Izumi Evers: Last Gasp had already published Barefoot Gen before, so it seemed like they might be open to the idea. Then we approached the Japanese publisher and made the deal.
Q: Did you encounter any major difficulties on the road to getting Town of Evening Calm published, or any pleasant surprises?
Izumi Evers: It seemed that everyone working on this project had a lot of motivation to make it a success. To be honest, I expected we'd lose money on this project at first, but I still felt we needed to publish it. Everyone from the translator, to Last Gasp, to the Japanese editor all shared the attitude of "This is a great manga, we really need to publish this." And that made for a really good team to work with.
Q: When I talk with other manga publishers lately, they mention the stiff competition to get the licensing for the most sought-after works from Japanese publishers. Did you encounter the same kind of competition for Town of Evening Calm, or was this a book that was turned down by the "big guys" for some reason or another?
Izumi Evers: We got lucky because we were the first foreign publisher to inquire about that title. The deal happened very fast after that.
Q: One thing that's mentioned in the descriptions for Town of Evening Calm it's both an award-winning book and a controversial work in Japan. Can you touch upon what the controversy surrounding this book was?
Izumi Evers: That's kind of a misunderstanding. The book was more of a sensation than a controversy, if you get the meaning. It got a lot of attention from many people because of the content of the story, but it was never really "controversial" in the classic sense. It didn't create any negative problems or issues, although it did make a lot of people want to talk about the (Hiroshima and) Nagasaki bombings, which remains controversial.
Q: Have you met the creator, Fumiyo Kouno? What were your impressions of her? What was her reaction about having her work published in English?
Izumi Evers: I've never met Kouno-san myself. But I heard from her Japanese editor that she's delighted by the reception of her work aboard.
Q: There's also a live action movie adaptation of Town of Evening Calm out in Japan, isn't there? Do you know of any plans to release it in the States?
Patrick Macias: We haven't seen it and we don't know of any plans to release in the US. Unfortunately, it was kind of ignored at Cannes last year because of all the attention lavished upon Beat Takeshi's new film and this other movie, Dai Nihonjin. So it was sort of bad timing for the Town of Evening Calm movie.
Q: When the critical reviews started coming in for this book, and it started to appear on many prominent "Best of 2007" lists, how did you feel?
Izumi Evers: I felt that the reaction was similar to what happened in Japan when Town of Evening Calm first came out there. There was no major promotion for the book in Japan, but word of mouth spread and eventually people began to consider it a major work. So part of me thought that it might go something like that here as well.
Q: Speaking of future jaPRESS projects, do you have other books in the works for 2008 (and beyond) that you can share with us?
Izumi Evers: We plan on bringing more of Junko Mizuno's manga to the US, but we can't reveal the name of the next title of hers we will be doing just yet.
There's another manga we are considering that is so underground that it is nearly impossible to still find in Japan. This time, it's a REAL controversial manga, so making the deal might take a long time. If there are any fans of jaPRESS out there, thanks for being so patient with us!
OTAKU USA MAGAZINE: BY OTAKU, FOR OTAKUQ:Let's talk a bit about Otaku USA. It's obviously not the first U.S. magazine about Asian pop culture - but what makes Otaku USA different from the rest?
Patrick Macias: I think our strength comes from the caliber of our contributors, most of whom have proven their talents already in other media like books, blogs, and podcasts. As a result, the magazine doesn't have a single voice, but is more like a superhero team made up of different personalities, each with a unique take on Japanese pop culture. We try to entertain as much as inform.
But I also pick up Protoculture Addicts and Anime Insider whenever new issues come out. I think everyone on those mags is doing solid work as well. Print is still the best thing around if you are serious about media and pop culture.
Q: What inspired you to start this magazine?
Patrick Macias: It wasn't my idea. I answered an ad looking for an Editor-in-Chief. My initial idea was to open up the floor to be more than just an "anime magazine."
Manga was already such a huge deal in publishing. And if you look at our magazine, you'll see that we devote a ton of pages to covering all the manga that's out there, with a lot of emphasis on female-friendly titles.
Q: You've got quite a cast of contributors for Otaku USA: Jason Thompson (author of Manga: The Complete Guide and editor for VIZ Media), Ed Chavez (editor of MangaCast and contributing writer to Publisher's Weekly) and Shaenon Garrity (VIZ editor and manga blogger) . How did you round up this "all-star" cast to work on Otaku USA?
Patrick Macias: I met Jason when I was a teenager and he helped me get a job at VIZ. We lived together in a funky apartment in San Francisco about ten years ago. He later introduced me to Ed Chavez, who hadn't yet been discovered by Publisher's Weekly (I think we got him just around the same time). Shaenon Garrity used to work at VIZ and she's a major comics / manga creator and fan. I just asked them all to write for Otaku USA and I'm thankful they all agreed.
There's also Joseph Luster, who's really the co-editor of the magazine. And Daryl and Clarissa from the Anime World Order podcast, and so on… they're all superstars in my book.
Q: How's it going so far? Do you have any big features planned for the future issues that you're excited about?
Patrick Macias: Full steam ahead for 2008! We just shipped our fifth issue to the printers today and the battle lines are being drawn for the next one right now. You can look forward to more exclusive interviews with big name Japanese creators, which is something I really enjoy doing.