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New York Anime Festival 2009

by Carlo Santos,

Panelists: Ed Chavez, Yani Mentzas

Vertical Inc.'s panel began with marketing director Ed Chavez polling the audience to see how many had heard of the company, and how many were regular readers of their releases. Although the company has made a mark in the manga world, there is also a healthy interest in Vertical's prose titles including genre novels, craftbooks, and other nonfiction.

New title announcements for prose books include Nintendo Magic: How the Video Game Wars Were Won due in April 2010. For fiction readers, mystery novel City of Refuge by Kenzō Kitakata comes out in August 2010 and historical novel Flowers of Edo by Michael Kennedy (Vertical's first novel originally in English) arrives in May 2010. Craft hobbyists can also look forward to New Cute Stuff by dollmaking duo Aranzi Aranzo, due out in June 2010.

In the manga field, Osamu Tezuka's medical drama Black Jack Vol. 11 comes out May 2010, followed by Vol. 12 in July. Meanwhile, fans of international manga-ka Felipe Smith can anticipate the U.S. debut in July 2010 of Peepo Choo, which originally ran in Morning2 magazine. Regarding new Japanese licenses, the company has acquired slice-of-life sci-fi series Twin Spica, which recently ran as a live-action drama in Japan this summer. Twin Spica will probably debut in August 2010. Also newly licensed is Nobuaki Tadano's hard sci-fi series Needles. Chavez also confirmed the licensing of fan favorite Chi's Sweet Home (due out starting June 2010), although the Amazon listing had been leaked previously. In a departure from standard manga practice, Chi will be published flipped and in full color.

After these announcements, the panel was opened up to various questions. For the translation of Peepo Choo, Felipe Smith has actually provided scripts for the series in both Japanese and English. Chavez also picked out his personal Vertical favorites that aren't selling as much as they should, such as The Summer of the Ubume and A Rabbit's Eyes. It was also mentioned during the Q&A session that Black Jack will probably go as far as 17 volumes, and that the company is continuing to look into other retro titles for potential acquisition. Tezuka's Princess Knight (Ribon no Kishi) is one such title under consideration, and Chavez said that this acquisition seems "very likely," but the company may wait until Black Jack is closer to completion so as not to crowd the Tezuka catalog. Chavez also spoke briefly on the continuing challenge of selling Vertical's titles, which typically appeal to a specific, niche audience.

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