And you’re not going to want to miss what’s up for grabs at this party.

Earlier we reported on the launch of the K Manga service in the US, which offers 60 English simulpubs among 400 translated titles direct from the editors at Kodansha. While that sounds great in itself, another very interesting part of the launch is the party which will be livestreamed worldwide from Tokyo on 22 June.

The overall theme of this party is “The Stories Behind the Stories,” which gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making manga for Kodansha. A pre-recorded interview with Attack on Titan‘s Hajime Isayama will give insight into the process, as will a short documentary following the editorial staff as they prepare a chapter of Taku Kuwabara’s Drifting Dragons for publication. And that’s just a bit of what’s planned for the two-hour livestream.

▼ Some of the artists that can be seen include Hajime Isayama (Attack on Titan), Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail), and Reiji Miyajima (Rent-A-Girlfriend)

Ahead of the event, I spoke with Yuta Hiraoka, an editor with Weekly Shonen Magazine who is also involved with the K Manga project. And to tempt you further into checking out the launch party, we’ll be giving you previews of signed artwork by 16 Kodansha artists that can be won by US viewers of the party, starting with these two.

▼ Left: Adachitoka (Noragami)
Right: Akiko Higashimura (Princess Jellyfish)

Hello Mr. Hiraoka, and thank you for joining us today! And also congratulations on the launch of K Manga. It’s only been out for a couple of weeks but how has it been so far?

Hiraoka: “It’s going to take a lot of time. I think that it takes a lot of time and/or money to raise awareness of any app.”

I guess launching in the American market is very difficult and a very different market from Japan. So far, have there been any surprises?

Hiraoka: “Prior to launching this app we did a lot of research into the American market, so I knew the difficulties involved in gaining users and having them continue to use it. So, what’s happening right now is more or less what I was expecting.”

What’s the biggest difference between the Japanese and American markets?

Hiraoka: “The manga readers are different and their culture is different in terms of continuing to read a title. In the Japanese app, it’s more common to have people come in and continue to read right away, but it’s sort of different in the US. That being said, the app’s only been out for a few weeks so we still don’t have a concrete sense of it yet.”

▼ Left: Atsushi Ohkubo (Fire Force)
Right: Hajime Isayama (Attack on Titan)

I want to talk more about K Manga, but first I’d also like to know a little about you. How did you join Kodansha and Weekly Shonen Magazine?

Hiroka: “My father was a big fan of Weekly Shonen Magazine so I was always very familiar with it too. When I first applied to Kodansha I initially wanted to join the Weekly Shonen Magazine group but was put on the Weekly Young Magazine editorial team for five years and then got transferred into my dream job at Weekly Shonen Magazine.”

I read that your favorite manga is Battle Studies, which I think is not so popular in western countries. Why might you recommend that manga to American readers?

Hiraoka: “Well… I mean, I like it but…”

You’re an editor at Weekly Shonen Magazine, so it’s probably pretty good…

Hiraoka: “I’m not sure I can recommend it though, it’s just that I personally like the story. But if I had to recommend it to American readers it’s because the themes of fantasy and romance can resonate with readers around the world.”

▼ Left: Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail)
Right: Ken Wakui (Tokyo Revengers)

Well, I think we can trust your opinion on that. So, you joined Kodansha and then became an editor for Weekly Shonen Magazine, and then after that, very early they put you on Magapoke (Magazine Pocket), the online Japanese manga service. You were very heavily involved in that, so are you still working on Magapoke too?

Hiraoka: “I’m more of an observer right now. The Magapoke chief’s desk is right next to mine in the office so if they have any questions we can talk it over at any time.”

I guess K Manga is kind of an evolution of Magapoke, so in what way did Magapoke sort of lead into K Manga?

Hiraoka: “I was with Magazine Pocket for five years and when I started the service only had a few users, but over the years it became one of the biggest manga services in Japan. What I realized from that was how when the reader begins a manga, they can ultimately develop a deep attachment to it. So, when entering the American market, I think that giving readers various opportunities to begin different manga can ultimately lead to something much bigger for them.”

▼ Left: Makoto Yukimura (Vinland Saga)
Right: Muneyuki Kaneshiro & Yusuke Nomura (Blue Lock)

Speaking of that, what do you think are the best titles to get readers hooked?

Hiraoka: “I believe that the titles that get the readers hooked are the ones that are already being adapted as anime. So, Attack on Titan and Fairy Tail are one kind of initial starters.”

▼ Left: Nakaba Suzuki (The Seven Deadly Sins)
Right: Nanashi (Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro)

What do you think is going to be the next big thing?

Hiraoka: “For the next wave, we’re thinking that they’re the titles that are in the works to be adapted into anime, so, for example, ones that are scheduled to come out like Shangri-La Frontier, or ones that are probably going to be adapted like Gachiakuta and also The Fragrant Flower Blooms with Dignity. We’ve noticed from K Manga that romantic comedies are popular among US readers so we think The Fragrant Flower Blooms with Dignity is going to be popular for that reason too. Wind Breaker has similar elements to titles like Tokyo Revengers, so we think that has a lot of promise too.”

▼ Left: Reiji Miyajima (Rent-A-Girlfriend)
Right: Ryo Ogawa (Ya Boy Kongming!)

As editor of Weekly Shonen Magazine you get many, many submissions from artists who want to be published, but do you get submissions from countries outside Japan as well?

Hiraoka: “We do accept submissions from overseas, but there’s a limited number of people on our staff who can actually read English or other languages. In the future, I hope that there’s a possibility for an editor to reside in the US for K Manga and then have submissions accepted there to offer more original content. That’s the kind of future I’m hoping for with the K Manga app.”

Yeah, that’s what I thinking too–this service could possibly open opportunities for American artists. So, for any of our readers who might be aspiring manga writers and artists, do you have any advice?

Hiraoka: “Read lots of manga, for sure. And practice by copying the artwork of your favorite artists. Actually, for anyone interested in becoming a manga artist, there is going to be a lot of good information at the launch party because our artists will talk about what they went through and how they became what they are today. I think that would be a great help.”

▼ Left: Ryosuke Fuji & Katarina (Shangri-La Frontier)
Right: Taiki Kawakami (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime)

Great, thank you. I think that’s it for my questions but do you have anything you would like to add about K Manga?

Hiraoka: “Honestly, I don’t just do this as a job. I believe that, because manga itself is usually created by one artist, that person’s beliefs are deeply instilled in that one title. Each title has a strong message of its own and I believe that it inspires people, so I hope that readers can use K Manga as a way to discover a lot of manga and find their personal favorite.”

▼ Left: Tsubasa Yamaguchi (Blue Period)
Right: Yoshitoki Oima (To Your Eternity)

You heard the man. This launch party on YouTube, which will stream here, is definitely worth checking out for fans and artists alike. By the way, all 16 artists whose works will be up for grabs during the event will also be giving pre-recorded messages to fans and Hiro Mashima is even going to treat us all with a live drawing. All in all it will be a great way to enjoy past favorites and maybe find new ones, just as Yuta Hiraoka hopes you will with K Manga.

Event information
K Manga Launch Party
9:00 EST, 22 June, 2023
Livestream Channel: Kodansha USA’s Official YouTube Channel
Event Website

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