Kodansha was founded 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 was taken from Kōdan Club, a now defunct magazine published by the company, and 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 also sponsors the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award, which has run in its current form since 1977 (under other names since 1960).
Kodansha was long considered the largest publisher in Japan, and at one point yearly revenues were over 200 billion JPY. However, due to the recent Japanese recession and accompanying downturn in the publishing industry, revenues have dropped and Shogakukan is now a rival. Kodansha also sponsors the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award, which has run in its current form since 1977 (since 1960 under other names).
The company is a stockholder in various broadcasters across Japan, and is believed to hold 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.
Analysis & Key Developments
Kodansha stabilized the continuous decline in profits from 2007 to 2015, a period in which turnover dropped from 144.3 million JPY to 116.82 billion JPY.
Kondansha’s strategy is to expand its international rights and e-book sales.
Kodansha’s manga series Ajin: Demi-Human was licensed to Netflix as an anime movie in spring 2016.
After closing Kodansha International, the company launched an English-language publication program with Kodansha USA in fall 2012 with the Manga classic The Spirit of Aikido.
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 USA launched in 2009 to build a 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. Kodansha Comics manga trade paperbacks will be distributed by Random House, with whom Kodansha has had a broad alliance relationship since 2003.
Kodansha Europe is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kodansha publishing group. Set up in 1990, one of Kodansha Europe’s principle roles has been the import and sale of Kodansha’s books in English on Japanese culture. Two more publishers were added in 2011: HPH Publishing (South Africa); and Niyogi Books, which specializes in Indian culture.
Kodansha expanded its international reach by reaching an agreement with Overdrive for library distribution and Trajectory for digital distribution outside the US, particularly in Europe.
Kodansha’s new digital strategy is to bring much of its content onto smartphones.
The transition from print to digital is in full swing for the popular manga genre, which according to recent studies accounts for 80% of all digital book revenues, while printed manga editions have declined 7.5% in value in 2014.
In 2016, Kodansha reported as one example for the digital transition to earn half of its licensing revenue from Korea from digital.
In fall 2013, Kodansha teamed up with online platform Crunchyroll to digitally distribute 12 manga titles in English. The publisher plans to release the titles simultaneously in Japan and worldwide.
By late 2012, revenues from e-books accounted for a modest 2.7 billion JPY of the 120 billion total.
Kodansha joined a Japanese industry consortium in early 2012 to digitize one million printed works. In spring 2012, Kodansha joined 40 Japanese publishers to form an agreement with Amazon on e-book distribution.
In a challenging overall environment for book publishing in Japan, Kodansha has been successful with its bunko (light) novels.