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New York Comic-Con 2012
Kodansha Comics Panel

by Todd Ciolek,

The Kodansha Comics panel at the New York Comic Con showed off a variety of manga, but one particular series dominated the discussion: Sailor Moon.

Aptly enough, Kodansha started off the panel with their latest Sailor Moon news. The publisher plans to release The Sailor Moon Artbook in 2013 at the same time it arrives in Japan. The book includes Naoko Takeuchi art from five previously released books, plus several new illustrations by the Sailor Moon creator. Kodansha Publishing Services Director Dallas Middaugh also mentioned that Takeuchi promises some original material for each region where the artbooks will be released. As for which specific books the new edition draws from, Middaugh couldn't yet say which provided the art. In addition to Kodansha's regular releases of Sailor Moon, a five-book box set will arrive this Thanksgiving.

Middaugh unveiled a special message from Takeuchi to the panel attendees: “It makes me very happy to hear that so many people are caring for my precious baby, Sailor Moon, after she has crossed the sea to America.” She also reminding them about a special poster offer at Kodansha's booth, mock-threatening those who didn't make it with “In the name of the moon, I will punish you!”

That special offers includes posters for Attack on Titan, Genshiken: Second Season, and Sailor Moon at Kodansha's comic-con booth (number 1224), and there's a free Sailor Moon pin and calendar for anyone who “likes” Kodansha's Facebook page or follows the publisher's official Twitter feed. Any panel attendees who show up at the booth can also score the free calendar.

Kodansha's fresh licenses started with Atsuko Asano and Hinoki Kino's No. 6. Set in a wasteland future where mankind cowers in domed cities, the series follows a young man's journey through conspiracies and the socially stratified future after he encounters a fugitive named Rat. The series debuts nextJune.

Next was Mitsuru Hattori's Sankarea: Undying Love, the tale of a young man with a curious fixation on zombie girls. His fantasy comes to unnerving life after an accident involving his deceased pet, a local rich girl, and a botched resurrection ceremony. The first volume joins No. 6 in June 2013.

Editor Ben Applegate described Sankarea as “the weirdest romantic story we've ever published.” He then showed the audience a pillow depicting the female lead, with a fabric slit to simulate her wounds.

Makoto Yukimura's Vinland Saga has topped many a fan's list of most-wanted licenses, and now Kodansha has the series. Crafted by the author of the acclaimed Planetes, Vinland Saga opens with a young Viking named Thorfinn joining the mercenary band led by the man who slew Thorfinn's father. Kodansha's first volume comes out in October 2013.

“It's set during the Viking invasion of England,” Applegate said of Vinland Saga. “There's revenge and intrigue, and it's awesome.”

As a chaser to the Sailor Moon news, Kodansha also announced Tokyo Mew Mew a la Mode. A follow-up to the magical-catgirl tale, A la Mode finds a half-rabbit, half-cat Mew heroine joining the Cafe Mew cast, while a gang called the Crusaders appears to raise all manner of ruckus. The series spanned two volumes in Japan, but Kodansha's release will collect it all into one, due out in November of next year.

Oh! great's ongoing rollerblade-battle manga Air Gear is still going, and Kodansha plans to re-launch the series with the three-volume omnibus treatment. The first set arrives in May.

Hiro Mashima's Fairy Tail still proves a major name for Kodansha, which now plans to release the series at the rate of one volume per month. The speedier schedule starts with volume 24 of the series in March 2013. The series will come out even quicker on the digital side, with two volumes arriving per month starting in March.

Among other currently running Kodansha titles, Middaugh had kind works for Genshiken: Second Season, calling the original Genshiken “one of the best-selling series we ever did.” A fan asked if Kodansha might release the figure that came with volume 11 in Japan, but Middaugh replied that it's hard to coordinate bonus toys.

“We find out about those figures at the same time you do,” Middaugh said.

Editor David Yoo described Natsume Ono's Danza as his favorite current Kodansha-published manga, a series of short stories about all sorts of relationships: the bond between a Father and Son, the trust between two police officers, or the reconciliation of quarreling brothers.

“It's amazing, and I hope you guys will give it a try," Yoo said.

Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is now under Kodansha's watch, and the 16th volume is out this December. Kodansha also plans to release Last Order in an omnibus, with each three-volume collection featuring 80 pages of new material from Kishiro.

Among other long-running series, Ken Akamatsu's Negima is headed for its conclusion, with the 38th and final volume scheduled to come out in April. Other veteran titles were recently brought out in three-volume omnibus releases, including Genshiken, a newly retranslated Love Hina, Negima!, and Kitchen Princess.

The panelists then turned to questions from the audience. The first concerned some of the series left unfinished when Kodansha took over Del Rey Manga's releases.

“Obviously we would like to finish everything,” Middaugh said. “But we had a limited number of books we could do. The manga market has changed dramatically over the last five or six years, and some titles that were selling well then aren't now. Kodansha Comics is actually a new company, and they had to make decisions outside of the context of Del Rey.”

Another audience member asked about Kodansha licensing more Natsume Ono works. For those who wanted more U.S. releases from the author, Yoo had a suggestion: “Buy the crap out of Danza.”

Another question discussed an upcoming oversized collection of Sailor Moon manga due out by the year's end in Japan, Middaugh said that Kodansha's waiting to see the books before they consider a U.S. release. If they did arrive here, Middaugh added the larger anthologies would come after Kodansha's regular release of Sailor Moon.

The final Sailor Moon question concerned extra material published after the central manga series, and Middaugh confirmed that two volumes of Sailor Moon Short Stories will follow when Kodansha wraps up the main run of Sailor Moon.

On the subject of light novels, Middaugh remarked that, due to the typical sales of light novels in the U.S., Kodansha is “going to focus on manga.”

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