License Request Day – Another Look At Bestsellers

I was reminded after Kodansha’s recent licenses at San Diego Comic Con (I’ll have a post on them later) that they had both been on my last major License Request pile. So, since I’ve used those requests up for the most part, let’s take a look back at the bestseller charts. June 2013, to be precise.

I’m looking at the Top 50, which has 32 distinct titles on it (some titles have multiple volumes). 20 of these 32 are licensed, which shows you how “Company X never licenses the really popular stuff!” isn’t true. So, already off the list are: One Piece, Naruto, Hunter x Hunter, Kimi ni Todoke, Attack on Titan, Blue Exorcist, Yotsuba&!, Bleach, Detective Conan, Black Butler, Real, Magi, Natsume’s Book of Friends, Fairy Tail, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Toriko, Vagabond. Inu x Boku SS, Say “I Love You”, and Drifters. Even if one of those is only as of yesterday. :)

That leaves 12 titles. Let’s look at them, and find good reasons they should be licensed, and good reasons they may never be licensed.


1) Saint Young Men, Kodansha.
Why? It’s a smart, witty, funny and heartwarming story about Jesus and Buddha in modern-day Japan, dealing with subways, hot springs, and spending far too much money. It’s a cult favorite on the internet.
Why not? This is the only title I can think of – EVER – where the Japanese company has taken it upon themselves to say they’re not licensing it to North America. They believe the market isn’t ready for it. I’m inclined to agree with them. All it takes is one angry parent going onto the 700 Club… Also, it’s filled with obscure references and would need a Zetsubou-sensei amount of notes at the end. Kodansha are trying to cut back on endnotes, and Vertical avoids them when possible.

2) Silver Spoon, Shogakukan.
Why? It’s the latest manga by the author of Fullmetal Alchemist, which was a huge seller over here. It’s filled with humor and heart, and lots of likeable characters. It’s a bestselling Shonen Sunday title, and we need more of those. There’s an anime currently running.
Why not? It’s a farming manga. And I mean that most sincerely – this isn’t a romance manga or action manga that takes place on a farm, it is a manga about farming that takes place at an agricultural college. You know the last Ag College manga that they tried over here? Remember Moyashimon’s fate? Yeah.

3) Kuroko’s Basketball, Shueisha.
Why? It’s the biggest sports title Weekly Shonen Jump currently has. It also has a HUGE fandom, admittedly heavily female and “BL” oriented. It’s a lot of fun.
Why not? It’s over 20 volumes and showing no signs of ending soon. Viz is still trying to finish Slam Dunk, also a Jump manga about basketball with a large female fandom. Its fandom is controversial in Japan due to psychos who threaten to bomb every single doujinshi event featuring it.

4) Assassination Classroom, Shueisha.
Why? It’s the latest big breakout hit from Weekly Shonen Jump. It has all the things you want from a Jump comic – comedy, action, and lots of heartwarming, as the students of the “failure” classroom all learn valuable lessons thanks to their so-called “evil” teacher. The teacher is a smiley face on legs, which sells itself.
Why not? Did you look at the title? Stories about a teacher whose students try to kill him in various ways, and with various weaponry, are a bit of a tough sell here.


5) Sakamoto Desu Ga?, Enterbrain.
Why? This is, no doubt about it, the funniest title on this list. It’s brand new, so there’s no issue with it having tons of volumes risk-wise. Did I mention how funny it is?
Why not? It’s also really incredibly weird. In fact, it may remind people of Cromartie High School, which did not sell well here if you recall. There’s only one volume out in Japan, so people may want to wait a bit to see if it can keep up its one joke. It is a very funny joke – Sakamoto does everything awesomely – but still one joke.

6) Ao Haru Ride, Shueisha.
Why? It’s the latest from the author of Strobe Edge, and is basically a fantastic Shojo Beat candidate. High school romance, people trying to learn from past mistakes, heartwarming, tearjerking, etc.
Why not? Strobe Edge is still running, and I imagine its success or failure will give a hint as to whether this title will do well. That’s really about it.

7) March Comes In Like A Lion, Hakusensha.
Why? From the author of Honey & Clover. It’s charming and well-written.
Why not? Many reasons. Shogi features heavily in the plot. Honey & Clover didn’t sell all that great here. Hakusensha really only has one market left – Viz – and they tend to focus on their shoujo titles there. This seinen title isn’t quite the same.

8) Terra Formars, Shueisha.
Why? That’s not a misspelling – this is a manga about taking back Mars, which due to a terraforming project gone wrong is now inhabited by humanoid cockroaches. It sounds a bit like Starship Troopers, to be honest. It’s won awards, and is only 5 volumes long so far.
Why not? It’d have to be a Signature title, and those are always hit-or-miss sales-wise. Viz also tends to avoid Young Jump series.


9) Uchuu Kyoudai, Kodansha.
Why? It’s an epic space story with an anime that has won many awards.
Why not? It’s far too long for a seinen title (20+ volumes), and its fanbase, while vocal, is pretty damn small. It runs in Weekly Morning, which generally doesn’t have much of a license presence here.

10) Chihayafura, Kodansha.
Why? It’s incredibly well-written and heartwarming, has an anime adaptation, and its fanbase is VERY vocal.
Why not? It’s about that Japanese poetry game where you pick out the right card. It’s josei, running in the magazine Be-Love. It’s over 20 volumes and still going.

11) Gintama, Shueisha.
Why? A digital-only release could be a great way to revive this title, which combines humor and serious business like no other Jump title out there – even One Piece isn’t quite as mood whiplashey as Gintama can get. Some of its best stuff hasn’t come out over here yet.
Why not? Contrary to popular belief, Viz almost never drops series unfinished. They did so with this one. That implies bad sales. It’s also got a huge volume count, and shows no signs of ending. There really are an awful lot of poop jokes.

12) Mix, Shogakukan.
Why? It’s a Mitsuru Adachi baseball manga, taking place in the same universe as his acclaimed Touch. Nuff said.
Why not? Cross Game didn’t sell that great. There are other Adachi titles I’d want to see before this.

And there you have it. Some of these are quite likely to get looked at in future (Ao Haru Ride, Terra Formars), while some are pipe dreams. Which of these bestsellers do you most want to see over here?

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  1. There are only about three titles on here that I have personal experience with. Of those, I would *love* to see Chihayafuru licensed. Hey, Hikaru no Go was licensed and that was about a board game most Westerners wouldn’t be familiar with. It must have done fairly well because the anime was licensed too. If marketing focus was placed on the emotional aspects (exciting games! unrequited love!), I think Chihayafuru could be successful. But then, I’m part of the vocal fan base. :-)

  2. I’m really hoping that Viz takes a chance on Silver Spoon. I’ve been watching the anime and it is really great. Besides, I’d love for anything Arakawa writes to be available here. She’s just that awesome.

    And despire the length issue, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that once Slam Dunk finishes out (should be this year) Viz will pick up Kuroko’s Basketball. They could do omnibus releases of it or something. Knowing the fanbase, it would definitely sell, so I don’t think there would be much risk involved…

  3. I actually think that Assassination Classroom has a decent shot of being licensed here despite it’s title. XD Mostly because I suspect it’s going to get an anime at some point, that will draw attention to it, and then the anime and/or manga will get licensed too (plus, it’s actually moving at a faster pace than I expected, the story has a one year time limit and after five volumes it’s already 3 or 5 months in so it *should* squeak under that 20 volume max that most publishers worry about). But I’m going to keep crossing my fingers in any case, also crossing them for an anime adaptation next year. XD

  4. I’m interested that Kazune Kawahara’s “Ore Monogatari” isn’t on your list. I’ve been hearing good things about it.

    Also, Sakamato Desu Ga? sounds really funny. I read the plot description and I was like “NO WAY, REALLY?”

    Is it really true that VIZ tends to ignore Young Jump series? It seems like the one YJ series they might not ignore is ZETMAN because of Masakazu Katsura.

    • Sean Gaffney says

      I was just looking at one bestseller list, let’s remember.

      Ore Monogatari looks sweet, but shoujo with male leads? Not very Shojo Beat-ish.

      Zetman has been running since 2002. I think if Viz wanted it, they’d have announced it already.

  5. I’m still waiting for Hoshi wa Utau by Natsuki Takaya. Fruits Basket is so popular here, why won’t they license it?

  6. March Comes In Like A Lion would be a title I’d deeply love to see put out here but there’s probably a better chance of my beloved Bitter Virgin ever getting put out here.

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