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NYAF 2011: Yen Press

New York Comic Con/New York Anime Fest is in full swing this weekend and the majority of their manga-related panels were on Friday. Publishers haven’t disappointed with a bunch of new licenses for the last big con of the year. Yen Press’s panel was up first with some new adaptations and new manga licenses, along with some really exciting news for fans of digital manga to top it all off and a good Q&A sesssion.

It was a lengthy panel with lots to share so you can see the complete post under the cut (or below depending on how you’re reading this).

The panel began with the announcement of two new novel adaptations, joining other titles such as Witch & Wizard and Soulless. First was The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, a story about an American girl who gets involved with sordid supernatural activity in Victorian London. This title already has an artist assigned – HyeKyung Baek – who also did the manhwa-adaptation of Gossip Girl. Their own works, Bring It On! and Chiro Star Project, have been released in English as well by Yen Press and UDON Entertainment.

The second adapation was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick which is a prequel to a strong-selling Hachette title called Dark-Hunters. The book will be released under the name Dark-Hunters: Infinity. This story is about a young man named Nick who gets introduced to the world of the supernatural in New Orleans. No artist has been announced for this title yet.

Alice in the Country of HeartsYen Press’s first manga license was Soumei Hoshino and Quinrose’s Alice in the Country of Hearts. This is a series that was previously released by Tokyopop before the company’s “shut down” in May of this year. Only the first four volumes were released. Yen Press will be releasing the complete six volume series as three 2-in-1 omnibus volumes, all of which will be released in June 2012. They did a similar release tactic with Yotsuba&! when they released every volume of their redone version simultaneously to catch up with where the previous publisher left off. Just as it was then, this is a great benefit to those who already own the last editions. In Alice‘s case, it means the fans who already bought the first four books will be able to just buy the final two volumes in one. Great plan!

It’s fair to say that a Tokyopop ‘license rescue’ this soon after the company dropped all their titles came as a surprise. With Tokyopop now trying for some kind of zombie-like resurrection, and saying they’ll be aiming to continue the series they previously released, it’s comforting to see one of the company’s most popular titles is in the hands of a very dependable publisher. The future of TP’s other titles remains entirely in the air but despite the TP ‘news’ as of late, it seemed clear during the panel that Yen Press is still looking at some potential titles from their library and fans are more than happy to keep recommending which titles to save.

Yen Press’s next license is a spin-off of the popular Haruhi series, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan. It’s by the same author and artist as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nagaru Tanigawa and PUYO:

“This spin-off takes place in the world of the “Disappearance” arc of the Haruhi Suzumiya novels, focusing on the high school life (and romance!) of a tentative and bashful Yuki Nagato quite unlike the one you’ve come to know and love through the usual exploits of the SOS Brigade…but no less charming!”

Next up was Until Death Do Us Part, a manga series by Hiroshi Takashige and Double-S. It was described by Yen Press as “manly, manly manga”. It will be released as 2-in-1 omnibus editions starting in May 2012:

“Haruka is a young girl with precognitive abilities that allow her to predict the future with incredible accuracy. Unfortunately, these powers have made her a target for greedy corporations. Haruka uses her power to seek the one who can offer her protection, singling out Mamoru Hijikata, a blind man whose inability to see belies his skill with a sword!”

Following UDDUP on the licensing train was Puella Magi Madoka Magica, written by the Magica Quartet and art by Hanokage. The audience was pretty excited for the title as it was announced, I’m assuming because of the popularity of the anime which was streamed in the US earlier this year. This version of the manga (the series has three variations, plus a light novel) is three volumes completed.

“Madoka had always thought magic was the stuff of her dreams…until she encounters an unreal cat-being at her totally normal school! The cat offers her a choice — Will Madoka become a Puella Magi in exchange for her dearest desire?”

Lastly for licenses is another spin-off, this time for the popular Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo. The spin-off is called Soul Eater Not and follows a couple new female characters with a distinct focus on their schoollife in the Death Weapon Meister Academy. The big news about this particular title is that it will be added to their Yen Plus magazine and, after a bulk upload in November to catch up with the Japanese release, will be posted online to Yen Plus subscribers within hours of the serialized version in Japan. This will start in January 2012. The first chapter is already available online to read in the October edition.

Soul Eater Not in Yen PlusKurt Hassler (publishing director) emphasized how this is a first time occurance of its kind in the North American manga market and that fans’ support on this endeavour could really help push forward simulantaneous releases of manga. “Help us, help you!” Joyously, as with the rest of the magazine, Soul Eater Not will be available to readers all around the world, not just the US. They have hopes for all the titles in Yen Plus to one day released in the same way. With the licenses making the titles available for everyone in the world with internet access, Kurt was confident to note it effectively eliminates all scanlators excuses.

At $2.99 a month for the entire magazine, you get a great deal (I’ve been subscribed since the beginning just for Yotsuba&!) and now even more so with a fresh new manga title available in English so fast. Kurt Hassler noted in the Q&A that they’re able to offer these really low prices for the amount of content because the magazine is available on a rental system (you can read it for a certain period of time but not keep it) and that ‘owning’ the digital versions would need to have increased costs they’d like to avoid.

Speaking of Q&A time, it was now Q&A time! Things started with someone asking Yen Press about any plans for other platform availability for their Yen Press app (currently available on the iPhone and iPad). Kurt Hassler said that yes, they were, but with things in development and lots on the go they couldn’t say anything concrete at this time.

The next question was in regards to Tokyopop’s recent… whatever they’re doing. What does Yen Press think of it? The subtle chatter in the room after this question was asked said a lot for everyone’s eagerness to hear Kurt’s response on the matter. Simply put, he responded that they don’t really think anything of it at all. “If they can do it, all the power to them,” He made a good follow-up joke that Yen Press would be shutting down at 5pm that night, only to re-open Monday morning. An audience member’s shout out of ‘so just a publicity stunt right?’ seemed to hit the nail on the head for many in the crowd who nodded and laughed in agreement.

Later someone asked about them considering new Tokyopop license-rescues, to which they answered they were interested and trying but running into the usual manga licensing issues. “Nothing happens overnight.”

When asked about any new titles released with the hardcover quality of A Bride’s Story, they said that it is a possibility if a series feels like it suits the format. They referrenced their new full-colour, large trim size release of High School of the Dead which clocks in at just under 4lbs in weight. That’s a very hefty book! Kurt also responded later to a question of if Yen Press was considering artbooks or calendars, to which he said they are and are asking about one potential title but can’t say which.

“Will Yen Press be doing another talent search?” – the answer is yes, though they emphasized that these talent searches aren’t a contest. The company are looking for new “on the cusp to professional”  individuals whose skills they can help foster. They also answered that their longest current adaptation work, Cirque du Freak, will be ending at twelve volumes which matches the original novels’ length.

JManga came up next with curious consumers wondering about Yen Press’s thoughts towards it, if there was any relationships between them and if titles being on JManga meant they couldn’t be licensed for hardcopy release. Kurt Hassler said they have no relationship with JManga and feel the site is “disingenious” by not clarifying what on their site is meant to be available content someday and what is just informational. He noted that JManga is, by their nature, positioning themselves as a competitor to English publishers. He added Yen Press’s stance is very much that digital and print need to work together and having one without the other doesn’t make sense. He also said they have no current plans to work with JManga in the future.

When asked about two series by the same author – Satoko Kiyuduki-they noted that both Shoulder-A-Coffin Kuro and GA have caught up with the Japanese releases and that the former is currently on hiatus there.

Someone then asked Yen Press about the anti-piracy collition that had been announced a while back. While intitially we saw takedowns of material, recently it’s been quiet on that front with illegal distributors of content back to their usual distribution. Kurt was upfront that a lot of work is being done in the background with contracts being signed and legal issues being put in order. He acknowledged that scanlators may feel they’ve been given “a grace” period, but that the collition will be getting very aggressive in the near future. All the power to them and best of luck!

Witch & WizardAt this point in the panel, two artists working on Yen Press titles – Svetlana Chmakova (Witch & Wizard) and REM (Soulless) – came to the stage to take questions.

Svetlana started by answering what it was like adapting James Patterson’s work. She said it was fun and “a big relief having the story written for you!”. Later someone asked if the artists worked closely with the original creator when it comes to character designs. Svetlana said they do, and in the case of Witch & Wizard, she did several versions of one of the leads until he was just right. She also noted that they don’t generally care so much about the secondary characters but the main characters appearances matching the author’s intent is very important to everyone.

In relation to the adaptation of Soulless, REM said that while she’s new to steampunk, she really likes it. She also enjoys working on Soulless because of all the action sequences she gets to draw. Yen Press noted that the title had been on their radar to adapt for a long time, which included publishing a snippet of their novel in the Yen Plus magazine.

When asked how the transition was between working for Tokyopop to Yen Press (both Svetlana and REM worked for TP), there were some awkward laughs on being put on the spot in regards to publisher vs publisher. However both emphasized how awesome working with Yen Press is for them. They noted Tokyopop’s staff were “very nice”.

And that wrapped up the panel! Shortly after Yen Press posted the news on their own website so feel free to pop over there and leave your comments, thank yous and questions to them directly.

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

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2 Responses

  1. Laur says:

    Glad to hear they're continuing the Talent Search. It's a relief to hear that the industry also has their eye on local talent and actively looking for good artists!

  2. Madoka actually wasn't legally streamed in the US, it was all fansubs, don't think that Aniplex has put up any legal streams yet either. In any case, it sounds like YP is getting a lot of big titles that will let them publish other smaller titles like Bride's Story in the future which makes me happy. Do wish that there was a way I could subscribe to just Soul Eater Not! instead of the whole magazine (since I'm only interested in Not!) but I can see how that would get really complicated really fast.

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