2002 – Manga in Review

by Bamboo Dong, Jan 14th 2003
With all the events in the anime world over the past year, it's no surprise that the manga industry has seen changes as well. The format of graphic novels has been revolutionized, the advent of manga-styled American comics has surfaced, and the popularity of manga anthologies has increased. Among those, there have also been increases in the number and genres of manga titles licensed for American release. Looking back on the months, it's hard to decide which of these changes has impacted the manga scene more. Rather, it's pleasant to review the things that have happened, and reflect on the trends that have brought American-released manga closer to their Japanese counterparts.

One of the biggest changes in the manga industry came early in the year with a press release by Tokyopop. The company announced their plans for a new line of graphic novels entitled Authentic Manga. These novels would feature the manga pages printed in their original right to left format. In addition, the sound effects would be left in their original place, so as not to alter any of the artistic thought put into them by the artists. Announcing that all of their new manga releases would follow this format, Tokyopop followed with the information that because of this new layout, they would be able to publish their novels three to six times faster than before. Fans were further pleased with the news that the new graphic novels also came with a huge price drop to $9.99, creating even more competition in the manga industry.

A few small "issues" came up with Tokyopop's 100% Authentic Manga line over the course of the year, there were a few quality control issues when typos and pages with their sides cut off appeared. But the biggest "Scandal" to affect the brand was when Tokyopop announced that some issues of Initial D would be somewhat edited. The final resolution was somewhat of a compromise, Tokyopop will still be making the edits, but the title will not be labelled "100% Authentic," not what fans wanted, but at least the weren't falsely labelling their product. Then, towards the end of the year, Tokyopop announced that they would no longer be translating sound effects, fan reaction to this was somewhat mixed, but it is clearly in keeping with Tokyopop's 100% idealogy. Perhaps translations underneath the panels?

Previously, there were already some manga titles that were printed in the right to left format, including a few Viz releases and those of other companies. With Tokyopop switching their entire new line to this layout, they were able to show their dedication to providing the most authentic experience to their readers. After their first Authentic Manga title sold out, it was easy to see that this new set-up was not only fan-pleasing, but that there was also a wide market for right to left publications. Whether it was an inspiration to others, or just a preview of events to come, the practice of “authentic” printing was passed on to other companies, as future releases, including new manga anthologies and the Newtype USA anime magazine, were also printed in this manner.

The topic of manga anthologies brings up another change in the industry. Beginning in the fall of 2002, manga anthologies such as Viz's Shonen Jump, and Gutsoon's Raijin Comics joined the ranks of the few anthologies already in print. With the manga titles printed in their original layout, these anthologies explored the option of a weekly anthology market in America. Featured at low prices, and filled with popular manga releases, these anthologies soon became popular amongst fans, and are already seeing the possibility of being around for a long time to come.

As the publication of manga in the US drifted towards becoming more and more true to their Japanese counterparts, there was also an increase of interest in American manga-styled comics. For instance, I.C. Entertainment's anthology AmeriManga showcased a variety of comics drawn using a “manga” style. Popular webcomic Megatokyo also received a print contract from I.C. Entertainment, attesting not only to the popularity of manga-styled comics, but also the influence that webcomics can have on the anime fan community. Furthering the increase of American manga, Tokyopop also launched their “Rising Stars of Manga” contest, offering a chance for the winner to publish their winning manga worldwide.

Another interesting thing worth noting from 2002 is the increased number of manga titles licensed for publication, as well as the types of genres represented. Tokyopop, for example, licensed a slew of popular shonen titles last year, including GTO, Cowboy Bebop, Love Hina, and Chobits. Among their releases announced were fan-favorite shoujo titles that many fans were convinced would never see the light of day in the US, including Marmalade Boy and Kodomo no Omocha. Dark Horse and Studio Proteus also captivated fan interests when they announced the release of Shirow's Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface—alongside the Japanese release. This fast turnaround time provided a new precedent for simultaneous release, further spoiling fans and giving them what they've always wanted.

Even in hindsight, it can't be said that any of these moves were entirely predictable. They each provided a nice surprise to the fan community, and added to the busy year of changes in the anime and manga world. Pleasing fans from a variety of angles, the manga scene has gone through many changes all throughout the course of 2002, and all in all, the alterations have all been good. Two thumbs up for 2002, indeed.

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