On November 14th Dark Horse will publish Blade of the Immortal #131, the final 32-page 'American' comic book format issue of Hiroaki Samura's innovative samurai saga. Blade of the Immortal (or BOTI as it is known to devotees) is Dark Horse's final manga property to be released in the American format, and since the American trade paperback volumes are not congruent with the Japanese tankoubon releases, the series presents some interesting transitional challenges that Dark Horse editor Philip Simon explained to ICv2.


What frequency do you see for trade paperback releases of Blade of the Immortal once the monthly series ends?

It will depend on our creative team -- we're trying to work out a 'trade-only' schedule with our translator, the wonderful Dana Lewis, and our letterer, the talented Tomoko Saito. Jumping from a month-to-month schedule, where they've been working on 30 pages at a time, to a schedule that involves many more pages at a time will take a little adjusting to.


Will the format of the trade paperbacks of Blade of the Immortal remain the same?

Yes, for the time being. Nothing should change in the next few years.


Do the Dark Horse trades correspond in page count and content with the Japanese tankoubon?

No, not currently -- due to past editors' desires to keep story arcs intact in every English-language volume. I'll be taking steps to get us closer and closer to matching the Japanese editions -- and with Dark Horse Manga's Blade of the Immortal trade volume 21, we should finally start matching the Japanese editions.


The Japanese are up to Volume 21 -- how far behind is Dark Horse?

We're behind by roughly three volumes -- and our numbering system is off. For example, the material in Dark Horse's trade volume 17 roughly matches the material in the Japanese Mugen no Junin volume 16.


Since this is a lengthy series, are their plans for a series of BOTI omnibus editions?

A lot of ideas have been tossed around here in Dark Horse Manga brainstorming sessions -- including omnibus editions and flopped editions -- but we really want to keep moving ahead with the program as it is now -- but hopefully working towards more frequent releases once we get our production rhythm going. My favorite idea is from fan Jamie Umstattd -- who wants a COMPLETE edition with all pages in one huge book. Uh-huh.


Do the most recent untranslated episodes of BOTI include more of Samura's great shaded pencil art panels?

I just looked at an episode from a few months ago and the title page is done in that style -- so it looks like Samura is still having fun with pencil work. Stay tuned!


Do you anticipate greater sales of the trade paperback editions after the monthly series ends?

I do hope so. I hope that our monthly readers make the change and start collecting the trade editions -- and I hope that more readers become aware of Hiroaki Samura's one-shot Ohikkoshi collection. 


To help our monthly fans transition from comics to trades, Blade of the Immortal #131 (the final comic book) will lead directly into the Blade trade collection volume 20 (that's our plan) -- so we're making it very easy for readers to go right from the comic books into volume 20 with no hiccups and with no reason to buy an extra volume just to get two new chapters of story (what would have been Blade #s 132 and 133). We're adding those two chapters to the front of our volume 20 in order to allow fans 'easy access' to the trade edition world -- so Blade of the Immortal volume 20 should be a pretty thick volume. THEN I hope to follow the Japanese editions closely.


Will you be continuing with the cut and paste rearrangement of panels to keep the book in the Western left to right format or will you eventually transition to Japanese right to left method? 

We don't plan to change the format or reading style of the existing run of Blade books. We will continue with the same format that we've used for our seventeen (soon to be eighteen) existing Blade of the Immortal volumes. Tomoko Saito (our lettering and retouch artist) will continue her cut-and-paste approach, doing minimal retouch (usually just adding a panel border or two), and she will continue to add any sound effect retouches by hand. She's an amazing artist in her own right, and I wouldn't have anyone else work on the book. We plan to use this approach to the end of the series, if Hiroaki Samura ever chooses to get us there. We have no idea when Mugen no Junin (original Japanese title for our Blade of the Immortal series) will end in Japan. If it ended in the next few years, Dark Horse Manga's English-language trade collection program would probably roll along as is -- to give readers a consistent trade size and presentation for all volumes.  There have been talks about several additional Blade of the Immortal projects, but there's nothing firm to announce yet . . . and those cool projects are probably a year or so from fruition. While we're talking about Hiroaki Samura's work -- I'd like to mention that I would LOVE to send Samura's Ohikkoshi collection of stories off to the printer for a second printing. Ohikkoshi was released by Dark Horse last year, edited by yours truly, and perhaps this little plug will get any fans aching for a Samura fix between Blade volumes running to stores.