Have keitai novels gone the way of the maid cafe?

Update on keitai novels: they’re dead! At least, it looks that way in the publishing industry.

According to J-Cast, Kinokuniya rankings show that not a single keitai novel made an appearance in the top 100 sellers of 2008, despite ongoing heavy promotion of the genre.

One publisher blames the sluggish publishing sales on a lack of an impactful release during the year. That, and the fact that “keitai novel” releases went from 1 or two titles a a month in 2007 to around a dozen in 2008, reportedly resulting in a more dispersed readership. However, the drama and movie versions of “Red String” have expanded the genre’s fan base, as evidenced by growing traffic and registered users at major site Orion.

But given the originally non-commercial and independent nature of keitai novels (really, a form of fictionalized blogging), one view, backed up by an unnamed industry insider, notes that going mainstream made the genre less grassroots and thus less cool. As a result, writers/consumers may have lost interest as the “independent” feeling of community was lost. Indeed, popularity of select titles has meant stable fan bases for particular authors, making it harder for less established newcomers to make money on a book gig (sounds like the traditional publishing industry, no?).

So that means in 2008, as NHK, Japan bloggers, and even the New Yorker marveled at this new consumer development, the actual fad had already begun to fade. Doesn’t it feel kind of dirty to have been part of the dreaded “Newsweek effect.”

11 thoughts on “Have keitai novels gone the way of the maid cafe?”

  1. Oddly, the Newsweek effect even seems to be affecting official J-govt publications. I just received a magazine from the cultural affairs section of the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. One of the lead stories is on the enduring presence of maid cafes and culture in Akihabara.

  2. The last time I was in Akihabara was when Adam’s sister-in-law asked us to take her to a maid cafe so she could see what it was like. That was the only time I ever went to a maid cafe, but I still kind of want to see inside the military maid cafe on top of the fake gun store I saw down in Teramachi, Kyoto.

    Are keitai novels (fictional blogs is a good way to describe them) still just as popular online? Maybe readers just figured out that there’s no good reason to buy them in hardcover when they’re still on the website.

  3. Keitai novels are a format, but the broader trend of “yankii-esque content” will not go away. Yankii here not meaning “Be-bop high school” but 短絡的 super-direct, obvious plots and a rejection of elitist consumer society.

  4. “super-direct, obvious plots and a rejection of elitist consumer society’

    So just like Be-bop High School?

    Seriously, the sequel to the sequel of Be-bop is just about the most racid Kogal into Yanmama thing on the go now.

  5. The parody – Cromatie High School – is way better. Check out the anime. You don’t need to have seen the original.

    Or for something from back in the day – Hokuto no Ken is great and has become something of a dude’s yankii culture touchstone in the past few years since it was rereleased as a pachislot.

  6. I know Fist of the Northstar is famous and all-but this art is just so damn UGLY. I can forgive that in say, Crayon Shin-chan but not in a kung-fu fantasy manga.

  7. “I know Fist of the Northstar is famous and all-but this art is just so damn UGLY.”

    It grows on you. The female characters in the series are considered by a lot of Japanese guys to be some of the top manga hotties. Not my thing though.

  8. I guess it is an acquired taste, but I *love* the Fist of the Northstar art even though I am not a fan of the manga so much (though if I gave it a chance it looks like the story of an post-apocalyptic world populated by superhuman kung fu badasses could really grow on me). Argh Real Monsters was ugly, FOTN is just in your face and violent. I have a real problem calling something ugly if it is compelling.

  9. I just think FOTN has terrible, terrible character design. The idea of a “post-apocalyptic world populated by superhuman kung fu badasses” is inherently awesome though.

  10. Let’s look at it this way – the character designs are unique. I like seeing something different. Too much 80s Shonen was generic in design.

    It is more “post-apocalyptic world populated by superhuman kung fu badasses” who can make people’s heads explode with a touch. Hard to beat that.

    If you want to give it a go, read it up to 我が生涯に一片の悔いなし

    It has melodrama, but it is a really complex work in many ways.

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