NYCC 2014 – Day 2

Friday was another busy, busy day. To be honest, there are no more light days anymore, now that this is an official Day 2. It began with the Crunchyroll anime panel (they have a manga one later). They rolled out cute chibi-art of the staff, along with the fan mascot, chosen from a contest. Then they plugged a few new announcements.

Future Diary and Switch Girl will both get J-drama simulcasts. Future Diary should be familiar to anime fans. Switch Girl is a manga title I’ve suggested before, with a premise similar to Kare Kano – a girl who is a princess at school but a slob at home gets caught one day. On the anime front, they had Bonjour Sweet Love Patisserie, an adaptation of an otome game with an all-star seiyuu cast; Ultraman Max, a new sentai incarnation of the beloved franchise; and Case Closed, the long running anime/manga series.

They reminded everyone they are still very much in startup mode, and they are hiring new employees – see their website. They also discussed the complications involved in licensing – there’s a lot of moving parts most folks don’t see or know about.

After this, I room camped again, and thus got to see the Image Comics panel. It was a lot of fun – Image has come a long way in the past 25 years or so. Much of the start was intros and plugging titles. There was Madam Frankenstein, sort of a pastiche between the classic novel and My Fair Lady. Ghost is dark and bleak, sometimes even more than the author really intended – he discussed a scene where he had added a few jokes into a dark scene and the editor asked him to get rid of them.

Umbral is a dark fantasy, with the interesting concept that the dialogue balloons for magical incantations are actually magic sigils/patterns. They wanted to convey the idea that it’s not something understood by normal people. The Fuse is a straight up police procedural, but with SF elements – “what if Homicide: Life on the Streets crossed over with Battlestar Galactica?”. Nailbiter is a series that was rejected by several other publishers before finding a home at creator-driven Image.

Rocket Girl was the title that interested me the most, a period SF piece which stars a teen, but is not really written for teens – the adults reading are to be reminded what the mindset was like back when they were that age. As for The Wicked and the Divine, it’s apparently quite popular, and the moderator discussed the idea of “pop comics” – like pop music, having a broad-based, non-genre appeal.

Question time. Many on the panel also did work for Marvel or DC, and the difference between work for hire and your own creations is considerable. With work for hire, it can be a job to find a way to make yourself care. With your own work, it’s inverted, needing to see it made broader and more accessible to others.

At this pointy, Chip Zdarsky walked in with his banner and joined the panel, naturally talking about his work Sex Criminals. Chip added many moments of levity to the proceedings, as both the panel and the audience felt free to mock him. Meanwhile, the panelists mused on what other title they would “cross over” with if they could – given my general lack of knowledge of Image titles, I missed the gist, but the crowd seemed pleased.

For manga fans, the most interesting question might have been talking about Print vs. Digital. Anthony Johnson noted that he feels the manga boom was a huge influence on the way people read comics, and that the manga readers looking for something else seem to turn to titles along Image’s lines rather than superheroes in spandex. The newer, younger readers are also more digital oriented, so naturally the market is adjusting. Though there can be issues – Chip noted his title was banned by Apple from the iPad for content reasons.

Other questions that sparked discussion included whether the time period you write in makes a difference (with a side discussion on the cliché of “I’ve got no signal” for cell phones in horror movies, now a hallmark of lazy writing), how to write humor into dark, serious works without having it come across as forced (make it come naturally from the characters you create), and finding time to write on a busy schedule (make time).

After that, Yen Press had its panel, and they had a slew of announcements, though for once none of them were light novels. They did have several LN adaptations, though. The manga of Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? runs in Square Enix’s Young Gangan, and just began last year. Index fans rejoice, the manga of A Certain Magical Index is finally coming to our shores. This is a Shonen Gangan title, and at 12+ volumes as much of an investment as the LN was – Yen is pushing Index hard.

Trinity Seven is a title from Fujimi Shobo’s Dragon Age, so expect a lot of fanservice. It also has a lot of fantasy tropes that may seem familiar to followers of the genre, but it got a huge crowd reaction. The artist is also known for Psycho Busters, an old Del Rey work. As for Chaika: The Coffin Princess, a Kadokawa title from Young Ace, I could not help but remark on its similarity to another Yen series – it was joked that they considered calling it Shoulder-a-Coffin Chaika. The author of this LN adaptation is best known for Scrapped Princess.

Kodansha’s Aria magazine has proven a fruitful shoujo breeding ground over the last year or so, and we have another new title coming from there, First Love Monster. A 15-year-old girl falls head over heels for the boy who saves her from death… only to find he’s still in 5th grade! The artist has also done adaptations of the Book Girl manga, though that has not yet been licensed by Yen.

The next license was the most surprising, as there was a lot of Twitter chat recently about how it wasnt going to be licensed anytime soon. Prison School is from the creator of Me and the Devil Blues, but goes in a very different direction – comedic fanservice galore, as it features five guys in a former girls’ school where they’re hideously outnumbered. At 14+ volumes, I was very surprised to see it myself. It runs in Kodansha’s Young Magazine.

Then there’s Kaoru Yuki’s latest, Alice in Murderland. It just began in Aria this year, but features plots very dear to North American buyers – Wonderland, survival games, etc. Lastly, and possibly the biggest news, they’ve license rescued Emma, the old Victorian Maid romance. It will be released in deluxe hardcover editions, and is an absolute must buy. (Oh yes, it ran in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam.)

One last title, an English-language one, is Svetlana Chmakova’s new work Awkward, which is about the titular awkwardness found in childhood friendships, and looks incredibly cute.

I missed a lot of Q&A due to having my own questions. I asked about the paucity of digital rights for the new light novels they’re putting out. They do try to get digital rights for everything they license, but it’s complicated – sometimes it’s the author blocking it. I also asked about End of the Golden Witch, the next Umineko arc. Still being discussed, so expect another break after Alliance finishes. And they have no comment about Durarara!! LNs or anything else they didn’t already discuss, of course.

My next two panels were more “casual” ones, with fewer notes. Bryan O’Malley was in fine form, and had a lot to say about Seconds, Scott Pilgrim, and being a famous Canadian. Also discussed was the commodification of hipsters, how to “turn dark thoughts fun”, when to visit Halifax (August – I have to agree there), the influence of shows like Sliders and Quantum Leap, and whether college is a necessary choice these days. Oh yes, and plugging the book Love: A History, complete with “ontological rootedness”.

I also caught half a panel discussing women in comics, from creators of new incarnations of Captain Marvel and Red Sonja. It was a very lively panel, with lots of good advice and quick wit.

Lastly was the Takeshi Obata panel, which did not have much overlap with the Jump panel from yesterday. He was asked about his start as a manga artist – like many, he began to submit works while still in high school, and won a Tezuka award, to his total shock and disbelief. His earlier series were also written by him, including his debut Cyborg Jii-chan G, a comedy manga starring an old man, unusual for Jump. This made him realize that he enjoyed writing with a partner much more, as he could concentrate on the art.

The editors were also asked how they got into the business – applying for a job and working your way through the ranks seems to be a good way, thought it was also noted that having no talent at being a manga artist might also nudge someone in that direction. One intriguing fact – Ohba and Obata rarely met in person for Death Note, as both are very reserved and preferred to give notes through the medium of their editor.

Obata’s art was discussed. His adaptability was praised, along with his arrangement of panels on the page. Obata is the sort who is a manga artist rather than an illustrator – and that’s definitely a compliment. The collaborative process was discussed – for Death Note, Ohba did a storyboard and sent it to Obata. Obata then did his own storyboard, got approval from Ohba, then spent 3-5 days inking it. He also brought out his materials, including the ever-popular G-Pen.

He designs characters after getting inspired by the writing. The initial image in his head, i.e. the instinctual one, is quite important, and he also likes to know what “color” they are – yellow for the star of Hikaru no Go, for example. Speaking of Hikaru no Go, it was mentioned that this was a more realistic series to him, but he said he was drawn to it by the supernatural aspects of the ghost. And yes, portraying Go that well involved an awful lot of research.

Death Note’s popularity stunned both him and his editor, as it wasn’t a “typical” Jump title. At the time, Jump was trying to reach out to older readers, but the title still had to be accessible to their normal kid readers. Amusingly, he’d had Light’s design in his head for years, waiting for a series he could use it in – he was delighted to finally break it out. L’s eyes were one of his best features, and in fact Obata calls L his favorite of all the characters he’s drawn.

Bakuman was a title that unnerved him a bit, as he was nervous about showing the “underbelly of the industry”. But it turned out quite well. He was also asked what in-series manga he would like to draw in real life – unsurprisingly, Otter 11 was his choice. They also briefly discussed All You Need Is Kill, and trying to adapt a novel by choosing which moments would best be shown off visually in a manga style.

After a brief question on what it was like being an assistant to Makoto Niwano (author of the infamous Bomber Girl), which he enthused about, the panel was called for time, and I got to make my trek back to the hotel to type up a very long day. Tomorrow gives us IDW, Sailor Moon, and Vertical, Inc. Halfway done!

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