Ranma 1/2, Akira: the Deluxe Rditions, the New Vein of Manga Publishers?

Ranma 1/2, Akira: the Deluxe Rditions, the New Vein of Manga Publishers?

Among the new manga releases, there are more and more Deluxe versions of cult series, often reissued 10 or 20 years after their original release, such as Ghost in the Shell, Akira and Ranma 1/2. New commercial Eldorado or real editorial risk taking? The Glénat and Kana editions answer us.

Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Dragon Ball, Monster, Death Note… For several years now, Deluxe reissues of numerous cult manga titles have been on the shelves of bookstores, alongside new titles that have just arrived on the French market. Latest example? The launch, on October 18, of a “Perfect Edition” of Ranma 1/2 (Glénat), Rumiko Takashi’s classic adventure and humor originally released in France in the 1990s.

Color pages, semi-pocket format, Japanese reading direction, new translation, original onomatopoeias… This reissue based on a Deluxe edition recently published in Japan is the opportunity to (re)discover the adventures of Ranma, a young man who tries to train as well as possible in martial arts despite the curse that overwhelms him: he turns into a girl as soon as he is wet by water…

How can we explain the emergence of these revised and expanded editions? Do the classics of the 1980s or 1990s still find their audience several decades after their original release? Satoko Inaba, editorial director of Glénat Manga editions, and Christel Hoolans, director of Kana editions, come back for Numerama on the backstage of these Deluxe editions.

The first volume of Ranma 1/2 in its original French version - © Rumiko Takashi / Shôgakukan

The first volume of Ranma 1/2 in its original French version – © Rumiko Takashi / Shôgakukan

” A case for a new life in the bookstore ”

Perfect Edition“, “Ultimate“, “Complete“… There are many names for these re-editions, which can take various forms, from large format (closer to European comics) to semi-pocket. On the other hand, they almost systematically compile two volumes of the original – so-called “simple” – edition into one.

Like a new manga, any Deluxe re-release is done on a case-by-case basis, but according to criteria very different from new releases, as Satoko Inaba explains: “If the series is representative of our catalogue and is a must-have, the question of a prestige edition can be considered. …] However, to acquire this status, critical success is just as necessary as a certain seniority in the catalogue. The title must indeed be able to obtain a certain patina to qualify for a edition Deluxe, as a kind of case proposed for a new life in the bookstore.»

To make this desire a reality, the agreement of the Japanese rights holders is obviously indispensable. The chances of convincing them vary greatly depending on whether the French publisher intends to publish a Deluxe version that includes an enriched version already published in Japan, or to create its own “Ultimate” edition, designed by itself.

Excerpt from Ranma 1/2 in its Deluxe version - © 2013 Rumiko TAKAHASHI / SHOGAKUKAN

Excerpt from Ranma 1/2 in its Deluxe version – © 2013 Rumiko TAKAHASHI / SHOGAKUKAN

“Authors rather want to keep control of their creation”

In general, the [reprint] request is quite well regarded as it shows the dynamism of the local publisher and its interest in theseries,” says Christel Hoolans. We have already [offered our own Deluxe Editions] on various occasions, but it is rarely accepted because the original authors and publishers want to keep control of their creation. But there are exceptions, such as the large-format Death Note edition, which does not exist in this form in Japan.»

Satoko Inaba makes the same observation: “The rightful claimant will generally respond favourably to such requests. …] In the case of an unpublished version, as was the case for the Moto Hagio anthology for example, it is important to define everything in advance with the author, from the format and pagination, to the distribution of the stories, the layout of the box set, etc. […] The right holder and the author need to plan ahead to determine whether or not they will like such a version. So, the more accurate you are, the better the discussion.»

Pre-existing Deluxe editions in Japan, such as Monster (Kana), have actually had a better chance of being exported to France. This implies, despite everything, a significant editorial work, as Christel Hoolans explains: “Sometimes the original author takes advantage of this edition to correct a few pages [like Naoki Urasawa with Monster], so we buy all the material. We will review the whole and often take the opportunity to order a new translation: this is a real opportunity to correct details that were overlooked in the first edition.»

The Complete Edition of Monster © Naoki Urasawa Takashi / Shôgakukan

Monster Complete Edition © Naoki Urasawa Takashi / Shôgakukan

Commercial success far from guaranteed

The Deluxe Edition of Akira - © Katsuhiro Otomo / Kôdansha

Akira Deluxe Edition – © Katsuhiro Otomo / Kôdansha

In other cases, a major news item may justify a reissue, as for the large format of Akira. This version supervised by Katsuhiro Otomo himself was to be launched on the occasion of his exceptional appearance at the Angoulême Comics Festival in January 2016. Although two of the planned six volumes have now been published, many readers complain about the almost systematic postponement of publication, due in particular to the high demands of the mangaka on the final rendering.

But despite the often cult status of these series, the Kana and Glénat editions ensure that the commercial success of these re-editions is far from guaranteed. Satoko Inaba explains: “On the one hand, it is not certain that the fans who bought the first version will rush for a new edition. If they already have the title in their library, why would they buy it back? On the other hand, the production costs for this type of work are generally higher than for a conventional edition and the price at which the edition [between 12 and 20 euros depending on the format] is offered is not proportional to this variation“.

Christel Hoolans says: “It’s a bit risky because the Deluxe series are editions that are released a few years after the original classic series is finished. However, in manga, most of the series disappear very quickly after their publication. There are very few manga that have become classic on our market, they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And the costs are the same as for anovelty”.

Smaller circulation and lower sales than the original edition

In fact, sales of the original edition are generally much better than those of the Deluxe reissue, which has a much smaller print run than the first version since it is aimed at a limited audience: readers who are unfamiliar with the work and the few faithful readers ready to buy it in a new format. If very good sales are possible – notably for the complete Monster– they are sometimes disappointing, as Kana has seen with the Deluxe edition of Saint Seiya (Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque).

The Deluxe Editions of manga appearing for the first time in France in this format, however, almost systematically miss their rendezvous with the public. At Kana as at Glénat, the so-called “patrimonial” series – those of big names in manga such as Osamu Tezuka, Shotarô Ishinomori or Tetsuya Chiba – struggle to seduce readers despite their critical success or their reputation as classics of the genre.

Cult manga that offer themselves a second youth are particularly scrutinized by the fans, ready to criticize the slightest shortcoming in these augmented versions. The first volume of the Perfect reprint of Ghost in the Shell had thus given rise to strong criticism of the alleged censorship of a passage, forcing Glénat to specify that this decision was that of the author, Masamune Shirow.

The Perfect Edition of Ghost in the Shell - © Masamune Shirow / Kôdansha

The Perfect Edition of Ghost in the Shell – © Masamune Shirow / Kôdansha

Avoiding “losing readers”

While the overall success of Deluxe editions is there, French-language publishers are well aware that they should not “drown” readers, as Satoko Inaba points out:  “This risk does exist, which is why we distil their production sparingly. We have many requests for reissues of old series, but we are aware that to do so all at once would risk losing our readers. We therefore spread them out over time, so that everyone may find his place in them as he deserves.»

Many teenage readers who have grown up with these series want to rediscover them as adults in an enriched version, in the form of a “beautiful object” to be displayed in their library. Some editions are even the subject of true Arlesian editions, which have long been requested from their French-language publisher, such as Slam Dunk (Takehiko Inoue) and Shaman King (Hiroyuki Takei), two flagship manga titles in the Kana catalogue, both of which have more than 30 volumes and were completed in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

Christel Hoolans shares the envy of this part of the readership: “I, too, would love to edit [these Deluxe Editions] because they’re both beautiful. These are cult series in my eyes and, moreover, Shaman King’s Deluxe contains the real ending imagined by the author. But they are priceless in view of the sales potential. Now, I don’t want to do them on the cheap.

The Arlesian Slam Dunk and the “heritage transmission”

The craze of some readers for the Deluxe edition of Slam Dunk is such that it led the influential YouTuber LuccassTV to launch a public appeal on Twitter to assess its sales potential :

Do these grassroots initiatives really have a chance of success if they really take off on a large scale? “Maybe if we developed a pre-control system, it could be done? Once the minimum level has been reached, this would trigger the making of the album. But you have to commit to the series… And it’s expensive to commit to” laughs Christel Hoolans. The director of the Kana publishing house also points out: ” Often Volume 1 sells rather well, but then it falls off very quickly.»

While economic criteria remain predominant, publishers are ready to give their chance to titles that they believe deserve a second youth without necessarily guaranteeing substantial sales. The initiative aims to promote their catalogue as well as manga culture in the broadest sense.

The new editions follow rather a patrimonial logic of transmission. New readers are not necessarily familiar with these cult series or do not want to start with their current edition: offering them a revised and expanded edition […] for a slightly higher price is a way of giving them access to these monuments of Japanese culture” concludes Satoko Inaba.

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