Remembering Newtype USA
My first encounter with Newtype — the long-running Japanese magazine focusing on anime and pop culture — was back in high school. I bought a copy of the February 1992 issue at Omaha’s Merchant of Venus, a (now defunct) sci-fi/fantasy bookstore that was within walking distance from my house. (Needless to say, I spent many weekend afternoons there perusing its shelves.)
I was a burgeoning anime fan at the time, and despite not understanding a single word of Japanese, I spent hours poring over the issue’s stories and artwork, all of which served as a glimpse into a strange and exciting new world. Macross II was the cover story, but as I recall, there were also features on Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still and Doomed Megalopolis, as well as an insert highlighting the artwork of Mamoru Nagano’s epic Five Star Stories manga.
I no longer have that issue (the Five Star Stories insert is still tucked away in my office) but its glossy pages packed with Japanese pop culture loomed large in my mind. So when A.D. Vision announced back in 2002 that they were publishing Newtype USA, an English version of Newtype that would include translated content from the Japanese edition alongside bonus content (e.g., posters, serialized manga, DVD inserts), I couldn’t believe my good fortune. And just like that first Newtype issue, I spent hours poring over my Newtype USA issues, reveling in their glossy artwork, previews of upcoming titles, interviews with my favorite anime creators, and so on.
But all good things come to an end… Newtype USA ran for six years and 60+ issues until it was canceled in February 2008. Replacing it was PiQ, which expanded on Newtype USA’s anime coverage to include video games, gadgets, and American comics, movies, and TV series. PiQ received mixed reactions from fans and shut down after just four issues.
Newtype USA and PiQ weren’t the only anime/manga magazines that tried to make it in America. Other now-discontinued titles include Animerica (1992 – 2005), Mangajin (1988 – 1997), and Protoculture Addicts (1987 – 2008). As far as I know, Otaku USA is the only anime/manga print magazine still going strong in the U.S., with most anime/manga coverage now entirely online via Anime News Network and Crunchyroll as well as CBR, Kotaku, and Tokyo Otaku Mode (and, occasionally, Opus).
I’ve scanned the covers of all of the Newtype USA issues that I could find in my office. I could’ve sworn I had more than these, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them got lost or misplaced over the years. Just looking at these covers feels like returning to a golden age, when anime had broken over into the mainstream but still had a certain niche-ness about it, and great titles like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Last Exile, and Witch Hunter Robin were being released.
I know why more and more coverage has moved online. It’s cheaper, for one thing, than printing thousands of glossy pages every month. But as is the case with print music catalogs, something’s lost with a complete transition to digital/online. As weird as it sounds, these printed pieces helped make stuff that’s abstract — e.g., music, anime, pop culture — a bit more tangible, providing important and fascinating info for those of us who wanted to learn more about our favorite stuff.