The David Welsh interview with Vertical marketing manager Ed Chavez about the publisher's expansion into more conventional manga is pretty interesting. He was quick to state that they wouldn't abandon the classic manga reprints that defined the company's image. The expansion was necessary to fund their classic manga titles, and for the long-term viability of the company.
Now this might come as a surprise to you, but our classic titles have not been bestsellers. While the titles have received great reviews and good publicity among certain communities they have yet to hit large segments of any specific market -- not the manga reader or the comic fan.I don't have a problem with niche publishing. But if Vertical wants to be more like Viz...Actually the planned expansion is fairly conservative. Most of them are the kind of offbeat manga for older readers that's expected from Vertical. Chavez even managed to wrangle two disparate Kodansha titles: Chi's Sweet Home and Peepo Choo. I'm looking forward to reading both of them myself.
...I personally do not feel any publisher should limit themselves to a specific genre or image. That's what imprints are for. But a publisher should try to bring in as many readers as possible under their umbrella. Viz has done much more than Shogakukan seinen since they launched, Tokyopop branched out of Sailor Moon...
The underlying theme of the interview is the still developing tastes of the manga audience. Chavez admits that most of Vertical's titles do not appeal to the traditional fan who not only came to manga through anime, but continues to link the two as inseparable. What is needed is an audience with a broader and more "literate" understanding of the medium.
One thing about the top of the line seinen magazines is that they survive by catering to mature readers. The word seinen itself means adult and does not make reference to gender. So do not be surprised when you see something with crossover appeal in Kodansha's Morning, Shogakukan's Spirits, Futabasha's Action, or even Ohta Shuppan's Erotics F because in general adult manga readers are well read enough that they can handle a variety of stories as long as they are presented in a well thought out and properly laid down manner...Manga fans resistant to change? No way!
Seinen manga can be as dynamic as shonen or shoujo, but it's so well edited that it's crafted to be consumed and appreciated by the masses. I think this is why historically [Naoki] Urasawa, Kazuo Koike, Hiroaki Samura, Yoshihiro Tatsumi and even Tezuka and [Takehiko] Inoue have done well outside of manga circles in the US. That said those artists have all struggled to find readers from traditional manga/anime fans possibly because manga literacy, in regard to comprehension, is still in its infancy. Anime fans in particular want to see a specific design in their manga, and that's a shame because most of what they focus on is character design and not layout. In a way I wish Hikaru no Go had more fans because the layout [illustrator Takeshi] Obata puts down is seinen quality, possibly done on purpose since he was drawing something abstract like Go to a young audience and was working with a rookie author who was learning the ropes of thumbnailing.
Finding seinen titles that crossover is pretty easy. Selecting ones that will actually work that way here, because some fans are more resistant to change though, may pose a challenge. So we are going to be very careful with the marketing of these titles.