Written by: Miguel Douglas
Anime Magazines within America: A Chronological History
by Miguel Douglas on December 31, 2009
Part One – Origins
Stemming from the earliest forms of editorial skirmishes into the subcultural realm of anime and manga, the focus of the print magazine has always been used as an essential tool to offer information covering an assortment of topics, nonetheless the areas of both anime and manga. Before the substantial increase in internet usage to gather information regarding one’s favorite anime shows, characters or films, the use of the magazine was an important asset in bringing together a collective group of likewise fans in order to communicate and exchange ideas and thoughts regarding their particular interests. Aside from small conventions, local clubs and chatting with friends, the rather stringent use of communication was very limited pertaining to how one could express their hobby in viewing anime during the late eighties to early nineties within America. To most, anime was a very obscure subculture enjoyed only by a relatively small group of people. Considering this demographic, there wasn’t really a push concerning the relevancy of pursuing any sort of print media production at the time to cater to such a crowd.
This all changed during the late eighties. With the extensive popularity of the 1985 anime series Robotech within North America and Canada, many viewers were introduced to what today is known as anime; animation that originates from Japan. Many small groups and clubs began to crop up surrounding the discussion and viewing of anime, including such things as fan-based fanzines; essentially fan created magazines. One such fanzine entitled Protoculture Addicts (a phrase lifted from the Robotech series itself) was spawned in 1987 by a group of Canadian university students:Claude J. Pelletier Michel Gareau, Alain Dubreuil, Jean Carrière, Yvon Maillé, Paul Berthiaume. The group eventually started an anime club within their university, and unofficially released issue #0 of their fanzine in November of 1987 and issue #1 in Spring of 1988. This fanzine was dedicated towards delivering loyal Robotech fans information and insight regarding the series. One of the founders of Protoculture Addicts, Claude J. Pelletier, was working on his PhD during this time and eventually dropped it (due to the end of his loans and grants, but primarily because of the rather successful nature of the fanzine) to pursue working on the fanzine full time. While at first based within their university, the fanzine eventually grew, and with this abundant growth came problems.
A company by the name of Harmony Gold, who were the creators and distributors of the Robotech series, threatened to sue the group for copyright infringement on the account of them using the tagline The Official Robotech Fanzine. The group and Harmony Gold were able to reach an agreement in which they were able to retain the tagline as The Official Robotech Fanzine for a couple of thousand dollars paid out each year to Harmony Gold. In a sense, the group was forced into becoming more professional during this unexpected course of events. The deal also led to a reprint of the issues #1 and #2, a larger distribution and the eventual switch from being a fanzine to an official magazine. Eventually the group decided that they there was all that could be said regarding Robotech and decided change the course of the magazine’s direction, this time heading towards tackling the subculture of anime as a whole.
With the group slowly moving away from being dedicated towards solely Robotech fandom, the departure meant the end of Robotech licensing problems and the debacle that surrounded their previous fanzine. Another agreement was made that allowed the group to retain the main titling of the magazine, Protoculture Addicts, without having to pay any substantial fees. This departure also led to more creative freedom and by the time issue #11 was released, the magazine had become a fan magazine, which was ran by fans for fans and was published professionally. The readership of the magazine quickly grew and by the release of issue #30, the readership was an estimated 10,000. The magazine was now being distributed by every major comic distributor within the US, and had an impressive list of distributors in such countries as France, Italy, Mexico, Germany and England.
Wanting to expand even further, Protoculture Addicts simply did not have the capacity to do so. They had no means to actually promote and expand advertising, and a variety of obstacles came into play concerning the course of the magazine and its future. With a slow post-9/11 economy, lack of promotion and steady competition from the likes of NewType USA, sales of Protoculture Addicts began to slowly decline and a decision had to be made. The eventual course of action was to partner with that of the aggregated news website Anime News Network and produce an improved version of the magazine with an increase in staff and production. This has led Protoculture Addicts to remain relevant up to this very day and with support from Anime News Network it has remained the longest running published anime magazine to date. The magazine has recently had some hiccups though; as of December 2008, the magazine took a roughly 8 month absence due to production faults and their editor being ill. It returned as a bi-annual magazine replacing the previous bi-monthly release. While never the most popular, their mere presence has led many other companies to take the plunge into producing an anime-related magazine, including that of Viz Media.
Part Two – A new era
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor Protoculture Addicts, Viz Media took the plunge into the anime publication market with a release of issue #0 of what was entitled Animerica in November of 1992, with a release shortly after of issue #1 in March of 1993. The magazine included an assortment of anime and manga reviews as well as related media. It also included manga chapter previews, which was a first for its kind and cross-promoted the release of manga within America. Since Viz Media is owned and operated by Japanese publishing giant Shogakukan, the magazine quickly became the first professional quality magazine to deal with both anime and manga released within North America.
This incredible involvement has led to Animerica being one of the most prominent and popular magazine during 1990’s. In 2001, the magazine decided to move away from its standard design it had held for nearly nine years with a redesign of the entire magazine. This new focus would concentrate on primarily reviews, news, fold-out posters and trends witnessed within Japanese pop culture. This decision eventually led to the doubling of its initial page count in 2003. In 2004, Animerica had nearly 45,000 readers, but trouble began to loom over its future. Increasing market competition from that of NewType USA and low sales meant Viz Media had to do something in order to recoup from their losses. To no avail, June of 2005 brought about Animerica officially releasing its last issue. Viz Media quickly reorganized to salvage and find alternate ways in which to continue the magazine.
With the original magazine canceled, Viz Media decided to reformat into three different free versions. The first version was very similar to the original, but contained some substantial differences: it was sponsored through the use of advertisements, had a lower page count and was made specifically for conventions. The second version was mostly different from the original: it was released quarterly and focused more on content. The third version was made solely for Best Buy stores and featured a minimal variety of content. As of this article, the magazine has become somewhat stagnant in its release schedule; June of 2008 has appeared to be the final curtain call for all three versions, in effect leaving Animerica canceled altogether after roughly 15 years of serving the anime community.
With the rather successful endeavor of Animerica, Wizard Entertainment, the New York-based publisher of such magazines as ToyFare and Wizard, decided to enter the anime magazine market. In 2001 the company released Anime Invasion, a quarterly released magazine that focused on news and articles based around the subculture of anime and manga. In November of 2002, that magazine was changed from a quarterly release to a bi-monthly release and was eventually renamed to that of Anime Insider in April of 2003. The magazine expanded to include such editorial items as features, exclusive reporting, articles and interviews. Two prominent features of the magazine were that of Animail, which included user-submitted questions that were then answered and Casting Call, which suggested real-world actors who could portray anime characters. The magazine was also very satirical in its approach to writing content, something which was seen as original and inventive.
With the canceling of NewType USA, Anime Insider became the premiere English-based anime magazine within America. It had the highest volume of distribution as well as sales, and in 2007 dropped its cover price to roughly $4.99. Rather abrupt news came in March of 2009 when former editor of Anime Insider, Robert Bricken, reported that the staff of Anime Insider had been laid off and the magazine would henceforth be canceled. Not much has been let out into the open regarding why this rather abrupt ending of Anime Insider came to fruition, and most likely we might never know. They were considered to be the most popular anime-related magazine at the time, and it was puzzling to many of its readers for the sudden cancelation.
Part Three – Only a few remain
In March 8, 1985 Japan released NewType magazine, an anime-centric magazine that was published by publishing giant Kadokawa Shoten. It has since become the most popular anime-related magazine still being released within Japan. The actual titling of the magazine stems from the word “Newtypes”, a term used within the Universal Century timeline in the Mobile Suit Gundam anime series. Quite similar to the trend established by many of its predecessors, A.D. Vision released issue #0 of NewType USA at Anime Expo 2002 and in November of 2002, an issue #1 of the magazine was officially published, consisting of both original U.S. content as well as translations of Japanese content. The magazine was especially well-known for its DVD insert and articles dedicated to entire anime series and films. The magazine increasingly became more popular over time, even rivaling that of Anime Insider with a circulation of 50,000 to 75,000 copies per month.
In 2008, representatives from A.D. Vision notified retail partners that February would be the last month for NewType USA to be released and that they were planning on releasing a magazine in its place. The replacement magazine was entitled PiQ and was to broaden its coverage on items beside anime and manga.
Beginning publication in June of 2007, Otaku USA is a bimonthly magazine that focuses primarily on the various facets of Otaku culture from an American point-of-view. Its current editor-in-chief is Japanese pop culture expert Patrick Macias. Macias has been quoted to say that “My aim is to make Otaku USA the best, most comprehensive Japanese pop culture magazine in the marketplace.” Otaku USA is the latest in the line of anime-related magazines to have survived and as of the writing of this article has yet to show any signs of being canceled.
Replacing that of NewType USA, PiQ was released in March of 2008 and included a wide selection of coverage on the likes of anime, manga, video games, American comics, films and television series. The original staff from NewType USA was retained for the likes of PiQ. In all, PiQ was considered a massive failure from the beginning. The release of its very first issue received poor reviews, deriving mostly from disapproval of coverage and even opposition to derogatory terms used by the editorial staff to refer to its reader base. In July of 2008, after only four issues, PiQ came to an end. Citing a combination of low advertising revenue, poor business management, and a lack of proper marketing and promotion for the closure, PiQ eventually ended its chapter prematurely and was the quickest anime-related magazine to meet its demise.
From the collapse of Animerica, to the longevity of Protoculture Addicts, the use of print media within the realm of anime and manga has been a tumultuous journey to say the least. The significant decline in its usage as a vehicle to spread information and build communities is a testament in and of itself that the rising of web-based editorials is steadily becoming the focal point for a majority of anime-related discussions. The primary use of internet usage as a replacement for the print magazine has been a longstanding issue not just within the anime community, but print media as a whole.
The only two lasting magazines are Protoculture Addicts and Otaku USA; who, in a rather odd setup has one magazine being the oldest and the other being the latest addition to the market. Even then, we have to consider that Protoculture Addicts is now released bi-annually. I personally have purchased at least one, if not numerous issues of the magazines explored within this article, and it’s amazing to have watched such important and often essential components to my understanding and appreciation of anime slowly become phased out of existence. These magazines were critical in allowing me to understand that there is a community out there that supported the same hobby I had, and allowed for interaction with that community in a professional manner. The print magazine has and will remain a crucial part in my understanding of anime and I hope you found this historical journey on the course of anime magazines within America as informative as it was for me in creating it.