New York Anime Festival 2008
by Mikhail Koulikov,
New York City-based Vertical, Inc. has always gone about its business of publishing both Japanese fiction and classic manga in a quiet and meticulous way, without raising much a fuss while bringing out books from some of Japan's most high-profile writers. Their biggest project for this year, and well into 2009, is Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack. There will be a total of 17 volumes published when Vertical is done with this release, which will be based on the collections published in the late 1980's in Japan by Akita Shoten, considered to be the definitive version. As with its first volume, Diamond will offer exclusive hardcover editions of the next two, each limited to 1,200 copies. Although Viz has already published some chapters of Black Jack in the late 1990's, by the third volume of the Vertical edition, none of the stories in it will have ever been officially translated into English before. Vertical is estimating that it will take the company about three years to complete all of the volumes. This will not, however, mean that Vertical is not planning on publishing other Tezuka books, or manga by other authors, in the meanwhile.
In fact, two of the newest additions to the Aranzi Aronzo series of comic strips and will be The Complete Aranzi Hour (short sequential and conceptual comics and games) and the Aranzi Aronzo Baby Stuff craft book, with instructions on creating cute-yet-functional items like mobiles and diapers.
Their other manga, on the other hand, such as Keiko Takemiya's To Terra, have not sold well. In fact, with the exception of other Tezuka books, Vertical has found that American manga readers are generally not particularly interested in older, classic manga. In fact, Vertical's Ioannis Mentzis, one of the two presenters, noted that even if a manga like Tezuka's 1947 New Treasure Island were available in English, sales would be extremely small. Fans who want to read this would be better and faster served by finding scanlations, he noted.
Overall, as a small publisher, it is frequently hard for Vertical to hold its own when negotiating with Japanese companies for manga translation rights. With non-fiction and literary books, this is not a problem, since they are usually able to talk directly to authors. This is largely why, although some time ago, Vertical indicated that they were planning to begin acquiring and translating newer manga aimed at teen audiences, they have not been able to so far. In particular, they had been talking to Square Enix before the U.S. rights to that publisher's manga went to Yen Press.
This is precisely why, beyond their line of Tezuka manga and some other books, Vertical has been concentrating on Japanese fiction and general books. Among the titles on their release calendar are Sayonara, Mr. Fatty: A Geek's Diet, a personal weight-loss testament by Gainax co-founder and "kind of the otaku" Toshio Okada, Takeshi Kitano's novel A Guru is Born, and Blade of the Courtesans, a historical novel set in the early Edo period, written by Keiichiro Ryu. Finally, Vertical is considering filling another niche and translating some of the more notable Japanese books on anime and manga that have been published recently. One that they are particularly interested in is a study of Tezuka by the manga scholar Fusanosuke Natsume, who has written on manga extensively in both Japanese and English.
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