Sunday, August 8, 2010

Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, New Edition

You may have heard about this: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou has been republished in Japan. This new edition, literally "new edition" in Japanese (新装版, shinsouban), is 10 (thicker) volumes versus the original 14. It contains all the color artwork from the magazine serialization, plus some little rough sketches here and there on the pages between chapters. The covers are all new, and as the ad on the right (from the August issue of Afternoon) says, the concluding chapter "Touge" will be published in volume 10 — it appeared over a year after YKK ended serialization, so it's never been collected into a tankoubon. Basically, think of this New Edition as a new print run of the series, with minimal extras.

So the question is, should you buy this? If you're a die-hard YKK fanboy, then the answer is obviously yes, especially if you don't own the previous edition, which is long out of print. (Even if you do, don't let that stop you.) For everyone else, we can ask a more pointed question: is YKK ever going to get licensed for publication in English? I've paid a bit more attention to licensing this season than I have in the past, and I have to say I'm pessimistic. Vertical's Ed Chavez asked for suggestions on Twitter and elsewhere a few months ago, and the ensuing conversation was instructive. First, publishers aren't going to license something that isn't going to turn a profit (duh). Tied to this are the up-front licensing fees, which are directly proportional to the number of volumes involved. If we presume something like $10K per volume, that's quite a chunk of change. Second, the majority of sales come from major retail channels — big stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. While it's unlikely that YKK's content will keep it off of shelves, booksellers are certainly going to wonder if it's going to sell. While YKK is on top ten lists the internet over, the question remains: will it sell to a wider audience?

I firmly believe that Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is the apotheosis of the slice-of-life genre, and a brilliant example of the possibilities inherent to the medium. It's unfortunate that no publisher has had the guts to bring it over, and while I'd like to believe that it will happen, it's hard to say. If you're thinking about buying the New Edition, you've probably got a year or so to make your decision; due to the vagaries of the Japanese manga market, only the most popular books are kept continuously in print, and the rest eventually sell out. As for how to get your hands on Japanese-language manga, I've started writing an overview that you can find under "Pages." I hope it'll be helpful.