Surprising no one, video games and movies aren’t the only entertainment industries being deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world. Various comic book and manga creators have also seen major issues. That list now includes Yen Press, publisher of Fullmetal Alchemist and Delicious in Dungeon (a Fanbyte favorite) as well as Kodansha Comics, the company behind Attack on Titan and To Your Eternity (the latter of which also rules). Both of which are increasingly massive manga publishers here in the United States.
Yen Press specifically announced today that it’s “manga and light novel titles originally solicited with an on-sale date between May and August will be redistributed throughout September.” In other words, expect delays on some of your favorite series originally planned for release over the next four months — and possibly beyond.
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Publisher & Managing Director of Yen Press, Kurt Hassler, announced the change in a press release on the company website earlier today. The update doesn’t specify if this only affects physical releases… So we assume the problem will be across the board. Furthermore we don’t know which books and their solicitations will be specifically delayed. Yen Press will announce that information sometime “next week.”
Kodansha Comics, for its part, will be going digital first while its physical books get delayed.
As previously mentioned, this isn’t unexpected. But it’s still a pretty big bummer. A lot of manga — certainly not just that produced by these two companies — takes what feels like ages to hit English shelves. All but the biggest titles can stay months or years (and several volumes) behind their Japanese counterparts. It’s the kind of thing that encourages fan translations, or “scanlations,” to filter onto the internet for eager fans. Especially since there’s a lot of incredibly good manga being published right now — much of it by Yen and Kodansha.
Combined with a ravenous desire for at-home entertainment caused by coronavirus quarantines and social distancing, the wait may feel more interminable than ever.
That being said, it’s impossible to argue that this isn’t the right move. The safety and well-being of workers involved at every level of basically all industries come first. Manga is no different. And even Yen Press itself notes this isn’t a total halt in the pipeline of new books. The company is simply looking to push new product at “a rate more appropriate to the current circumstances.”
There’s also the question of what the U.S. comic book industry will even look like once the dust clears on this crisis. Diamond Comic Distributors — which has a functional monopoly on Western books from Marvel, DC, Image, and a whole lot more — has ceased deliveries for the foreseeable future. Combine that with stoppages on trading card games, board games, and social gatherings in general. The classic “local comic shop” model that has weathered one extremely unstable industry after another might very well be in danger of closing down entirely.
Naturally, manga is just as widely available on digital services as most other written material. And Shonen Jump, one of the largest imprints in the medium, made waves back in late 2018 by announcing a subscription service to much of its massive library for just $2 per month. There are alternatives for folks out there! Maybe it’s time to start that Hunter X Hunter re-read I’ve been meaning to get to for a while…