By Jason S. Yadao
The news first popped up on About.com manga blogger Deb Aoki’s feed at 6:47 a.m. today:
My initial reaction was to do what we manga bloggers are trained to do in such situations: retweet the original poster’s tweet of shocking news, then get to work on a quick post lamenting the loss of another manga publisher and pondering what this means for the future of manga in America. So here we are.
I will give DC Comics credit for actually announcing that their imprint is ending; while we’ve seen a handful of blow-cushioning announcements in the past (see: Broccoli Books, 2008), the industry standard seems to be more a long period of silence followed by the soft “thump” of another corpse being tossed into the Crypt of Anime and Manga Publishers (hello, ADV Manga; even in death, you shall forever be our example of how not to publish manga).
Still, though, every loss is a dagger to the hearts of serious manga fans everywhere. Any history of CMX has to include the whole Tenjho Tenge censorship kerfuffle, of course, but the publisher rebounded to release out one of the most beloved series in the manga blogosphere, Manga Moveable Feast subject Emma. Shojo manga series also landed squarely in CMX’s wheelhouse, with the classic ballet tale Swan leading the way. There’s also Crayon Shin-chan, which now has the dubious distinction of landing at two U.S. publishers that won’t complete its run (the other one being ComicsOne). I know quite a few people were looking forward to Usamaru Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her, which is now one of the many post-June releases that has been canceled. (The only one to survive: Fred Gallagher’s Megatokyo.) And then there was the lament of tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Jandoc — a woman who’s also lost Initial D and Gunslinger Girl over the years — who tweeted this morning, “Please at least bring out the promised vol. 17 of Musashi #9, @cmxmanga. Please?”
Wilma’s lament, probably being echoed by fans nationwide at the moment with various CMX series, is emblematic of what may be the saddest trend with all of these publishers shutting down: We’re now deeply entrenched in the Age of the Uncertain Future, where there are fewer guarantees that any series, from series that were just starting out their CMX runs like Diamond Girl all the way up to the ongoing omega-blockbusters like Viz’s Shonen Jump juggernauts of Naruto and One Piece, will complete their U.S. runs. Perception goes a long way in determining the future, and if fans keep seeing their favorite series canceled midway through, they’ll be more hesitant to try out something new for fear that it may happen again. It’s a trend that I fear will only snowball as the industry continues to contract … and it’s one for which there are no easy resolutions.
In closing, a trivia note: When I wrapped up the Rough Guide to Manga about a year ago this month (and hey, have I ever mentioned that it’s still on sale at finer book retailers online worldwide?), I listed 21 active mainstream manga publishers. Five of them — Aurora, DrMaster, Go! Comi, Infinity and now CMX — have since gone dormant or shut down, and Viz is 40 percent smaller in terms of workforce. Sure, one publisher also opened up during that time, but Kodansha’s release of all of two volumes of manga in six months — and re-releases of older material, at that — doesn’t exactly inspire much hope in me.
And I have a feeling I’m not quite done writing up publisher obituaries, either.