Paradise lost?

Is Hiroki Endo’s Eden: It’s an Endless World! (Dark Horse) looking at a hiatus? That’s the word from Ed Chavez at MangaCast, who thinks this would be a big loss for fans of manga in general. He also notes how unusual it is for a manga publisher to leak this kind of news:

“I have never heard a comment like that made at a panel before, so for a fan like myself it really sent a message as to how much DH loves that title and how much it needs help, as well. I never want to see a title discontinued or put on hiatus and generally when they do suffer such fate fans of the series are often the last to know.”

He goes on to suggest that fans pick up a copy of Eden at their local bookstore and give the title a chance, which highlights what might be one of the problems the series is facing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it (or a lot of my favorite Dark Horse manga titles) in a bookstore. I’ve seen Banya, the Explosive Delivery Man with some regularity, and a handful of others, but their seinen stuff is generally confined to the Direct Market. That might be a regional thing, and larger urban areas may be blessed with stores that carry full runs of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Mail.

Even if it did find a home at your local Barnes & Noble or Borders, would it fly off the shelves? Kethylia isn’t convinced:

“This is not new news. The overaged fanboys can lament the demise of Raijin Comics and the failure of DMP to follow through with the seinen side of their initial “mandate” all they want. It just doesn’t change anything. They might be the ones to protesteth loudest on the Internet, and they might be the ones in control of the manga industry, but they’re not the ones with the buying power. And if it’s not clear to you by now who IS the demographic with the buying power, I’ll spell it out for you–Girls and Women. Who do not, surprise surprise, flock to Blood and Breasts in satisfyingly large numbers.”

It’s a persuasive argument, and seinen junkie Tina Anderson expands on it in the comments:

“Shonen does well for VIZ largely due to the fact that there are just as many women reading those damn titles from JUMP as their are men; I’m a fan of seinen, but damn if I always fail at trying to convert my (female) friends and get them to try it.”

It’s not hard to conclude that the seinen fan’s life is one of recurring disappointment and loss. DMP has abandoned titles like Worst and Bambi and Her Pink Gun, and even Dark Horse seems to be testing the shôjo (or at least shôjo-friendly) waters with books like Translucent and Red String.

For an extremely well-written qualitative look at Eden, check out Katherine Dacey-Tsuei’s review at Manga Recon:

“More importantly, Endo makes us care about the outcome of these battles by creating characters that the reader… well, I won’t say ‘identifies with’ in the sense that these characters inspire empathy. They don’t. Most are violent, misanthropic, and flawed, with little regard for others. Yet their fierce determination to survive and their desire to find dignity in dehumanizing circumstances make them compelling and believable, even when Endo’s narrative is not.”

Update: MangaBlog’s Brigid learns that reports of Eden‘s potentially imminent demise may have been exaggerated.

22 Responses to Paradise lost?

  1. Chloe says:

    If larger urban stores have full runs of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery service, I’ll swallow my laptop whole. It’s an uphill battle just to get Amazon to deliver it. Therein lies the problem.

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    I’ve had the same problem with Dark Horse via Amazon, Chloe. Some volumes of Mail took forever to arrive.

  3. […] Welsh has an excellent writeup on the issues faced by male-targeted manga. It’s quite eye-opening to someone used to the male domination of the American comics […]

  4. Brigid says:

    You’re absolutely right about the retail end, David. Dark Horse titles are very hard to find at my local chain bookstores (although they carry a lot of their non-manga titles).

    Kethylia has a point as well, but I do think there is such a thing as girl-frienly seinen. Like Emma, which is technically seinen, and Death Note, which my daughter and her friends gobble up like potato chips. They also like xxxHolic, Oh! My Goddess, and Azumanga Daioh, all of which run in seinen magazines in Japan. Monster kicks ass. Kurosagi had good enough stories to carry me through the disgusting bits. And the CMX folks have said in the past that Tenjho Tenge is their top seller.

    I think there’s a space in the market for more mature stories, and a lot of those stories are seinen. The blood-and-breasts stories are playing to a more limited market, which is part of the problem. And if manga that are on the borderline, like Kurosagi and Eden, can’t get into bookstores for women to find them, then the battle is lost for them.

  5. gynocrat says:

    Death Note is, in my opinion, one of those titles that’s written to actively snag female readership. And CLAMP titles are a given. ^_-

  6. davidpwelsh says:

    “And if manga that are on the borderline, like Kurosagi and Eden, can’t get into bookstores for women to find them, then the battle is lost for them.”

    Or if Amazon takes much longer to ship them for whatever reason, as Chloe noted. It’s really too bad all the way around. Maybe I’m just overly partial, but I think stuff like Kurosagi doesn’t have any kind of gender barrier. There are characters anyone can identify with, and it’s too bad that it’s retail habitat is so limited.

    “Death Note is, in my opinion, one of those titles that’s written to actively snag female readership. And CLAMP titles are a given. ^_-”

    Oh, for sure. The quotient of hot, interesting guys in Death Note is high, and it’s also one of those stories that could work equally well with women in the leading roles. And Monster might be more interesting if Dr. Tenma was a woman.

  7. ChunHyang72 says:

    A little more transparency on Dark Horse’s part would also be helpful. I think many fans have been frustrated in their efforts to get their hands on titles like Eden and Kurosagi, a frustration that’s exacerbated by DH’s sometimes erratic publishing schedule. DH would win back a lot of skeptics by creating a blog that kept fans in the loop about delays, possible cancellations, and such. I didn’t realize that Satsuma Gishiden had been shelved until the most recent wave of speculation about Eden. Argh!

  8. Simon Jones without a blog says:

    Something that comes to mind is that, rather than the dominant manga fandom, women, though lets be honest the demographic is more properly girls, are the dominant anime fandom, with manga fandom being a sizable subset of that. And with Shojo and Shonen series being the predominant product of that particular market as far as crossover goes, you’re going to have a larger inherent market for those series. You very rarely get Josei or Senin series turned into anime and both those genres have been relatively unsuccessful over here. Which is a shame, since, while I can’t tolerate a lot of Shojo, I actually like Josei. So, could it be argued that rather than a genre divide it’s rather something that tends to skew younger?

  9. davidpwelsh says:

    “DH would win back a lot of skeptics by creating a blog that kept fans in the loop about delays, possible cancellations, and such.”

    Transparency would definitely build some understanding, Chun. But then John Jakala wouldn’t post to his blog as often, so I’m torn! Maybe they could contract the blog out to him?

    “So, could it be argued that rather than a genre divide it’s rather something that tends to skew younger?”

    I was wondering about the plastic wrap factor, Simon. I wonder if bookstores are reluctant to deal with books that have mature enough content to require the seal-a-meal treatment when there are hundreds and hundreds that don’t.

    It’s weird, though, to compare the face-out displays for graphic novels, which feature all kinds of grown-up stuff like the Hernandez brothers and so on, and the manga, which is pure shonen-shojo.

  10. […] Precocious Curmudgeon, David Welsh picks up the thread and also points out that seinen titles like Eden are hard to find in chain bookstores. And over at […]

  11. JennyN says:

    Interesting that US readers have difficulty getting hold of Dark Horse releases – they turn up punctually on the shelves of bookstores in my current location.

    Which unfortunately is a large city in Australia…

  12. davidpwelsh says:

    “Which unfortunately is a large city in Australia…”

    Which is closer to China, so…

  13. Simon Jones without a blog says:

    Australian manga selections in stores tend to have a lot more obscure or small press stuff. I know the place in Melbourne where I do most of my nerd shopping has a very diverse selection.

  14. […] an Endless World might be placed on hiatus — which isn’t true, it turns out — David Welsh ruminates on the fact that fans of Japanese comics geared toward adult men simply aren’t […]

  15. PhoenixfireV says:

    “So, could it be argued that rather than a genre divide it’s rather something that tends to skew younger?”

    I think this is really the case. American in general don’t think in terms of gender like the Japanese do. You don’t see bookstores dividing up their books between “men” and “women”. It’s all about age and genre. Children and teens in one section, and the rest for adults. Libraries are the same way. This obsession we have to keep the Japanese labels based on gender is going to continue to lead to these kinds of failures. Companies should not be trying to decide if they want to get more men or women reading, but whether they want to attract more mature readers or keep going for kids. I would really prefer to see more mature titles (though I do love my shonen/shojo). Some adult drama, history and thrillers would be welcome to all the teenage agnst we’ve been inundated with.

  16. Matt Thorn says:

    Could one reason for the failure of both men’s and women’s manga in the Anglophone market be that adult readers are more discriminating and less likely to accept the horrible translations that seem not to bother most teens and tweens? I know I’ve flogged this point to death all over the place, but I can’t believe that a brilliant women’s title like Nodame Cantabile would have flopped if it had been properly translated.

    As for gender, I think PheonixfireV underestimates the importance U.S. publishers and retailers (and I don’t mean publishers and retailers of comics) place on gender. Barnes & Noble may not have big signs reading “Men’s” and “Women’s,” “Boys'” and “Girls'”, but gender is very much a consideration in the strategies of any publisher worthy of the name, or when the layout of any big bookstore is planned.

  17. Huff says:

    Matt: I think the biggest problem is that a lot of people can’t get over the “that’s that kid’s stuff like Dragon Ball” mentality. I find that even guys who watch anime have trouble getting into manga because the vast majority of titles they’re going to find at a bookstore are originally intended for Japanese schoolgirls. A kind of “I eat because I’m sad and I’m sad because I eat” situation. The good news is the kids who got hooked on manga during the big boom are getting older, so hopefully their tastes will also grow and promote more of a balanced market. But I wholeheartedly agree about Nodame’s translation, which is poor even by today’s standards.
    As much as I like manga’s recent success and the new titles that have been brought over by that success, sometimes I wish Viz was still taking chances and publishing stuff like PULP or Secret Comics Japan. But they are re-printing Black and White, so its a very good start. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll go re-read Wounded Man (bleah).

  18. Simon Jones without a blog says:

    I wish I still had my big jpeg collage of Koike characters peeing on one another. Because it made me giggle.

    That aside, I think another factor to keep in mind is that the manga fandom is mostly fueled by the Anime fandom. Which does tend to skew younger and does tend to want those particular titles. So stuff like Bleach or Naruto or nearly anything in Shonen Jump is going to do particuarly well while Senin and Josei stuff, that almost never gets animated is going to lack that same inherent audience.

  19. JennyN says:

    With you on the ghastliness of many English translations, Matt Thorn. If a title I want is available in both French and English, I’ll almost always go for the French version, because (a) it will be grammatically accurate; (b) it will use slang or argot where appropriate, but it won’t attempt to ingratiate itself with a presumed teen audience by being too-cool-for-school or cutesy; (c) the editors will have done their background research and will include the results in footnotes or endnotes, if not extended essays, biographical notes and bibliographies – which regularly turn up in manga intended for teens as well as adults. Nor will they see any need to water down the “Japaneseness” of the contents (this from one of the most culturally self-centered and self-satisfied nations on earth…) As it is, I can get through something like SWAN – “Margaret” Fonteyn? “Waldorf” Nureyev? “The Ugly Duck” not The Ugly Duckling? – only with gritted teeth and because I want to get at least a rough idea of the story supporting that magnificent art…

  20. PhoenixfireV says:

    I’m sorry Matt, but I just don’t see the gender emphasis. I realize that there are books written with girls or boys in mind, but they are segregated into separate sections of the bookstore. The “My Secret Unicorn” books are on the same shelf as “Captain Underpants”. I see titles alphabetical, by series and by author, but I haven’t seen them by gender, labeled or not.

    Any way you look at it, it’s an age issue. Older readers consider comics and manga for kids, and don’t look at manga unless they are following a kid, or are looking for a kid. Of course, even if an older reader did try to look for themself, they couldn’t find the books in their local Barnes & Noble anyway. I know I’ve never seen “Eden” or “Kurosagi” in mine. Nor at the local Borders, and it’s selection is 4 times bigger than the B&N. You can’t buy what’s not there.

  21. […] The big discussion right now is about manga for grown-ups. It’s ostensibly about “Men’s Manga”, but luckily Simon Jones put that bullshit to rest right-quickly by pointing out that Josei (”Women’s”) manga has been an unfortunate failure in North America as well. About the only ‘mature’ manga doing very well right now is smut, for women (Yaoi/BL/changepurse/etc.), with even hardcore porn having a tougher go of it than it used to. […]

  22. […] on seinen David Welsh on seinen David Welsh on the age […]

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