NYAF Panel Report: Guest Blogger Melinda Beasi on Manga Announcements

Hello there, Comics Worth Reading! This is Melinda Beasi from mangabookshelf.com, filing a guest report on this year’s New York Anime Festival. Rather than waste your time by introducing myself at length, I’ll simply say this: I blog pretty exclusively about manga, so when I attend a convention, publisher panels are my primary focus. This year, only a handful of manga publishers had any kind of presence at NYAF and I lapped up rabidly whatever they were willing to provide.

Tokyopop Announcements

Despite minimal publisher presence, things got off to a great start Friday afternoon with TOKYOPOP and Vertical first on the docket. Since TOKYOPOP did not have a booth at the con, its representatives, Marketing Manager Kasia Piekarz and Senior Editor Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl, were there just for the day, but they had quite a bit to say! As part of their new “TOKYOPOP Insider” series, the panel was also broadcast as an online webinar, although technical difficulties cut the presentation short for remote attendees. The team began by reminding us about some new volumes being released over the next few months, followed by a genuinely funny video about toothy mascot character Domo at San Diego Comic-Con.

Then finally the real announcements began! Deb Aoki has a detailed report on all of TOKYOPOP’s new licenses at about.com, so I’ll just mention a few here that particularly caught my eye. One highlight in the company’s new collection of global manga (mainly novel and movie adaptations) is an original graphic novel adaptation of Joss Whedon’s upcoming horror film, The Cabin in the Woods. This single volume release will be an original story set in the world of the film, something that definitely appeals to a long-time Whedon fan like me. It was interesting to note that a number of these global manga projects are properties being featured in several media at once; for instance, Priest: Purgatory is new graphic novel meant to accompany the release of the film adaptation of the original manhwa series.

Very few of the new Japanese licenses really grabbed me, not even a new/old offering from Fruits Basket creator Natsuki Takaya. It is quite a sign of the times, however, that new boys’ love titles (upcoming from TOKYOPOP’s BLU imprint) made up a large percentage of TOKYOPOP’s new announcements. Unfortunately, what might have been the most interesting to me out of this bunch (a new one-shot from Hinako Takanaga, creator of Little Butterfly) is also my least favorite type of BL release — the ubiquitous short story anthology. Despite my lack of immediate enthusiasm, however, I’ll be quite anxious to check out these new releases when they arrive, and I think we were all grateful that TOKYOPOP managed to make the trip out to this smallish east coast con.

Vertical: My Favorite Panel

Next up was Vertical, which I’ll admit was my favorite panel of the weekend, both for its exciting lineup of new manga releases and for the presentation itself. Listening to Ed Chavez talk about manga is always a pleasure, and this seems particularly true in his new role as Marketing Manager for Vertical. This was my first Vertical panel with Chavez at the helm (Editorial Director and Executive Vice President Yani Mentzas was also present, though he let Ed do the talking), and though I’d heard that he had a uniquely reserved-yet-excited presence when acting as the face of Vertical, I was still surprised by how effective this was. The word that comes to mind is “moving,” and though that may seem ludicrous as a description of a manga industry panel, I can honestly say I was moved by Ed Chavez’s obvious passion for the licenses he was presenting. It helps, of course, that the licenses are genuinely exciting to me as well. Carlos Santos has a fairly comprehensive rundown (including prose and craft book licenses) over at ANN, but it’s the new manga licenses that really got me going–all of them, in fact.

First of all, I’m fascinated by the prospect of seeing Peepo Choo, a series created by American artist Felipe Smith for Kodansha’s Morning 2 magazine in Japan, then translated back into English (by the creator himself) for publication in the US. Jason Thompson has a fantastic profile on both the artist and the work over at Comixology, for anyone who isn’t already convinced that this is an exciting acquisition. Two new sci-fi licenses, Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica and Nobuaki Tadano’s Needles are similarly intriguing (if not in novelty). Then comes the delectable icing on the cake, cat-centric all-ages manga, Chi’s Sweet Home, which may prove to the the only manga published in English with the potential to out-cute Yotsuba&!. To say that I’m “excited” about Vertical’s acquisition of Chi (flipped and in full color, by the way) is a gross understatement, though I’m not sure I have any more appropriate words. With at least two volumes scheduled for release in 2010, suffice it to say that all my friends and relatives can be fairly certain of what they’ll be getting for Christmas next year. Hints of potential licenses in the works included non-specific references to something from one (or more) of the Magnificent 49ers, which is also fairly thrilling.

Coming From Del Rey

Saturday’s only significant manga panel belonged to Del Rey Manga, where technical difficulties with their powerpoint presentation gave always delightful Marketing Manager Ali Kokmen the opportunity to joke with the audience about Associate Publicist April Flores’ desktop wallpaper–the only thing we were able to see on screen for quite a while. Ali’s humor (and choice of ties) is reason enough to attend any Del Rey panel and I’d probably turn up just to watch him read the phone book. Fortunately that hasn’t yet occurred.

Aside from the usual cartoon network tie-in series, Del Rey did not have a huge number of new licenses to announce, but what was there definitely interested me. Brigid Alverson has the full list in her MangaBlog report. Highlights for me are sweet shojo series Here I Am from Pixie Pop creator Ema Toyama and an intriguingly dark-sounding shojo offering from Kitchen Princess creator Natusmi Ando called Arisa. Fans of pulled TOKYOPOP series Rave Master will be pleased to know that Del Rey now has the license and will be releasing the remainder of the series in omnibus form. Among the list of upcoming global titles, perhaps the most newsworthy is a planned adaptation of the movie version of The Last Airbender as well as a volume-long prequel to the film.

Bandai’s “Press Conference”

The only other manga news on Saturday came from Bandai Entertainment, who had no new title announcements, though I was impressed by Marketing Director Robert Napton’s personal interest in their manga line. I was lucky enough to be a part of an impromptu press conference Robert held for a few manga bloggers in the press room late Saturday afternoon, where he talked a bit about some recent and upcoming releases, notably the Lucky Star manga, one of their only licenses that is not an anime adaptation (though it does act as as tie-in with their license of the anime), as well as their manga adaptation of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and their ongoing Code Geass tie-ins.

Viz Takes the Stage

On Sunday, the stage belonged to Viz Media, whose upbeat panel was a great reminder for everyone of how wonderfully diverse and fantastic their licenses have been this year, particularly with their new online imprints, Sig Ikki and Shonen Sunday. Viz spent a lot of time going over upcoming releases that have been previously announced, though this was fairly exciting in its own way. (Yes, I’m still psyched about Bakuman.) Some real murmurs of joy were heard from the audience during the new license announcements, however, which were definitely the highlight of the day for manga fans. Activeanime.com live-blogged the panel, which includes anime releases as well.

Announcements included two new Sig Ikki series, What’s the Answer? and Bob and His Funky Crew, but the real draws for me are Gente, a follow up to Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso, supernatural horror series Grand Guiginol Orchestra, and Library Wars, a manga adaptation of the novels by Hiro Arikawa. I haven’t yet read any of TOKYOPOP’s new series Karakuri Odette, so I’m not sure how much to anticipate Viz’s planned release of creator Julietta Suzuki’s Nice to Meet You, Kamisama, which has a premise that could either be wonderfully whimsical and adorable or very much not. Time will tell.

The State of the Industry

Wrapping up the convention’s industry talk was Sunday afternoon’s “State of the Industry” panel, which this year combined both the anime and manga companies together. With only two major manga publisher representatives remaining (Del Rey’s Ali Kokmen and Vertical’s Ed Chavez) the merge made some obvious sense, but as a result there was little opportunity for any deep conversation on the manga industry specifically, unlike last year’s compelling discussion of the viability of OEL manga. Still, the discussion was brisk and occasionally enlightening, and it would be difficult to describe the convention as a bust, even for dedicated manga fans.

Though the absence of east coast publisher Yen Press was felt keenly throughout the weekend, the manga publishers who did attend had some fairly tasty new license announcements to share, which were much appreciated by those of us otherwise dejected by the increasingly anime-centric feel of the con.

I’ve posted more personal reflections on the event at my blog, Manga Bookshelf, including my thoughts about the Blogger’s Roundtable panel, which CWR regular Ed Sizemore sat on and spoke about in his report earlier this week. Many thanks to Johanna for her hospitality!

2 Comments

  1. [...] gone up, this year over at Johanna Draper Carlson’s Comics Worth Reading. As I mention in my report, publisher panels are my primary focus at anime conventions and though they seem to be happening [...]

  2. [...] Beasi posts two NYAF con reports, one on the manga panels at Comics Worth Reading and a more personal take at her own new site, Manga [...]

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