In the early noughties there was a sudden surge of interest in manga in the USA, resulting in several publishing houses establishing their own lines of manga in English translation. Some have fared better than others – and now, one of the best-established of them all, Del Rey Manga, has recently celebrated five successful years in manga publishing.
Del Rey, thanks to their relationship with Kodansha, have brought us a rich variety of titles and mangaka – although it will be interesting to watch what happens now as Kodansha have recently established their own US publishing base.
As a dyed-in-the-wool CLAMP fan, I was very happy to see Del Rey license the (then) new series ‘Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle’ and its crossover/linked manga ‘xxxHOLIC.’ And when the first volumes appeared in 2004, it was especially pleasing to see the care that had been taken with these titles, setting a high standard that, by and large, Del Rey have maintained. From helpful explanations about honorifics to the fascinating Translator’s Notes at the end of each volume, with illuminating Japanese cultural references, not to mention previews of the next volume in the original language, Del Rey were offering something a little different, even a little more scholarly (but in a good way!) than Viz and Tokyopop (their main rivals in the field.) Another massive hit has been ‘Negima!’ by Ken Akamatsu; the story of ten-year-old wizard schoolteacher and his harem class of fourteen-year-old schoolgirls is ongoing and still selling extremely well. Their latest hot property is Hiro Mashima’s immensely likeable ‘Fairy Tail’ (and, yes, his art is still reminiscent of Oda’s art for ‘One Piece’ but not in a bad way.)
As the five years have passed, there have been more jewels revealed in the collection: most notably ‘Genshiken,’ ‘Mushishi, ‘School Rumble’ and ‘Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei’ – and the classic SF series ‘Parasyte.’
And then Del Rey have given us the invaluable Character Guides: two for ‘Tsubasa’ so far and one for ‘xxxHOLIC’ (just out) as well as the ‘Genshiken Official Book.’ Filled with interviews, character information and facts as well as brand new material, these guides are useful for newcomers to the series and feed the addiction for existing fans. In France, a recent development from Pika has been to issue the last three volumes of ‘Tsubasa’ each in a box-set with the three episodes of ‘Tsubasa: Tokyo Revelations’ on DVD (subbed, not dubbed) from Kaze; one wonders if Del Rey might consider a similar project?
Criticisms? Well yes, I do have a few, even though I applaud Del Rey for the overall high quality of their translations and presentation (the lettering is usually easy to read, another bonus.) But there have been some weak – yes, even depressingly bad – titles amongst the jewels. Several of the shojo titles have left me scratching my head and wondering ‘why?’ Especially when Kodansha’s mangaka have won awards for shojo titles such as ‘Guru Guru Pon Chan’ And I’ve been less than impressed with their ventures into OEL manga; although ‘Yokaiden’ by Nina Matsumoto is a notable exception, with pleasing art and a theme rooted in Japanese folklore, that’s well worth investigating. The cinemanga titles such as ‘Ben 10: Alien Force’ and ‘Secret Saturdays’ (linking up with Cartoon Network) have impressed my kids at school, but may be seen by some purists as selling out. I’d love to be able comment knowledgeably on the recent X-Men and Wolverine manga, but, unfortunately, I haven’t yet seen them.
And now Kodansha Ltd, celebrating its centennial anniversary in Japan, has just begun to issue its own English editions, Kodansha Comics, via Random House the home of Del Rey Manga. The first volumes of ‘Akira’ and ‘The Ghost in the Shell’ have just been released – or ‘re-published’ according to the publicity. The word on the street says that, rather disappointingly, they seem to be the flipped versions previously available from Dark Horse.
So what can we look forward to in the next few months from Del Rey Manga?
Later in November, comes ‘Moyasimon’ by Masayuki Ishikawa
‘Tadayasu is a new, fresh-faced university student hiding a bizarre secret: He can see germs with the naked eye. Between the machinations of an eccentric professor determined to unlock the power of the microbial world and the doomed agricultural experiments of his fellow students, will Tadayasu ever find the cool college atmosphere he so desires?’
The final volumes of ‘Samurai Deeper Kyo’ bu Akimine Kamijyo. Volumes 35/36 in December, followed by 37/38 in June 2010, Del Rey having taken over the license from Tokyopop.
And to please anyone with an eye for bishonen – or who enjoyed the anime R1 series – ‘Nighthead Genesis’ #1 with art with You Higuri.
At a time when other manga publishers in the US (apart from Viz and Yen Press) are cutting back on their output, Del Rey Manga must be doing something right to be continuing to issue on average eight titles a month. I’ve found much to enjoy in their output; I hope they can continue to keep up their high standards.
To conclude on a lighter note – and at the considerable risk of provoking the ire of Answerman from ANN – here are some lists!
Five Titles Suitable for – and tried and tested by – older Juniors (10+)
1/ Kitchen Princess: includes recipes and loved by boys and girls alike – truly addictive! (10 volumes: complete, yet with a light novel to come.)
2/ Sugar Sugar Rune: an imaginative, touching and unusual take by Moyoco Anno on the shojo theme of magical girls. (8 volumes: complete)
3/ Shugo Chara: ongoing magical girl fantasy – a huge hit in Japan, with a charming anime spin-off.
4/ Dragon Eye: a shonen fantasy fighting adventure.
5/ Bakugan Battle Brawlers: from the Cinemanga collection
My ‘Five to Avoid’ Titles (please argue with me on this one! It’s only personal taste…)
1/ Gakuen Prince: you’ll either love or loathe this tale of predatory, sex-obsessed high school girls and their prey. Guess which camp I fell into?
2/ Q-Ko-Chan: The Earth Invader Girl: a massive disappointment from Hajime Ueda, the mangaka of FLCL; what was that all about, then?
3/ Le Chevalier d’Eon – deviates significantly from the anime, a (non) triumph of style and large bosoms over coherent plot and…well, anything, really. Only for true enthusiasts.
4/ Pichi Pichi Pitch: singing mermaids; but which one is which? Impossible to tell them apart… or care…
5/ Gacha Gacha: fan service, obviously not intended for me to enjoy, but some plot would have been nice…