As a manga artist, there are two signs that you’ve made it big. The first is when a major publisher decides to serialize your work in one of its manga anthologies, and the second is when said serial has enough chapters and a big enough fanbase that the publisher puts out a tankobon, or collected volume, of your series.
Even though digital publishing has been picking up steam in Japan recently, the manga business is still primarily paper-based, and its got to be a moment of pride when creators see their tankobon on store shelves for the first time. But just because they’re being offered for sale doesn’t mean all those comics will find happy homes with fans, and what happens to unsold copies can be heart-wrenching for manga artists, as Rensuke Oshikiri, creator of manga including "Hi Score Girl," recently shared, tweeting:
“The other day, I went to a factory managed by [manga publisher] Kodansha. This is where returned and defective tankobon are mercilessly dealt with. With a shrill roar, the tankobon, which are a creator’s soul, are torn to shreds, compressed, and meet their destiny of being recycled into toilet paper. I even saw my own tankobon in this place.”
Mountains of manga are stacked in the facility’s warehouse, from which load after load is taken and dumped into a machine that breaks them back down into their raw materials. The behind-the-scenes look at this rarely discussed part of the manga industry had a sobering effect on online commenters.
“Can’t they figure out a low-cost way to store them, then sell them off little by little?”
“Can’t be helped. Even if they’re just sitting there, it costs money to warehouse unsold books.”
“What a waste. I wish they’d donated them to a library or something.”
“They should cut the sale price in half or something before they have to do this.”
“Reality is harsh.”
Between real estate being as expensive as it is in Japan and anime/manga fans showing an overwhelming desire to move on to the next big series, perhaps it’s not so surprising that Kodansha feels there’s no point in holding onto leftover tankobon from a title that hasn’t been selling.
Source: Twitter/@rereibara via Hachima Kiko
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