I was quite pleased with yesterday's announcements by Kodansha USA, insofar as they had some. The lag time is actually a bit less than I anticipated (only 6 months, not bad considering the publishing world), and they even announced some new titles. They did not announce anything really different or unique - the Morning manga site was not mentioned, for example, and the one new seinen title they mentioned is a tie-in to a Nintendo DS game - but they do have a full slate of releases at last, rather than just reprints of old Dark Horse editions.
It struck me, as I was looking over the list of new licenses, that this is very much Del Rey's Winter/Spring 2011 catalog, ported over to Kodansha. There is nothing here that doesn't suggest all this would have been announced by Dallas at NYAF for Del Rey had Del Rey remained in the manga business. Which is both reassuring, in that it's good to see business-as-usual from a publisher, and a bit disquieting, in that I sensed the last 1-2 years that Del Rey wasn't sure what to do with any title that wasn't in Shonen Magazine or Nakayoshi.
The old titles getting new volumes this summer seem to consist of DR's heavy hitters - Negima, Fairy Tail - and their more popular mid-range titles, such as Zetsubou-sensei and Air Gear. Air Gear and The Wallflower seem to be back to single volume releases (the Wallflower has caught up with Japan, so that may be by necessity), and they were sure to tell fans that any titles not mentioned are merely not coming out this summer. Nothing is cancelled, and I remind my readers that these days, announcing a title is cancelled due to low sales does few publishers any good and only serves to anger a base. So you'll never hear anything about, say, Nodame Cantabile beyond 'we're still looking into getting that back on the schedule'.
As for the new titles, two of them are popular Shonen Magazine series, still running in Japan (though one has ended and then started a '2nd season'). Bloody Monday and Cage of Eden are both very much in the Code: Breaker vein, i.e. dark psychological thrillers with a lot of mystery and a high body count. Provided you don't mind gore, I think both should do pretty well here. Monster Hunter Orage is from the author of Fairy Tail. Deltora Quest has an anime currently running, and is based on the novels by Emily Rodda. Mardock Scramble also features an anime. Animal Land is from the creator of Zatch Bell, the first title created by him after the lawsuit against Shogakukan that led to Zatch Bell's end. And Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (which ran in Monthly Young Magazine, making it technically the one seinen title) is based on the games, but will feature an actual plot, unlike the previous doujinshi anthologies.
There were a couple of license rescues as well. Gon surprised me, as CMX had released it here only a couple of years ago (this is now its 2nd license rescue). But then Kodansha mentioned they're shopping it for a movie, so it made more sense. More surprising was Until The Full Moon, a shoujo title with yaoi overtones that ran in Magazine Be x Boy back in the 1990s. Broccoli Books put this out over here in 2005, but Kodansha bought the rights from Libre Shuppan and reissued it in Japan in 2009. Seeing Kodansha edge into the yaoi market, even if Until the Full Moon isn't quite yaoi, is intriguing. And the Rave Master ending omnibus, which had been scheduled but then cut when Del Rey folded, is back on the schedule.
Lastly, in an effort to clean up its bestselling title and make it more fluid to readers taking it all in, Negima will get an omnibus release with a new translation/adaptation. Del Rey had made big news in 2004 when they hired Peter David to adapt the series, but his adaptation, while not quite at Keith Giffen levels, still took a lot of liberties with the material that read oddly to fans these days. (Yes, I'm thinking of "Can I have a cookie?"). I'm presuming this new version will be by the Nibley twins, who are doing the current run of Negima books.
So there you have it. Kodansha USA: back in business. And if it looks a lot like Del Rey with the name crossed out, that's likely a very deliberate choice. More to the point, supporting them again encourages sales, which will encourage both the return of things like Nodame Cantabile and Moyashimon, and the licensing of more 'difficult' titles.