At their Friday afternoon panel at Anime Expo '08, the Dark Horse Manga crew was short on Powerpoint visuals, but managed to keep the room amused and informed with the a few new announcements and the always entertaining Carl Horn, Dark Horse's manga guru.
The Shinji Ikari Raising Project by Osamu Takahashi - Late Spring / Early Summer 2009
The big manga licensing reveal was the addition of The Shinji Ikari Raising Project to their 2009 line-up. As Horn explained it, "This is like an alternate version of Neon Genesis Evangelion."
In this version, Asuka and Shinji are childhood friends. Yui Ikari, Shinji's mother, who is M.I.A. in the original Evangelion story is alive and featured more prominently. Rei is a distant relative of Shinji's from Yui's side of the family. "This is a different Evangelion manga, and it's more about friendship and romance and comedy. It's a kind of reshuffling and re-imagining of the original story."
Set for a Late Spring / Early Summer 2009 release, The Shinji Ikari Raising Project will also feature fan art by American Eva fans -- so look for more announcements to come about how to send in your pictures to be featured in the first volume.
Banya the Explosive Delivery Man by Kim Young-Oh
While not exactly a new release, Banya the Explosive Delivery Man will be new online feature on Dark Horse Presents starting this month. Much as they've done for Shaman Warrior, Dark Horse will be featuring a chapter a week of this action adventure manhwa for free online.
"Our serialization of Shaman Warrior has been very successful -- now all five volumes of that series is available online." said Michael Gombos, Dark Horse Director of Asian Licensing.
For the rest of the session, Horn and Gombos, along with Jeremy Atkins, Director of Publicity and Samantha Robinson, Assistant Editor (Old Boy, Berserk) addressed questions from the crowd, including queries about how the recent announcement about Kodansha's arrival on the U.S. manga scene, light novels and manga that doesn't quite break sales records.
On Kodansha and How It Might Affect Dark Horse's Licenses Past and Present
The news affects "certain of our titles," said Horn. "We're aware of the rumors, but for licensing reasons, we can't tell you which ones."
On Dark Horse's Light Novels Line-Up and Schedule
"We've noticed that light novels are a big thing, but if you know Dark Horse, we don't do a lot of 'jumping on bandwagons,'" said Gombos. "We don't have an overall strategy for ramping up our releases of light novels."
On Manga Hasn't Quite Found Its Audience... Yet
"I've been a manga fan all my life, but when I bring up a book for Dark Horse to publish, I know it creates work and money for people, so I want to be careful about what I bring to the U.S.," said Horn. "Satsuma Gishiden was a title that I chose and I was really disappointed when it didn't work out." (The series ran for 3 volumes until its run was canceled.)
"Reiko the Zombie Shop is my personal favorite," said Gombos. "So I think, how can Grindhouse be popular and Reiko not be as popular?" he asked. "It ran in a josei manga magazine, but it's so pulp." When asked if it was in danger of being canceled before completing the series, Gombos replied, "If I have to put up my own money, I'll keep publishing it." Horn chimed in, "It's hell-arious."
Image credit: © Dark Horse Comics; © Osamu Takahashi and GAINAX; ©