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Out of print: First world problems

Last night I started learning French. Why? Because I want to read manga.

This all started earlier in the year, when I noticed how a lot of English-translated anime and manga were going out of print. And when stuff goes out of print, it either gets expensive (often ridiculously so) or just totally disappears.

I was always aware of this happening, but it never seemed to effect me. I just assumed my favourites would always be there, ready for dispatch when I decided to come calling. We live in the modern world, after all.

Earlier this year, then, I decided to make good on my intention to own Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! manga. It’s a 10-volume science fiction opus about a guy trapped inside an ever-expanding sky-scraper. I’ve loved it for years and re-read it often enough for it to be worth my shelf-space. Decision-made.

It’d slipped my mind that Tokyopop imploded in 2011.

You know you’ve been an anime fan for a long time when you see publishers disappear. Tokyopop, ADV, Bandai Entertainment and Geneon: the list goes on. What’s clear is that the publishers of fringe material like anime have a finite lifespan and are often built on the strength of one or two peoples’ passion, and when that inevitably wanes, so, indeed, does the publisher itself. Tokyopop is a prime example of a company that lived and died on the arbitrary whims of a guy who simply lost interest in what he was doing.

What’s my point? Blame! was published by Tokyopop and I’d foolishly waited too long to buy the flippin’ thing. My girlfriend stalked the isles of Canada’s finest comic-book shops and dug up 8 of the 10 volumes for reasonable prices, but volumes 4 and 6 have since been impossible to find. I could buy them online, but then we’re talking £60 and £90 for volumes 4 and 6 respectively. I’m tempted to just pay up and be done with it, but my God, that’s expensive.

Thus, I’m learning French. I can buy these 2 volumes for £10 combined from a French publisher and won’t have to feel like I’m being ripped off. I just need to be able to understand the language! Last night, I learnt that “Je suis un garçon” means “I am a boy.” “Je bois” is “I drink.”

Since I’m now scared of missing out on more  favourites, I’ve finally fulfilled my destiny of becoming a pure and utter consumer. Last week, I imported DVD collections of Kaiba and Trapeze from Australia, bought all 6 of the volumes released so far of the fantastic horror manga Dorohedoro and devoured my pre-order of Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) volume 1.

I doubt any of these will still be in print in 10 years, so we need to take a long-view here, guys. This isn’t me telling you what to do with your money, it’s more just a warning. Your favourite anime and manga won’t be around forever (particularly if you like weird shit like me.)

Comments

schneider says:

I feel you, man. I heard that the Patlabor manga is fully translated in French, and that’s something I want to read before I die…

bateszi says:

It’s worth the effort, man. To read manga and, well, just to learn another language! :)

Peter S says:

This reminds me of the times when I would buy a manga in Japanese and then sit with my laptop and google translate. A page could take an hour and I still wouldn’t really understand it. And I would have to choose titles for younger readers, because they would give the hiragana along with the kanji. Otherwise I was screwed.

At least the French language isn’t as “foreign” as Japanese is! I wholeheartedly support your plan. If nothing else, you’ll learn some French!

bateszi says:

Yeah, I wouldn’t know where to begin with Japanese, really. That said, some day I’ll bust a gut to learn it. It might sound weird, but through website developing, I’ve realised I can learn new languages: I’m able to switch between PHP, HTML, CSS, Javascript and jQuery, so there’s nothing to say I can’t do the same with English, French, German and hopefully Japanese!

Kim says:

I keep saying to myself I need to import Dennou Coil from Oz. If only the exchange rate was better. When I was in Australia I could get a lot for the dollar…but now. \

bateszi says:

I’d do it sooner rather than later, Kim. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has a limited print run/license over in Oz.

Australia and France, then. These two countries have such cool anime and manga industries.

animekritik says:

I taught myself to read French about 10 years ago for reasons unrelated to anime/manga, but it turned to be an awesome move for accessing Leiji Matsumoto stuff and a few other mangaka that don’t get translated into English so much..

bateszi says:

Yeah, the French manga scene is amazing. It’s basically a second Japan.

A Day Without Me says:

Ugh. Comment got eaten.

Anyway, wouldn’t it make more sense to just learn Japanese? Sure, a lot of titles are available in French that are either no longer so in English or never were, but it seems odd to just learn another “secondary” language when all manga is in Japanese to begin with. Why not just cut out the middleman altogether?

bateszi says:

This is a part that I left out of the article because I didn’t want it to seem like I was pimping some company, but I actually started learning French through this new website called “Duolingo,” which is quite cool. At the moment, they only offer French, German and Spanish, otherwise I’d be all over Japanese. I really recommend it to people interested in learning new languages (and I’ve got 3 invites going spare, if someone’s interested just reply here or something.)

(Sorry about the comment eating, too. My blog’s server can be unreliable these days :( )

Martin says:

I made the same mistake with Kare Kano. Annoyed by the Gainax Ending to the TV adaptation, I figured that since the manga was published in full all I needed to do was buy those and see how the story was supposed to end. At the time of writing I have volume eight…and there are around twenty in total. Published by Tokyopop.

What’s also annoying about this situation is that Tokyopop were THE big English-language manga and light novel publisher, and as a result there’s a huge gap in the market now with some titles still in licencing limbo, waiting to be picked up. I read a light novel entitled ‘Chain Mail’ that was absolutely superb, but sadly few people ever had chance to read it, and have even less chance now.

The list goes on. The problems particular to the UK market – the relatively small size, among many other things – are exacerbated by the way that the companies do business. I’m generalising a bit here and I don’t mean to belittle the hard work that many people are doing, but in a number of high-profile instances it’s not run in the way that professionals ought to run it. Yes, it’s a hostile environment and UK companies are often subsidiaries of larger, better-funded concerns, but there have been a number of occasions when they could’ve made more sensible business decisions, conversed with their fans more and generally acted more like businesspeople who know what they’re doing.

ADV is a case in point, and Tokyopop is another. It’s frustrating because you *want* them to succeed, but so many factors – most, but not all, of which are outside of their control – are conspiring to make the Industry a harsh place.

bateszi says:

In a way, a service like Twitter should be the best thing to happen to an insular industry like the anime industry. Some embrace it, some don’t. The UK could also easily support a manga industry as vibrant as France’s, but it just doesn’t seem to have taken: our country is relatively small, so shouldn’t have the sheer overheads of other the English-speaking nations, and could quite easily act a base from which US/English-speaking manga fans import from.

Hopefully the internet is doing what the publishers couldn’t: building a strong base of manga fans better able to support the next generation of manga publishers.

[…] writes about the problems of out of print manga. This also reminds me of why I regret not getting into Strawberry 100% earlier. Tired of looking at […]

dengar says:

I’ll keep an eye out at AX for you, maybe it’ll turn up there.

bateszi says:

Good man. I’d owe you, big! :)

katjann says:

I know what you mean. I didn’t give it much thought and assumed everything I wanted would still be available on amazon or wherever when I was able to get it, but now I’m having trouble finding everything. I also just learned something is about to go out of print that I hadn’t even heard of until now. Quite sad.

[…] writes about the problems of out of print manga. This also reminds me of why I regret not getting into Strawberry 100% earlier. Tired of looking at […]

Yeah this has been a major thorn in my side. I’m missing one volume (13) of the lesser known manga Please Save My Earth released by Viz. Unfortunately, it seems Viz won’t reprint less popular works so a few of their more obscure titles have been going out of print. And like you, I tend to like the lesser liked things so that leaves me in a bind. Last I checked, second hand prices for decent copies (i.e. not totally wrecked and looking like crap) of volume 13 were around 80 USD. That’s not the kind of money I can spend on a single volume at the moment (exchange rate hits me hard), but I hope one day I can pick it up. ;__; Boys Over Flowers is going out of print too. I didn’t think that would happen since it seemed fairly popular, but now I’m going to have some problems with certain volumes it seems. ;__; This has made me pretty paranoid about stuff going OOP, but not much I can do about it since I’m collecting so much and most of it is really long series (15+ volumes).

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