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Kodansha, Dai Nippon Printing Buy Vertical (Updated)

posted on by Egan Loo
Publishing giant, printer buy U.S. startup of English-translated books from Japan

The Japanese publishing giant Kodansha announced on Wednesday that it and Dai Nippon Printing are buying the American publishing startup Vertical. The price of the acquisition has not been made public. Vertical's headquarters is in Tokyo, although it has an office in New York City. It has 77 million yen (about US$930,000) in capital. Vertical translates and publishes Japanese books in English, including but not limited to manga. Kodansha bought 46.7% of Vertical, and Dai Nippon Printing bought 46.0%.

Kodansha also announced on Wednesday that its 42-year-old chief operating officer, Yoshinobu Noma, will replace 67-year-old Sawako Noma as the company's president in the middle of April. This is the company's first presidential transition in 24 years, and the younger Noma will be the seventh-generation head from the family that founded the company. The younger Noma declared at Kodansha's press conference on Wednesday that the company will strengthen its digital and overseas ventures during the ongoing publishing slump.

Hiroki Sakai founded Vertical in 2001 after working as an editor and reporter at the business news company Nikkei. Vertical Marketing Director Ed Chavez once worked for Kodansha, among other publishers, before joining the company. Among the manga titles that Vertical publishes in North America are Black Jack, Ayako, To Terra, Andromeda Stories, Twin Spica, Chi's Sweet Home, and Peepo Choo.

Kodansha, Shueisha, and Shogakukan represent the three biggest publishers in Japan. Shogakukan, Shueisha, and another publisher named Hakusensha are all owned by the same publishing group, Hitotsubashi Group. Shogakukan and Shueisha, in turn, co-own the North American manga and anime distributor Viz Media.

Kodansha once licensed its manga to a variety of North American publishers, including Viz, Dark Horse Comics, and Tokyopop. Kodansha then entered into an agreement with Random House's Del Rey imprint to publish several manga. Kodansha announced its intent to publish manga directly in the American market through a new Kodansha USA holding company in July of 2008. A year later, Tokyopop confirmed that all of its Kodansha licenses had ended. Last October, Kodansha announced that Kodansha USA would gradually take over publishing duties for manga published by Del Rey.

Kodansha also has a separate company, Kodansha International, that publishes a few manga-related works among its many other titles. Kodansha licensed the live-action film adaptation rights for the Akira and Ghost in the Shell manga to Leonardo DiCaprio's team at Warner Brothers/Appian Way and Steven Spielberg's team at DreamWorks, respectively, in 2008.

Sources: animeanime.biz, Jiji Press, Nikkei via Tadashi Sudo

Update: More background information added.

Update 2: Chavez reports that more than half of Vertical's books in its 2012 lineup will come from companies besides Kodansha.

Update 3: Chavez clarified, "We're working on our Spring 2012 list, and that should have around 2-4 Kodansha series & around 5-7 from other [publishers]."

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