Now with iPad’s, tablets, and smartphones taking over the world, comic book publishers are looking at the new digital world to publish their comics. American manga publishers are also getting into the act. Seven Seas Manga has experimented with selling titles on the Amazon Kindle and Viz Media is publishing certain series digitally. Why, the allure of publishing manga through cheaper digital outlets even prompted Viz to fold their successful Shonen Jump magazine into Shonen Jump Alpha (to mixed results). This got me thinking though: what manga could be resurrected as a digital release?
After all, thanks to the low costs of releasing digital manga, series that were too costly to print could now be released to much less financial stress digitally. Why, if a series isn’t selling well enough to keep it in print then you could release the rest digitally to insure that the series gets finished. This may tick some fans off who were collecting the books, but I’m sure it would be more preferable to outright cancelling the series. Even titles that are out of print could make a comeback! So in this new bi-weekly series I’m titling “Digital Manga Comeback,” we’re going to look at titles that would be great for a digital comeback and why. Our first title is going to be a personal favorite of mine: “Kodocha: Child’s Play.”
Released back in 2002 by Tokyopop as “Kodocha: Sana’s Stage,” I admit to this being a personal favorite of mine. It was the first manga I had read that didn’t relate to a TV show I had seen (though one did exist in Japan I found out). In fact, I loved this series so much, that back when I was running The Comic Book Guy.com this was the first title to receive one of my rare A+ reviews. I recently re-read the series after years of it just sitting on my shelf, and it’s amazing just how well it has held up over the years. It’s just as funny, just as poignant, and just as dramatic as it was ten years ago. Maybe even more so now that I’m old enough to appreciate the little things just a little bit more.
Of course, you have to remember that back when I was reading comics most of them were action titles and fantasies. Most were geared towards men. Yeah you had your “Sailor Moon” and “Ranma ½,” but those series seemed to get printed largely because they had a huge following from the TV show. For me, Kodocha was a revelation in comic book storytelling. It was the first series I read that didn’t have fantasy elements in it. It was primarily geared towards girls, but I found a lot to love about it. I related to the lonely and reclusive Akito (though I should point out I was much better behaved and had a better family life).
It was one of those rare series that could be funny one minute and then depressing the next minute without feeling contrived. It seemed written for kids, but from an adult point of view. As if the author was remembering what it felt like to be a kid growing up in a harsh world. The ups and downs in the relationship between Sana and Akito were both funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Considering many kids are reading their comics off iPad’s these days rather than books, bringing Kodocha back in digital form makes a lot of sense.
Practicality of this happening: Not Good
The problem with this series is that it was published by Tokyopop years ago who let their rights to the series expire. No one’s really been interested in it since, and the TV series was a bit of a disappointment in the US (we never even got the final season). That said, with both the licenses expired, it is conceivable that a company could pick up both the manga AND the TV show to help promote each other. If a company were to buy the old translation rights, a digital release would seem like an easy thing to do for a minimal investment. Plus this series became a hot seller thanks to word-of-mouth. I think its good enough that word-of-mouth could sell it again.