NYCC 2016, Day 2

The theme of Friday’s NYCC was lines, lines, and more lines. Usually one can avoid lines by room camping, provided you don’t mind sitting through some things you didn’t expect to see. Not this year. Between Marvel Comics and Mythbusters, camping was out of the question. And so, the line.

After waiting in line for a while, they let us into the Viz panel, which is good as it was first panel of the day. It’s Viz’s 30th Anniversary, and as you’d expect was pretty big on hype, not underserved. There’s a wall of tribute art on the show floor from Japanese creators, and it’s a sight to see. They put out 342 volumes in 2015, not all of which were reviewed by me.

They did have some new announcements as well. Legend of Galactic Heroes had only had the first three novels licensed, with others dependent on sales. Well, sales were good enough that we’re now getting Volumes 4-6 of this series from Haikasoru! As a political space-opera, it’s a terrific page-turner.

After Hours had been announced just before the con. It was described as yuri, though they weren’t too quick to hype that, so I wonder. It’s about the modern nightclub scene, and two girls meeting and falling for each other. It runs in Hibana, which is the replacement for Ikki that Shogakukan started, so falls in the seinen genre.

Anonymous Noise is a Hakusensha title, so you know I’m excited. It runs in Hana to Yume, and is from the creator of Nosatsu Junkie (which Tokyopop put out some of) and Monochrome Kids. It’s about love and music, and has a lot of hype.

They also mentioned the Tokyo Ghoul Re books, but I think that too had previously been announced. The one title I had not heard of at the panel was Golden Kamuy, an award-winning series from Young Jump set during the Russo-Japanese war. It also features the Ainu, and looks really awesome. Oh yes, and we’re also getting the Boruto manga, but who’s really surprised about that?

The last two big announcements were a Pokemon artbook, which should appeal to fans of both Pokemon AND artbooks, and Vampire Knight Memories, the sort of prequel, sort of side story continuation of Vampire Knight which Hino-san returned to after Shuriken and Pleats sort of bombed. Still, I enjoyed the Vampire Knight aesthetic.

After this came the first big line, as I’d decided to go to Aniplex before the Spice & Wolf writer’s panel, but there was a giant Marvel panel prior to that, so wait in line it was. Aniplex reminds me (and humbles me a bit) at how much more fans at these events care about anime rather than manga – they were hyped, and cheered on even titles that cynical forum users have long abandoned, such as SAO or Asterisk War. It was very nice to see.

Speaking of SAO, the movie is being released in 25 different countries on February 18, and apparently that includes the US as well. The new announcement was a movie called I’ve Always Liked You, based off of a Honey Works music series. There’s also an anime version of March Comes in Like a Lion, which no doubt gives Honey and Clover fans hope that Viz will p;ick up the manga. In more in-your-face news, the supernatural hero story Occultic Nine features a girl with breasts so large she could easily have appeared in Eiken. It was then followed by the trailer for the 2nd Kizumonogatari movie, which could have done the same thing, but Hanekawa’s appearances were kept to a minimum.

Yen Press didn’t have a panel this year, but they did have Isuna Hasekura, author of Spice & Wolf, and his editor. I somewhat shamefacedly admit I haven’t read it – it began pre Yen On and I never picked it up, then when I realized it might interest me it was already too long. And the 1000-page omnibus seems a bit too crippling to me. It’s also incomplete, as Kurt announced the license of two new series – one is a direct sequel following Lawrence and Holo, and then other is about their daughter. Both will be multi-volume.

Hasekura proved to be a quiet but confident speaker. He says he got the idea while researching the Crusades, and became fascinated with the idea of medieval commerce. He was also reading the mythology of The Golden Bough, and also Sakuran, Moyoco Anno’s manga about an oiran. This combo led him to what became Spice & Wolf. He thought of Holo while reading a scene from Sakuran, and wanted to write his “own version” of that character.

Lawrence is a foil for Holo, who’s good at running scams and manipulating people. Hasekura-san says he’s not as good at reading people as Lawrence is, so the writing took awhile. As for why Europe and not Japan, I think he finds European History more exciting – it’s the era of dragons! I was very amused when he was asked how he researched the period – he went to the University Library. See? Libraries are important!

The character of Holo also helped him show off the old gods vs. new technology, and how he wanted Holo to be this sort of sad (but cute!) girl who is faced with obsolescence. He later admitted that he thinks the light novel artist gets this dichotomy better – the manga artist’s Holo is more excited and energetic. As for where he learned about economic theory, it was self-teaching – he didn’t take it at university. He just reads a lot. In fact, when he tried stock trading, it went badly – this was at the time of Lehman Bros.!

If you want a more apocalyptic take on economics, he’s also written World End Economica, which many in the audience cheered. But perhaps 17 whole volumes of Spice & Wolf was enough – he admits that he sometimes worried he would not get through the entire story due to a simple lack of mental energy, and found himself seriously praying to any god who would listen! He knew it was time to end it around Vol. 14, and began to use then last three volumes to move towards the ending that he’d already worked out by Vol. 2 or so.

He then moved on to his work habits, and he mentioned he can write in a home office, a restaurant, or a hired rental office – in fact, he has to move around as he gets bored easily! I laughed when he discussed how he became a writer – he mentioned ‘8th Grade Disease’, and I think was startled the audience, who had all seen Chuunibyou in various anime by now. He was asked about the definition of a light novel as compared to a normal one, and talked about how it lets you do things in a more varied and non-regimented way. In Japan, light novel readers can be as old as their early 30s! (This made me feel old, but hey, it’s not about me.)

The manga and anime adaptations were discussed. He seems to have let the creators do their own thing. He did discuss then manga artist liking big breasts, which is not his own preference (hence Holo’s flatness). He talked about the popularity of Spice & Wolf in Japan – it’s not really a series with fights or battles. Instead, the battles are intellectual. I was impressed to hear this was his first published series, though he did doujinshi before this (non-erotic, he hastens to add). Besides the S&W spinoffs, he’s also researching Mediterranean culture for a possible book, and working with a VR animation company.

Possibly the best first question I’ve ever heard at a Q&A – why was there no name for Lawrence’s horse? It’s sad but true, the horse has no name. He was asked if any of the anime seiyuu changed how he thought of the characters, and said Nora is a case where this happened. He mentioned how he liked Ben Bernanke, and thinks people are too mean to him. There are also other non-Hasekura economic books now, which makes him feel both pride and humility. It’s also worth noting that when he discussed how to get published, he said this was his first series, but it took him years to actually get a work accepted to be published.

He was asked about series he likes – it was hard to hear, but I think it was Hakumei to Mikoshi, a yokai series from Enterbrain’s fellows! Magazine. As for why a scantily-clad wolf girl was in a series about medieval economics, he admits that he just can’t imagine writing a slice-of-life book starring a girl like Holo. Lastly, he discussed religion in Spice & Wolf, which is loosely based on the Christian church, which like many other Japanese creators he got fascinated by through Evangelion.

After this came another long, long line, this one for the creator of Assassination Classroom, Yusei Matsui. This was in the big panel room, and rightly so – it was packed to the gills. We also had Matsui’s Jump editor come along, Murakoshi Shuu. Matsui was quite different from Hasekura, very extroverted and talkative. He was an assistant on the gag comedy Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, before getting his first big hit with the popular but sadly unlicensed Neuro manga. He loves New York – both the big buildings and the big blondes.

He grew up in a very strict household where he could not watch anime or read manga, but he still managed to get some excellent influences – JoJo, Parasyte, Dragon Ball, and soccer manga Captain Tsubasa. He never wanted to be a teacher, though he likes the idea of passing on his experience. Nor was Koro-sensei based on any teacher he had The idea of Assassination Classroom came when he envisioned what became the first three pages of the manga, with the students all trying to kill their teacher, and then tried to imagine what teacher could survive that… and what school would let a class do that.

He didn’t have too many issues with editorial, who are used to eccentric teacher manga from many, many other examples of the genre (I’m thinking GTO here). Simplicity was the goal here – both the basic idea of the assassinations, and Koro-sensei himself, who is an octopus drawn as a circle – very easy to draw, as there are no joints or hands. But he still loves to eat octopus! When asked about then secret to drawing a hit manga (as Neuro was also, in Jump terms, a huge hit), his response was “I won’t say!”, which got a big laugh.

We then saw him ink a sketch of Koro-sensei as the Statue of Liberty he had done earlier. While this happened, we got some questions for both his Japanese and American editors. Murakoshi-san was asked what he does as an editor, and in addition to shaping the story and researching (which he doesn’t have to do much, as Matsui is very good), he makes sure the series keeps its internal continuity, and oversees the merchandising of the series, including overseas. As for the US editor, she wants to make sure that the story is told well without people realizing they’re reading a translation.

Given the series is about a group of kids who try to kill their teacher, you’d think that controversy would have come up at some point, but neither the Japanese nor American editor noted any problems at all. The bigger problem over here is that some of the references and jokes are too Japanese – Jump manga here has a semi-unofficial policy against endnotes, so they have to find a good way to adapt it. As for life lessons learned from Koro-sensei, the idea that the journey is more important than the result came up, and I heartily agree.

The anime has already finished, while the manga is still (in North America) coming out, so there was a lot of “don’t spoil it” hemming and hawing – especially as the editor of the American version wants to not spoil herself! He worked very closely with the anime team to make sure that his vision was not compromised, and he advised them on how it should end. The ending was very important, which is likely why the anime rushed some of the middle episodes – they were not allowed to make up an ending like many other shonen titles.

His favorite episode was the one with Kayano’s giant flan (it amused me that he was using the English loan-word Pudding, but the translator insisted on ‘flan’, as the Viz manga had it), which expanded the details on how a huge flan would be made. He was also asked which character he’s most like – he said Koro-sensei, as he too is weak to boobs. (For those hoping for less boob obsession from Japanese creators, this was clearly the wrong con.) Hed also mentioned a love of Powerpuff Girls!

And thus ended the panel, and my day, as I walked back and boggled at the amazingly long line to get into the Hammerstein Ballroom, which extended past my hotel. I’m hoping Saturday is less packed. (What am I SAYING?)

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  1. Yay more Legend of Galactic Heroes!

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