By Wilma Jandoc
If you’re a regular reader of our column, you’ll know that Jason and I are fans of the manga and anime series “Initial D.” Though with the U.S. publisher of said series, maybe not so much. When Tokyopop started hitting financial troubles, one of the series to go was “Initial D.” What made it worse for fans like us was that it died a very. slow. death, much like another favorite Tokyopop series of mine, “Kindaichi Case Files.”
Like most series, “Initial D” the manga started off strong and with high hopes, given how crazy popular it is in Japan. Tokyopop faithfully published one volume every other month, using the characters’ original Japanese names — Takumi Fujiwara, bored high-schooler with an insane command of his dad’s Toyota Eight-Six down the treacherous Akina mountain pass; Ryosuke Takahashi, godlike leader of the racing team The Red Suns, with the goal of making his and his team’s name known throughout the Kanto region; and so on.
Speaking of downhill, the Tokyopop version went that way a little faster than I (and I’m sure many other fans) would have liked. In volume 2 of the series, the publisher stepped away from its slogan of “100% AUTHENTIC MANGA” and decided to, shall we say, “trick out” the characters’ names. Takumi became Tak; his best friend, somewhat idiotic Itsuki, became Iggy; the divine Ryosuke became Ry while his almost-as-famous tough brother Keisuke became “K.T.”
Oh. My. Goodness.
Whether these changes ultimately affected sales of the manga may never be admitted or denied outright. Personally, I was just so thrilled to be holding an English-language version of “Initial D” in my hands that I devoured each volume, horrible street trash talk and all. Granted, Tokyopop did generally keep to its bimonthly publishing schedule, with relatively few hiccups and a smattering of 3-month instead of 2-month waits.
Until the mysterious Volume 34.
That volume was due out in April 2009, at least according to Amazon.com, from which I’d preordered my copy — in addition to a bunch of other manga. (Come on now, no tax, free shipping for orders over $25 — for people in Hawaii who have to suffer enormous shipping prices, that’s one of the best things about Amazon. It’s probably because of people like me — and I know you all are out there — that the Legislature passed House Bill 1405.)
Long before then, back in June 2008, the company had announced its brilliant (?) reorganization strategy of splitting into two companies, laying off a couple dozen employees and halving its yearly manga production, according to Anime News Network. Still, I held out hope. After all, Initial D was one of the more popular franchises, and even after the reorganization, the manga came out on time, on its usual bimonthly schedule.
Then volume 33 came. Or rather, DIDN’T. Volume 32 came out in August 2008, three months after #31 in May 2008. And you could almost envision Tokyopop’s gasping breath when Volume 33 finally was published FIVE months later, in January 2009.
Then the notices came.
The complete beleaguered history of Volume 34 has been forgotten to me now, given that I seem to go for the series that everyone feels like shoving to back burners (but that’s a subject for another post) and so I have so many items outstanding that I no longer remember how many times Amazon has told me that #34 would be delayed. News broke in late January 2009 broke that Tokyopop pulled the listing with distributor Diamond Comics. However, some time later, Amazon finally listed Initial D Volume 34 with a release date of April 7, 2009.
And now here we are at July 1, and still no volume 34 is gracing my bookshelves. Tokyopop has said that the series (along with many others on the chopping block) isn’t canceled, just on hiatus.
Well. And so after all that explanation, the purpose here isn’t Tokyopop bashing. I pretty much gave up on the series after volume 34 went the way of vaporware. What brought it back to the forefront after these months was the intensely surprising email I received from Amazon just a few days ago:
Wait… volume 35?? When #34 hadn’t even been released and probably wouldn’t be so for a long time, if ever? This I had to see. So I went to Amazon’s site. Sure enough, there was a product page offering #35 for preorder with an expected release date of July 6. I then looked up #34. The product page was still there, still woefully devoid of a cover scan or detailed information, still with a release date of April 7 — except now there were a couple of unexpected additions. Namely, third-party sellers were actually offering the book. For a premium. How MUCH of a premium, you might ask?:
Indeed, your eyes do not deceive you. For just the low, LOW price of $999.98, YOU can buy a BRAND SPANKING NEW copy of Initial D #34! Or, hey, willing to spend a penny more? Then you can get a USED copy of volume 34! Why “used”? Because, as the item description on another page says, it’s a copy that “may have been withdrawn from library circulation.”
You have GOT to be kidding me.
It is just amazing the gall of some sellers trying to pass off this book for a few cents under a thousand bucks — a manga that for all we know doesn’t even exist. Take note that the sellers give next to no information about the particular book they’re hawking.
Ah, “low item price.” Somehow that just seems so ludicrous in this context, doesn’t it? Even if it were the original Japanese version, which you can easily pick up at Book-Off in Shirokiya for a few dollars. For the price that these two sellers are demanding, that book better have the signatures of not only author Shuichi Shigeno, but also the voice actors for main men Takumi, Ryosuke, Keisuke, and Takumi’s dad Bunta. AND I demand that it be in pristine condition and have been kept in a climate-controlled warehouse!
Yeeeeah. You thought eBay was home to some dirty rotten scoundrels — well, Amazon isn’t that far behind. I have seen bootlegs being offered up for sale there. “Caveat emptor” has never been so appropriate.