The year that was

December 28, 2007

So what were the big manga news stories of 2007? I’m not talking about announcements of things to come so much as things that actually happened. (For example, I’m very happy about the prospect of an international anthology from Yen Press, but it’s not here yet. It’s very likely to be one of the stories of the year in which it does drop.)

Here are some possibilities:

Naruto Nation: I know, colossal “duh,” huh? Beyond being incredibly nervy of Viz to unload that much product from a single franchise in a relatively short time span is the shocking fact that it actually worked. Obviously, the popularity of that franchise was essential to the initiative’s success, and I don’t know that it could be replicated with just about any other property, but damn, they sold a lot of Naruto in the last three months of 2007.

The Age of the Omnibus: Maybe I’m overstating the importance of this because I like the idea so much, but this is another somewhat unexpected idea that seemed to gain a lot of traction in 2007 and actually work, leading me to suspect that the trend will expand in 2008. I mean, there’s already a mix of high-end, collector’s collections and value-for-volume versions, which has to tell us something.

The Autism Comic: As I indicated above, Yen Press has announced a number of nervy moves in 2007 – the promised anthology, acquiring ICE Kunion’s catalog, announcing a boys’-love line, etc. But in terms of actual, existing product, and ignoring their fairly generic-looking first wave of licensed shônen, the newcomer’s publication of Keiko Tobe’s With the Light, a meticulously researched comic about a family dealing with autism, is most noteworthy. And it’s apparently selling extremely well to demographics outside the norm for manga. (Of course, that demographic could possibly have just been terribly underserved in terms of intelligent fictional portrayals.) All the same, I find the publication of this book and its apparent commercial success terribly encouraging. (Soon, the way will be paved for agri-manga. Soon!)

Manga: The Complete Guide: Nothing confirms the official arrival of an entertainment category like a comprehensive (at the time), general-audience guide to the available offerings, and this is a very good example of the form. There’s already some very good popular scholarship available about manga from the likes of Frederik Schodt and Paul Gravett, but a user-friendly guide like this seems particularly noteworthy. (I’m not about to call Jason Thompson the Roger Ebert of manga, because Ebert bugs me.)

Tempted as I am to include that near-miss from Seven Seas just so I could use “No, no, Nympet” as a bullet tag, it doesn’t seem to quite make the cut. Neither do any of the “I’m shocked that my child could find this smut in a public library/chain bookstore and hence I must call the local newspaper/television station” dust-ups, not because there weren’t any but because they seemed so routine. New BL and yaoi imprints seem more like an expansion of big news from last year (or even 2005) than something specific to 2007, and yuri and josei still don’t have the kind of foothold they’d need to meet my admittedly undefined standard.

So which manga happenings from the last year stick in your mind?