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Otakon 2011
Vertical Industry Panel

by Lynzee Loveridge,

Vertical Inc. Marketing Director Ed Chavez hosted the industry and Q&A panel Saturday. The panel began with Chavez clarifying there would be no license announcements and instead introductory information about upcoming releases were the focus of the panel.

The first work introduced was a fiction work by Akira Arai called "A Caring Man". The plot centers around a young man within Tokyo who decides, in an act of terrorism, to take down the Tokyo Tower. Chavez clarified that they typically do not pick fictional prose by Arai's work won the Gold Elephant award and is being released simultaneously in five different countries. Unfortunately, the book was not available for purchase at the con but is available at Barnes & Noble.

Vertical's releases of the manga Black Jack were on hiatus for a year but are now back on track with graphic novels to be released every other month. Vertical recently came into new investments and staff changes, with some staff choosing to work less hours which effected those working on the Black Jack releases.

Next was the release of Osamu Tezuka's Book of Human Insects. Chavez said that fans could think of the work as an alternate ending to Tezuka's Ayako. The female lead of Book of Human Insects can adapt to all situations and kills off those she uses and abuses in the series. Chavez cited the character as his favorite Tezuka female lead. The graphic novel will be available in hard cover with a slip jacket. Due to a printing mistake, no copies of the novel were available for purchase at Otakon but the series should be out within a few weeks.

Another one volume manga to be released is Velveteen & Mandala by Jiro Matsumoto. A seinen series, the main characters are two teenage girls trying to survive during a zombie apocalypse, however Chavez most of the conflict is between the two characters who can be very cruel to one another. Chavez stated that the manga was cathartic as it reminded him a lot of his work environment.

Volume 9 of Twin Spica will be released in September. Chavez said that series had not been selling particularly well, perhaps due to the length of the series However, there were no plans to cancel the series, instead Vertical will raise the page count to approximately 400 in each release starting after Volume 10.

A new series previously announced is The Drops of God by Tadashi Agi and Shū Okimoto. The series centered around wine, with the lead characters trying to hunt down 12 god-sent wines around the world. Real wines are featured in the series and it has garnered attention from mainstream media such as CNN and New York Times. A volume will be released every three months and an English preview of the manga is currently hosted on The New York Times Web site.

The manga series No Longer Human first volume will be released at the end of September. The adaptation by Usamaru Furuya is based on the beloved Japanese novel by Osamu Dazai. The author is so well loved by the Japanese that an entire year was dedicated to him for what would have been his 100th birthday Furuya chose this year to create the manga adaption of No Longer Human. Due to the possibility of its international appeal, Furuya redrew the series himself in left-to-right format. Chavez said he was "never as proud" to publish a series and that the ending to the three volume manga is "brilliant". He hopes that the manga wins the awards he feels it deserves otherwise he'll have lost faith in the comic book community.

Next information was revealed about the English release of Osamu Tezuka's Princess Knight manga. This manga was pushed for by fans, influencing Vertical to license the series for English release. The first volume will feature a chapter that has no been published in Japan in 30 years The version they used is also not the Kodansha bilingual version but their own translation. The first volume will be released in September.

Another novel Vertical is working on is Edge by author Koji Suzuki. Suzuki's other works were also published by Vertical including The Ring, Loop, and Spiral. Edge heavily features the concept of pi and Mother Nature wrecking havoc on mankind for not yet solving the last digit of the elusive number. Chavez hopes to have an e-book release of Edge as well but it has not yet been confirmed.

Next, Chavez talked about Seicho Matsumoto's novel "Pro BONO". Chavez had hoped to release this novel much sooner because it is very popular in Japan and Matsumoto is known as the lead author of mystery series there. He explained that Pro BONO has been adapted into a film 8-9 times and usually features te most popular actress at the time of filming as the lead. The story begins with readers already knowing who the killer is but instead must figure out the best way to dispose of and hide the body.

The manga about the adorable cat, Chi's Sweet Home was credited by Chavez as keeping Vertical running for awhile. He attributed one third of the company's revenue to Chi's Sweet Home sales. He expects Vertical releases to slow down soon as they have caught up with the Japanese releases. Vertical's Chi Web site features crafts and other goodies for fans and the show is also available for streaming on Crunchyroll. Chavez said fans should look in the volume 8 release for a reference to the Vertical company. The mangaka, Konami Kanata was so pleased with their adaptation that she referenced them within the manga.

The next book Chavez featured was "Reel Cuisine" by Nami Iijima. The cookbook of movie recipes will feature more recipes than those in the Japanese edition.

Chavez was excited to announce GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, stating that this is the direction he'd like Vertical to go as they never planned to be strictly a classical manga company. He said it'd be awesome if every title could be a yankee title. He expects that Vertical will release a lot of GTO in many formats along with raising the bar for mainstream titles. He hopes fans will read Vertical titles and expect that quality from other companies as well. Vertical will continue the release of GTO: The Early Years with volume 11. Tokyopop originally released the series but did not complete it. If the GTO releases sell well enough, Chavez said they would go back over the first ten volumes and release them as well with Vertical quality translations in approximately 2013.

Vertical will also release a compliation edition of Osamu Tezuka's Dororo. An Eisner Award winner, all three volumes will be available in the compilation edition for $24.95 in February.

A horror short story collection titled "Body" by Asa Nonami feature five tales focusing on one's preception of their physical form and self-esteem.

Before breaking into Q&A Chavez spoke about Enma the Immortal by Fumi Nakamura. Winner of last year's Golden Elephant award, the story features the Shinsen Gumi heavily and a main character who receives a tattoo that makes him immortal. He then spends years upon years tracking down those who killed his sister. Dark Horse comics is currently working on a comic book adaptation of the novel, and it will also be released as an e-book.

A fan asked why Vertical was planning to push out material other than their established demographic of classic manga. Chavez replied that their initial titles were meant as a gateway to Japanese pop culture and the titles they choose tend to coordinate with current adaptations in Japan. Moving into more mainstream titles seems like a logical progression for the company.

A fan inquired if any of the series mentioned in the panel would be flipped like Chi's Sweet Home. Chavez said the decision to flip Chi was to appeal to a wider audience but otherwise their titles are usually not flipped. The idea was considered for Drops of God but because of the labels of the wine and other factors within the art, it was not possible

When the question of e-comics was asked, Chavez said that releasing e-comics depended on the licensors and that they worked towards that. However, with examples like Osamu Tezuka's manga, it was not possible because they had their own iPad and iPhone application already.

Because a lot of the content in Vertical's releases are mature, an attendee wondered if they'd ever had negative reprecussions from releasing that sort of work. Chavez said no, and that the group enjoys picking difficult titles because of their work environment He said all titles, like 7 Billion Needles and Lychee Light Club have an audience. They are well crafted works and he was willing to risk it to publish them

A fan discussed Koji Suzuki recently publishing short stories on toilet paper in Japan. Chavez said they asked if Koji could write them a 4 pack of stories and that he'd love to publish them on toilet paper but some retailers weren't sure how to handle that outside of Amazon, who didn't seem to care. For that reason, he isn't sure if it was optimal to publish stories on toilet paper but would love to.

The last question regarded Vertical's previously publishing of two manga series by Keiko Takamiya, To Terra and Andromeda Stories. A fan asked if that meant they would also license her work Kaze to Ki no Uta to which Chavez replied bluntly "No."

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