Publisher’s Digest

Volunteering at a manga library has its perks, y’know. One of the weirdest perks is being able to memorise the publication companies for manga you might never read…

The one massive undertaking I’ve done by volunteering at the manga library is cleaning up the database and one of the sections of said database requires the publisher, which is not a topic I see being tackled very often when it comes to manga blogging circles…probably because it’s too high up in the hierarchy of the business for common manga-reading folk to care. So, let’s see what I can do in that regard…

Sidebar: Cleaning up the database doesn’t require any fancy sources aside from quick Googling (normally Japanese and/or English Wikipedia or using the series title was enough to find/deduce a publisher), so I’m not going to put up a reference list for this post.

Also, note the magazine is not the same as the publisher and nor is the imprint. I’ve got an example in a subsequent sidebar for how to tell these things apart though, so skip to that part if you’re new to manga and don’t quite get what I’m talking about.

Manga publishers, much like anime companies, are focussed on the idea of getting quality works to the public for the sake of the moolah – that sounds simple enough. Since capitalism is capitalism though, there’s a lot of them, some of which you might never hear of if you stay on the English licensing side. Manga publishers tend to also publish other things as well, such as books and newspapers, as you’ll see in the rest of this post.

The biggest ones, to the common fan in the English-speaking world, are probably Shueisha, Shogakukan and Kodansha. These have the magazines with the biggest impact: Shueisha, as you might know from Bakuman, is responsible for Weekly Shonen Jump, Shogakukan’s representative is Weekly Shonen Sunday (which apparently comes out on a Wednesday) and Kodansha’s representative is Weekly Shonen Magazine. Notice I only mentioned the shonen magazines – they’re the ones with the biggest names in them and the biggest reputation riding on their names – but there are commonly multiple magazines aimed at different demographics under the same publisher, such as Margaret (shoujo) and You (josei) under Shueisha, although the latter is now defunct.

Sidebar 2: Yes…You is its name. That’s the name of the magazine and imprint, at least…

After chapters of a manga, say Gokusen, are published in the manga magazine (in this case, that’s Monthly You), they go to a book format (most commonly tankobon) which is printed under an imprint by the publisher, so Gokusen chapters would be published in Monthly You and then the tankobon would then be published under the imprint You Comics by Shueisha.

Notably, the English manga system in America used to be something like this before everything went awry, so you’ll see Viz Media still put Shueisha, Shogakukan and Hakusensha series under the Shoujo Beat imprint, for instance, even though Shoujo Beat, as an English-language manga magazine, no longer is in print.

In English, Shueisha and Shogakukan are regularly managed by Viz Media (I’ve seen Media Do handle Shueisha works that weren’t under Viz’s handling on Manga Plus though), while Kodansha is managed by Yen Press and/or Kodansha USA. These companies also publish light novels, Kodansha moreso than Shueisha and Shogakukan, but again, the manga is the biggest draw for people.

The next well-known publisher is probably the versatile Kadokawa, which dabbles in anime, games and manga. Its publishing arm is known as “Kadokawa Shoten” (“Shoten” meaning “Bookstore”) and it’s responsible for Gundam content under the magazines Newtype and Gundam Ace, while also having stakes in other things such as DN Angel and this season’s Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin (both hailing from Monthly Asuka). Kadokawa is also, to a large degree, affiliated with light novels due to business connections with ASCII Media Works, which churns out many of the successful light novels (like the novel series for Haruhi Suzumiya).

Another diverse publisher is Square Enix, which is best known for its games but has put out manga like the yonkoma Aiura. Meanwhile, another publishing company which has “Shoten” in its name is Akita Shoten, which is responsible for Shonen Champion and Princess magazines (so Baki the Grappler, but also Moto Hagio works).

Then there’s Hakusensha, which is most well-known for Hana to Yume as an imprint/shoujo magazine and has spawned anime from Ouran High School Host Club, Even Still, The World is Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) and other manga. Hakusensha notably had the same design for all its manga – white background with red and blue lines on the top, a red frame with characters in it and a red title on the front cover – until fairly recently, as something like Urakata!! (Behind the Scenes!!) looks more like other manga than previous Bisco Hatori works do, notably due to the lack of the red frame.

This could keep going for a while, so to make a post that fits the title, I’ll just finish up with some of the others you might’ve heard of:

  • Takeshobo, which you might know as being a target of malice from Pop Team Epic.
  • Asahi Shinbun Shuppansha (“Asahi Newspaper Publishing Company”), which is quite obviously affiliated with the Asahi Shinbun newspaper and produces both novels and manga under the name “Asahi Sonorama“. It’s stuck in my mind because cleaning out the josei section of the database introduced me to a ridiculously long-titled imprint that could be translated to “The Strange Story of Sleepless Nights Comics” (Nemurenu Yoru no Kimyo na Hanashi Comics), which turns out to be the imprint of an old shoujo magazine with roughly the same name (it’s just called Nemuki now). Prior to that, I was introduced to the name via the novels of Vampire Hunter D though.

I think I tried putting too much content in too little words again, so I had to cut a bunch of publishers you might not have heard about because their information is only in Japanese, like Bunkasha (which specialises in “ladies’ comics”, so basically josei). Hopefully this was insightful, though, and because I didn’t provide proper references, I’ve scattered Wikipedia links through this post.

So, over to you – which publisher is your favourite? Are there any publishers that need more love?

8 thoughts on “Publisher’s Digest

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  1. aw, i randomly have a copy of Shoujo Beat I nabbed from a booksale. I keep it in a special cabinet since the magazine has Nana in it.


    1. Well, I don’t discount the fact you can still get the magazine second-hand…it’s just that when you say “out of print”, it means that it’s currently no longer published. (In Shoujo Beat’s case, apparently it hasn’t been in print for a decade…)


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