Kinokuniya in New York usually has one event for anime and manga fans every month. I have stopped in from time to time but December 12th was Anime and Manga day and it was a little bigger than their normal events. I got an invitation from Vertical and Mari Morimoto to attend the event because they were having a launch event for Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako with a dinner afterward. That alone sold me on a trip to Manhattan but there were few other panels that drew my interest as well. I will skip the embarrassing story that is a prelude to this event but anyone who follows my twitter might have noticed my blunder.
The day started off fairly strongly with an Intro to One Piece panel from the guys at the Unofficial One Piece Podcast. It was basically an hour-long pitch for why you need to see One Piece and it went fairly well. I did not learn anything new but that was not the point. The idea was to hook new fans into watching a series that might be a bit too daunting to start randomly. In that regard I think they did a good job selling the series as mixture of humor and whimsy with powerful and well planned storytelling.
Next up was probably the most blogged about event of the day. It was the first panel where Kodansha USA actually gave out information on what they were doing. Dallas Middaugh, formerly of Del Rey Manga, started his talk with a bit of introduction to Kodansha USA and what they were about. He mentioned what titles they got from Del Rey manga and what new titles they either license rescued or picked up for their debut. Bloody Monday and the Phoenix Wright manga were the two manga that piqued my interest. He also announced what they were continuing to publish from the mostly defunct Del Rey Manga. Obviously the titles that were saved were mostly things like Negima that sold well unlike say a prestige pieces like Nodame. Other titles apparently were still in negotiations but I would not hold my breath for more Moyashimon. Also I said mostly defunct Del Rey manga because they are still publishing Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle and xxxHolic which did not make the move along with everything else.
During the panel Dallas also took questions. The continued manga will try to remain as close to resembling the old Dey Rey covers as possible with the exception of changing the company logos. They are trying to avoid clashes with the books already in print. The new manga they publish will have a distinctively Kodansha USA style but that design has not been finalized. I also asked if they are looking into online content but I was told that the company could not say anything about Internet initiatives at the time. I got the impression that while they were finally able to discuss some concrete plans about the company and give releases dates they were still a bit unsettled.
The last panel I attended was Mari Morimoto’s panel of translating Ayako, translating Tezuka, and translation in general. Apparently Ayako was a nightmare to translate between all the historical events, unusual accents, and obscure regional references that would not normally come up in your average manga. Also some of the characters are actual people, some are slightly modified takes on actual people, some were made up for the story, and it is not always clear which is which. Amusingly enough the American military characters were the hardest to verify. The outrageous amount of work Mari put into translating just one lullaby in Ayako clearly shows her dedication to the craft.
After the panel there was a delightful dinner at the Heavenly Bamboo Restaurant. I had a long conversation with Scott VonSchilling, James Leung, Melissa Tanaka, her charming friend Mia Lewis, and several other interesting people. We talked about anime and manga scholarship, Leiji Matsumoto, incest, the digital revolution, and a good deal more. At the end I talked a bit to the always amazing Ed Chavez. We of course briefly discussed Type-Moon which is the way of my people. We also discussed the bizarre power of the Touhou Project and Japanese fandom in general. Proof once again you cannot have a conversation with Ed Chavez and not come away a better person.
Overall I had a wonderful time. The dumplings were quite delicious and the conversation was even more stimulating. If nothing else I wish I could go to more of these meet ups considering I live in New York City. They are always extremely rewarding.