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Manga Answerman - Why Do Publishers Sometimes Stop Publishing Manga Before They're Finished?

by Deb Aoki,

Why do publishers stop publishing some manga before the series is completed?

There are many reasons why a publisher might opt to stop publishing new volumes of a manga series in English before the story is completed. The most obvious and common reason why a manga series might be left unfinished is directly related to sales, or lack thereof. If a manga series is an especially slow seller, and the cost of producing, printing and distributing the book is more than the potential profit from selling it, it can be hard for a publisher to rationalize spending more time, money and resources on a series that is losing money versus putting those same resources toward putting out newer, potentially better selling titles.

This issue is compounded with long series that aren't selling well, because, generally speaking, the first volume of any given manga series is usually the one that sells the most copies, with sales for each subsequent volume being a bit less.

During the North American manga publishing crash roughly 10 years ago, when Borders Bookstores closed, and the recession created a dire financial situation when publishers had to make some tough choices. Several opted to lay off workers or otherwise downsize their operations. Some closed up shop, went out of business, or drastically slashed their publishing output. It was largely during this time that several manga series were left unfinished.

However, it's worth noting that cancelling a series isn't a publisher's only option. Another strategy is to slow down releases of new volumes – so for example, a series that may have started out with new volumes released quarterly may start releasing new volumes every four, six or twelve months, or more!

Another option that has become more popular in recent years is using digital-only releases to revive and complete a series. For example, Kodansha Advanced Media, the digital publishing arm of Kodansha, has been releasing and completing the runs of some previously unfinished or out-of-print Kodansha manga series previously published in print by Del Rey Manga and Tokyopop, including Nodame Cantabile, School Rumble, Beck, and Yagyu Ninja Scrolls. Similarly, Viz Media quietly picked up several series previously published in print by TokyoPop and Bandai as digital only releases, such as Lucky Star, Welcome to the N.H.K., and Sgt. Frog.

And, as manga sales have recovered since the crash, some previously out of print series have been picked up and resumed by other publishers, such as Maid Sama! by Hiro Fujiwara, a TokyoPop title picked up by Viz Media, and Fruits Basket, Natsuki Takaya's top selling shojo series published by TokyoPop, which has been re-translated, republished and continued by Yen Press.

Another reason why a manga series might stop in mid-story is because the series stopped publication in Japan, often because of the manga creator. One famous example of this is NANA, Ai Yazawa's rock and roll romance/drama, which left off at Volume 21 in 2010. Yazawa has been on break for health-related reasons since then, and so, no new volumes of NANA. Another notable example is Hunter X Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi. This long-running Shonen Jump series has gone on hiatus so frequently, there's even a page devoted to tracking the frequency of the breaks between new chapters. https://hiatus-hiatus.github.io/

While there are still a few series that were cancelled several years ago and are still left unfinished in print or digital, I do find it promising that many once thought to be lost causes have returned in some form or another. It's also heartening to see that one benefit of manga's healthier state of business is that mid-series manga cancellations are rare, and happen much less frequently (if at all) than they did when the manga publishing biz was undergoing their financial woes a few years ago. So who knows? Maybe your favorite unfinished manga might be the next one to “come back from the dead.”

Which previously published but so far, unfinished manga series are you hoping to see come back from publishing limbo? Share your wish list in the forums!

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Deb Aoki was the founding editor for About.com Manga, and now writes about manga for Anime News Network and Publishers Weekly. She is also a comics creator/illustrator, and has been a life-long reader of manga (even before it was readily available in English). You can follow her on Twitter at @debaoki.

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