After Vertical made itsannouncements at New York Anime Fest, I wanted to get a bit deeper into things. After all, Chi's Sweet Home, Peepo Choo, Spica and Needle are all fairly different titles. It's quite a range that was sending Vertical in several directions. Or so I thought.
I got on the horn with Ed Chavez, Vertical's Marketing Director, and asked him a few questions about the titles. And in true Ed form, he provided me with not only answers to my questions, but also educated me on my misconceptions of Vertical. I swear, I do it every single time I talk to him. I'm amazed he still talks to me.
I won't question it, though. I'll just keep asking him questions and reading Vertical works. So, let's get into the swing of things and kick today off with some industry action!
How does this new batch of licenses add to Vertical's overall strategy and future outlook?
Well it compliments it and finally fulfills a promise we as a publisher made almost two years ago. I remember when I was on the beat covering the industry, Vertical was saying they were looking to get contemporary titles, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, type titles to add to their catalog. I am not sure why that was ignored or forgotten by fans and the anime/comic media but we never forgot.
We want these new titles and all of our manga titles in the future to reflect what we do with our prose releases. We have a wide variety of titles from the last few decades of Japanese genre fiction; including award-winning works from some of the best writers in recent memory. So why not do the same with our comics? Why should we restrict ourselves to classics, especially when we have released contemporary manga before (the Guin Saga manga comes to mind). And like our novels these titles are innovative, well-crafted and most imporatantly in the style of Vertical.
Chi compliments our Aranzi Aranzo and Cute Dogs lines with its sugar sweet cuteness. Peepo Choo is almost like a manga version of Lala Pipo. Twin Spica (like the Guin Saga) was an NHK staple, beloved by Japan's version of NASA and the populous. Needle harkens back to the style of sci-fi that I personally love, where humans are just as important to the narrative as the aliens they interact with.
Now this is just the beginning. Peepo Choo and Needle will both be around 4 to 6 volumes long, so we are already planning for another round of licenses. One thing I wanted to do from the start is shock fans out of the notion that we are a "classic manga" or "boutique manga" publisher. We are a publisher of J-Pop. Don't forget our craftbooks, cookbooks and puzzle books are our best sellers. If we were to judge by that measure, we are more of a craftbook pub than anything else! Is that the Vertical you know? Possibly not.
That said we will not forget the Tezuka's, the 49ers and the fantasy titles like Guin. There is more coming. However, you know to expect that from us. Chi and Spica you possibly did not see coming and we want readers to start believing we will release titles like that in the future. And given our track record for quality productions and translations, I think the market should be extremely excited about that.
Are you looking to Chii's Sweet Home to be your breakout title -- one that sends a book of yours into the NYT Top 10 Manga list?
Yeah, I do. I want to see Spica up there as well.
To be honest when Black Jack launched it could have been on the NYT Top 10 if it existed at the time... But yes, I feel these two titles have the potential to make Vertical a known name, not only amongst better comic shops and independent book stores, but also with anime fans and casual graphic novel readers.
Who knows Chi could be the next Garfield! She is definitely cute enough.
A lot of your fiction titles seem to be horror-based. Have you found this genre to sell especially well, or is it just happenstance?
Hmm, well I have a hard time with that because the better selling titles are horror, but the statement itself is incorrect. Actually most of our titles are mystery titles, but maybe because those books do not sell as well for us people don't recognize that fact.
In both cases, those genres tend to be some of the most popular in Japan; particularly in the world of genre fiction. In the literary world, things can be a little more rigid, but in pop-fiction many titles can have a horror or mystery theme. Ubume is a hybrid of mystery and horror. The Ring is a sci-fi horror title; while its sequel Spiral is more sci-fi mystery. Cat in the Coffin is from the woman who basically invented mystery romances in Japan. And I could go on...
We don't actively go after horror or mystery. We look for what is good. But check out novels from Kirino or Miyabe and you will see the trend continues there from other publishers. Next year we will release some lit fic from BDSM master Oniroku Dan -- Season of Infidelity -- and a rom-com from the director of Shall We Dance, called Shall We Sumo?. So maybe we can bust out of that stereotype also.
Are you currently reading any of your competitors' titles?
HAH! Are you kidding me?!? Of course. I have been reading the High Castle books from Viz almost religiously. I love Yen Press' Higurashi series. I cannot wait to get my furry paws on Fancy Jigolo Pelu from Last Gasp. And I am a die-hard Nodame Cantabile (Del Rey) and Ghost Talker's Daydream (Dark Horse) fan.
So yes, I read the competition. But I read the competition not only for the content, but to see what they are doing and how they do it. Still, for every one volume of translated manga or fiction I consume, I devour four or five more in Japanese to stay ahead of the game. And some of that raw content is also from our competitors or their partners.
Is there going to be an expansion in Vertical's non-fiction titles (like Nintendo Magic), or are you sticking with something along the lines of one title per quarter?
We were going to announce another one for the Summer but the author could not get it to us in time, so we pushed it back to Summer 2011. One a quarter is about right. Nintendo Magic is a special case as we originally helped commission it. The author changed but we were the ones who suggested to have the book written.
Let's see, we have covered Honda, Toyota, J-Horror, the NHK, North Korea and Nintendo so far. Maybe a look at Sony would be good. How about some in depth analysis about the DPJ now that they have fallen from grace. Japanese politics have been a mystery of sorts to the West, and the recent elections were a horror story for that once powerful party.