THIRD'S THE CHARM
Well, the debates about Nymphet are starting to cool down, luckily. There's still a couple more points I'd like to address, though, which I've seen brought up in various forums.
1.) Some people are blaming the initial negative press surrounding this series on our choice to translate the original Japanese title "Kodomo no Jikan" as "Nymphet."
This is how it happened:
Some time after we licensed the first volume and were in the process of getting it translated, it was time to get a logo made. We went ahead and got a logo designed for Kodomo no Jikan by a freelance logo designer. Soon after, Adam Arnold, senior editor and top otaku at Seven Seas, pointed out to me that there's another Kodomo no Jikan already on the market and that it happens to be a porn anime. Whoops. We try to retain the Japanese titles for manga whenever possible, but this one wouldn't work at all.
Kodomo no Jikan literally means "A Child's Time" but that didn't seem very positive or appropriate either. Adam and I mulled it over and came up with an alternate title: "Chibi Lolita." Sure, Chibi Lolita was reminiscent of Tokyopop's Chibi Vampire, but it was cute, and a name like that would stand out on shelves and hopefully pique people's interest. And since Kodomo no Jikan was a relatively unknown property, I hoped that we could piggyback off Chibi Vampire's success since they'd be shelved right next to each other. (A cheap marketing trick? Probably. Adam wasn't sure he liked that idea, but he admitted it was better than having it mistaken for porn and if a different title helped spur sales, it was only good for the series in the long run.)
So, we contacted the licensor, Futabasha, and told them about the problem and suggested Chibi Lolita as a possible alternative. Since the Japanese often take a long time in getting back to you on approvals, we went ahead and had the same logo designer now redesign the logo to say "Chibi Lolita" instead.
She seemed a little resistant to that name change, though, which had me wondering if it was a good choice or not. Adam and I brainstormed further and came up with the title "Hot For Teacher," which I thought was both catchy and funny.
In the meantime, Futabasha's response was a long time coming because they were busy discussing the title with the manga-ka. When they finally got back to us, they said "no" to Chibi Lolita and said that the author herself wanted to call it "Nymphet" instead. We were stunned. "Nymphet" just didn't sound right to us or catchy at all. We then came back at them with "Hot For Teacher" but they adamantly refused and said that the title must be Nymphet, and that the author demanded it.
Adam was frustrated and said we should ask again, but I said no, it would be considered impolite to push the Japanese further and it could strain our relationship. So, although we weren't thrilled about it, we asked the logo designer to redo the logo yet a third time, this time as "Nymphet." She must've thought we were crazy.
Still, knowing what I know now about the content in the later volumes, I realize that this would have been a controversial title no matter what we called it.
2.) Which leads me to my next point, regarding the specific pages in Volume Three, pages 129-131, which I pointed out in my second letter. Now, I've seen a number of forum posts around where people suggest that I'm crazy for highlighting this scene above others, as if this one is relatively harmless.
Their opinion may be due to some inaccurately translated scanlations out there. Or, if you're just looking at the pictures and can't read Japanese, you might miss the gist of what is really happening in this scene. But for me, this was the scene that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, changed my mind about the appropriateness of this title. See, my whole defense before was based on the idea that Nymphet was not so bad because it was about a girl who tries to sexually entrap her teacher but fails because he in no way reciprocates. But in this scene in the third volume, it shows him getting literally, physically aroused by her (the original Japanese text unmistakably and unequivocally backs this up.) This is what completely crossed the line for me, and showed me that I could no longer defend releasing this title. Yes, there are other questionable scenes as well, but it isn't my job to go through a graphic play-by-play of all the objectionable material. Suffice it to say that this one scene crossed the point of no return. I don't see how anyone can possibly defend this scene. 'Nuff said.
By the way, you may be wondering what the heck this page is and why there's a cutesy drawing of me at the top. Welcome to the first entry in my new weekly blog: Adventures of a Manga Publisher.
Why a weekly blog from me, and why now?
I learned many things from the whole Nymphet flare-up, and one of them was about the importance of transparency. What was truly educational for me was the overall positive response I got after posting my two letters. Even if not everyone fully agreed with my reasoning, their responses were, for the most part, appreciative (that I had taken the time to carefully explain myself) and respectful (Sure, there are still those who want to burn my effigy and boil me alive...)
I realized that, more than anything-besides the books themselves-manga fans want open and honest communication from publishers. No marketing speak or corporate B.S., but a personal touch.
My goal here is to provide an inside look at the manga industry, as someone who is directly involved in all aspects of manga publishing. It's an industry that is at once fascinating, colorful, exotic, but also, on my end of things, cutthroat. There are things that ought to be demystified, and some that only I can tell you. My hope is to inform in my own small way, to entertain, and to show you who I am and what it's like to be a growing manga publisher in an uphill battle against nigh impossible odds.
That's all for now. I hope you enjoy artist Hai's hilarious chibi rendering of me on the top banner and in the attached 4-koma strip, which we plan to make a regular feature of this blog. Stay tuned for more, and see you next week!
June 6, 2007