Brands across the water

September 12, 2007

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…