Friday, March 6, 2015

A Mandarake story: The founder's tale

Mandarake Shibuya
Mandarake is Japan's preeminent source of many pop culture goods. The company, which was founded in 1987, runs shops all over Japan. In Tokyo's Nakano district alone, the Broadway mall contains 26 Mandarake shops (yes, that's 26 with a capital who's your daddy "T"!) A main fixture of these otaku meccas is the "buy back" area where countless streams of people sell things for quick cash. This allows each store to restock shelves regularly - a critical component of the firm's success.
Mandarake Grandchaos, Osaka
In 2000, Mandarake went public, with shares debuting on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. (Stock symbol: 2652.T) Its recent earnings reports reveal just how big the pop culture market has become. In 2014, the firm pulled in 9.5 billion yen in revenues. That's a lot of copies of Gegege no Kitaro!

More after the jump:
Various manga series at Mandarake Akihabara.
Prominent in Mandarake's epic catalog of goods is used manga. The selection is so overwhelming that some stores have piles of books for 100 yen each. Some people just stand there reading the books, which generally aren't wrapped in cellophane.
Discount manga at Mandarake Nakano.
Here's where Mandarake's founder, 古川益三 (Masuzo Furukawa) enters our tale. In 1980, Furukawa-san opened a used bookstore in Nakano Broadway. Then in 1987, using his expertise in manga, he founded Mandarake as a company based in Nakano.

But before all that, Furukawa-san was a manga artist, with work appearing in the 1970s in publications such as Peke and 少年ジャンプ (Shonen Jump). Throughout the decade, though, his comics appeared most regularly in Garo magazine.
Garo, July 1972.
Garo contained manga aimed at adults, and it often featured stories with a more sophisticated, avant-garde, or risque bent.
Garo, October 1972.
The monthly magazine was published from 1964 to 2002. What made it stand out from the crowd was its willingness to take on social issues and mature subject matter. In fact, Garo is reported to have given artists considerable leeway in the production of their work.
Furukawa-san's work was also published in this hardback volume called 紫の伝説 (Murasaki no Densetsu, which translates as The Purple Legend).
Here are some images from the book:

Furukawa-san now serves as Mandarake's President and Representative Director. Having a manga artist at the helm certainly helps explain the company's emphasis on the works of Tezuka, Ishinomori, and others. Over the years, the firm has branched out into anime, DVDs, toys, cards, and much more. In fact, the Mandarake complexes have such a variety of things for sale that one might think manga are just one part of a large basket of goods.
Manga by Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of Kamen Rider, Kikaider, Henshin Ninja Arashi, and other characters.
But the company remains true to its founding. If you want to find a recent or vintage manga publication - including works by the company's founder - Mandarake is still a leading place to shop. Personally, I think it's cool that the company has such an interesting story in its own right.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Very interesting info. Thanks for sharing.

andy b said...

Appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Gabriel Strange said...

Great read!! Thank you.

andy b said...

Thanks Gabriel!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a bit of a history lesson Andy. As a person who hawks Mandarake religiously in the early morning hours, it's nice to know a bit of background on the company. Keep up the great work.

andy b said...

Appreciate the readership and nice comment. Hope you're able to find some great stuff in those early morning hunts!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic read! Thanks for all the info!

andy b said...

Thanks Anon!

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