Digital Manga Inc. president Hikaru Sasahara announced that print editions for the company’s titles will be placed on hiatus beginning on January 1, 2013. Distribution for titles under the following imprints will be delayed until June 2013:
- June Manga
According to Anime News Network, the following titles will retain their current schedules, and release as planned:
- Vampire Hunter D Volume 7 by Hideyuki Kikuchi
- Atomcat by Osamu Tezuka
- Triton by Osamu Tezuka
- Unico by Osamu Tezuka
Sasahara stated that the delay in publishing would “allow us to coordinate our production schedule for 2013 and temporarily shift our focus to our digital publications.”
As one can expect, the anime community is looking at the story like one would a police report. Already, theories and accusations are flying with reckless abandon: “They’re not selling enough! They’re in financial trouble!” “They’re going to become the next TokyoPop!” Amidst the speculation, though, we begin to see the real cracks in the foundation arise. The complaints and gripes begin to arise, as tongues are loosened and concern shifts over to anger in certain groups. Arguments of high digital prices, declining quality, and poor title selection bubble through the various conversations and debates.
At this point, it’s impossible to tell whether Digital Manga is going through financial difficulties. Since they’re a privately held company, there are few chances to look into the company’s finances. We get few hard numbers, unless the company releases them (or they come about in some legal case, a la ADV Films). And, when they do actually release information, it will always be carefully teased and spun to reflect the most positive light possible. So, until we hear an actual statement from a definitive source, we need to err on the side of “no.”
However, the complaints lobbied are something that we should look into. The complaints of declining quality and high prices are actually intertwined with one another. If a person complains that a product’s price is too high, it often means that the product isn’t delivering enough value at the price point it’s being offered at. And, if we’re hearing complaints of declining quaity, it’s pretty safe to say that this group felt that the current price was, at one point, sufficient for digital copies of the company’s titles. Or, sufficient enough that they didn’t elicit as many open complaints. Declining overall quality could, and usually is enough to begin a customer exodous. The rise in complaints stems from the fact that there are more core customers shifting to non-customer status, and more vocal supporters turning into vocal detractors.
The picture of Digital Manga’s fortunes will become clearer as times go on. If six months become twelve, and the release dates continue to slip, then I’ll more readily entertain the idea that there may be financial difficulties. However, at the moment, I”m more interested in seeing what the company does to generate further revenues. Or, more particularly, whether the decision to postpone the print volumes will lead to greater profits, despite shrinking presence. The company will absolutely need to make strides to rectify their detractors, be it in reduced prices, or by creating a stronger product.