Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Requiem for CMX

Interestingly, when I first heard about DC Comics going into manga in 2004, my first thought was that it would be canceled a mere few months later. This annoyed me, as one of their very first licenses was one of my very favorite shoujo manga, GALS!, by Mihona Fujii. Things didn't get any better as the months went on, as we had the Tenjo Tenge debacle, forever tarring DC with the brush of censors (fanboys never forget a slight). I still say that licensing that title was a mistake.

But they persevered. GALS! finished 2 years later, proving my fears groundless. The company quietly began realizing what its strengths were, and developed an excellent working relationship with Hakusensha, as well as an exclusive deal with Softbank Creative in their Flex Comics line. They found that fans of shoujo talked them up, and their Hakusensha titles came out more frequently. This is when I fell for I Hate You More Than Anyone.

Throughout all this, one thing continued to apply to CMX titles: they didn't sell. Whether due to the nonexistent marketing budget, or a lack of a 'big name' title (Viz and Tokyopop tended to get the choicer morsels from Hakusensha), or just bad luck, they never had a breakaway hit. They were not helped at all by their parent company, who did not help them break into bookstores (CMX titles were almost impossible to find at a Barnes & Noble) and provided them with little to no verbal support. To be fair, CMX lasted a lot longer than the Minx line... The one CMX title that *did* sell was Megatokyo, and note DC were quick to point out it was the only title unaffected. It's also not a Japanese manga.

This is sad in many ways. It means a huge market, especially for shoujo, is gone. DC had excellent licensors in their company, who were able to pick quirky, fun, and mostly all-ages shoujo titles. There's little to no market for those sorts of things now. Viz is restructuring as well, and I suspect may get more conservative in the future. Tokyopop is still in the process of recovering. Go! Comi is... wherever they are.

This hits Hakusensha hard as well, I think, as they had a great deal of positive publicity in North America thanks to CMX. Along with Enterbrain (who also worked a great deal with CMX), they're probably the publisher I've heard most praised by word-of-mouth from online bloggers. Sure, they still have their huge selling Viz and TP stuff, but It's just not the same.

And, of course, I think of all the CMX series I read that will never be finished. (Let's not even discuss license rescues. I can't remotely see that happening in this economy and with these non-selling titles.) There's Venus Capriccio, which will get Vol. 4 of 5 out this June, leaving it one short. Stolen Hearts, which took the blog community by storm, ending with Vol. 2 (it's still running in Japan) this June. Teru Teru x Shonen will have 4 volumes left untranslated. So will my beloved I Hate You More Than Anyone. And I won't get to see 51 Ways To Save Her even hit Vol. 1.

Despite all the depression right now, I just want to take a moment to praise all the staff at CMX, who did so much with so little, and made the brand one of the most talked about (if not financially successful) of the last five years. You did good.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this, it's very well-done and I appreciate your coverage of CMX titles. I really was afraid that I was the only person reading Teru Teru x Shonen. :)

    What's getting me is how terribly quickly this happened; we're used to manga companies slowly lurching to their deaths - missed ship dates, a statement that things are turning around, silence and then the inevitable press release. GoComi was sad, but it was coming, as was Aurora. ADV. DramaQueen. I guess that's the difference between a small company with limited resources and being a subdivision of a subdivision of a subdivision of a major media conglomerate.

    I miss the possibilities that this market once offered, and I just see it... lost. I don't want the manga market of 1995 again when I knew what 2005 was like. The difference is that there is easier access to overseas markets, even if the language barrier is an issue, I can order from Japan and France. But it's not the same, and I don't know when this market will ever grow again. -Safety