Breaking news: I just received an email press release from Kodansha USA, which basically says that Random House is folding their Del Rey Manga imprint, and in its place, will be working closely with Kodansha USA to release their manga titles in North America.
Current Del Rey Manga titles will be "will be gradually taken over by Kodansha USA Publishing on a per-title basis." Del Rey Manga Associate Publisher Dallas Middaugh will be transitioning to an unspecified role at Random House Publisher Services (RHPS), Random House's third-party distribution division. RHPS will be providing "strong support" to Kodansha USA's publishing efforts.
I'll be posting more updates on this as I get them, but in the meantime, here's the press release in full:
Kodansha and Random House Transform and Expand Their U.S. Manga Publishing Relationship
New York, NY - October 4, 2010 - Kodansha Ltd. and Random House Inc. have announced their plans to change and expand their manga publishing relationship in North America. The companies are shifting from a licensing relationship to a sales and distribution arrangement as of December 1, 2010.
The current relationship between Kodansha and Random House began in 2003, with the first titles debuting in 2004 under the latter's Del Rey Manga imprint. Since then, more 500 volumes have been published, including many bestselling manga series.
Under the new arrangement, Kodansha's subsidiary, Kodansha USA Publishing, LLC, established in 2008 and led by Yoshio Irie, will be publishing Kodansha-originated manga themselves directly in the U.S. English-language market with strong support from Random House Publisher Services (RHPS), Random House's third-party distribution division. Del Rey Manga associate publisher Dallas Middaugh will remain with the program, transferring to RHPS.
"We are very excited to extend our relationship with Random House," said Yoshio Irie, president and CEO of Kodansha USA Publishing. "Both companies see opportunity in the American manga market, and we look forward to working together to further the distribution and exposure of manga in the United States."
"We are thrilled to have a publisher as distinctive as Kodansha USA Publishing join the Random House Publisher Services portfolio," said Jeff Abraham, the division's president. "Kodansha is one of the great worldwide publishing brands for the manga category, and we will do everything to support their efforts with our many booksellers and distributors who love selling manga titles."
Del Rey's ongoing manga titles which were licensed by Kodansha will be gradually taken over by Kodansha USA Publishing on a per-title basis.
Tokyo-based Kodansha established Kodansha USA Inc. on the occasion of their company's 100th anniversary. Kodansha USA Publishing began by publishing Akira and The Ghost in the Shell in 2009 under the Kodansha Comics imprint. They plan to expand their strong line-up of manga under this exciting new collaboration with Random House Publisher Services.
As of today, the URL kodansha-usa.com leads to a generic "Go-Daddy" website domain landing page. The URL http://kodanshacomics.com/ just has the press release I've posted above on it. Kodansha USA has a two-hour panel scheduled for this week's New York Comic-Con / New York Anime Festival, so it's likely more will be revealed later this week. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: A check of the New York Anime Festival events page shows that the previously scheduled Kodansha USA panel has been removed from the schedule.
Publishers' Weekly has also posted an article entitled "Random House to Shift Manga Publishing to Kodansha USA Publishing" with additional quotes and comments from Yoshio Irie, president and CEO of Kodansha USA Publishing and Jeff Abraham, president of Random House Publisher Services. Irie's comments in particular offered a bit more clarity on the role that Random House will play in this new business arrangement:
... while Kodansha USA Publishing will now directly oversee the publishing of Kodansha-originated English-language manga licenses, Kodansha still plans to "to work with local partners in foreign territories." He said that Random House will continue, "handling much of the publishing side, such as editorial, production, sales and marketing."
When asked about the current sales slump for manga in North America, Irie had this to say:
Asked about sales declines in the manga market, Irie said he believed them to be "temporary" and said that "fans who started reading manga when it first came to the U.S. market are now familiar with reading manga. They remain a good audience for young adult manga, which is a very popular genre in Japan, and we expect that as our fans grow up, their kids will start reading manga too. We think this is a good opportunity to expand across all demographics."
Is this code for perhaps Kodansha USA's intention to put more marketing oomph behind some of their critically acclaimed but really only mega-popular in Japan manga titles for 20-something+ readers like Moyasimon, Nodame Cantabile, and the always talked about but not yet available in English Kodansha titles like Kami no Shizuku (Drops of God) or St. Oniisan (Saint Young Men)? We shall see, won't we?
Image credits: © Del Rey Manga, © Kodansha Comics, © MASH-ROOM