Shopping around

April 2, 2007

This week’s Flipped is up, in which I put on my secret shopper disguise and compare prices and shipping rates at some different on-line manga retailers. Actually, my secret shopper disguise consisted of pajamas. If it makes the reading more interesting to imagine me in sunglasses, a blond wig and a disfigured nasal prosthetic, don’t let me stop you.

I’m just glad I didn’t wind up carelessly ordering the same books over and over.

On the bright side…

April 2, 2007

At MangaCast, Ed Chavez looks at the imminent arrival of josei-centric manga publisher Aurora and wonders:

“Why? Well, honestly who has been successful with josei. Whether you call it ladies or shoujo or Passion Fruit or whatever this has not hit its audience in the US. Yen Press is going to give it a shot (we will talk about that later) but what makes Aurora unique is that their parent company Ohzora is basically a josei manga publisher.”

At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald shares Chavez’s skepticism on the category’s track record:

“Josei manga is the long-lost ‘missing link’ between ‘Harlequin romance comics’ and ‘Sex in the CIty comics’ for women. Understandably, the genre has had little success in the US, despite entries by such important manga-ka as Erica Sakurazawa and Moyocco Anno.”

I’m a little puzzled by the level of wariness. Nobody’s really made a concerted effort to focus on josei lately. It’s not like there’s a graveyard filled with the corpses of failed initiatives, and given the paucity of josei in print, it’s hard for me to be anything but enthusiastic at the prospect. Tokyopop’s done well with Tramps Like Us, and people greeted Antique Bakery with great enthusiasm (though that probably owed more to Fumi Yoshinaga’s reputation in yaoi).

It’s largely unexplored territory, and I’ve been waiting for someone to really give it a go, so I’m going to side with Dirk Deppey’s somewhat more optimistic appraisal in today’s Journalista entry:

“At this point, readers from those days [when Tokyopop tried unsuccessfully to sell the josei work of Erica Sakurazawa during the period when shôjo was still finding its footing — dpw] are starting to hit college-age, and might very well provide something resembling a stable market from which to grow over the long term.”

I’d add to that the often-repeated notion that kids, and girls in particular, read upwards of what’s targeted at their age group. I think it’s high time that someone started thinking about what the audience for shôjo might be looking to read next and actually start providing it, instead of ceding readers to other entertainments that might address their interests and attitudes more directly.

Deppey goes on to wonder if a replication of the Cartoon Network Effect might be helpful in heralding josei’s commercial arrival:

“I suspect that you won’t see the sort of stampede effect that other manga demographics have experienced until a good anime geared toward adult women shows up on afternoon/evening television and pushes readers toward an equally good manga series — Ai Yazawa’s Nana, Chika Umino’s Honey and Clover and Moyoco Anno’s Hataraki Man would each fit the bill nicely — but we shall see.”

It certainly couldn’t hurt. I don’t expect Oxygen or WE or Lifetime to announce a programming block any time soon, but stranger things have happened.