Katsucon 2016 – Vertical Panel

The panel discussion opened with Ed sharing about the history of the company which began in 2003 in New York. Many of the fans shared their love of Osamu Tezuka which Vertical published quite a few manga from. Ed prompted that many of the titles chosen for Vertical releases are not simply the popular ones from Japan, but those unique even in their respective genres that brings different perspectives to readers. “Shaking the foundations” is a good description for the types of books which Vertical chooses.

Turning to the masked guest, Ed dropped hints that he is an interesting manga creator whose name he is not privy to share. That probably raised a few eyebrows in the room. Throughout the panel, the masked guest remain an enigma though no one seemed to mind as I snapped quick photos of him.

The panel turned to titles which were recently released, starting with Girl on the Shore by Asano Irino-sensei. Ed notes it’s a best seller despite the 18+ rating. Described as a teenage romance and coming of age story set in rural Japan and inspired by Murakami Haruki. A mixed of moe style but profound and powerful backgrounds and artwork. An Indy comic from Japan, Ed describes it having visceral imageries of sex and doesn’t shy away from the story it has chosen to tell.

Series recently ended in 2015, Complete Chi’s Sweet Home by Kanata Konami-sensei is now in omnibus form with extras. Each volume is 3 single volumes with a new release every 4 months. Ed is looking into interviewing Kanata-sensei for future volumes and other extra content like new artwork for vol. 4.

Ed mentioned that they had done light novels in the past, but none with an anime tie-in. The novel, Seraph of the End by Kagami Takaya-sensei fulfilled that niche. Inspired by the Shonen Jump manga by Yamamoto Yamato-sensei, the light novel is a prequel to the main series and the omnibus novel edition has 2 volumes in each in 4 month releases in between. Described as a supernatural fantasy with ‘sparkly vampires’. (On a side note, I don’t think Mikaela sparkles that much though he is pretty.)

Tokyo ESP by Segawa Hajime-sensei is like “X-men the manga” with mix of supernatural, scifi, comedy and action with a strong female lead. Ed quips that the main character decided to single handedly save Japan with her fists even though she has powers since she studied martial arts “under a Yoda cosplayer dressed as a panda”. (I’m sensing ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Kung fu Panda’ references here.) $14.95 per omnibus manga release with two volumes in every omnibus, releasing every 2 months to catch up with Japan.

New release in February 2016, Ninja Slayer by Bradley Bond and Philip Morzez is a retelling of ninja history by two female ninjas. Ed turned to the guest for more information. He simply added that ninjutsu was involved. Studio Trigger and Funimation released the OVA series in 2015 with a 2016 Spring anime tv series airdate.

Since it’s first publication in 1982, the longest running female series, FukuFuku Kitten Tales by Konata Konami-sensei is cat when she was first adopted. The differences between this series and Chi’s Sweet Home is that it’s told from the owner’s perspective rather than the cat’s. Ed notes that cats don’t talk and they meow at each other. Ed points out that Kanata-sensei’s work is mostly textless and the story can still be told visually. The releases will also be in black and white unlike Chi’s colored releases.

My Neighbor Seki by Morishige Takuma-sensei is another “show-not-tell” type of story is about a student who sits in the back of the class and continues to do things which distracts others around him. Filled with visual gags and comedies with alot of cultural jokes that are common in Japan. Ed shared that he was initially worried that it would not translate well but noted that the fanbase has been learning about Japanese culture and should be able to grasp the humor.

Mysterious Girlfriend X by Ueshiba Riichi-sensei is a romantic comedy about a boy who is unable to live without tasting the saliva of his girlfriend. Fans quipped about enjoying the 2012 anime series and Ed adds that it’s refreshing to see a romance tell the story of a relationship after it comes to fruition and see where the romance will go. As an omnibus release with 2 volumes per release.

Ajin by hentai artist, Sakurai Gamori-sensei has a current anime release. Ed notes that the story is very dark. An audience member shared that the anime was featured in NHK World during their Imagine Nation segment recently.

Ever popular, Nichijou by Arwai Keiichi-sensei is a comedy release about suplexing deers. Not really, but Ed notes that there is alot of random comedy and insanity.

The Gods Lie by Ozaki Kaori-sensei is about a boy who is raised by a single parent family and wants to be a soccer player and hates his life. He meets a girl who is raising her disabled brother by herself and realizes that his life is not as bad.

Devil’s Line by Hanada Ryo-sensei tells a story of a society where vampires exist but there is a system to keep them in check and integrated in society. When a vampire goes rouge, agents are sent out to handle the situation. The main character is a dampyr agent who falls in love with a human.

Abandoned Scared Beasts by MAYBE is a supernatural story about humans turning into monsters in order to create a harmony in society, but at times they need to be hunted as well. The main character’s father was listed in to the military and became a dragon. However, he was later killed by one of his own colleagues. The main character attempts to save as many sacred beasts as she can. Ed notes that the manga is new in Japan with only a few volumes thus far with a possibility of an anime on the vine.

A personal fav, What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Yoshinaga Fumi-sensei is continuously released with vol. 10 in May 2016. The story is about the gay relationship between a lawyer and a hair stylist and the way they deal with their issues over meals. Food porn artwork with recipes in each chapter. Ed notes that aside from the food, there is a deeper story being told about being gay in Japan which is at times misunderstood in the West. Vol. 11 may be released in 2017.

Something different, the biography of Sukibayashi Jiro, Sushi Chef by Satomi Shinzo-sensei is released in hardcover and ebook in May 2016. Sukibayashi-san is the chef and inspiration for the documentary, ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’. The philosophy of the restaurant is noted in the biography as well as seasoned menu is listed as well as details in how to obtain fish and prepare fish. A biography it’s listed as, but sounds alot like a recipe book. Ed notes the frustration he has with working on this title since the publishers (Sukibayashi-san and Satomi-san?) is very critcal about the cover and translation. Ed suggested not downloading the ebook version on black and white kindle since the pictures are in full color.

Wolfsmund by Kuji Mitsuhisa-sensei is a historical fantasy which is very powerful. Ed notes that it’s very popular in Canada. He adds that the releases are slow since it is only released once a year in Japan.

New licenses! Immortal Hounds by Yasohachi Ryo-sensei is a story about a world where everyone is immortal. People kill themselves when they’re stressed since they will only come back to life. The government is trying to keep people from traveling to our world, the world of mortals. Hounds are there to help people cross over to the mortal world and the police are trying to keep them in the current world. However, the police are falling love with the hounds. Ed notes that the theme of the story is about how love is important to society.

Dissolving Classroom by the father of Japanese horror, Ito Junji-sensei. The latest release contains melting minds, grotesque imagery and strange situations.

New release, BLAME! Master’s Edition by Nihei Tsutomu-sensei. The new release will be 18 inches tall with color pages. The October 2016 will have extras by Nihei-sensei in 6 ominibus editions.

Bakemonogatari novel by NISIOISIN is a 3 volume with the first volume in December 2016 with the others in January and February 2017.

Ed introduced the masked guest, Philip Ninja Morzez of Ninja Slayer fame. Keeping to his masked ninja persona, Morzez answered questions which were about the series and the process.

Morzez explained that Ninja Slayer his way of sharing the true history of the ninja culture with the world. Taking centuries of the culture and bringing it to the future so that everyone can understand what the ninja truly are without any danger. He notes that he continues to hide his face since other ninjas are angry at his sharing of the truth to the world.

Ed points out that Morzez is also a ninja himself. He asked Morzez about his calling to become a ninja. Morzez notes that “life is danger” and “ninja is danger”. He notes that a life of a ninja is honorable. (Ed has difficulty keeping a straight face in this conversation.)

Upon the question about why they should read the series, Morzez quipped that it is so people should read it to protect themselves, to see what would happen if the ninja run free and attempt to take over Saitama. Morzez adds that the Vertical release is a beautiful representation of the story that he has chosen to tell with vivid illustrations of ninpo and ninjutsu.

Ed asks how Morzez finds the time to write and if his writing skills is ninpo as well. Morzez agrees, noting that ninpo helps him write without rest and focus. Ed asked about Bradley Bond and Morzez prompted that he is unable to share if Bond is also a ninja as well. He does point out that his own skills are stronger than Bond’s though he admits that they are partners.

Ed asks what happens if fans do not pick up the book? Morzez states “Death.” “Immediate?” “Immediate death.” *audience laughs* Ed thanks Morzez for joining the panel and welcome fans to see him over the weekend. Morzez exited the stage with ‘Domo.’