Kodansha was started by Seiji Noma in 1909 as a spin-off of the Dai-Nippon Yūbenkai (Greater Japan Oratorical Society). Its first publication was the literary magazine Yūben. The name Kodansha (taken from Kōdan Club, a now defunct magazine published by the company) was first used in 1911 when the publisher formally merged with the Dai-Nippon Yūbenkai. The company's current legal name has been in use since 1958. Its motto is "Omoshirokute tame ni naru" (To be interesting and beneficial).
The company also owns the Otowa Group, which manages subsidiary companies such as King Records and Kobunsha, and publishes Nikkan Gendai, a daily tabloid. It also has close ties with The Walt Disney Company, and is an official sponsor of Tokyo Disneyland.
Kodansha was long considered the largest publisher in Japan, and at one point yearly revenues were over ¥200 billion. However, due to the recent Japanese recession and accompanying downturn in the publishing industry, revenues have been dropping, and the company is now rivalled by Shogakukan. Kodansha also sponsors the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award, which has run in its current form since 1977 (under other names since 1960).
Relationship with other companies:
The company is a stockholder in various broadcasters across Japan, and is believed to hold around 20% of the TBS Group's stock. It also holds stock in Nippon Cultural Broadcasting, along with Kobunsha. In the recent Nippon Broadcasting System takeover war between Livedoor and Fuji TV, Kodansha supported Fuji TV by selling their stock to them.
In 2009, Kodansha decided to open Kodansha US for direct access to the American manga market. The first titles included Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo and the metaphysical sci-fi police thriller Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune. Manga trade paperbacks from Kodansha Comics will be distributed by Random House, with whom Kodansha has had a broad alliance relationship since 2003, according to Yoshio Irie.
Kodansha Europe was set up in 1990 as a wholly-owned subsidiary. One of Kodansha Europe’s principle roles has been the import and sale of Kodansha’s books in English on Japanese culture. September 2011 has seen the addition of two more publishers: HPH Publishing (South Africa); and Niyogi Books, with a discerning list that specializes in Indian culture.
Key company developments in 2011 & 1st half year 2012
Kodansha has seen a continuous decline in revenues over the past 5 years, from 144.3 billion JPY in 2007 to 121.93 billion JPY in 2011. Profits could be turned around from a loss in 2008 and 2009 to modest profitability in 2010 and 2011.
Ownership, mergers & acquisition, internal organization:
In Spring 2012, Kodansha launched a monthly Manga magazine in China in a partnership with the Guangxi Publishing & Media Group Co., and announced plans to start selling comic books and character goods as well as create movies for the Chinese market.
Kodansha joined a Jaanese industry consortium in early 2012 to digitize one million printed works. In spring 2012, Kodansha joing an agreement of 40 Japanese publishers with Amazon on ebook distribution.
Bestselling authors & titles:
In a challenging overall environment for book publishing in Japan, Kodansha could continue to successfully sell its “bunko,” or “light novels,” which have been the strongest sellers over recent years.
Note: Figures are based on sales generated in calendar 2011 or—for corporations with a fiscal year—from fiscal 2011. Data are from publicly available sources and include sales of books, journals, and digital products. Because publishing data were unavailable, Pannini and Disney/Hyperion are excluded from the rankings. The listing and publisher profiles were compiled by international publishing consultant Rudiger Wischenbart under the aegis of Livres Hebdo.