries to make Antique Bakery into a live-action movie or television drama,’ Sasahara said.”

But what about a musical, damnit?! If they can turn Legally Blonde into one…

11 Responses to Brands across the water

  1. Jack says:

    Interesting… IMO, it’s a good idea because in the manga-sphere, people like Ed Chavez at Mangacast often cite where the books come from. Fans seem to just know…

    I think it may be analogous to a situation like once a major league pitcher gets promoted to the big leagues, you ask which college he pitched from to understand their career thus far.

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    It’s a nice way of establishing pedigree for those who are already interested and generating interest for people who might not think about a book’s origins as much. (Good sports analogy, by the way. I’m useless with those.)

  3. This one leaves me scratching my head. I would imagine that co-branding like this can only benefit the Japanese publisher… if and when they decide to bypass the domestic repackagers and enter the American market themselves.

  4. davidpwelsh says:

    Might it be a temporary advantage in a competitive licensing market? Giving a publisher an extra incentive to partner up? You’re probably right, though — it does seem like a step from gatekeeper to potentially extraneous middleman.

  5. gynocrat says:

    if and when they decide to bypass the domestic repackagers and enter the American market themselves.

    Simon you win! Where do I send your free internet?

  6. Is this really something new and different? Del Rey has had a Kodansha logo on the back of their manga ever since they started in the manga-publishing biz. Or is DMP putting this branding on the front cover? I think it’s better to leave the front cover to the manga art, title, volume number, and author credit alone.

  7. Jack says:

    Flanagan — Because I’m a Del Rey lackey, the first thing I did was flip over a Del Rey book and say WTF? Has DR once again beaten all the publishers to the punch before they even knew they were fighting? Then I thought that Welsh has it right… “Kodansha” is meaningless. “Afternoon” or “Shonen Jump” has more meaning if intended for marketing purposes, because I’m sure I would at least flip through anything that came from the same publication as Love Roma or Genshiken.

  8. […] David Welsh and Ed Chavez discuss Digital’s recent announcement that it would be co-branding with Japanese publishers. […]

  9. Estara says:

    Umm, Antique Bakery already IS a japanese Dorama…

    http://wiki.d-addicts.com/Antique

  10. davidpwelsh says:

    I got the impression that they were talking about an English-language adaptation as opposed to a dubbed or subbed one.

  11. Chloe says:

    I’ve always been kind of surprised that American companies never starting slapping J-pub logos on things- for example, I talk about some of my French manga in terms of buying from “Asuka,” which kept it’s name even in a large foreign market- although it’s pretty clear which American companies drawing from what Japanese publishers on a regular basis…

    Although, if it started appearing on the covers, I would be peeved indeed. The spine is fine, thankyouverymuch.

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