At a special Del Rey Manga Line Panel at the San Diego Comic-Con, Betsy Mitchell, Del Rey VP/Editor-in-Chief, and Dallas Middaugh, Del Rey Director of Manga, announced the first two manga titles in the Random House/Del Rey manga line, the first such line from a major U.S. trade publisher.  Gundam Seed, a manga adaptation by Masatsugu Iwase of the latest Gundam anime and Negima, a new series by Love Hina creator Ken Akamatsu, will be among the first group of four titles launched by Del Rey in the spring of 2004 (two additional titles will be announced shortly). 


The first titles announced by Del Rey share two prominent features -- they are very new series that have just been launched in Japan in 2003, and they both have considerable commercial potential.  Gundam Seed, which, like the popular Gundam Wing series, is set in an alternate Gundam universe, and like the classic Macross series is steeped in the world of pop music and pop idols.  The Gundam Seed anime has been a huge hit in Japan, where it has regularly topped the Most Popular Anime List in Newtype, and will likely launch in the U.S. in 2004, providing a great opportunity for cross-marketing -- something that Del Rey Editor-in-Chief Betsy Mitchell indicated would play to Random House's strengths in publicity and promotion.

Judging by the track record of creator Ken Akamatsu, whose Love Hina is the most popular manga series in U.S. bookstores today, Negima may have even more potential than the popular Gundam Seed.  The story of a pint-sized English wizard who comes to Japan to teach at an all girl high school, Negima is filled with the slapstick fan service and romantic comedy elements which have made Love Hina such a hit.

The format of the new Del Rey manga line will be familiar to U.S. fans since it follows the Tokyopop model -- 5' x 7.5' trade paperbacks that read right-to-left in the Japanese fashion.  The Del Rey volumes will be approximately 200 pages in length and retail for just under $10.  Dallas Middaugh added that rather than changing the Japanese language sound effects, which are integrated into the art in many instances, the Del Rey editions will feature off-panel translations.  Middaugh also indicated that Del Rey would attempt to avoid censoring the books, and would adopt an age-rating system rather than bowdlerize the contents.

 Del Rey plans to publish four volumes in a bookstore-friendly quarterly schedule.  Middaugh indicated that Random House may well expand its manga offerings by publishing some 'kid's manga titles' under one of Random House's children's imprints.  But he and EIC Mitchell appeared to be in no hurry to expand their publishing plans beyond the announced goal of twelve Kodansha titles per year.  Middaugh noted that the Random House Kodansha agreement (see ' Del Rey Announces Manga Line') did not grant Random House exclusive rights to all Kodansha manga titles, and that he expected that other American manga publishers would continue to license Kodansha titles.