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Seven Seas' Nymphet Letter 2

by Jason DeAngelis,

This is my second statement regarding NYMPHET, where I'll explain my reasoning behind the decision to cancel the title.

But first, here's a general timeline:

On Thursday, May 24th, in response to the growing online debates about our upcoming release of NYMPHET, we posted an open letter on our site explaining my views on the title and my decision to hold the title until further notice. As I mentioned in that first letter, my intention was to discuss the title in more detail with various vendors, while keeping an eye on the growing debate. My initial goal was to find a solution that would make everyone happy. (A lofty goal that may be impossible to achieve.)

On Friday, May 25th, I was in constant communication with my distributor about this issue. One of the major book chains had already refused to take the title, and another was unsure and wanted to evaluate it some more. In the meantime, on an almost hourly basis, I was getting notification that one vendor after another was canceling their orders on NYMPHET.

On Tuesday, May 29th, Anime News Network posted my first letter, triggering even further debate online. I was then contacted by various online publications to comment on the controversy. Later that day, I decided to cancel the title once and for all, after six days of research and reflection.

My purpose in detailing the above timeline is to address criticism that we decided to cancel the title merely one day after posting my first letter. This is not true; we posted the letter on Thursday night on Gomanga.com, then sent it to Anime News Network on Friday morning, whereupon they posted it on the following Tuesday. In the meantime, I performed my due diligence in carefully evaluating the whole situation over the course of six days.

There are various reasons I decided to “pull the plug” on NYMPHET, sooner rather than later.

First off, to give more context, if you're not familiar with the behind-the-scenes process of licensing manga from Japan, it has reached a point of being so highly competitive among US publishers, that most of us, including Seven Seas, tend to place offers on titles while they're still being serialized in the weekly magazines, often before they are ever collected into tankoubon (ie. graphic novels). If not, the license may very well get snatched up by the competition. In the case of NYMPHET, we placed an offer on it soon after the first volume of the tankoubon was released in Japan, with an option to license the rest of the series later on.

It was not until these past few days, actually, that I personally took the time to delve more closely into the rest of the series and the specific content of the subsequent volumes. Sure, I'd flipped through them before, and what I saw on a cursory glance seemed harmless enough. But this time I sat down and read the series carefully in Japanese, and what I found in volumes two and three were very disturbing. (Particularly, pages 129-131 in volume three, which are highly problematic.) So much so, that I now have to retract some of what I said in my first letter where I tried to defend the content, because certain scenes in the subsequent volumes are indefensible and inappropriate, in my opinion. (If there is blame to be cast, I'll accept blame on our license acquisition and evaluation process. If you were to add up the large number of licenses we acquire, and the total number of volumes per series, it would come to literally hundreds of volumes that we would need to read and review in order to stay on top of all the content and make sure that it is appropriate. In this case, NYMPHET fell through the cracks in our review process.)

So, my primary reason for canceling NYMPHET is due to my recent realization that later volumes in the series can not be considered appropriate for the US market by any reasonable standard. For those of you who have been defending the title and have expressed anger about its cancellation, as a fan, I understand your frustration. But, at this point, I can only assume that you have not seen certain segments later in the series, just as I hadn't, which very clearly cross the line, and which I can no longer stand by or support in good conscience.

Here are some other concerns and criticisms that I would like to address, in the form of question/answer:

Isn't this a case of Seven Seas caving in to pressure? Why not show some backbone and give the fans what they want instead of just being swayed by a vocal minority?

On the contrary, it was quite clear to me that there were actually two sides to this debate, both very vocal, passionate, and angry. It got to the point where it became a “damned if you do, damned if you don't” type of scenario, where no matter what choice I made, one side or the other would resent me for it. So, I tried my best to make the decision independent of any “peer pressure” and instead based it on the following questions which I asked myself:

1) Are we really doing people a service if so many of them find the material so utterly offensive? My conclusion: We're not in this business to offend people. If only a few unreasonable people happened to be offended, I would take what they say with a grain of salt. But if a seemingly growing number of reasonable-minded people are offended, the responsible course is to give serious consideration to their gripes. As I outlined above, when I delved deeper into the series and its subsequent volumes, I realized that my initial position was wrong and that some of the content is indeed objectionable, and not something that I can further rationalize or justify.

2) How will this affect the manga market as a whole? My conclusion: I don't know; I can not predict the future any better than anyone else can, but I certainly acknowledge the possibility, however remote, that the NYMPHET release could become a poster child by the mainstream media for everything that is wrong with manga. I love the manga industry and I delight in my job, and I would rather not take the risk of causing problems that could undermine this industry, especially in light of the escalating media scrutiny we have been getting on this title. (After Publisher's Weekly contacted me for an interview on NYMPHET, it almost seemed like a matter of time before FOX or CNN picked up the story. Call me paranoid, but it's not outside the realm of possibility…)

3) How would this affect our company image on the whole? My conclusion: If the controversy continues to escalate further, it could reflect very poorly on Seven Seas in the eyes of not only those who oppose NYMPHET within the manga community, but in the eyes of practically anyone who does not understand manga. Since we plan to release a variety of popular, mainstream titles that are geared not only towards young adults, teens, tweens, and children, the risk that this one title could sabotage the rest of our library did not seem like a sound business decision to me. Also, if our public image became severely compromised, it would surely jeopardize our ability to get further licenses from Japanese publishers.

4) What do the vendors think? My conclusion: As I mentioned above, they began dropping their orders left and right, so their opinion on this matter became pretty clear cut.

By choosing not to release NYMPHET, aren't you guilty of the very thing that you claim to be against: censorship?

Not at all. The term “censorship” actually implies the government stepping in and forcefully silencing free speech. However, in my first letter, I intentionally used the term “censorship” in quotation marks, because in the manga community, “censoring” a manga specifically connotes altering artwork or text. This is a practice we're opposed to at Seven Seas, so given the choice between altering the work or not publishing at all, we choose the latter. This is not an act of censorship, but a principled and voluntary choice.

Doesn't this suggest that you will cancel other risqué or borderline titles that some people may find offensive?

No, as long as they do not cross that line that NYMPHET clearly does, we will not cancel titles at the drop of a hat. As I've attempted to demonstrate here, my decision on this issue was carefully measured and considered. This means that titles from our yuri line and upcoming ???? line (to be announced) are in no danger of cancellation, and are here to stay.

I am very disappointed that you have canceled NYMPHET and will never buy from your company again.

I'm sorry to hear that and sorry to disappoint all you sincere manga fans out there who have been waiting for this title, but I believe I've given rational and justified reasons for my decision. Hopefully, some of our excellent upcoming releases will change your mind. If not, I respect your freedom of choice to spend your dollars elsewhere, but my goal is to publish manga and other content that is so good you simply can't pass it up.

Jason DeAngelis President Seven Seas

May 31, 2007

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