My obituary of Toren Smith (left), prime mover in the American manga business, is up now on the Manga UK blog.
I couldn’t go to San Francisco without dropping in on Toren Smith, founder of Studio Proteus and major mover of the manga scene in America. Despite only getting in on a plane from Canada that afternoon, he made sure he and his lovely wife Tomoko were available to help Mrs Clements and me chomp through a curry fit for six.
There is a universal language within the anime and manga business. I haven’t mentioned my trip to see Madman Entertainment in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, because I am sure that it probably merits an appearance first in Neo magazine. But for the record, I did drop in on Madman, and we did spend a merry lunch comparing horror stories from the anime industry. This is because no matter what country we are in, no matter what titles we are selling, no matter what job we have within the medium, we all have the same experiences. Madman’s designer had licensing terror-tales that matched exactly those I’d heard from his opposite number at ADV in the US, and MVM in the UK. French translators have the same woes as their compatriots in German or English. When anime and manga are the things that put food on the table, we all have a lot more that unites us than divides us.
Toren has been in manga for more than twenty years, with a long-term durability that’s hard to beat. He knows I’m not just saying this because it cropped up several times in Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, when discussing issues in translation, print quality and the economies of manga publishing. His specialist area, it often seems, is speaking unwelcome truths. Perhaps you can see how we might get along quite well.
In particular, I owed him a Guinness or three in thanks for taking the time to write his glowing review of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis. When we were soliciting cover quotes for the book, I deliberately left him out of the loop because he was mentioned several times in it. Hence, his recent praise for SMC is not that of a paid shill, but of an independently minded Amazon punter who paid for the book with his own money. I particularly liked the bit where he said he went off and bought five copies to give away… if only every reader did that!
While our wives nattered about dogs and headlocks, we chortled and guffawed about the state of the manga market like two grumpy old men. I gave him a sneak preview of some of the material that might just lose its legal toxicity in time for publication in a putative Schoolgirl Milky Crisis 2, and he called me an “exquisite bastard.” High praise indeed, Toren: you’re an exquisite bastard, too.
I was in the post office sending off a translated script, when the man behind the counter said: “We can’t just send it to America Small Packet Rate, we have to know how much it’s worth.”
“That depends,” I said. “The Writers’ Guild say it’s worth £18,000, the Institute of Translators and Interpreters say £12,000, in France it’s a thousand pounds a throw, and The Company That Shall Remain Nameless won’t pay for it at all because they’ve got someone who does it for 50p and a bunch of grapes.”