EDIT 31st March 2018 – almost 3 years later, and Yen Press have just licensed their first ever Fantasia Bunko title.
Kore wa Zombie Desu ka
Hitsugi no Chaika
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata
What do these series have in common? Several things. For one, all four are ongoing light novel series published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. For another, all four are series that Yen Press has licensed a manga adaptation of, but not the original light novel.
They are also the only four series in this situation.
It’s hard to believe that Yen Press wouldn’t have tried to get hold of the light novels of any of these series to boost its Yen On light novel imprint, what with the rate that this has been expanding. And with yesterday’s surprise announcement of Gagaga Bunko’s OreGairu*, Fujimi Fantasia Bunko has become by far the largest (non-female oriented) light novel label which Yen Press has not licensed any titles from. And there are a lot of titles published under that label that would appear, from the perspective of someone involved in the fandom but not directly within the industry, to be good ones to pick up.
So why are the light novels not coming over with the manga?
Unlike Gagaga Bunko, which is owned by Shougakukan (a company which has it’s own English language publisher in the form of Viz Media, which even has its own novel imprint), there is no obvious reason why Fujimi Fantasia would be reluctant to let Yen Press pick up their series. Fujimi Shobo is, after all, a part of Kadokawa Shoten, and Kadokawa have licensed series to Yen Press before now (another of yesterday’s novel licenses, Another Episode S, was published by them). Indeed, Fujimi Fantasia Bunko have had their light novels licensed for English release before now – Scrapped Princess, Slayers and Full Metal Panic! all saw English language releases.
However, that actually gives us our best indication as to possible reasons for the blockage, as a brief look at the history of these series would show:
Scrapped Princess was dropped by Tokyopop after 3 of 13 volumes had been released.
Full Metal Panic was dropped by Tokyopop after 5 of the 12 Japanese volumes were released.
Slayers made it to 8 volumes out of 15 before it too was discontinued by Tokyopop.
There’s also Karin, the light novel version of which was published by Fujimi Mystery Bunko, another Fujimi Shobo label, and which stopped being published with one volume left when Tokyopop pulled out of the English language market.
And Gosick, also originally from Fujimi Mystery Bunko, only saw 2 volumes published (by Tokyopop again) in English out of 9.
Fujimi Shobo seem to have been fairly keen on getting their big name series released in English in what was to become the failed first wave of English light novel localisations.
Perhaps it was just seeing Tokyopop’s releases flop (and then drop) one after another that led to Fujimi Shobo getting cold feet over the English language light novel market, in much the same way that Seven Seas did on the other side. With no other apparent reasons for their absence, this is my best guess at why we have yet to see any Fujimi Fantasia Bunko light novels getting licensed by Yen On or indeed any other company publishing light novels in English in recent years.
If this is true, then the best thing we can do if we want to see series from this light novel label getting included in future license announcements is to show them that this time the market is not going to fall apart like it did last time around. And the best way to do that, of course, is to go out and buy the light novels that are coming out.
Of course, it’s possible that any issue has already been resolved, and Yen Press and Fujimi Shobo are already in negotiations over licensing light novel series, but simply weren’t far through enough to make any announcements yesterday. It’s also possible, of course, that I’m completely wrong on this issue. I do not have any insider information into either of these companies, and neither are particularly open about what they plan for the future or how they work when it comes to licensing.
But even if I am wrong, it’s still a good thing to go out and buy those volumes. After all, more interest in light novels means more light novels licensed – something that we’re already seeing the impact of, with the original plan for 24 releases in 2015 from Yen On now due to be passed in August, and 40 volumes currently planned over the course of the year.
*Some people were making out that it was obvious that this series would be licensed but from my view it’s the most surprising license acquisition since the label was announced last year.