On Wednesday afternoon, TokyoPop hosted their second "TokyoPop Insider" industry webcast to share what's new, what's coming soon, and what's going on at this Los Angeles-based manga publishing company. TokyoPop announced 10 new licensed and original manga titles for 2009 - 2010, including three new titles in the .hack// series and two new original graphic novels based on massively popular World of Warcraft / Starcraft games from Blizzard.
But after all the talk about the TokyoPop-Kodansha manga series that went into limbo this week, it was most exciting to hear that seven titles that were on hiatus are returning to their publishing schedule in 2010, including critics' fave, Suppli.
BY POPULAR DEMAND, SEVEN FAN FAVORITES RETURN
After TokyoPop's restructuring in June 2008, several ongoing series went on hiatus, leaving many fans wondering when (or if!) the latest volumes of their favorite manga would be published.
In recent months, TokyoPop has been slowly adding these delayed titles back into their release schedule. Last month, they announced the return of fan favorites like Aria, V.B. Rose and Tactics. Now seven more titles are due back from limbo land in mid-2010. They are:
- Suppli Volume 4 by Mari Okazaki
- Pick of the Litter Volume 5 by Yuriko Suda
- Monochrome Factor Volume 5 by Kaili Sorano
- Never Give Up Volume 9 by Hiromu Mutou
- Nosatsu Junkie Volume 7 by Ryoko Fukuyama
- Satisfaction Guaranteed Volume 8 by Ryo Saenagi
- King of Hell Volume 23 by In-Soo Ra, Jae-Hwan Kim
As TokyoPop Editor Lillian Lillian Diaz-Przybyl explained it, "We work so far in advance, it'll be at least mid-2010 until these books can come out. But this is just the beginning of titles that we'll be bringing back."
After receiving so many emails and questions about the titles that were on hiatus, Diaz-Przybyl put the ball back into the fans' court. "When we bring these series back, it's important that you show your support by buying them. Tell your friends about these books and demonstrate your support through sales -- that's what it really comes down to."
Also returning to the 2010 line-up is a title that was originally scheduled for June 2009:
- Remember by Benjamin -February 2, 2010
Remember is the full-color follow-up graphic novel / illustration anthology by Chinese manhua star Benjamin (the creator of Orange). Besides featuring a few short stories, Remember also showcases some of Benjamin's lush, vividly colored artwork.
NEW MYSTERY, HORROR, SCI-FI, FANTASY AND ACTION MANGA
While the return of old favorites was big news, the main focus of the webcast was showcasing what's new and coming soon. Here's the lowdown on the 10 noteworthy titles due out in Fall / Winter 2009 - 2010.
- Deadman Wonderland by Jinsei Kataoka, Kazuma Kondou: Vol. 1 of 4 - February 2, 2010
From the artist who illustrated the Eureka 7 manga comes a series about a young boy who survives a horrifying earthquake only to find himself in an even more frightening experience 10 years later.
A massive earthquake sinks most of Tokyo into the sea, a disaster that Ganta survived. A decade passes, and 14-year old Ganta is living peacefully in nearby Nagano prefecture. He doesn't remember the Tokyo earthquake or the events surrounding the catastrophe -- but his life is turned upside down when a mysterious man in red appears and slaughters all of his classmates, leaving only Ganta to be blamed for these horrific murders. Ganta is sentenced to life imprisonment in Deadman Wonderland, a prison colony / tourist attraction in Tokyo and things can only get weirder from there...
TokyoPop Production Assistant Rui Kyo described Deadman Wonderland as "a mix between Death Race and Battle Royale." You can get a taste of this hot sci-fi series from Shonen Ace magazine by checking out the video trailer of Deadman Wonderland on TokyoPop's YouTube page.
Hanako and the Teller of Allegory by Sakae Esuno - Volume 1 of 4: March 2, 2010
Okay, the grammarian in me finds the literal translation of Hanako to Gūwa no Teller a bit awkward in English, but I'm intrigued by the concept of this series from the creator of Future Diary .
A private detective must deal with a steady stream of clients who are troubled by "allegories" -- stories that could also be described as urban legends. When believed in strongly enough, these legends sometimes turn into self-fulfilling prophecies that this unusual detective and his crew must unravel before they go from myth to reality.
- This Ugly Yet Beautiful World by Ashita Morimi, Gainax / Konomini Project - Volume 1 of 3: December 1, 2009
From the anime studio that brought you Neon Genesis Evangelion, Kare Kano and Gurren Laggann comes a otaku-friendly monster/fantasy/action series about two boys who find a mysterious girl in a forest and try to help her. For their troubles, one boy ends up battling a monster, but to defeat this creature, he's turned into a monster himself. Aliens, robots and mad scientists abound in this series, and of course, lots of cute girls and action-packed fights.
CSI: Intern at Your Own Risk by Sekou Hamilton and Steven Cummings - September 1, 2009
This one-shot graphic novel was developed by the TokyoPop editorial staff in conjunction with hit CBS TV series about crime scene investigators.
The story is set in Las Vegas, as new CSI intern Kiyomi tries to solve a murder that may have been committed by one of the other teen interns in her group. How do you catch a killer who knows all the tricks of criminal forensics?
Get a peek at this new original comics creation by checking out TokyoPop's YouTube video trailer for CSI: Intern At Your Own Risk. You can also check out photos and more from the TokyoPop staff's recent visit to the set of the CSI TV show.
THREE MORE WAYS TO ENTER THE WORLD OF .HACK//
TokyoPop has already published several editions of manga and light novels based on the online fantasy game .hack// - now here's three more ways to immerse yourself into the characters, the action, and the vast world of .hack//:
- .hack//Alcor by Amou Kanami and Izumibara Rena - December 1, 2009
.hack//Alcor takes place in the 'The World,' a online fantasy game-playing realm where players take on new personas and live fantasy lives that connect with their "real" lives.
Nanase is a shy and naive girl who belongs to a guild. Nanase is a newbie in The World, but her main reason for being there is to be near Silabus, the guild master. When her guild is targeted by PK (Player Killers), can Nanase find the courage to help her online friends?
UPDATE: TokyoPop has posted the first preview chapter of .hack//Alcor online at TokyoPop.com.
- .hack//CELL by Ryo Suzukaze and Akira Mutsuki - Volume 1 of 2: March 2, 2010
A two-part manga based on the light novels by Ryo Suzukaze, .hack//CELL incorporates characters from other .hack// storylines, including .hack//Roots and .hack//G.U.. This time, the story focuses on Midori, an Edge Punisher in The World who hires herself out to players. Her service to her clients? They get to fight her for a minute without her fighting back -- and if they can defeat her, they get a prize. But Midori has a secret that has ties to her life in the "real world."
.hack//4Koma by Sumimaru Koichi - April 6, 2010
On the lighter end of the .hack// spectrum is .hack//4koma, a series of cute and fun 4-panel comic strips features the characters of the .hack// universe as you've never seen them before.
DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF WORLD OF WARCRAFT AND STARCRAFT
Fresh off their trip to BlizzCon 2009, TokyoPop put the spotlight on two new original graphic novel titles from two humungously popular online games from Blizzard: World of Warcraft and Starcraft.
Warcraft: Death Knight by Dan Jolley, Rocio Zucchi - December 1, 2009
TokyoPop's Warcraft editor Troy Lewter and layout artist Michael Paolilli, their "in-house Blizzard expert" talked about the latest installment in the Warcraft series, Death Knight.
"If you play the game you know the King of the Death Knights. World of Warcraft: Death Knight fleshes out his character, who he was before, how he became a Death Knight," said Lewter.
"The art's pretty awesome," Paolilli added. "This is Rocio's first major manga, and you can see she's really bringing the pain here."
"We try to tie (this story) into the overall war -- it's meant to enhance the overall game experience," explained Lewter.
Starcraft: Ghost Academy by Keith DeCandido and Fernando Heinz Furukawa - Volume 1 of 3: January 5, 2010
Furukawa was TokyoPop's special guest at BlizzCon for a pretty good reason: He's one of the creative forces behind Starcraft: Ghost Academy, a new 3-volume series set in the far-flung Starcraft universe.
"For Starcraft fans, you'll recognize this character," said Lewter. "Nova was part of a project called Starcraft: Ghost that was developed in the early 2000's. (Blizzard) shelved that project, so this is first time you'll see full artwork of this character."
"The basic story is Nova's backstory, how she became a ghost," said Paolilli. "It's really cool becuse it also features a character that will be be a prominent character in Starcraft 2. You'll get to see him as a younger teen in his early academy days."
"Starcraft: Ghost Academy is more of a coming in age story," said Lewter. "(Nova) is still clay that is being molded into a weapon of war."
You can see early sketches from Starcraft: Ghost Academy in this article posted on TokyoPop.com.
Q & A: WHAT'S HOT, WHAT'S NOT AND WHAT'S UP WITH KODANSHA?
While today's session cleared up the fate of several TokyoPop titles that were once on hiatus, fans were still eager to find out the prospects for other titles that are still lingering in limbo. Here's a quick rundown of titles that were brought up by webinar attendees, and Diaz-Przybyl's responses:
- Queen's Knight by Kim Kang Won: "There aren't a lot of plans for Queen's Knight. This is by the same creator of I.N.V.U., which sold well for us, but for whatever reasons, Korean manhwa has had a lot of trouble breaking in the U.S. This kind of fantasy style never quite caught on here. We were big fans of it, but it remains to be seen."
- I.N.V.U. by Kim Kang Won: Volume 5 will be out in November 2009.
- PhD: Phastasy Degree by Son Hee Joon: "We really wanted to finish it. It got a nod from YALSA, and we were really excited about it, but it never got the traction it needed."
- Kare Kano and Sgt. Frog omnibus editions - The omnibus editions of these two titles were "intended as teaser volumes to get people into the series, but they were not meant to continue. It was a great deal for people to get 3 volumes for $15. It's a very crowded space nowadays, so unfortunately, no more of that (except for a .hack// omnibus that is due in November)
- Qwan by Aki Shimizu - "That's a good question. That one was running really slowly in Japan, and we caught up to it at some point."
- Demon Sacred by Natsumi Itsuki - Once on the 2009 schedule, this title from the creator of Jyu-Oh-Sei "has been moved to latter part of 2010. We'll announce it later."
- Hoshi wa Utau (Singing Stars) by Natsuki Takaya -Anticipation is high for the current series by the creator of Fruits Basket -- but no definitive word on its U.S. debut yet. "We'll have to see. We've been crossing our fingers for that one. We are huge fans, and hope to have more of her work."
Prospects for reviving dormant Korean manhwa titles look dim now, but possibly the only other category of manga that has even fewer prospects for future publication at TokyoPop is older manga or "classic" manga titles.
"If by older titles you mean classic manga, the answer is no," said Diaz-Przybyl. "The manga audience seems very heavily driven toward what's the latest and greatest from Japan. I would love to do some classic series; VIZ Media has, and so has Vertical. It's great to see it out there, and the more manga you read, the more you want to understand where this medium comes from."
And don't hold your breath for more art books from TokyoPop in the immediate future. "We've done artbooks for Chobits and Sailor Moon in the past, and (art books) have proven to be expensive and difficult to produce."
So what's selling well for TokyoPop nowadays? Diaz-Przybyl rattled off this list of current hot titles:
- Tsubasa: Those With Wings by Natsuki Takaya
- NG Life by Mizuho Kusanagi
- Future Diary by Sakae Esuno
- Bloody Kiss by Kazuko Furumiya
"And all of our boys love titles do awesome," she added, noting especially Junjo Romantica, which made the NY Times manga bestsellers list recently.
Now what about the Kodansha split? Diaz-Przybyl had this to add:
"There's not much to say about losing Kodansha titles. We haven't licensed much from them over three years. Kodansha has a relationship with Random House, and Del Rey Manga has really had an in on the top licenses. We were second tier (licensors) to Kodansha for quite some time."
"We didn't get to finish a bunch of titles that were close to the end of their series. It's a shame; we really wanted to finish them off."
"But the writing's been on the wall for a long time with this one. It's not a surprise; we've been adjusting for this for years."
But Diaz-Przybyl saw upsides in these changes for TokyoPop. "The benefit for cutting down on our line is that we're focusing on stuff that sells really well and reaches our core audience," she said. "If it's a new series from TokyoPop, it's stuff we're really excited about and we think it'll do well."
TokyoPop.com recently published an article about their decision-making process that goes behind licensing manga, manhwa and creating original manga titles. Check it out, it's worth a read.
And that's it for TokyoPop Insider 2! So which titles sound most intriguing to you? Sound off in the comments below!
UPDATE: TokyoPop has posted a link to the YouTube video of TokyoPop Insider 2 so you can see it for yourself.
Image credits: © 2007 .hack Conglomerate © 2007 NBGI /KADOKAWASHOTEN Publishing, © Mari Okazaki / SHODENSHA, © Benjamin / XIAO PAN, © Jinsei KATAOKA and Kazuma KONDOU/ KADOKAWA SHOTEN Publishing, © Sakae ESUNO 2004 /Kadokawa Shoten Publishing Co., Ltd., © 2004 GAINAX, Shubi Iinkai, Ashita Morimi / HAKUSENSHA, Inc., © 2006 Ryo SUZUKAZE / KADOKAWA SHOTEN, © Blizzard Entertainment