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Interviews > Misc

Handling Hentai: An Interview With Project-H

Project-H

One of the fastest growing parts of the North American manga industry last year also seemed to be the one that flew under many radars – Digital Manga’s Project-H. Hentai might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve been surprised to see it discussed so lightly in the world of manga mavens. Even boys’ love, though while generally not as pornographic, seems to get it’s fair share of talk time.

Since it was announced back in mid 2011, Project H has been a swiftly growing part of its parent company. In 2012, they announced dozens of new books that would be published under it and, unlike the titles DMP has been announcing under Digital Manga Guild, almost every Project-H title is licensed with intent to print. With the cost-saving decrease in printing these days, the sheer volume of these books going to print is both a surprise and impressive.

I’ve been watching the imprint grow, and while my interest in the titles themselves have been hit or miss (like any other set of books out there), I remain intrigued by their apparent success.

With these thoughts in mind, I reached out to Digital Manga’s VP of Sales & Distribution, Yoko Tanigaki, who was able to answer a few questions about Project H’s past, present and future.

What originally prompted Digital Manga to launch a hentai imprint? (Love the logo, by the way!)

Yoko: Ahaha- Thanks! It all started like this: Fred (DMP Editor-In-Chief) and I were sitting down eating lunch… and suddenly he says, “Why don’t we do hentai manga?” and I said “Yeah… why DON’T we..?”

“We looked around and saw none of our fellow hentai publishers are around anymore… we felt that this was a perfect time to step in to the market and feed our hungry hentai fans.”

It was just a casual lunch conversation, at first… then later, ta-da-! A hentai imprint! Though, part of me thinks Fred has seen one too may yaoi manga and male body parts.. and he needed to see something fresh and different? *giggles* I don’t know. But DMP needed something new and different. And this was it.

We looked around and saw none of our fellow hentai publishers are around anymore… we felt that this was a perfect time to step in to the market and feed our hungry hentai fans.

Yes, at the time, we had a few female employees that were opposed to this move and the imprint. We didn’t want to offend those ladies, so we decided to speak in “code” and we’d joke about it and say this is a CovertOp “Project-H.” And the name just grew on us. So, here we are: PROJECT-H BOOKS!

Digital Manga announced a lot of Project-H licenses throughout  summer 2012. Originally there were only a few titles licensed during and near after the imprint’s launch in August 2011. Were you expecting to be amassing such a large library of titles at this point in the imprint’s life or is this an unexpected licensing development?

Yoko: *Reflecting back* Yah… we did announce a lot this summer, didn’t we?

Originally, we licensed SHOCKING PINK!, THREE P and EMBRACE & BLOOM. And we told ourselves, “we’ll see how it goes.”

Turns out, it was an overnight success- the Japanese publishers were very happy with our performance. They’ve been trying to push their product to overseas but not much luck. They knew this was their opportunity to do so. At the end of 2011, our president Hikaru Sasahara went to Japan to see as many hentai publishers as he could. All of them were eager to work with us, hence amass of licenses.

I didn’t expect to get this big in such a short period of time.

Has the company seen success with the Project-H books currently released?

Yoko: Yes. We enjoy and appreciate every minute of it. Our fans been great. Our partners and Japanese publishers been great.

Are you able to divulge approximately how large the print runs are for each book?

Yoko: I can’t release the exact number of print runs. But I’ll say this: we’ve been printing more than our regular yaoi manga so far.

Digital Manga has shifted a large portion of its catalogue to digital only via the Digital Manga Guild. What influenced your decision to publish Project-H’s licenses as print only?

“The Japanese publishers are still very wary of the US digital distribution system.”

Yoko: The Japanese publishers are still very wary of the US digital distribution system. We needed to tell them how it worked, where we sell our digital books, and how they are paid. There has been numerous skype meetings and conference calls since- to let them know of all that. Now that they understand the overall picture better, they are ok with both print & digital publishing.

Is there a particular place that the Project-H books have been selling best? Akadot, Amazon, direct market, etc.

Yoko: The top performers are: Amazon, for sure. . Then the direct markets – handled by Diamond comics. Then Akadot. In that order.

Do these sales trend differ from where your boys’ love books sell?

Yoko: Yes. With our BL manga, it’s: Amazon, Akadot then the direct market.

Do you find it’s more difficult to promote Project-H titles through the usual manga channels? Are there different approaches and places you’ve used to promote them?

“Reputation is extremely important to us. We are trying to push sexy and classy.”

Yoko: Yes. And it’s a struggle everyday.. but that’s nothing new for me/us. We’ve struggled to push 801Media imprint for a while. And we’ve had that removed from a certain storefronts. My number one priority goes to the fans. They say it, we listen. Social Networking is HUGE for Project-H Books. Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Reputation is extremely important to us. We are trying to push sexy and classy.

Project-H worked with scanlators for the adaptation of Velvet Kiss. Is this something you see happening with other Project-H titles that have been scanlated before, or was it a special case situation when the scanlators approached you?

Yoko: I suppose you could say “we hired scanlators.” And it is, just that. They approached us for this particular title. We simply wanted to hire the best and most qualified people for the job. And that was them. It’s been the greatest thing we ever did. It’s also been a great promotion. We always welcome new ways to introduce our products and services to our fans.

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My thanks to Yoko for taking the time to answer the questions she could – it sounds like Project-H is doing pretty well. I was especially surprised to hear it’s even out preforming some of their boys’ love titles. It goes to show that just because you don’t see or hear the fans as obviously, it doesn’t mean they’re not out there in force!

You can learn more about Digital Manga and Project-H on their websites.

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. 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. chloes_fork says:

    Thanks for this interview. I freaking love what Project-H is doing. I’ve bought every single one of their titles to date, and fully intend to continue doing so — even though, considering their accelerating release schedule, that may bankrupt me *and* crowd me out of house and home.

    Some have complained that their releases are too vanilla, but personally, I prefer P-H’s brand of “sexy fun” to the heavy nonconsensual/BDSM themes so much hentai trades in. (That said, a bit more variety — say, some futanari or non-rapey NTR — would not go amiss.)

    The other complaint I hear about Project-H is that most of their releases to date have retained Japanese censorship. Doesn’t bother me, and in fact it’s preferable to having some staffer drawing in the naughty bits, as I believe at least one former American hentai publisher used to do. One could even argue it makes for a more authentically “Japanese” reading experience. I just hope Project-H never perpetrates any censorship of their own to their releases; that is the one thing that would turn me against the company in a heartbeat.

  2. [...] publishers are opening up more and more on that front. You can read bit more about that in my recent interview with Project-H’s VP of Sales & [...]

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