Kadokawa partners with ChrunchyRoll and takes over Yen Press

I feel that a Lot of changes are coming on both the manga and anime front this year. Kadokawa are starting off after they announced buying a 51% stake in Yen Press, as well as partnering up with Crunchyroll, giving them exclusive rights for all their material outside of Asia. See below the cut for the full press releases, and the concerns that I, as a reader have.

YEN-olivelogo-webHachette Book Group and KADOKAWA Corporation announced
today that they have entered into an agreement to create a new venture, joining HBG’s Yen Press imprint, a leader in the US publication of Japanese manga and light novels, with KADOKAWA, a major Japanese publisher. KADOKAWA will hold majority ownership, with 51% of the business to be acquired through its US investment company and HBG controlling 49% of the business. The transaction is expected to be completed by end of April, at which point Yen Press will function as Yen Press LLC, a joint venture between HBG and Kadokawa.

Yen Press is one of the largest English language manga imprints in North America, 223px-Kadokawa_Group_Holdings.svg_specializing in manga and light novels, publishing a broad range of titles including English translations of Japan originated titles, manga adaptations of novels by bestselling Hachette authors like James Patterson and Stephenie Meyer, and original manga developed at Yen Press. The joint venture will continue to leverage HBG’s strengths in manga publishing, distribution, sales, and marketing. Moreover, the partnership will enable Yen Press and KADOKAWA to maximize marketing collaboration between book publishing and anime distribution (through KADOKAWA’s expertise in the anime marketplace), while also seeking to expand ebook distribution, to maximize the growth potential of Japanese content in the North American market.

Michael Pietsch, CEO of HBG, says, “This new partnership with KADOKAWA is an exciting opportunity for HBG — the venture will further strengthen our Yen Press brand, and allow us to leverage KADOKAWA’s superb reputation in both manga and light novel genres, as well as their digital distribution and anime platforms. Combining KADOKAWA’s expertise in these categories, and HBG’s excellent sales, distribution and publishing support services, Yen Press will be well positioned to continue its remarkable growth. And this important new partnership is in extremely able hands, with Kurt Hassler as Publisher – no one is more perfectly suited to lead this new venture than Kurt, who has built the publishing program to where it is today.“

Masaki Matsubara, Representative Director and President of KADOKAWA says, “The North American publishing market continues to remain strong, and Japanese manga titles are enjoying an upward sales trend. Visitors at anime and pop culture events held in North America continue to rise year by year, demonstrating the increased popularity of Japanese content in the market. KADOKAWA considers the North American market as the most important international market for the company alongside the Greater China market and Southeast Asia where we have existing business presence, and are therefore profoundly pleased to have the opportunity to begin a joint venture partnership with a company of HBG’s stature, being a leading publisher in North America. Yen Press has an outstanding editorial team with in-depth knowledge of Japanese content, led by Mr. Kurt Hassler who has been running the Japanese manga publishing operation for many years. I am thus confident of Yen Press’s ability to realize sustainable growth, through its continued introduction of Japanese manga, light novels and many other attractive titles not limited to KADOKAWA titles, to the English speaking market centered on North America.”

Kurt Hassler, scheduled to be appointed as Managing Director and Publisher of the joint venture, says, “Yen has partnered with KADOKAWA since its inception, and we have always been so grateful for the wonderful titles they have entrusted to us. That may be why it feels so natural to be taking this bold next step together. I can’t think of another instance in the manga field in this market where leading publishers from Japan and the US have pooled their resources in a true joint venture of this nature, and with the demand for manga and light novels already exploding, the possibilities seem endless.”

So, lets talk about the Yen Press one first, Yen has always been one of the better companies out there in my opinion. Their releases have generally been of good quality, the translations usually faithful, and their editorial solid. They were also the first publisher to make a serious push into the light novel market, after Tokyopop’s demise that is.

However in this move i’m concerned about the future of Yen Press, with a Japanese publisher holding such a large stake in the company are we going to see the rise of a new Viz? As in are Yen going to stop licensing titles from other Japanese publishers (such as Square Enix) and only have series from the Kadokawa line.

Its not secret that Kadokawa and Yen were in a semi official partnership from the day Yen launched, and i think they were the stronger for it. Not being tied to a single publisher allows for them to cherry pick amazing titles from all across the board.

As a fan of Yen i’m concerned about where the future of the company will go, and hope that Kurt Hassler clarifies this sooner rather than later.

Essentially, this could either make or break Yen Press.

crunchyroll_logo_tagline SAN FRANCISCO/TOKYO – Apr. 11, 2016 – Major anime streaming platform Crunchyroll, Inc. and major Japanese publisher KADOKAWA Corporation announced today the formation of a strategic alliance that will give Crunchyroll exclusive worldwide digital distribution rights (excluding Asia) for KADOKAWA anime titles in the upcoming year. The partnership will also involve a marketing collaboration between Crunchyroll and KADOKAWA’s publishing business in North America, among others.

Crunchyroll is the largest digital distribution platform in North America specializing in anime and other Japanese content, offering simultaneous subtitled distribution of Japanese anime and other content in 8 languages to its more than 20 million users worldwide (excluding Asia). The company’s majority investor is Otter Media, a venture formed with AT&T and The Chernin Group.

The strategic alliance between Crunchyroll and KADOKAWA involves, among other initiatives, (i) KADOKAWA’s licensing to Crunchyroll exclusive rights for the worldwide distribution (excluding Asia) for KADOKAWA’s slate of upcoming anime titles for the upcoming year, (ii) co-financing by Crunchyroll in KADOKAWA’s anime titles to be produced in the future and (iii) comprehensive marketing collaboration between KADOKAWA’s publishing business and Crunchyroll’s distribution platform business. Both parties regard the alliance as an important first step towards possibly further expanding relations in the future.

To bolster KADOKAWA’s planned formation of a publishing joint venture with the major U.S. publisher Hachette Book Group, specializing in manga and light novels (scheduled for May), Crunchyroll and KADOKAWA will seek to strengthen their relationship through a marketing campaign with the book publishing and anime distribution businesses, as well as joint efforts to expand relevant merchandising businesses, in order to maximize the growth potential of Japanese content in the North American market.

Masaki Matsubara, Representative Director and President of KADOKAWA said, “With their membership steadily increasing every year, Crunchyroll has established its firm position as the largest digital distribution platform specializing in Japanese content. Meanwhile, visitors at anime and pop culture events held in North America continue to rise year by year, demonstrating the increased popularity of Japanese content in the market. KADOKAWA considers the North American market as the most important international market for the company alongside the Greater China and Southeast Asian market where we have an existing business presence, and therefore look forward to our strategic alliance with Crunchyroll to secure an effective marketing collaboration system with our publishing business in the North American market, as well as contribute to the global growth of Japanese cool content as a whole, not limited to KADOKAWA.”

Kun Gao, GM of Crunchyroll, said, “The hunger for compelling anime, manga and light novel content is growing at an astounding rate throughout the world, and KADOKAWA has always been at the forefront of creating that content. We look forward to working closely with KADOKAWA to provide Crunchyroll fans with access to the anime, merchandise, and books that they have demonstrated they want time and again.“

As for the Crunchyroll announcement, there seems to be a lot of confusion on this, apparently down to people miss reading the press release. The initial report said that Crunchyroll was getting exclusive rights for a year. However the actual news is that Kadokawa have partnered up with Crunchyroll for the next year. What happens after that year is anyones guess, Kadokawa are probably taking this as a test run.

Now personally i hate Crunchyroll, it’s ugly as hell, badly designed and laid out, and the vast majority of the forums are full of idiots who go nuts if you criticise their favourite show. All of that i could live with, if only their streaming worked properly; but it doesn’t.

Frequently the site just fails to launch a stream, you can’t scrub forward or backwards without it breaking, and there’s no continuous play, you have to keep clicking next to start the next episode. You’d think they’d have learnt how not to do streaming from the likes of LoveFilm and Amazon and how to do streaming from Netflix.

What really annoys me however is that ChrunchyRoll frequently ignores it’s UK/EU users on their store. Sending out emails on huge deals and bargins, only to be told when you get to the site, tough luck USA only. Not a good way to treat a large chunk of your userbase IMO

Urgh, if you can’t tell i’m not a fan of Crunchyroll 😀 But i’ll save that for a potential other post!

So yeah, as i said, there’s interesting times ahead for manga especially, is this a start of more and more Japanese publishers buying major stakes of western publishers? It makes sense, cutting out the middle man makes more money for them. Keep your eyes here for more info as it comes!

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