2002 - Anthologies and Magazines in Review

by Scott Green, Jan 20th 2003

2002 was the year that manga conquered the bookstore. This year's foundations may make 2003 the year anime and manga conquer the magazine rack.

ADV Runs with Newtype

The Japanese Newtype magazine has always been a pleasure to page through, even if you can't read a word of Japanese. The English edition, NewType USA, captures this with the same oversized format, and full capacity packing of images from the latest Japanese anime releases. Its announcement was one of the most exciting and potentially industry changing moments in the recent history of the American anime industry. There is a new sense of immediateness. For the first time, Americans can see what they're missing. Brand new shows like Gundam Seed, or Heat Guy J, and shows that are eagerly anticipated in Japan like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, all on huge printed pages.

2002 started out uncertain for Newtype USA. Originally it was scheduled for a spring launch from Digital Manga, the parent company of Akadot, OmochaBox, Synch-Point and Digital Manga Distributions to the point where they cannibalized a portion of the Akadot staff to work on the magazine.

The mystery was cleaned up leading to the summer convention, when the distribution was passed to ADV. A superior prototype was cited as the official reason for the change. Newtype USA was patterned after its Japanese counterpart, including oversized pages, full-page spreads, lots of images, and even right to left page flow.

The magazine has shipped with various extras including preview DVDs from Bandai, and Noir and Chance Pop Session from ADV, postcards, and chapters of the Full Metal Manic manga.

When the entire 30,000-unit print run of Newtype USA Issue One shipped to subscribers and stores, and continuing retail demand for the magazine far outstripping aggregate availability, Newtype USA doubled the print run for Issue Two, to a total of 60,000 copies.

Due to the high demand from subscribers and advertisers, Newtype USA has been able to lower the cover price for the English edition of Newtype from the original $12.95 to $9.95.

Confusion or disbelief regarding ADV's editorial uninvolvement with the magazine was exacerbated, and cemented by an ADV centric preview issue which was circulated among the summer conventions. This lead to some of the controversy with readers and the anime industry that it encountered in its early issue. Most notably, Manga Entertainment's CEO, Marvin Gleicher lashed out on the premiere issue's review of the Evangelion movies, taking issue with the review's tone, which he felt ignored the movies' depth, and accusing the magazine of forwarding an ADV marketing agenda.

The "Blast!" Continues at Dark Horse

Dark Horse and Studio Proteus' Super Manga Blast! anthology continued strong with a group of series that appeal to a broad spectrum of demographics from a fat orange cat comic strip to horror action, and caught the attention of many with the addition of Ghost in the Shell creator Masamume Shirow's Appleseed Hypernotes.

Studio Proteus announced an agreement not to re-publish the Hypernotes material in collected form until Shirow completes Appleseed 5, which given his schedule and track-record could be years, if ever.

Continuing series included 3x3 Eyes, Club 9,Seraphic Feather, Shadow Star, and What's Michael?.

Initial sales of Super Manga Blast! compared very favorably to its new competition, but, re-orders, and bookstore sales of those anthologies are making Studeo Proteus' statements of doubt for their viability look unlikely.

Gutsoon! Enters the Picture

This November, Gutsoon! launched North America's first weekly manga anthology with Raijin Comics. Gutsoon! is the American child of Japan's Coamix, which launched the Japanese version of Raijin in May. The initial line-up included Hojo's urban action City Hunter; Hara's Fist of the Blue Sky the prequel to his martial arts epic, Fist of the North Star; Inoue's basketball epic Slam Dunk; and Niwano's Bomber Girl. Later additions included the "Oh My Goddess!"-esque Guardian Angel, semi-realistic martial arts saga Baki The Grappler, political thriller First President Of Japan, terrorist drama Revenge of Mouflon, and X-Files-esque Encounter.

Basket hit Slam Dunk's inclusion raised a few eyebrows with its inclusion, since it was released in Japan in the original Shonen Jump.

Along side Raijin Comics is Raijin Games and Anime Magazine (RGA, initially called Fujin). Raijin Game & Anime (RGA) is a weekly twenty page anime, video games, and culture supplement to Gutsoon!'s weekly Raijin manga anthology. The issues retail for $0.99 as a stand alone, or with a Raijin Comics subscription. The coverage is similar to that of the high profile Newtype USA, with articles about images and articles about latest Japanese releases. It doesn't have Newtype's oversized highly glossy vibrancy, but the articles for the most part, better written to convey the qualities of an anime release to an North American audience.

Raijin Comics is released weekly for $4.95, and RGA is releases weekly for $0.99.

Viz Jumps onto the News Stand

Of all the new anime/manga products launched over the year, Shonen Jump has the best chance to make a large cultural/commercial splash. It is aimed at a young male demographic, with two already immensely popular series: Dragon Ball Z, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. It is hard to find an elementary school without some boy wearing a t-shirt with one of the two series. It then introduces an already eager audience to five other series with a similar formula: a young hero leaving home on a guest to embark on a progressive journey, and meet and join or battle strange individuals (all, but one of the series were later adapted into anime, however none of the others have easy access to the type of merchandising force Dragon Ball, or Yu-Gi-Oh! have).

Jump also doesn't exclude appeal for other and or female audiences. It spends a lot of time on the low end of the intellectual, and emotional spectrum, but it does have its moments of registering highs on both, and it can't be beat for fun. Moral tales about friendship, responsibility and the like might be trite and predictable, but the stories, characters and situations are anything but.

The first monthly issue retailed for $4.95, with a little shy of 300 pages, and featured chapters of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z, Sandland (a post apocalyptic adventure by Dragon Ball's Akira Toriyama), Yu Yu Hakusho, and One Piece (an infectious odd, pirate tale). Ninja adventure Naruto was added in the second issue, and Shaman King will be added in the third.

Jump went through three printings by the end of the year, with over 300,000 copies in distribution. (100,000 was their target), making it one of the top American comic releases in terms of total dollar sales for the year (competing with DC's high profile Dark Knight Returns).

Jump's Japanese publisher Shueisha purchased an equity interest in Viz, tying the company to two of Japan's three largest manga publishers (Viz' parent company Shogakukan being the other connection).

Overshadowed slightly by its new brother, Viz's shoujo (girl's) centric Animerica Extra continued strong with monthly 128 page collections of Yuu Watase's Fushigi Yûgi, Haruhiko Mikimoto's Marionette Generation, Yumi Tamura's Chicago, Masakazu Katsura's Video Girl Ai, and Kia Asamiya's Steam Detectives.

Viz's nine year old Animerica continued against its new competition with the new square-bound format they implemented in late 2001.

Exits

The biggest, forgotten story of the year may be Viz's cancellation of the critically acclaimed adult manga anthology Pulp with volume 6 issue 8 after its publication became no longer financially viable.

Over its run, the anthology brought such as titles as Bakune Young, Banana Fish, Dance Till Tomorrow, Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga, Junko Mizuno's Cinderalla, Short Cuts and Uzumaki.

The shoujo, and slightly yaoi gang saga Banana Fish will move to PULP's sister magazine, Animerica Extra. The remaining serials will be published in straight-to-graphic-novel format, with Dance Till Tomorrow concluding in Volume 6 and 7 of the graphic novel edition of the series, Short Cuts debuting in graphic novel format in June (to be followed by a second and final volume), Junko Mizuno's Cinderalla debuting in a full color single-issue in July and Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga is being collected.

TOKYOPOP ended their Smile shoujo manga anthology at issue 4 #7 as part of their shift from other formats to monthly graphic novel collections and specifically the "Authentic Manga", a decision that the conquest of book stores' comic section proved wise. The final issue featured episodes of Paradise Kiss, and the surprise hit Mars, earlier this year it featured Planet Ladder, and Peach Girl. TOKYOPOP stated that the decision was not influenced by the financial viability of the anthology.

Rising Stars at TOKYOPOP

TOKPOP announced it's "Rising Stars of Manga" talent search competitions which will be spun off into a manga anthology in spring 2003. The entries were accepted August 15, 2002 through December 16, 2002.

Entrants were encouraged to submit content from all genres "-- comedy, drama, horror, science fiction, action, fantasy, romance -- and even under-represented genres such as political, historical or instructional manga".

Continuing Magazines

Comic magazine publishers Wizard Entertainment continue their Anime Invasion on a quarterly basis. Frequent complaints about Wizard's juvenile sense of humor, and especially the presence of a collectability encouraging price guide were carried over to Anime Invasion.

Protoculture Addicts has continued its unique, and in-depth look at a mix of North American and Japanese releases, with an increased in quality printing and paper in the later releases of the year. During Spirited Away's theatrical run, Protoculture Addicts dedicated an issue to the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli with descriptions of their works.

Radio Comic's Mangaphile, an American created manga (or manga style comics depending on your definition) anthology with articles an interviews continued into its third year on a bi-monthly basis with more work from high profile American creators.

Antartic Press's (Ninja HighSchool, Gold Digger, Gigantor) Mangazine likewise continued into its third year of providing American manga on a monthly basis.


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