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JManga Interview: Part 2

Japanese Publishers Reveal More Details About Their Online Manga Website

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JManga panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2011

JManga panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2011

© Deb Aoki

In Part 1 of my report on JManga from San Diego Comic-Con 2011, I took a look at the digital manga landscape, provided a transcript of the JManga panel at Comic-Con, and some comments from the JManga reception that followed.

Now, in Part 2, I'll cover the conversation I had with representatives from JManga, as well as a few of the representatives from some of the participating publishers from the Digital Comics Association (DCA).

The panel discussion at Comic-Con provided a tantalizing glimpse at what JManga has in store for fans - but as I live-tweeted from the panel, several questions came up that weren't quite answered. Questions like which specific manga titles would be offered when JManga.com launches? How would JManga.com work with existing online manga sites run by VIZ Media, Yen Press, Dark Horse, Digital Manga Publishing and Square Enix? How would JManga ensure quality translations? How is the DCA planning to address the continuing issue of online piracy and unauthorized scanlations of manga? And perhaps most importantly, how much would this service cost?

I didn't get all the answers I was looking for, but I did get more details than what was provided at the panel. Hopefully, more questions will be answered as the JManga site goes live, and continues to evolve over time.

For this interview, I spoke with:

  • Robert Newman ( JManga) - Business Manager, Business Development and Operational Planning
  • Osamu (Sam) Yoshiba (Kodansha) - Executive Director, International Business Division (Including Kodansha Comics USA)
  • Toshitaka Tanaka (Shogakukan) - Manager, Internet Strategy and Business Development Division
  • Kouji Shimano (Futabasha) - Chief Director, Comic Editorial Department
  • Naobumi Ashi (Kadokawa Shoten) - Manager, Digital Contents Department
  • Masaaki Shimizu (JManga) - COO and Director

Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I attended your panel yesterday, and thought it was very interesting. I tweeted from the panel, and as a result, I've received some questions from readers. They're very excited about this idea, but one question that came up a lot was what titles can readers expect to see when JManga launches? And how will you be selecting the titles that will be featured on JManga?

Sam Yoshiba (Kodansha): Kodansha will be initially focusing their efforts around the titles that they'll be publishing as Kodansha Comics USA. We will also be publishing titles that have been published (in English) by other companies in the past but have been cancelled. Moving into the future, we'll be publishing titles that have yet to be licensed in America.

Q: By "cancelled," do you mean Kodansha titles that were published by TokyoPop or Del Rey Manga, or...?

Sam Yoshiba (Kodansha): I can't say specifically, but it's possible.

Q: How many titles are you starting with?

Sam Yoshiba (Kodansha): For the beginning, we'll just be starting with a few titles. Kodansha USA has just started, so we only have a few titles.

Q: So perhaps titles that Kodansha Comics have already published in North America like Akira and Ghost in the Shell?

Sam Yoshiba (Kodansha): Well, those titles are difficult (to publish online now), for various reasons.

Q: Ah. Okay. I noticed that several titles were featured on the JManga fliers at Comic-Con. (Dragon Girl by Toru Fujieda - published by Akita Publishing /Yen Press, The Larceny Log of Zampei the Cloud Snatcher/Kumotori Zanpei) by Takao Saito - published by Leed, One Piece by Eiichiro Oda - published by Shueisha/VIZ Media, Crayon Shin-Chan by Yoshito Usui - published by Futabasha /CMX Manga, Cigarette Kisses by Nase Yamato - published by Libre / Deux Press). Can fans expect to see these titles when JManga.com is launched? Could you provide a full or partial list of the titles that will be featured?

Robert Newman (JManga): My apologies, but this information cannot be disclosed at this time. We will provide you with more information regarding titles around the timing of the launch.

Q: Do you have a ballpark figure of how many titles will be included at the launch of JManga?

Robert Newman (JManga): We plan on starting with a few hundred titles at launch and increasing to a few thousand by the first year and working towards 10,000 by the third year.

Q: Would any of the other publishers like to talk about how many and what kind of titles that they'll be offering when JManga.com launches?

Kouji Shimano(Futabasha): As far as Futabasha is concerned, not as many of our titles have been released outside of Japan. We will be focusing on digital-first releases for JManga (Futabasha manga that have never been translated/published in English). We will be looking at the sales to see how they go, then considering publishing print editions of certain titles if they prove to be popular.

Also, there are some other issues. One of our most popular titles, Crayon Shin-chan was cancelled in the middle of its run. This is something we want to pick up on, and continue. (Note: Crayon Shin-chan was last licensed by CMX Manga, an imprint of DC Comics. CMX Manga stopped publishing manga in June 2010).

Q: So just Crayon Shin-chan to start?

Kouji Shimano (Futabasha): (laughs) We plan on releasing many titles (on JManga)!

Q: (laughs) Ah, that's good to hear!

Naobumi Ashi (Kadokawa Shoten): As far as Kadokawa goes, we will be providing just information on our titles. We plan on releasing information on all of the titles that we are currently releasing digitally in Japan, and Kadokawa is currently deciding what kind of connection to have with JManga and our other U.S. publishing efforts.

Q: Are you looking to publish a mix of genres, or are you going to focus on shonen and shojo manga titles to start?

Kouji Shimano (Futabasha): We look forward to showcasing manga from all genres. Of course, we'll feature shojo and shonen manga, but we also intend to publish seinen, josei and kodomo (kids) manga too.

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