Since my last translation of something about the anime industry was something of a hit, I thought I’d do a little pandering and take a look at an emerging free manga in Japan as reported by Weekly Oriental Economy:
Free manga magazines: How exactly do they make money?
People are abuzz about the free weekly manga (comic book) that is being handed out around Tokyo. The person behind it all let us know his business model (printed in Weekly Oriental Economy’s Feb. 3, 2007 edition)
The first free manga magazine in Japan, Comic Gumbo, has been released in Tokyo. Just recently, a “free paper” market has sprung up upon the success of Recruit Co.’s “R25” and “Hot Pepper” (see some of the contents of R25 at neomarxisme). In response, this manga magazine has pounded its way in.
The printer is Digima, a venture publishing firm. Company president Akihiko Kai (age 36) founded the company in Sept. 2005 after serving as an operating officer at Dentsu (Japan’s top ad agency) and Trans Cosmos (marketing/offshoring). Gumbo’s target audience is salarymen aged 20-40, and every Tuesday and Wednesday 100,000 copies are handed out at areas including major stations on JR’s Yamanote Line.
The size of Japan’s comic book market is approx. 500 billion yen (about US$4.1 billion, in annual sales I’m assuming). However, readers, who are mostly young people, have been stolen away by mobile phones and the Internet, setting the market on a downward trend. Kai explains: “To get into the market as a latecomer we needed to be bold by making our product free.”
What’s surprising is the fullness of content in the pages that wouldn’t make you think it’s free. The inaugural issue for Jan. 16-17 contained 12 series and was 230 pages long. There is also an impressive lineup of writers, including Tatsuya Egawa, author of Tokyo University Story (he’s doing a manga version of Botchan [English translation of the original novel at No-Sword]). The manuscript payments made to regular contributors are reportedly in line with other manga magazines.
Aggressive use of the Internet
So, can this be profitable? The company has not released its revenue plans, but there are only 26 pages of ads, constituting 10% of the entire book. This is far fewer than R25, which is 40% ads, indicating that they are not relying on ad revenue.
Actually, Digima allows readers to access past series on the Internet for a monthly fee of 500 yen. If membership grows healthily, then this by itself will serve as a major revenue source. In addition, the company intends to issue a trade paperback in the first half of this year. These two are what Kai envisions as the main revenue streams for his company.
The reason that Gumbo has included 12 series is simple. The more series there are, the more likely it is that one will become a hit. If a hit emerges, the trade paperback edition will become a long seller, allowing for healthy returns.
Free distribution is simply a method to lower the hurdles for entry into the market. The subsequent non-free businesses will be the main focus, making this fundamentally different from the free newspapers. The inaugural issue immediately “sold out” its 100,000 copies, succeeding in finding their way into readers’ hands. Will it be able to earn loyal fans? Gumbo’s true battle will be from here on out.
(Writer: Akihiko Fujio; Photo: Koichi Imai)
Comment: I don’t know about paying 500 yen/month just to read manga unless there were a series I was really into (or if I were into scanlations), but hey it sounds like a good enough model if the quality actually is high enough to result in hit paperbacks and TV/movie licenses.
Any HTML gurus know why the hell I have a gigantic mess of white space before the table below? If so, let me know!
A week ago I mentioned how Taiwan’s DPP administration has been editing grade school history textbooks to refer to Chinese history as “Chinese history” instead of “this country’s history” and removing the honorific title “Father of the country” from references to Sun Yat-sen, leaving only his name.
A few days later, there were reports that the Ministry Of Economic Affairs (MOEA) is engaging on a systematic campaign to remove references to China from the names of state run enterprises, and to encourage private corporations to do the same.
Some examples from the article:
Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC, 中國石油) and China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC, 中國造船) would soon be renamed to include “Taiwan” in their company titles in accordance with government policy.
Chinese Petroleum Company ->”CPC, Taiwan” (台灣中油)
Chinese Ship Building Corporation (CSBC) -> Taiwan International Shipbuilding Corp (台灣國際造船)
Another company that has been targeted in the name change campaign is China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空), but Chen did not address this yesterday.
CAL said earlier that its name was valuable in the greater China market.
Although previously well-known in the international community and with a large number of overseas branches, the state-controlled International Commercial Bank of China (ICBC, 中國國際商銀), is now called Mega International Commercial Bank (兆豐國際商銀) after merging with another state-run entity, Chiao Tung Bank (交通銀行).
Of particular note is this sentence buried in the last paragraph.
The issue of changing the name of state-run enterprises is part of the government’s “name-rectification” policy, aimed at avoiding Taiwanese companies being mistaken for Chinese ones.
My previous post on the revision of history books had mentioned how this concept is central to Chinese thought, at least since Confucianism referred to “rectification of names,” and in fact this phrase concept is extremely common in Taiwanese political discourse.
To get an idea of how common, take a look at the top 10 most emailed articles at Taiwan’s Liberty Times newspaper on today, February 7 2007:
Of these, #2 and #5 both include the phrase “name-rectification” (正名) in the headline. #1 refers to comments made by former president Lee Deng-hui regarding Taiwan’s status, which is intimately bound up with name-rectification. #7 about the proposed relocation of the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall from Taipei to Taoyuan country, where his mausoleum is located, and the re-purposement of the current building for use as something like a “Taiwan Democracy Memorial.” This same article #7 also mentions the recent renaming of Chiang Kai Shek airport to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. So that makes, out of the ten most popular articles of the day, there are four related to the politics of name-rectification.Let’s look for a moment a bit more about the Chiang Kai Shek issue. While no one denies that Chiang is a critical figure in the history of China and Taiwan, exactly how he should be remembered is a major point of contention between the Taiwanese political factions. As his former party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang/KMT) still respects his memory and praises his role in the original revolution, the birth of the Republic, the fight against the communists, and the development of Taiwan’s economy after the flight from the mainland. On the other hand, the Taiwanese independence oriented Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) tends to look at him as a military dictator, who invaded Taiwan with his ragtag army of mainlanders and spent decades suppressing native culture and liberty on the pretext of national security.
As part of their name-rectification agenda, the DPP administration has already changed the name of the Chiang Kai Shek International Airport, and has now proposed the more radical step of actually removing him from his own memorial hall. In addition, they have also ordered the removal of outdoor statues of Chiang Kai Shek from all military bases, to be placed in storage. The excellent China affairs/media blog ESWN has a short bit on this, with an amusing quote from the defense minister Lee Jye.
Lee: “Why not remove them?”
Reporter: “Why remove them?”
Lee: “You tell me why not remove them? This is a democratized country. I am in an awkward position, right or not? The ruling party has some idea that they want me to carry out. The opposition party also has its own opinion and it does not want me to carry this out. So what do you say that I should do? Removing the bronze statues does not mean discarding them. It is to move them to where they belong. As you say, you are the opposition right now. If you become the ruling party next time, you can tell me to bring the statues back again. It is such a simple issue. Why are you arguing about this all day?”
Reporter: “The blues are not happy, but the greens are not happy either?”
Reporter: “Could it that you feel pressed and aggrieved?”
Lee: “Then I ask you to help me. Please do not keep picking up rocks and throwing them at me.”
There is also an article at the Taipei Times about the statue removal campaign. Significantly, the removal of the statues is being accomplished before February 28 of this year, which will be the 60th anniversary of the famous 228 incident, in which military police occupying Taiwan for Chiang Kai Shek’s KMT led Republic Of China government beat an elderly female street peddler (on 2/27), triggering a protest the next day (2/27) in which several civilians were shot and killed by police, which caused rioting and near-insurrection by the Taiwanese, which led to the introduction of military law by the KMT government, and a crackdown against rebels and former “Japanese collaborators,” in which thousands were killed. The 228 incident, now commemorated with a holiday known as Peace Memorial Day, is considered by the DPP to represent everything bad about the decades long period of military law in Taiwan. While the KMT officially does not consider Chiang Kai Shek to be responsible for the 228 violence because he was not in Taiwan in the time and did not order order the reprisals against civilians, there are many who blame him either based on the principal of a military commander’s responsibility down the chain of command, or because they believe that he did in fact authorize the post-insurrection massacres.
Interestingly, despite the history textbook revisions removing his title as “father of the country” the final paragraph of the Liberty Times #7 article from above, on the possible removal of the Chiang Kai Shek memorial from the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, makes a point of saying that because are still many people who respect the great doctor’s principles of democracy and fraternity and all that noone would ever consider doing anything to the Sun Yat-sen memorial hall. Of course, who knows what a future government might find objectionable?
Kokaryo is in Kyoto City, Japan, and is a student dormitory that at first Kyoto University rented for the use of Chinese students during World War II. The building has five floors above ground, one below ground, and an area of 2130 square meters. In May of 1950, the representative body of the Taiwanese authorities in Japan sold off assets that had been seized from the Japanese army that had invaded China, and used those government funds to purchase the building. In December of 1952, the Taiwanese “Ambassador to Japan” [Ed: take note if the use of quotations] entered into a sales contract with the former owner of the building, and in June of 1961 registered the property under the name of “Republic of China.” In June of 1961 Chen Zhi-mai, Taiwan’s “Ambassador to Japan” filed a lawsuit at the Kyoto District Court with the patriotic overseas Chinese as the defendants, requesting their eviction from the Kokaryo. However, patriotic overseas Chinese and foreign students of our country had consistently been managing and living in the property since Japan lost the war, and there had been no participation from Taiwan in this. After the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, the Chinese Embassy in Japan and the Chinese Consulate in Osaka had continually been fiscally supervising and guiding the Kokaryo. The Chinese government made special payments, made repairs to Kokaryo, and used it as a dormitory for study abroad students from our country.
In September 1977, the Kyoto district court rejected the plaintif’s complaint and recognized that, based on the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, the property rights of Kokaryo belonged to the People’s Republic of China, but on the other hand, pronounced that the plaintiff did have the right to litigate as an interested party. In October of the same year, Taiwanese authorities filed an appeal in the Osaka Supreme Court under the name of “Republic of China.” In April of 1982, the Osaka Supreme Court accepted the appeal of the “Republic of China” as “the confirmed de-facto government” of Taiwan and overturned the verdict of the Kyoto District Court. In February of 1986 the Kyoto District Court, quoting the main argument of the Osaka Supreme Court, found against the patriotic-for-China overseas Chinese. In February of 1987, the Osaka Supreme Court decided a second trial upholding the verdict of the original trial. In response, the overseas Chinese appealed to the Japan Supreme Court in March of 1987.
From 1974 until now, China has made several appeals to Japan, stressing the following. Kokaryo is a national asset of China, and China has sought the cooperation of Japan in rectifying the name under which Kokaryo is registered, as the property rights of Kokaryo should have belonged to the People’s Republic of China since the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations. The Kokaryo issue is not an ordinary civil suit. It is an issue related to the legal interests of the Chinese government, and a case related to the basic principles of relations between Japan and China. The substance of this problem is the very public creation of “two China’s” in a formal Judicial manner, and violates the Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China and Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China, and shatters the understanding that relationed between Japan and Taiwan shall be limited to private and regional channels. The verdict of the Osaka Supreme Court is not only politically mistaken, but is also of no use legally, violated the fundamentals and principles of international law with a number of problems such as the distinction between national succession, governmental succession and government recognized legal validity and the nature of property, and also does not accord with the Japanese constitution. At present, this case is still in progress at the Japanese Supreme Court. China is watching with great interest.
Regular readers of the blog will remember Adamu’s saliva-speckled posts on Krispy Kreme donuts. Well, I’ve just found out via Michael Turton’s blog that Dunkin Donuts recently announced plans to expand into Taiwan, and then eventually through them into China. As far as I know, this will make Taiwan the second country after the Philippines to have both a Dunkin Donuts and a Mister Donut franchise, a condition that if you know the history of both companies suggests an incongruity of much the same character as the fact that light is both a wave and a particle.
Before coming to Japan I had never heard of Mr Donut, and was a bit incredulous when I was first told that it was originally an American company. Noticing that their advertising makes notes of the fact that it was started in San Francisco Chinatown (some locations have Chinese-y menu items like dumplings or noodles to play off of this), I assumed that it was just one of those American chains which, despite being fairly big regionally, had just never made it from one coast to the other. Except for wishing, whenever I passed a Mr Donut in Japan, that it was a Dunkin’ Donuts instead, I never thought of them again until I moved to Taiwan to study Chinese in 2004.
I arrived in Taipei in May, apparently no more than a couple of months after the introduction of Mr Donut to Taiwan. Unlike in Japan, where it was nothing but a common vendor of sweet and sometimes sticky pastries, Mr Donuts in Taiwan was a phenomenon, with desperate young consumers waiting on lines so snakishly long that they were later to be my frame of reference when my rarely present nominal flatmate Dmitri described to me the experience of waiting in line to get into that first Pushkin Square McDonalds to open in Russia after perestroika.
Having been impressed by the utter ordinariness of Mr Donuts product in Japan, I was rather shocked by the amount of enthusiasm there was for the product here, until I noticed the promotion campaign. To see what the centerpiece of that campaign is, just visit out the Mr Donut Taiwan web site and check out the title:
Mister Donut Japan No.1 Donut Shop
While in Japan the brand image of Mr Donut is based around its American-ness, with a minor strain of Chinese-ness from the San Francisco heritage, Mister Donut Taiwan is being promoted entirely on the basis of its popularity in Japan. While Taiwan certainly has nothing against American products or fast food, the Japanese link has a much stronger association with the high class. For one illustrative example of how the Japanese image is helpful for marketing in Taiwan, notice how dry cleaning stores are always labeled as “Japanese style dry cleaning,” despite (to my knowledge at least) there being any particular historic link between Japan and dry cleaning. We can also see an interesting choice in the removal of any marketing or products associated with Chinatown. After all, why would the idea of third-rate Japanified Americanized Dim-sum be remotely appealing in a city where you can find the same type of thing at lower prices and higher quality in almost any direction you turn?
If you look at the order and location in which stores were opened in Taipei, you can see a clear attempt by the planners of Mr Donut Taiwan to instill establish Mr Donut as a high class brand. (1) Tianmu – a high class neighborhood with many expensive stores. (2) Breeze Center – A department store. I don’t know if it’s Japanese owned, but it has a strongly Japanese style to it, and even contains the Taipei branch of Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya. (3) New York, New York – High end shopping center located at the base of Taipei 101, currently the tallest skyscraper in the world. (4) Taipei Station – Not actual in the station, but in the underground shopping center, right by the door connecting it with the neighboring Shin-Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store.
After this they began branching out into somewhat less stylish areas, and now have a total of 17 stores including one in Xinzhu and three in Gaoxiong, but by associating the early stores both with high class shopping districts and Japan, the company did an excellent job of beginning to establish their brand as something more more at the level of Starbucks than McDonalds.
By now you may be thinking, but didn’t this start with Dunkin’ Donuts, not Mr Donuts? Well, let’s look briefly of the history of these two brands.
Mister Donut was founded by Harry Winokur in 1956 and had locations across most of North America.
Mister Donut was the largest competitor to Dunkin’ Donuts, which was founded by Harry Winokur’s brother-in-law William Rosenberg in 1950, prior to being acquired by Dunkin’ Donuts’ parent company, Allied-Lyons, in February 1990.
After the acquisition of Mister Donut by Allied-Lyons, all Mister Donut locations within North America were offered the chance to change their name to Dunkin’ Donuts. Now only a scattered few locations still hold the name Mister Donut.
In 1983, Duskin Co. Ltd of Japan acquired the rights to franchise Mister Donut throughout Japan and Asia. Mister Donut is the largest donut chain operating in Japan.
For some reason there remain sixteen Mr Dont locations in the United States that have not transitioned to the Dunkin’ Donuts brand, but for all intents and purposes they are now a Japanese company, under the aegis of Duskin Co. Ltd., and the Mr Donut brand has spread to the Philippines, and now Taiwan, as an offshoot of the Japanese company. There was a Dunkin Donuts operation in Japan for a time, run as a joint venture with D&C, the holding company of the internationally famous Yoshinoya brand, but currently the only East Asian country with Dunkin Donuts is South Korea, although it is quite common in Thailand, and in the Philippines one can even find Dunkin Donuts right next door to Mr Donut. Will we ever see such a site in Taiwan? Will Dunkin’ Donuts take hold? Will we ever see Krispy Kreme opening in a vacated Mr Donuts shop next to Taipei 101?
For a good taste of Taiwan’s Mr Donut hysteria, circa February 2005, check out this Taipei Times article. For a taste of how they may fare in the future, check out this man on the street interview from the very same article.
“It’s the best donut you can get in Taiwan, but it’s not as good as Dunkin Donuts,” Fu told the Taipei Times. “If someone bought some for me, I’d eat it,” he said, but indicated that he would not buy the doughnut again for himself.
Today’s announcement of the sale date of the final Harry Potter novel (July 21) offers an opportune moment to mention one of my favorite language related web sites, CJVlang.com. CJVlang is short for Chinese Japanese and Vietnamese Language, and contains a number of fascinating comparisons between the way words are used in Chinese and
how they are used in Japanese and Vietnamese, two of the three languages whose vocabularies are roughly half derived from Chinese loan words. (Unfortunately there is no material on Korean.)
As the site creator says:
It will take you on a trip through the familiar and the exotic — the way Harry Potter has been translated into these totally non-European languages, where they got their names for the days of the week, how their naturalists approach the scientific naming of birds, and, of course, the nature of the scripts the three languages are written in. The journey will give you glimpses of history, a close-up of the workings of culture, and the thrill of discovering the unexpected.
One week ago, The Asahi Shimbun reported on the latest development in a 40 year old court case that leaves Japan’s supreme court in the touchy position of having to abjudicate a dispute between The People’s Republic of China and Taiwan/The Republic of China over which government is the proper owner of a decrepit student dormitory located near Kyoto University, know as Kokaryo(光華寮).
For some of the basic facts of the case, here are some quotes from the Asahi article:
Located near Kyoto University in a quiet residential area, the five-story Kokaryo dormitory has a total floor space of about 2,000 square meters. A few students still reside there.
Kyoto University rented out the building from a private company during World War II and used it as a dormitory for Chinese students.
After the end of the war, the Republic of China purchased the dorm and left the students living there to manage it. Taiwan purchased the structure in 1952 to allow it to be used as a dorm for foreign students as before. This came after Mao Tse-tung established the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
In 1967, the Taiwanese government filed a lawsuit in the Kyoto District Court seeking to have students who supported the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing removed from the building.
The situation became even more complicated after 1972, the year Japan and China re-established diplomatic ties. At the same time, Japan broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
In 1977, the Kyoto District Court ruled against Taiwan, but a 1982 Osaka High Court ruling overturned the lower court decision and sent the case back to the district court.
In 1986, the Kyoto District Court ruled in favor of Taiwan, and the Osaka High Court backed that ruling in 1987.
Beijing heatedly protested the court ruling, arguing that it recognized two Chinas in opposition to the official Japanese government stance that Beijing is the sole, legitimate representative of China.
The case then went to the Supreme Court, but for two decades it took no action because of possible diplomatic implications.
On Tuesday, it was learned that the Third Petty Bench of the Supreme Court had sent letters to lawyers for the two sides involved in the lawsuit seeking their opinion on which government held the right to represent China.
The lawsuit was originally filed with Taiwan as the plaintiff. If the Supreme Court eventually rules that China should become the plaintiff as the successor government, Taiwan would have no choice but to allow Beijing to continue with the case.
At one point, the dormitory lawsuit became a major diplomatic issue between Japan and China that was taken up during meetings of leaders of the two nations.
The late Deng Xiaoping criticized the Japanese court rulings supporting Taiwan.
Japanese government officials were forced to seek Beijing’s understanding that under Japan’s constitutional separation of powers, the administrative branch could not interfere with decisions made by the judicial branch.
The Supreme Court’s apparent decision to dust off the case could point to a new focus on legal issues.
Until the second Osaka High Court ruling, the focus had been whether the communist government set up in Beijing should be allowed to assume ownership of overseas assets.
According to a history of Kyoto University, the Kokaryo was first provided by Kyoto University in May of 1945 for the use of foreign students born in the Republic of China and the South Pacific islands that were in Japan to receive “special education.” Interestingly, it does not say “China”(中国） or “overseas Chinese” (華僑) , but quite specifically “Republic of China.” (中華民国) Of course, this is not an original document showing the intent of the university at the time they first rented the dormitory, but there may be something to it. Certainly there were many Taiwanese students in Japan at the time, but Taiwan was still Japanese and not Republic of China territory. Were there many ROC citizens studying in Japan before the end of WWII? Were there also PRC students at the time? This architecture page says that the building was constructed in 1931, and was originally an apartment building, presumably private, intended for Kyoto University students, and also gives a more detailed location, Sakyo-ku, Kitashirakawa,
According to this Yomiuri story, the legal battle started when Taiwan attempted to evict 8 students due to “trouble related to the management of the dormitory,” who then filed a lawsuit protesting the eviction, but the reason that Taiwan actually decided to throw out the students at this time is not indicated in any Japanese or English language articles that I found. However, according an article I found in the Liberty Times, (a Taiwanese newspaper well known for its pro-independence stance) the Chinese students were originally kicked out of the dorm in response to complaints by dorm-resident Taiwanese students, who were annoyed by shouts of “Banzai Chairman Mao!” from Chinese students in the grip of Cultural Revolution fever.
At least one possibly critical detail was left out of all Japanese and Taiwanese reporting on the case that I found, but can be found in Chinese language articles PRC side, as well as the aforementioned Japanese text of the Chinese consulate web site. Since the basis of the conflict is over which government has rights to overseas property of China, but since Kokaryo was not actually purchased by the ROC government until AFTER they had fled to Taiwan and the People’s Republic had been officially established, why is it even under contention? That is, the PRC is contending that overseas property owned by China before the PRC officially became China’s successor state should be transferred to their control. OK, fine- even if you accept that argument, why should they gain control of something that was purchased by the de-facto independent government on Taiwan? (Note that China does not seem to be attempting to harm Taiwanese property rights in general, perhaps because that would be too threatening to the massive Taiwanese investment in China.) The answer seems to be, at least according to China, because the Kokaryo was purchased by Taiwan’s representative in Japan using money received from the sale of property that had been seized by the Japan military’s invasion of China during WW2. I don’t have enough information to be entirely clear, but this seems to imply that while Taiwan may have the rights to property held or controlled by Taiwan before the establishment of the PRC, since the resources used to purchase Kokaryo were originally stolen from China, they must also be returned to China, which the ROC government on Taiwan was longer the legal representative of at that time. I have not yet found a second, independent, source for this information, or in fact for the Taiwanese account of the Chinese students’ eviction. Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, there are essential facts reported by the media of both sides that are not reported by anyone else, making it very difficult to uncover the reality without doing a significant amount of independent research.
Expect translations (more like paraphrase in the case of Chinese sources) of articles from both the Chinese and Taiwanese perspective.
Tell it, Gendai (in translation from their daily e-mail):
Prime minister Abe keeps on protecting Health Minister Hakuo Yanagizawa despite calls within the ruling coalition for him to quit over his “women are birth-giving machines” statement. If Abe fires him, his own responsibility for appointing him will be called into question, and his shoddy hiring practices will suck even more momentum from the administration. With the Abe government in such a state, the LDP-Komeito coalition won’t be able to campaign for the unified local elections in 2 months, let alone the upper house election this summer. Right now the future state of affairs has become murky as to whether he’ll be dragged out early or fall dead of disease. Looking back at previous LDP administrations, all governments that faced severe criticism have died young. This cabinet even even worse than the Uno cabinet, which came under fire for a sex scandal, or the worst-in-history Mori, who made the “nation of gods” statement. Most everyone is thinking Abe’s government will die an early death as well.