A DC comic imprint that was supposed to tap into the North American demand for Japanese Manga has folded and a British observer wonders why.
Although it does have some big hits, the manga industry is mostly a triumph of market segmentation: among the thousands of titles published every year in Japan, there is something for every conceivable taste. Coming out of this giant, delirious laboratory, a popular title may keep up such an intimate dialogue with its specific teenage audience that it is almost unintelligible to anyone else.
But that specific audience is Japanese, not American; and the odd result is that just as British kids of my generation grew up watching so much Saved By the Bell and Sweet Valley High that we talk about “jocks” and “proms” even though these barely exist within our direct experience, tomorrow’s Americans will be looking around for the otaku and bishonen that are supposed to populate every school. It’s nice to see cultural colonialism happening in reverse, and of course teenagers love to plunge into an esoteric world that makes no sense to their parents, but at the same time it does seem a bit ridiculous that an American 16-year-old can’t pick up a comic that more closely reflects her own life. So there was room out there for Minx; and if it failed, it may just have been that – boring issues of marketing and distribution aside – the quality wasn’t actually very high.
More important to ask is why can the Japanese take American culture and make it wild while the Americans can only take Japanese culture and water it down? I wonder if it has to do with the extent of which each nation is able to worship and revile both itself and the other.