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NY Comic-Con: Yen Press Gets Haruhi, Square Enix Manga

By April 21, 2008

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There was lots to excite hardcore fans of Japanese anime and manga at Saturday afternoon's Yen Press panel at New York Comic-Con, but the news that made American anime fans holler with glee came the day before the show, when ICV2 broke the news that Yen Press scored the manga and light novel publishing rights for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

The manga version of the hugely popular anime series (which has been available since last summer, thanks to Bandai Entertainment) has a built in audience eager to read it as soon as it hits the shelves in October 2008 under the Yen Press imprint. The light novels will follow in April 2009, and will be published under the Little, Brown imprint, one of the leading publishers of Young Adult (YA) fiction (e.g. Gossip Girl, Twilight and James Patterson's Maximum Ride).

This is another great example of Yen Press Co-Publishing Director Kurt Hassler making good use of his extensive background in the mainstream publishing business to broaden the genre's reader base beyond just the manga and graphic novels fans. Will the young adult readers of Gossip Girl, et. al take a shine to the anime world's headstrong heroine and her quirky high school comedy/ sci-fi adventures? Yen Press and Little, Brown will find out in April 2009, as they join TokyoPop, VIZ and Del Rey Manga in their efforts to import Japanese light novels to the American bestseller lists.

The Maximum Ride manga by Patterson and Korean artist Narae Lee was another big project that Hassler and Co-Publishing Director Rich Johnston were eager to pump up. According to Hassler, Patterson is "THE #1 best-selling author in America, period." Maximum Ride will take its first shot to tempt readers of the young adult novels to venture into the manga section when a free preview appears in comic shops on Free Comic Book Day on May 3, then starts its run in Yen's monthly anthology magazine, Yen Plus in July.

Speaking of Yen Plus, the other major announcements at the panel were some new additions to the magazine's roster, and more details about its debut. Yen Plus will be a monster-sized mag right out of the gate, with 460 pages and a $8.99 cover price. With its mix of global manga, Korean manhwa and Japanese manga, Yen Plus will be a double-sided publication, which will be read in both directions.

The new Yen Plus series announced were all from Square Enix (the Japanese publishing home of Fullmetal Alchemist, Zombie Loan and Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning). Hassler also added that all of Yen Plus' Japanese content will exclusively from Square Enix. The new titles announced include:

Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo
Yen was promoting this title big time with pins, posters and banners, and for good reason. The art is appealing, and the concept, while a little odd, sounds promising. At a school for mystical weapon makers, the goal is to create a scythe that will defeat and eat 99 evil human souls and thus become powerful enough to be used by shinigami, or grim reapers. Each aspiring weapon maker (or "meister") has a demon weapon companion who are their partners in this offbeat school/shinigami adventure series.

Higurashi: When They Cry by 7th Expansion and Karin Suzuragi
Based on the video game of the same name, When They Cry is about a guy who moves to a small town, and discovers that the annual festival is marked by a mysterious murders. As he begins to suspect that something is awry, he finds himself more and more threatened by people he thought were his friends.

Nabari no Ou by Yuhki Kamatani
Nabari no Ou is about an apathetic high school student student who has inherited the ability to manifest a powerful ninja art, but he has to get over his apathetic nature to tap into this power. As Associate Editor Tania Biswas put it, "It's action-packed and there's lots of pretty boys, so there's something for everyone."

Sumomo Momomo by Shinobu Ohtaka
A teen wants to become a lawyer, but he comes from a family of powerful martial arts warriors. Even though he's given up any thought (and hasn't trained) to fight, according to tradition, he's next in line to be the leader of his clan, whether he likes it or not. Then he meets Momomo, the daughter of the rival faction of warrior who wants to be a part of her family's martial arts tradition, but has been discouraged because she's a girl. So what's a would-be woman warrior to do? Try to marry into the rival clan's family by any means necessary.

Bamboo Blade by Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi
"Just to prove that not all martial arts stories are life and death struggles, Bamboo Blade is about a martial arts teacher who runs his school's kendo club," said Johnson. When a rival club leader challenges him to beat them, and the prize is a year's worth of high-end sushi dinners, the teacher rises to the occasion to get his students to hone their battle skills for some otoro and uni sushi for sensei. "It's a fun and endearing story," said Biswas.

These four Japanese titles join the other previously announced titles, which include Night School by Svetlana Chmakova, and two Korean manhwa titles, Pig Bride and Jack Frost. Hassler also added that Yen Plus subscriptions will be available from the Yen Press website soon, priced at $49.97 for 12 issues, a pretty hefty savings from the $9 per issue newsstand price.

In addition to their Yen Plus announcements, Hassler also announced three new global manga graphic novels due out in Fall 2008. With comics from China, Germany, Korea, Japan and homegrown North American talent, Yen Press is also "looking at more manhua from China, Taiwan, everywhere," said Hassler. "We want to bring a global perspective to manga in the U.S." The three international additions to the Yen Press lineup are:

Wild Animals by Song Yang - September 2008
A story that was first published as a novel, Wild Animals is set in China, and is about "the tumultuous days after the Communist Revolution."

An Ideal World by Chen Weidong and Pen Chao
An Ideal World is another Chinese import, this time it's about a factory worker who decides he wants to do more than just work all his life, and goes on a journey of self-discovery. Much like their kids comics release World of Quest, An Ideal World will be a full-color presentation instead of the usual black and white manga format.

Y-Square Plus by Judith Park - December 2008
The sequel to Y Square by German-Korean manga-ka Judith Park (who was also Yen Press' special guest at New York Comic-Con) picks up the story shortly after the first volume, and from the description posted on Yen Press' website, it sounds like Yagate's got a crush on a handsome athlete who also has got something going on with Yoshitaka's girlfriend Ju-Jin, the aspiring model.

Image credit: © Nagaru Tanigawa, Gaku Tsugano, Noizi Ito / Kadokawa Shoten, © Yen Press

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