Ima, kore ga hoshiin da! - Info is the key

In the world of reporting, information is number one. The ability to decipher then communicate said information is also important, but those skills are useless without any actual information. (Of course, you could always make up information, but eventually, people will get wise to that.) No where is this truer than in the North American Anime market where information is at a premium, often thanks to a language barrier. Being able to decipher that information becomes more important, especially considering the players and politics often involved with bringing a series over. And with the competitive market now existing for licenses of new series, a good "I want it now" buzz just can't be generated without solid information. It's almost a catch-22, where companies are trying to find the next big thing, but don't know if a series will be worth its licensing fee since the North American audience have yet to encounter it.

As the writer and reviewer, I'm always in search of information on up and coming series in Japan. Much of my information comes thanks to my contacts within the industry and associates in Japan, but more information comes my way thanks to the Internet. The Internet has made information readily available: it's unfortunately left to the crafty to find it. The best source of information about a new series in Japan is often the official series website. Because there's always a catch, the majority of the time, the sites are in Japanese, kanji and all. True diehard fans have this licked, as they've taken years of Japanese language classes and can whip up a rough translation. That's fine, but what about the rest of us.

The rest of us are often left with the choice of waiting for a fabulous news site, like Anime News Network, to come along and translate it. After all, it's the job of sites such as ANN to search hell and high water for that kind of information.

Ah, but you cry out saying that legions of Anime fans don't have access to Internet resources. Despite the advantages of near real time web coverage and the proliferation of computers throughout the world, a large percentage of Anime fans still remain tied to traditional media resources. Yes, that's right, poor little Billy and Mandy down the road have to rely on, gasp, paper magazines!

For the last few years in North America, this meant many fans relied on magazines such as Animerica and Protoculture Addicts. And to complicate things further, these magazines could only be found in specialty comic book/gaming stores or in major retailers in large metropolitan areas. Of course, the resourceful find a way, so these magazines eventually find their way to the legions. Ah, but when you're the only show in town, you can often pick and choose what the legions see. This of course leads to slow information, old information and the occasional Pokémon cover in an attempt to boost a month of sales by appealing to the mass market.

While these magazines felt a bit of bite from the new media sources of the Internet, thanks to consistent sales to the legions of non-connected fans they could continue to dictate material to their audience. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for the legions things are about to change.

After a few bad starts, a lot of noise, then nothing for a while, new players are entering the game of the Anime magazine coverage. Some have been around for a while, while others are relatively new comers to the world of Anime news coverage.

The first, and arguably the one with the largest amount of impact is actually an old player in the game of Anime coverage. Newtype has long been an established part of the Japanese Anime Otaku culture, with its glossy pages and current news coverage. Diehard fans are quite familiar with import versions of this magazine, while others have seen the covers proudly displayed at numerous conventions. Now with a new partnership with AD Vision, Newtype is coming to North America with a full English language version.

While AD Vision is a major part of the creation of Newtype-USA, the magazine gets a major boost as a completely separate division. A preview issue made its premiere at this year's Anime Expo mixing a variety of translated content from Newtype-Japan with a collection of original content made for the English version. High-quality paper, big bright images and sticking with the traditional Japanese format of right to left all proved to convention goers that Newtype-USA would change the world of Anime coverage. Of course, even more important was the fact that Newtype-USA would only be a month to two months behind news coverage of its sister magazine. The only real hurdle faced is its price tag of $10 US. Newtype-USA has come a long way, since speculation at Anime Expo had the cover price at around $14 - $15 US. Those with the means will of course go with a yearly subscription to this monthly magazine, but it's the casual buyers that may be looking elsewhere for their Anime information.

The next major newcomer is the magazine formerly known as Fujin. Now called Raijin Game and Anime (RGA), this magazine is actually a supporting feature of Gutsoon's soon to be released weekly manga anthology, Raijin. At $.99 or free for subscribers, it'll definitely give Newtype-USA a run for up to date information. Of course, don't expect too many extras, as they will most likely be tied up with Raijin. Much like Newtype, RGA made its premiere at Anime Expo, showing examples of its expected format. While not printed on the high quality paper that Newtype uses, RGA has the advantage of an original Japanese product produced for a North American audience. This has a few advantages as Newtype is being handled differently as English speakers are translating Japanese articles targeting a Japanese audience, with additional "local" content being generated as needed. While it's still unclear what true affect this will have, it will definitely be interesting to see which method is most effective for the North American audience.

So with the two new players in the game, how are the old boys handling it? For the most part, not anything differently than before. Animerica has announced no major changes in its format or its sister magazine, Animerica Extra. Viz, the parent company of Animerica, is taking on the manga anthology with its own monthly version of the popular Japanese manga anthology, Shounen Jump. With the announced title list for the new monthly anthology, Viz is slightly behind in terms of recent Japanese material, and is going the way of the mass market by including series that are familiar to that crowd thanks to showings on Cartoon Network of the related Animes. As the established king of the Anime print media hill, Viz will mostly take a wait and see approach as to the success of its new rivals.

The other player in this game of print magazines lies with a company that's been an upstart since its inception. Wizard's Entertainment, long established in the world of comics, is turning up the heat with its own Anime rag, Anime Invasion. Going from a quarterly to a bi-monthly format, Anime Invasion is looking to take advantage on the latest trend of Anime information. Getting quite serious, Anime Invasion even sent out wanted ads looking for new freelance writers to increase their writing staff. Anime Invasion's strength lies mostly in the established reputation of its parent company, Wizard's. With their Comic Book news magazine Wizard, and their hobby gaming magazine, Inquest, Wizard's has a long established reputation in the print magazine arena. Their weaknesses lie with their editorial style. Appealing to the 14 year old male in all of us, Wizard and Inquest have always been on the cutting edge of Beavis and Butthead wit and humor. Whether that same style will appeal to the Anime Legions remains to be seen, but Wizard's is betting on success with an increase in staff as well as a faster production schedule.

Despite all that I've just said here, your best choice for up-to-date information about the world of Anime lies with news sites such as Anime News Network. When you don't have access to your computer, it helps to have options. With the ever expanding market of Anime, it's nice to see the established institutions in the print media getting a run for their money. With so many players in the market, each will be jockeying for your attention, so expect more recent information. In the end, it all leads to making us, the legions, salivate for more Anime goodness!

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