The Japan Times Online is reporting that Kodansha International will close their doors this April. Kodansha president Koji Hirota declined to give details, but confirmed that the company is indeed closing the division. While I can’t say I blame the company, the decision does sadden me a bit.
To a manga fan, this probably won’t affect things much. It appears that Kodansha International’s exit from the market is primarily focused on their main print division. No reports are stating that Kodansha USA or the recently-acquired Vertical will be affected by the change. So, for the most part, the licenses Kodansha USA picked up from Del Rey aren’t going away, nor is Vertical’s lineup. It appears that the only titles that would truly be lost by the company’s closure are Tsunetomo Yamamoto’s Hagakure, Fred Schodt’s Manga! Manga!, and a trio of How to Draw Manga books.
Instead, this seems to be focusing on Kodansha’s main print line. Kodansha International is the name of a company founded by Kodansha to handle trade paperback translations, and magazine distributions. The company has had a presence in the west for over four decades. The company published numerous influential works from Japanese greats such as Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase and Kenji Miyazawa’s The Restaurant of Many Orders and Other Stories. On top of literature, they also released several general interest titles, that range from educational tomes to cookbooks and children’s books.
To see their presence fade in the marketplace will be sad, indeed. Kodansha International has always been a constant for fans in the western market. They’ve been vital in helping to expose Japanese culture to a broader audience. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to express some appreciation for their role over the past forty-seven years. Things will be very different in the greater marketplace Kodansha’s presence, and I hope that they make a return one day in the future.
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