A pile of Newtype USA magazines spread across a table

Niche

Looking Back on Newtype USA 15 Years Later


Editor: Alex Henderson

“Oh no! We’ve…we’ve just received word that this is the last issue of Newtype USA magazine. Good heavens!”, reads a small line of text tucked quietly to the bottom of the final page of Newtype USA’s February 2008 issue. “There was so much anime left to watch, so much manga to read…but no worries, for we hear that the same folks are launching a new, even better magazine real soon! Wahey! Oooh, and since this is the last issue, I can say anything I want without any repercussions! Sweet! Hey, wait’ll you hear the dirt I got about all the…oh crap I’m out of”

There was nothing else in the magazine indicating that this was to be its final issue: no label on the cover, no highlight reel of the staff’s favorite Newtype USA memories/pieces, and not even so much as a mention in the editor’s note. There was nothing but this tiny whisper of a statement, which, in stark contrast to its size, was actually the biggest piece of news in the entire 160-page magazine: after about seven years, Newtype USA was going out of print.

Double page spread from Newtype USA, featuring the "going out of print" announcement in tiny text in one corner.

In its prime, Newtype USA was hailed as being “the biggest, slickest, most colorful English language anime magazine.” This high praise was reflected in its strong sales; within a year of its publication, more than 100,000 copies of new issues were being made to keep up with demand. Therefore, the sudden news that it would end its run came as unexpected for its fans and readers. Although Animerica, another English-language anime magazine, had “changed its format” in 2005, Newtype USA was the first prominent western anime magazine to have completely ceased publication in quite some time. Certainly the first since the closure of the once-prominent anime licensor Geneon only a few months before—the canary in the coal mine that was the US anime industry at the time.

Yet to those with internet access, the news—while still disappointing—wasn’t exactly the bombshell that it was to those without it. Anime News Network and ICv2 had reported on this the month prior. Both sources reached out to Newtype USA for a comment, but neither received one. This is probably why neither source reported on why it was happening, because they themselves could only speculate. Had the grim reaper of electronic journalism finally come for Newtype USA? No, another paper magazine (later revealed to be PiQ) was set to replace it.

Double page spread from an issue of Newtype, showing its contents page

So at the time, some ANN users wondered if it had something to do with Newtype USA’s being the most expensive of the large anime magazines in the west: $12.98 per issue, or $89.95 for a yearlong subscription ($17.64 and $122.27 in 2022 when adjusted for inflation). For perspective, competing anime magazines Anime Insider and Otaku USA cost $4.99 and $9.99 per issue respectively. Yet $12.98 wasn’t that much more pricey than Otaku USA (which is still in print today), and definitely seemed like a great deal for a glossy, 160-page behemoth with manga inserts and free sample DVDs .

Sensing that there must’ve been more to Newtype USA’s death knell than just its price tag, other ANN users theorized that perhaps it could have something to do with Geneon’s closure, as they advertised regularly in Newtype USA. But while these guesses were sound—and were almost certainly contributing factors—it wouldn’t be until about a year and a half later that the situation became clear: A.D.Vision, the parent company of Newtype USA and prominent anime licensor ADV Films, was shutting down. If anyone wasn’t already feeling like the US anime industry was sitting atop a shaky foundation, then they certainly were now.

A pile of Newtype USA magazines spread across the frame

The 2000s were a chaotic decade for the US’s burgeoning anime industry. While there were plenty of stratospheric highs (the debut and massive success of Adult Swim, the expansion of the manga market, and a licensing gold rush) there were also more than a few abyssal lows (the end of Toonami, grappling with the increased ease/prominence of piracy, and the closure of multiple anime licensors). It was a decade marked by uncertainty, where risk was a pervasive way of life, and reward was fleeting and rare. More than any decade yet in the US anime industry’s relatively short life, it truly felt like anything could happen. And for anyone from the humble fan to the seasoned industry professional who wanted to keep their fingers on the pulse of all this mayhem, magazines like Newtype USA played a key role.

Although its November 2002 issue is the official first issue of Newtype USA, the actual first issue—often referred to as “Issue 0” —was a special item given to attendees of Anime Expo 2002. This issue, called a “preview” on its cover, was handed out to promote the landmark deal that ADV made with Kadokawa to license a US-version of the popular Japanese anime magazine of the same name. Among other features, the first official volume of Newtype USA included articles on .hack//Sign and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, interviews with Makoto Shinkai and Shinichi Watanabe, a manga insert of Full Metal Panic!, RahXephon postcards, a centerfold of Faye from Cowboy Bebop, and a DVD with the first episode of Arjuna.

A "back issues" page at the back of an issue of Newtype USA, showing previous covers

Grandiose features such as these would be among the key things that instantly set Newtype USA apart from its competition, which tended to focus on the US anime industry, or anime that were currently airing or about to air in the US. And while there’s plenty of value in such coverage, this different angle definitely made it all the easier for Newtype USA to carve out its own niche. It offered new perspectives and cutting edge news that wasn’t necessarily covered in other imprints, and helped anime fans feel closer to the beating heart of their hobby by giving them an insight into what was going on in Japan.

Other features that helped Newtype USA easily stand out among its competitors were its size (it wasn’t just physically larger, but also had several more pages), coverage on other aspects of Japanese pop culture (music, games, manga, etc), popularity polls from Japan, listings for anime on US TV and the Anime Network, the occasional coupon, new release schedules, giveaways, and coverage and schedules for anime conventions. The DVD and manga inserts, however, still stand out even today as Newtype USA’s most unique features.

A scattered pile of the promotional DVDs that often came with Newtype issues

The DVDs which came with each issue would have the first episode of a new/hot series, as well as trailers for others. This was enticing in an era when new anime was hard to find and often prohibitively expensive: when there were only so many series airing on TV, and most DVDs, which cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20–30 individually, had only had 3–4 episodes per disc. Especially in the years before the launches of the Funimation Channel, YouTube, and Crunchyroll, being able to sample new shows like this—to try before you buy—was a really big deal. Similarly, the manga inserts in each issue offered readers the opportunity to get a taste of new titles well before they’d hit North American bookstore shelves, usually in the form of a serialization that lasted for a few months. Kobato, for example, had such a serialization three years before Yen Press put its first volume out.

The magazine remained in publication from November 2002 to February 2008, long enough to witness firsthand (and sometimes report on) many of the aforementioned ups and downs of the US anime industry’s growing pains. But the writing that drew most people to Newtype USA was the coverage of what was currently going on in the Japanese anime industry and fan communities. Generally more so than its competition, Newtype USA tended to focus on what was new in Japan. And with the gap between “new in Japan” and “new in the west” ever decreasing, there was more interest in such topics than ever.

Three issues of Newtype USA stacked together, with Haruhi's face poking out the top

From features about Japanese voice actors, columns by anime specialists both in and outside of Japan (most notably including Satsuki Igarashi of CLAMP’s column, Chipmunk Cheeks), and to interviews with several Japanese musicians, voice actors, artists, and other members of the anime industry, each issue of Newtype USA was loaded with information directly from Japan. This in tandem with features on anime that were new and upcoming in Japan (as opposed to titles that were new and upcoming in the states) let its readers stay ahead of the curve in a way that other western anime magazines simply couldn’t hope to replicate—largely because they lacked the connection to Kadokawa (and thus Newtype Japan) that defined Newtype USA . Between all this and frequent ads for PS2 games, anime forums, and retailers that haven’t been in business for 10+ years (Borders, Suncoast, etc) it makes Newtype USA feel like the perfect time capsule for all things anime fandom in the 2000s.

Suffice to say, when they printed that quirky little announcement that Newtype USA was closing down, the bar was high for the magazine that was meant to replace it. It was soon announced that said magazine would be a new one called PiQ, and that it “will cover anime, manga, video games and other aspects of pop culture of keen interests to you.” But ultimately, PiQ wouldn’t be able to so much as hold a candle to Newtype USA’s prestige. A completely new magazine without a connection to Kadokawa, it was soon revealed that the typical issue of PiQ would consist of, “20% Anime 20% Gaming 20% U.S. Comics/Japanese Manga 20% Genre Movies/TV/Home Video 10% Toys/Collectibles 5% Gadgets/Hi-Tech Gear 5% Lifestyle (fashion, accessories, events).” Furthermore, ADV planned, “to circulate 100,000 copies of the launch issue and aims to have 150,000 by the end of the 2008, with a 70% male demographic.”

There was some trepidation in response to this news. To start, many were confused and upset by the magazine’s wanting a 70% male demographic in its readership. To some, this felt like a slap in the face to those who enjoyed Newtype USA’s more widespread coverage, which often included titles whose audiences tended to skew female. But the most widely shared concern was that it already sounded like this new magazine was trying to stretch itself too thin. While Newtype USA was also known to cover anime-adjacent topics like Japanese pop culture, music, manga, and games, it was primarily focused on anime, and was substantially larger to boot.

A pile of Newtype USA magazines spread across a table

Newtype USA was working in a niche, giving itself plenty of space to cover that niche in detail each issue. With its broader focus and physically smaller size, it sounded like PiQ would be less like a continuation or worthy heir to Newtype USA, and more like any of the other dime-a-dozen entertainment magazines that lined the racks of bookstores and newsstands… just now with a splash of anime.

Needless to say, nobody seemed surprised, let alone mournful, when PiQ announced that they were ending after only 4 issues. PiQ cited “a combination of low advertising revenue, poor business management and a lack of proper marketing and promotion” as the reasons why.

The end of ADV (which was announced about three months after it was announced that PiQ was ending) stamped out any lingering hope of Newtype USA ever returning. Even now, fifteen years later, there still hasn’t been any sign of it making a comeback despite its Japanese counterpart still going strong. But the golden era that Newtype USA encapsulated has arguably passed. In 2023, printed anime magazines in the west are considerably fewer and farther between than they once were; printed magazines in general, after all, are considerably fewer and farther between than they once were. So while it’s heartbreaking, it’s also not necessarily a shock, nor a bad decision, that Newtype USA hasn’t returned, and likely never will. Instead, Newtype USA will likely remain an interesting, nostalgic artifact of sorts, and as a well-rounded window into the hectic state of the broadening anime industry in its most tumultuous decade.

About the author

Kennedy (Red Bard)

Red Bard, aka Kennedy, is a writer, medievalist, and self-proclaimed yaoi paddle historian. You can see more of their work on their YouTube channel, where they generally talk about anime, visual novels, and interesting moments of history within (anime) fandom.

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