I just can’t believe that even five years later, I missed my own blog anniversary. AGAIN. OTL. WHY DOES LIFE HAVE TO MAKE ME SO BUSY!?! >A<)9
It’s been five years since I started this blog and while I had started this with the intention to just link to my friends manga and anime that interest me, it has grown closer to a place where I can openly discuss and dissect one of the things I love: manga.
From this blog, I’ve learned a lot about manga, met a lot of amazing people who are just as passionate, and found a personal cause to incorporate my life and passion. I was just a college senior when I started and hundreds of manga later, I’ve become an academic who uses every excuse to write about manga. And strangely, I even get to go abroad to talk about it.
I’m forever grateful for all the things that happened in my life and I am proud to say that a good part of who I am today is all due to manga. I’ve been inspired by brave, strange and eccentric heroes and heroines who give me hope that things can get better if I just give things a try.
I can’t believe that it’s been five years although I must admit, I’ve been a delinquent writer for a while and I’m slowly but surely getting back into the swing of things. Of course, in those five years, a lot has changed not only with my life but also with manga’s presence in the Philippines.
A few months ago, someone asked me in Formspring, “For a non-American I wonder why you seem to only discuss U.S/Japanese editions. Is there a sizable large manga market by a local publisher in Philippines? In what language (Tagalog/English)?” I thought it’d be great to give this person an answer now.
Oh Khursten. You’re such an elitist for tackling only US and Japanese manga.
I’m quite sure that the person who asked that didn’t have it in mind but I’ve had friends who have expressed that concern to me. *sigh* I just really love manga. If you ask me anything that concerns manga, you and I can have a conversation that can go on forever. More so, I am the kind of manga fan who will insist to widen your manga repertoire. There’s a lot of amazing manga out there. Don’t get stuck with some boy’s magazine for the rest of your life.
The truth as to why I tackle these editions is because these are the editions that are ‘widely’ available to us. I keep track of them because most of us in the Philippines read English translated manga from US companies and on a personal end, I read Japanese manga more than English editions so I keep track of news about my favorite manga and mangaka from Japan as well. I would also DO ANYTHING TO GET MY HANDS ON WHAT I WANT TO READ. I hope that gives a clear idea on how much I love manga.
As to why I’ve grown to have this crazy stupid love for manga, then let me share to you what has happened over Philippine mangadom in the last five years.
It always starts with Slam Dunk, doesn’t it?
I will be honest in saying that when I started this blog, I had a bit of hope that manga will grow as a market in the Philippines. Five years ago, there was a saturation of exceedingly overpriced US English manga in the Philippines. Almost all manga (from your plain Tokyopop shoujo to Darkhorse releases) started from PHP600 ($12) and the highest would range to PHP1600 ($32). Almost all bookstores had this same price and smaller comic stores would have far more expensive prices for manga. If kids can’t afford PHP85 manga, you can imagine that only a privileged few can afford this manga. I remember saving up for three months just to buy myself the FLCL English manga.
At the same time, a local publisher, Summit Media, released English editions of Slam Dunk and Ragnarok. These editions, from what I remember, were taken from the Chinese editions in Hong Kong and somehow licensing was coursed through the Chinese counterpart. They were sold for PHP85 ($2) and was a reasonable price… for a student in an elite school. At that time, PHP85 ($2) was quite a pricey item for an average Filipino kid. The quality of the comic was also too cheap for those who can afford pricier US manga editions. The popularity of Ragnarok Online managed to put at least volume 2 on the shelf although it didn’t really last long enough for Summit Media to continue re-publishing these Chinese editions in English (I heard that these were from Chuang Yi).
Who remembers CCHQ? I do.
Of course, in those five years (even ten or eleven), the market also offered Japanese editions. One of which was a friend’s comic shop called, Comic Central Headquarters (CCHQ). It was perhaps the only place that sold brand new Japanese manga. Clearly, not a lot of kids understood Japanese manga but since they were cheaper in comparison to the English editions, and we were swayed by the pretty pictures, we… bought Japanese manga. The cost was roughly PHP400 ($8) and didn’t involve too much saving just to get. You just have to invest in a Japanese dictionary at home and some online readings (or a Japanese language school) to understand your manga. I was one of many people who chose to invest on Japanese manga. I learned my Japanese through manga and it became a fun way of knowing the language and eventually the culture.
Another reason why Japanese manga became accessible was because there were a couple of stores in Manila that sold second hand Japanese books. They initially sold it in prices mildly cheaper than the brand-new editions (PHP300) but since all the readers eventually got the later titles, their older titles were sold for PHP50 ($1). From those dollar manga, I got to know Naoki Urasawa (with Yawara) and Ueda Rinko (with Ryou). I also bought a couple of Shounen and BL which I have thrown and disposed along the way. Things were even so good on the Japanese front that we even had a manga kissaten in Manila. I spent hours with my friend reading and absorbing all the fun manga. I finished Happy!, Master Keaton, Cigatuera, and tons of other amazing seinen stuff.
But sadly… all good things don’t last forever. So we make the most of what we have.
Of course, all these awesome access to Japanese manga eventually came to a stop when the Philippine and Japanese economy went down. Shops selling Japanese manga closed one by one and eventually we’re back to nothing but expensive English editions. Personally, I’ve resolved to buy Japanese editions either online or with the help of friends who are traveling out of the country that has a Kinokuniya. I ask friends to literally send me a care package of manga. Even with shipping, it’s phenomenally cheap. Also, on a personal level, I’ve grown as a manga reader enough to actually venture outside of English translated manga and search for Japanese titles I’ve grown to love.
Bookstores still find it hard to sell their English translated manga to people. In the last three years, I’ve seen an increase in the import of Chuang Yi English editions which are currently sold for PHP300 ($7). I have mentioned to people over at twitter that I particularly enjoy these editions a little more because of their quality and their price. The translation’s not so bad either. Beyond the Chuang Yi English editions, there are also US, UK, and even Australian versions of every popular shounen manga. It’s crazy! According to Ed Chavez, apparently, the Philippines is like this gray open market for manga. Anyone can bring their English wares in our country. I think in one bookstore, I saw that the UK edition competes with the price of the Chuang Yi edition and the US edition is still expensive to most students. Currently, the 3-in-1 BIG Viz editions have been available and while I abhor the size of those manga, it’s quite a reasonable price for a copy that contains 3 volumes. I also realized that older manga also has cheaper prices. Midori days used to be in the PHP600 range, now it’s sold for PHP400 ($10), at times, it’s even in the discount pile. IF YOU ARE LUCKY, our version of Book Off, Booksale, sells manga for PHP160($4). And the titles they have range from Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, to Genshiken, to… every other manga whose publisher folded. Seriously. Newer editions also don’t arrive new in our country. It would take 5 to 6 months before I can start oggling a new Vertical or Viz release. They eventually trickle in… at a tortoise’ speed.
I am not an industry expert and I am more of an observer of what’s happening in our bookshelves and in the Philippine anime and manga community. I can only assume that with all of these attempts to make manga cheaper and the still small accessibility to titles that consumers wish to read, manga remains a small market in the Philippines. There is actually a large market for manga however… bookstores cannot compete with the speed and price of free scanlations online. If all those thousands of cosplay convention attendees actually bought manga, then perhaps, we’ll have a booming manga industry.
But there is still hope.
A publishing company in Cebu (a province in the Philippines) has been publishing Doraemon in the local language and they haven’t stopped. It’s still being sold for PHP60 and while it’s printed in smooth newsprint, the series was strong enough to sustain 23 volumes to this date. I’ve been wanting to go to Cebu to ask more about this company and see how they manage to sustain Doraemon. I suppose you just can’t go wrong with Doraemon. I’m honestly impressed that it’s gone this far and I believe this brings hope that maybe, the Philippines will follow after every other Southeast Asian country that has a locally translated manga. I might be dreaming big but do know that if I did win a big lottery and earned gajillions of dollars, I’d build a publishing company and sell fantastic manga that I think Filipinos would enjoy. We’ve seen tons of Filipino enjoy the anime editions of popular Shounen titles, and I think it shouldn’t be that difficult to enjoy their manga editions as well… only… there’s one crucial thing about Philippine society: we’re not exactly a country of readers. OTL.