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Manga Next 2006

by Mikhail Koulikov,
Del Rey Manga

Del Rey's session was led by industry veteran Dallas Middaugh, who just last week moved into the company's main New York office after working in California. He did not waste any time and immediately announced a license, starting with Chevalier, the companion manga to the recently-premiered Production I.G TV series, Chevalier D'Eon. Middaugh then highlighted Del Rey's acquisition of three manga serialized in Nakayoshi magazine: Kitchen Princess, Mamotte! Lollipop!, and Shugo Chara!. Shugo Chara!, by Peach-Pit (DearS, Rozen Maiden) will be the title Del Rey plans to concentrate on marketing the most; the first volume is currently scheduled for a March 27, 2007 release. At this point, he also mentioned that over the next several months, Del Rey will be announcing a number of other manga published in the same magazine.

For the rest of the panel, the three Del Rey representatives (Middaugh, manga marketing manager Ali Kokmen and publishing associate Tricia Narwani) opened the floor to questions, while also going over the future of some of the other titles in the company catalog. The decision to label both Suzuka and Basilisk "for mature audiences" was based in large part on direct feedback from bookstores and other retailers. At the same time, while Del Rey has a fairly consistent internal standard for what is considered "mature content," Middaugh emphasized that there are no common parameters for the manga industry as a whole, and each company's rating scheme is different.

In addition to the nine volumes of Genshiken that Del Rey will ultimately publish (the eight that were serialized in Japan plus a final volume composed of additional stories that were not published in magazines), there will also be a Genshiken "fanbook." Genshiken creator Shimoku Kio is currently writing (but not drawing) the Kujibiki Unbalance manga, and while Del Rey is not prepared to formally announce the license at this time, Middaugh indicated very strongly that such an announcement will be made in the future. Likewise, at the 2007 New York ComicCon, Del Rey will unveil its first several original (non-licensed) comics.

In terms of packaging and distribution perspectives, as many of Del Rey's manga begin to run to significant numbers of volumes, box sets are a distinct possibility. In particular, once Funimation begins releasing the Tsubasa anime, Del Rey will look to release some kind of "starter" manga pack, with up to five volumes. If Tsubasa airs on American TV, which Middaugh believes will be quite likely, Del Rey will also go ahead with major plans to capitalize on the opportunity.

On the other hand, at this point, as a major and well-established publisher, Del Rey is not interested in print-on-demand technology.

Note: At another panel earlier in the convention, Dark Horse's Carl Horn mentioned that Del Rey will be releasing an encyclopedia covering every manga that has been published in English. Jason Thompson will be the author (or editor), but no further information about this project is available.

Vertical's first-ever convention panel was largely the result of the recent hiring of Eddie Stemkowski, formerly Canadian Sales Director at Central Park Media, to manage the company's marketing campaigns. As a smaller publisher, Vertical may not have as much to announce as some of the larger companies, but this also gives it an ability to approach the licensing process in a different way.

With release of the eight hard-cover volumes of Buddha now finished, Vertical is focusing on releasing the entire series in paperback. Taking advantage of the extremely positive critical response to Buddha (including both Eisner and Harvey awards), Vertical will be releasing another Osamu Tezuka manga, Ode to Kirihito. The three original Japanese volumes will be combined for the US release into one $24.95, 828-page book. For 2007, Vertical is proud to add to its catalog Keiko Takemiya's To Terra (three volumes, to be released on 2.20, 4.27, and sometime in the summer). To Terra is inspiration for the 1980's Towards the Terra theatrical feature, and Aniplex is currently beginning production on a full-scale anime series adaptation of the classic. If To Terra is successful in the US, Vertical is hoping to then publish Takemiya's other manga; one that was specifically mentioned by name is the seminal shounen-ai Song of Wind and Trees.

At least at this point, Vertical specifically does not try to compete for manga licenses. However, since it is an extremely well-regarded publisher of Japanese fiction and non-fiction, it is frequently able to bypass the publishing companies, and deal directly with authors or their estates. Thus, to license both Buddha and Ode to Kirihito, Vertical went straight to Tezuka Productions, and when the decision to license To Terra was made, Vertical had the well-known manga critic Fusanosuke Natsume introduce the company directly to Ms. Takemiya.

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