Japanese YA – How the Industry Works Overseas(Part 5)

– When the T.V. Met the Book –

A topic that I’ve made much reference to is the fact that in Japan, book commercials have become increasingly familiar to readers of Young Adult novels. Today’s article will explore that, but instead of using miles of text and pictures, I’ll be showing you the actual commercials. So without further ado, we’ll begin this slightly unorthodox article in my series on Japanese YA.

In the 1990’s, Kouhei Kadono’s Dengeki Bunko Content Entry “Boogiepop and Others” won not only the hearts of the judges, but also that of readers as it quickly became an instant bestseller upon publication. To push sales of the book, the publisher invested in a series of TV commercials to advertise the book. To make sure the short clips that aired nationally would prove effective, the publishing company collaborated with an animation studio to bring to life several key scenes from the book itself in order to give the commercials an edge.

The below video is brought to us courtesy of Seven Seas Entertainment, the English publisher who bought the translation rights for the series. The video is an exception among the others presented, as it has been translated and edited at the end to promote the English edition. The final product is more akin to a movie trailer than a book commercial and gives a glimpse at some of the earliest attempts at promoting Young Adult novels on television.

I have not found any commercials between the release of the above production and 2010, and thus all of the next clips will be from rather recent years.

What you will notice in stark contrast between the advertisement for “Boogiepop” and the more recent batch of YA commercial works is how companies are going about creating them. Obviously, in the case of Kadono’s work, his sales merited an advertisement composed of original animation. However, it would seem that the venture, which no doubt cost much, is not an option most publishers feel is needed to be pursued.

Rather, Japanese YA Publishers are utilizing material already within the books to create the TV sound bites. To be exact, the internal illustrations.

Our first clip is from February of 2010 and is for the novel “【角川スニーカー文庫】サクラダリセット WITCH, PICTURE and RED EYE GIRL”, a science fiction story involving time travel.

The next commercial is for a recent YA title “Date. A. Alive.” It was released this March.

The next video is an advertisement for the second book in the series, released at the end of this last August.

Following the success of the bestselling book series “BACCANO!”, author Ryohgo Narita launched a second series of books titled “Durarara!!!” to much success. The following commercial is for the first six volumes released as of 2009. 4 more books have been sold since then with more still planned.

Some of you may remember my recounting of a publishing scandal involving the bestselling series “Dantalian no Shoka”. In following with that, I thought I’d share with you the commercial put out to advertise it’s debut.

Another series I’ve referenced a number of times (and a personal favorite of mine) is the series “GOSICK” by Kazuki Sakuraba. Below are two commercials recently put on television for it.

Intriguingly, the idea of creating two different versions of a book cover to attract a different audience is not foreign to Japan. The next commercial showcases a series of new covers for the GOSICK novels which lack the typical YA illustrations. This is vaguely reminiscent of something “Harry Potter” did as well. The decision to change cover art was, however, met with mixed reactions by fans.

A quite popular YA franchise in Japan is “Full Metal Panic!” by author Shouji Gatou. A military/high school adventure story involving giant robots, Russian KGB agents and North Korean terrorists, the series has remained an ever present force in the industry. Comprising of 19 books+ and still ongoing, the following commercial advertises the newest release from the series, as well as the first book in a new spin-off story.

The next commercial is a personal favorite of mine. I love the sense it gives you for the story. The title itself, シュガーダーク: 埋められた闇と少女, translates to something like “Sugar Dark: The Buried Darkness and the Girl”. Though I haven’t read it, I am vaguely aware that it is a fantasy set in a graveyard. The book has, to my knowledge, received a lot of positive attention.

And here’s another series, this time a high fantasy.

And here’s a commercial for a book series that borders on some familiar paranormal themes.

This commercial takes a decidedly more comical approach to advertising a book.

As you may have noticed, in some of the commercials, they advertise another book briefly toward the end. One series that you may have seen pop up once or more was “Haruhi Suzumiya”. I’ve made a number of mentions throughout my articles to it. The series which has reached levels of fandom rarely envisioned by anyone but Rowling and Meyers has been a guaranteed cash cow. Below is the commercial for the release of it’s most recent volumes 10 and 11. I made mention last time that the two books received a first printing of over 500,000 copies, the largest any YA book in Japan has yet received.

If there’s one thing about Japan’s YA culture, it’s that it is a banned book lovers dream come true. Light Novels (Japanese term for Young Adult novels) are not shy of touching on taboo topics or pushing boundaries. Besides books that delve into every idea conceivable, and a healthy sale of LGBT works, there are also many high school tales that involve promiscuous situations. The next commercial is for just such a book, titled “R-15”.

Okay, so remember that book series that I told you sold 12.3 million copies? Well, the below is an advertisement for it. But it’s different from the one’s above. This time, the publisher decided to have two different main characters from two different book series vying for attention on your television. In this instance, it’s the book series “Toaru Majutsu no Index” verses “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!” In terms of genre, they couldn’t be further apart from one another.

Lastly, to further point out how big an industry YA is in Japan, here’s a television commercial for one of the bimonthly YA magazines. That’s right, they made a commercial to advertise a magazine issue. Yes, that’s actually how profitable the industry has become there.

Now, that’s most of what I wanted to share from Japan (at least, for now), however I did want to take a moment to contrast all of this with what is the reality of YA in America today. As most probably are aware, book commercials (let alone for YA) are not a popular thing in the US right now, and the chance of getting one (let alone put on actual TV) is quite rare.

To compare with the Japanese advertisements, I’ll post below some of the only US book commercials that exist. All are YA.

I’ll leave it to the reader to make a judgement based on this comparison. I’m sure more than a few could probably guess my own thoughts.

So in conclusion, take a deep breath. Those were a lot of videos, and if you’ve been reading every article thus far, you’ve come a long way in your understanding of Japanese Young Adult literature.

Of course, you still have a bit of a ways to go.

(CLICK HERE FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT: PART 6 – The Bestsellers >>)

(<<CLICK HERE TO GO BACK AND READ PART 4)

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Chansey says:

    To those who think light novels are ‘light’:


    Pictured are volumes from the series Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon (A Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere).

    1. Matt says:

      Thank you for posting those! I am well aware of that series as I’ve seen it several times in my local book store. It definitely illustrates how large the word count of Young Adult novels in Japan can grow.

    2. kafkafuura says:

      That one in the middle looks just about as big as my copy of 魍魎の匣 (Mouryou no Hako)…

      A lot of people point to small pages, but I consider Japanese a more “compact” language – compare what you can fit in an English tweet and what you can fit in a Japanese tweet – and there are also 単行本 (Tankoubon) size books that are twice the size. If you consider Bakemonogatari a light novel (some do, some don’t) that’s 834 pages of JIS-B5.

  2. kafkafuura says:

    I remember stumbling across that Date. A. Live commercial. I was rolling on the floor laughing when it got to that デレさせること!? part.

    In any case I see reasons to raise eyebrows on either spectrum, but there always more effort behind the Japanese book commercials.

    Actually regarding that GOSICK commercial: They’re bringing the original covers (and illustrations I presume) back. The silhouette covers were made for Kadokawa’s bunko version (GOSICK changed publishers when it started up again) and had no other illustrations. But I figure because of the anime the original illustrator’s work for GOSICK came to light and after seeing so many people trying to hunt down old out of print copies – Kadokawa decided to re-release the series with original illustrations.

  3. Aurora says:

    Thanks for this insight, I’m looking forward to the next part of your series. I enjoy Light Novels very much (though my favorite series hasn’t sold that well it’s getting a high-budget anime adaption right now, that is “Fate/Zero”. The novels were incredible)
    Any plans on mentioning Nasu Kinoko’s “Kara no Kyoukai”? The series is very mature in content and the movie adaptions sold like.. cream puffs?
    While some light novels have already been published in the US (the first two parts of Zaregoto by NISIOISIN for example) it seems like it can’t get a proper hold. But there is so much potential :/ well let’s see..

  4. Guest says:

    Just as an FYI from a reader: “スニーカー大賞作品「シュガーダーク」” would be literally more like “(the) Sneaker (as in Sneaker Bunko) Prize-Winning Work ‘Sugar Dark'”. If it’s the book I’m thinking of the title is this:

    シュガーダーク: 埋められた闇と少女

    (info: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/シュガーダーク_埋められた闇と少女 )

    You clearly know your stuff and I’ve enjoyed reading this series, but the ways you’ve been quoting the titles might be working, but it definitely comes across a bit strange to see the titles quoted the way you’ve been doing it.

    1. Matt says:

      Thanks, I was following a translation given by a YouTube user.

      1. Guest says:

        The translation you were using isn’t a bad translation for the actual full title, it’s just that what you’re calling the title here is more of a promotional description (“(the) Sneaker Bunko Prize-Winning Work ‘Sugar Dark'”).

        So think of it as if you’d copied-and-pasted something like “Scholastic’s Best-selling ‘Harry Potter’ v1” (promotional language) and said it translates into “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (which *is* the correct title of Harry Potter v1, but *isn’t* a translation of what you copied-and-pasted).

        Again, you clearly know your stuff when it comes to the LN market, but citing the novel titles like this might work against your credibility in some circles.

  5. confusedguy says:

    I am confused. I thought the Japanese sentiment towards anime and manga is that they are generally for kids and otakus. Out of these 5 pages of your blog it sounds like light novels are very accepted among the japanese masses whereas I’ve read that it’s rare to see Japanese kids, especially those in high school or older, to still be interested in anime/manga. And that it’s it can be okay to like manga, but you’ll only see occasionally an older guy reading a seinen manga.

    So clarify this, LN is more accepted and manga/anime is not as much? I thought anime like Genshiken, Welcome to the NHK, and Ore no Imouto (otaku related anime) show that anime related material isn’t widely accepted in Japan. While LN isn’t filled with pictures like manga, it’s covers are easily seen covered with anime characters. Kind of weird, if an LN gets adapted then do those LN readers dislike or look down on their manga/anime adaptations?

    1. Matt says:

      There are many misconceptions regarding Anime and Manga in Japan and how well it is accepted.

      First off, Manga is as well respected by the Japanese population as is the whole of literature. Young, middle aged and old alike all read Manga and it does not have a bad image for most and is widely popular.

      Second, in regard to Anime, while it is not as widely popular as Manga, it is still well known and respected. You can see them advertised everywhere and many of the top movies in a year are Anime.

      High School students in Japan definitely like Anime and Manga. They are one of the main motivating factors of the pop culture. Anime is definitely not just a “kid” or “otaku” phenomenon.

      On the subject of Light Novels, it is true that they are not yet “completely” mainstream. Some book readers are worried of having their fellow book fans (who mainly read Adult works) think less of them by seeing the anime covers. The covers specify that the work you are reading is Young Adult. But one of the things about Japanese paper back novels is that they all have slip covers. If the reader doesn’t want others to see the original cover, he/she merely needs to remove the cover (like with a hardcover book) and a plain cover with only a title will be visible. In this way, Young Adult readers who, for whatever reasons, feel embarrassed, can read without worry.

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