I am no stranger to bad choices. Yet here I was, at almost two in the morning, reading the latest chapter of Skip Beat. I hope no one in my dorm heard the scream of anguish I let out upon reading the cliffhanger ending.
Upon reflection later this morning, I realized some things about the three currently-updating manga that I devotedly follow: Kuroshitsuji, Skip Beat, and The Wallflower (I like to call it Perfect Girl Evolution).
- These manga are very popular.
- Their plots are not moving along at all.
Kuroshitsuji: what happened to the fantastic backstory of Ciel we had in the zombie arc? Did it all just disappear? Why is the story so much more lighthearted? Is not the story of Ciel the story of very perverse despair? Yet, we seem to be stuck in a lighthearted seinen with a complimentary demon sidekick.
Skip Beat: Tsuruga is finally getting out of control! After, like, maybe, um, 30 chapters (and add 30 separate cliffhangers!).
Perfect Girl Evolution: Kyohei and Sunako neither like or dislike each other. Sunako is not any closer to a lady than she was 40 chapters ago, nor are the boys or her aunts any closer to accepting Sunako for who she is (not a lady).
- All authors seem to devolving into cliche.
Kuroshitsuji: Mangaka Yana Toboso finally jumped on the Hogwarts train.
Skip Beat: Totally milking the whole brother-sister-forbidden-eroticism relationship. After reading the last chapter, I felt really wronged.
Perfect Girl Evolution: Mangaka is breaking out in chibi like she is breaking out in hives or something. Though chibi is great for comedic effect, it sometimes just feels too slapstick. Plus, two chapters of fantasy-roleplay? I have the feeling that the mangaka is just sweating for ideas how to make Kyohei-Sunako interesting again. (Hint, it involves development of a romantic relationship! Or at least, a seriously funny incident that could be construed as romance).
Why are these mangakas doing this to their readers? Why do they have such phenomenal and funny and smart beginnings but as their manga become so much more popular, the quality of their manga noticeably drops?
Personal theory– they know idiots like me will stay up until two in the morning to read what happens anyway. Kuroshitsuji is the prettiest manga I’ve ever read, Skip Beat ends with cliffhangers all the time, Perfect Girl Evolution is just so hilarious. Though the quality has degraded, they still retain some of their characteristics that I came to love these manga. Simply put, the mangaka have no incentive to keep the pace of storytelling up, because they know rabid fans like me are at their beck and call no matter what.
Yet, this comes at a cost– because of the diluted quality of these manga, I am much less likely to buy the physical volume. The last time I went to NYC, I spent the greater part of the day running around trying to locate places where I could buy manga, and I hemmed and I hawed a ridiculous amount but eventually decided against going crazy and buying all of the manga in reach because they are not worth it; if I forgot about those volumes tomorrow, I would have not lost much of anything.
I guess I cannot blame the mangaka totally– for anyone, it is nice to bask in your success and lay back a bit but at the same time you are alienating and frustrating fans, and in the extreme scenario, these fans will leave you– like I have left the physical volumes for websites hosting scanlations.
For mangaka, there is a large controversy surround online scanlations, because none of the money that the websites make from hosting these scanlations actually go to the mangaka. Yet, I would argue that having unauthorized scanlations is a great thing, especially for not-as-successful mangaka. Most manga fans overseas do not have regular access to a manga bookstore, so it is inevitable much of these fans’ exposure comes from the internet. Therefore, for an overseas audience who may or may not be able to read Japanese, it is more beneficial to have pirated scanlations on the internet than not. We are introduced to the mangaka and subsequently introduced to the idea of possibly acquiring a physical volume of the manga we enjoyed. The only problem is, how do you get these manga fans to make the jump and to buy the physical volumes?
Make impossibly good manga, so impossibly good that it is impossible to resist buying the physical volumes. It is just that easy. It is just that hard.