Intern V-Log: Farewell, Veritcal.

So, today’s my last day as an intern here at the lovely and resilient Vertical Inc. Now that my time here is over, I must say that it’s felt rather short. I entered this company in September as a wee 21 year old whose head was always found in a manga or graphic novel and now I leave an almost 22 year old who’s always reading manga and comics. The only real difference is now I, in theory, have a college degree and something neat to add to my resume! No, really though, in my eight months here at Vertical, I’ve certainly learned a lot about both the manga industry, U.S. and Japanese, and how publishing works in general. It’s all thanks to Vertical. In my possibly not so humble opinion, there’s no better company I could have had this internship experience with and I’m quite grateful that I did.

I first asked Ed about the possibility of interning at Vertical during Otakon 2011 and at Anime Boston 2012 I, in a not so professional manner, forced my resume upon him and begged for him to take me on.  Later on, at Anime Expo, he and I had a long conversation about what I’d be doing at Vertical, all while I was wearing a homemade dress doing some fine Princess Jellyfish related crossplay. Surely, this was an appropriate way to start a professional relationship.  I’ve stated this before but I should reiterate; For the past eight and a half months, Ed Chavez has let me inhabit a small desk directly behind him in his office.  It’s next to a bigger desk that has piles of envelopes and boxes filled with Japanese manga magazines on top of it, though a former production intern, who’s now a friend, used to sit there.  It’s mostly thanks to him that I’ve learned as much about manga and publishing as I have in my short time here at Vertical.

Almost every day I came into work, which has been three times a week from September 10th until now, I’ve had some interesting discussion with Ed that would inevitably blow my mind.  I’ll be honest, every once in a while we would talk about food, which we both agree is a very important thing and that the pursuit of good eats is a worthwhile one. On rare occasions, we’d even talk about life, what with me being a kid graduating college. Most of the time, however, the discussions would either be manga or publishing related. Within that, they could be about any number of things, and because of that, my knowledge and views about these subjects have certainly expanded. Whether we’d be talking about the history of a particular author, the inner workings of licensing and Japanese publishing companies, the state of the American industry, or any other of a number of related topics, I learnt something new almost every day. Heck, just watching how our company works has definitely taught me things I needed to know too, much less getting to pester Ed all the time.

I enjoyed and was challenged by a lot of the work I got to do here at Vertical. Most of it involved writing and if there’s anything I’ve learned from that it’s that my writing still needs a lot of work! I got to do all kinds of writing here at Vertical, from lengthy blog posts like this one, travel entries about Japan, to press releases we’d send out with review copies and write-ups on each of our releases, called web-copies, that get posted on our actual website. These press releases and web-copies would all be screened and edited by Ed. More than a few times, I would end up having to rewrite them before they would be sent out to reviewers or posted online. Writing about our books in specific marketing and descriptive contexts proved to always be interesting. Whether it was limiting what I had to say to make my write-ups about  The Flowers Of Evil presentable or figuring out what aspects of Limit were the most noteworthy to write about,  writing in this kind of way made me figure out the overall strengths and weaknesses of each book. Not just from the standpoint of what I liked and disliked about each book, but also from a more unbiased perspective that’s necessary to figure out who your potential readers will be. I would not have experienced or even considered this kind of perspective, writing, or aspect of the industry if it wasn’t for this internship. It was, at times, a real challenge. For instance, writing about the Queen’s Blade art-book in an appropriate manner was not the easiest of tasks. However, I learned, and maybe now I can pass some insight off to others too.

Of course, some of the work I’ve had to do here has been standard intern stuff too. Much of my time at Vertical has been spent stuffing envelopes and boxes with our books and sending them off to various places. If any of you professional manga reviewers are reading this blog entry, I’ve been the one who’s been sending you copies of our books for the past year.  I must have made over 40 trips to the local post office in my time here, and half of those times I’ve had to stand in line to send out packages internationally. I know everyone who works there at this point, and quite honestly, this is the one aspect of the internship I’m not going to miss. Though, even this sort of thing in its own way is interesting. Mailing books I care about, with press releases I wrote, to people and places whose reviews and editorial work I’ve been reading for close to a decade proves to be a bit of a humbling experience. Doubly so when I mail books off to Kodansha, Tezuka Productions, and other Japanese companies, even if it was just legwork.

Unlike many manga, the world of manga publishing is not always a fun adventure.  It’s a consumer industry, one that has seemingly past its prime here in North America. Vertical Inc is, before anything else, a business and we are trying to make money. Unfortunately, we can’t license everything we think is good or that you want. There’s so much to consider, and even after that, it doesn’t mean every book we do license will sell. Despite this, I do think we have a history of putting out some of the best manga, from many Tezuka classics to modern favorites of mine like The Flowers Of Evil, Gundam: The Origin, and Velveteen & Mandala. While we have to be sales conscious, which is one very important thing I’ve personally learned, we do our best to put our plenty of unique manga, which is what attracted me to Vertical in the first place. I was a huge fan of the company before I got to work here, and even though I know so much more about the reality of things now than I did before, that hasn’t changed.  Manga’s important to a lot of people, us certainly. I think we try to do our best to honor that and it’s been more than a pleasure to work for the company that I honestly think not only publishes the best manga but has the highest quality of release as well. I’m very grateful.

I’d like to thank Sakuda-san, our CEO, to allow me to work here, Iannis, our chief editor, for taking me out for time to time and giving me plenty of insight on manga and editing, Yoshito, a former intern turned freelance translator and editor who’s become a good friend and an eternal pain in my side, and most importantly Ed, who put up with me, taught me more than I thought possible, and gave me a little space in his office to inhabit. While my time as a regular intern has come to an end, I’ll be getting to help Vertical out at a few cons this summer which I’m really excited for. Come say hi and buy a book or two. Or ten.

Keep Reading Vertical Faithful,

It’s been a pleasure,

Chris

Intern V-Log: Flowers Of Evil Episode 5 Review

            Episode five of The Flowers Of Evil gets off to an interesting start. Kasuga and Saeki are aimlessly walking around their little town on their date. Unsurprisingly, Kasuga is absolutely nervous, not only because he’s on a date with the beautiful girl of his dreams, but also because he’s her gym clothes underneath his clothing. Not only that, Nakamura, the girl who forced him into said gym clothing, is stalking them throughout their date. Of course, Saeki doesn’t know about any of this. It’s tense, the entire episode is tense, and you feel it. Out of the five episodes that have aired so far, this episode is definitely the weirdest one yet. If you’ve seen the first four you know that’s saying something. It’s also the first episode to successfully capture the intensity of the manga.

            The more you watch this show, the more you really feel it creep under your skin. Much of episode five really had my flesh crawling. Not because it’s scary, The Flowers Of Evil is no horror series, but because it just does such a good job of being tense. This episode in particular, every single moment is felt. The more Kasuga tries to struggle with and defy Nakamura, the worse his situation with her is going to become. It’s become as such that every time those two speak I can’t help but feel very uneasy. In regards to that pair, there are some really great scenes in this episode. The best being when she attempts to indirectly reveal to Saeki that Kasuga was wearing her gym clothes underneath his own.  The show did a great job of making you feel just how ashamed and embarrassed Kasuga was. Now, Nakamura unabashedly is the driving force in this series and her ever-growing relationship with Kasuga, artistic presentation aside, is the reason to watch.

             Last episode’s increased pacing, thankfully, continues with this one.  After the fifth episode’s somewhat lengthy, though successfully atmosphere building, opening scene, the rest of the episode gets into the thick of things without wasting much time. While it may seem contrary to the ambiance of this anime adaption, this change of pace is refreshing. Though, I’ve also been a fan of the time the show takes to define itself, so I’m hoping in future episodes Flowers Of Evil finds the perfect balance between the two.

Watch the show on crunchyroll, and if you haven’t, make sure to pick up The Flowers Of Evil manga at your favorite in store or online retailer.

-chris

Intern V-Log: Flowers Of Evil Episode 4 Review

Finally, we see an increase in pacing with the fourth episode of The Flowers Of Evil anime adaption. While there are still plenty of small nuances that the show gives the viewer to fully flesh out the atmosphere and ambiance of the show, this episode, almost entirely from start to finish, straight character interaction. This next installment of Flowers Of Evil brings the beginnings of Saeki and Kasuga’s relationship, and it also gives us the first look at her character. At this point, it appears like she’s as nice as she is beautiful in the eyes of Kasuga. Knowing what happens after does make it a little hard to look at this stage of her character objectively, but the show does a very good job with her, as she pulls off being nice while still seeming realistic.

Of course, we also get the next dose of the unique relationship between Nakamura and Kasuga. The better things seem to get between Kasuga and Saeki, the more intense they get with Nakamura at the same time. I don’t think there’s any other relationship in anime that develops quite like theirs. When Kasuga actually had the gall to ask Saeki out on a date this episode, Nakamura responds by telling him he has to wear Saeki’s gym clothes underneath his own or she’ll reveal that he was the panty thief all along. For the first time, we see Kasuga simply attempt to defy Nakamura and claims that she simply jealous. For now, I’ll just say that she doesn’t react kindly and that it’s a scene worth watching. 

Only second to the show’s Atmosphere and subtleties, I would say one of the strongest things The Flowers Of Evil anime has going for it is Nakamura. Between her absolutely devilish character, the honest way she speaks, and unnerving her facial expressions can be, she’s quickly becoming the highlight of the show. Honestly, so far, I would say her voice acting is the best Japanese performance I’ve heard in a TV anime in years. I’m really quite happy with it and I think her purposefully not-cute character design gives a contrast between her and Saeki that didn’t existence in the manga.

One other nice aspect of this episode is that it seems the animators are beginning to let loose a little, being more comfortable working in this odd style. Just watching the small changes on the faces of Kasuga and Nakamura can be really intense and compelling. The show still needs to work a bit on its overall impact however, and this episode didn’t have as nice backgrounds and such as the others. In fact, a few scenes in this episodes show running water from a riverside that was clearly just simply edited live footage and that seemed a little weird to me, like it didn’t fit. Still, this was a good episode and Flowers Of Evil continues to be an intriguing show. 

Check the show out on crunchyroll and if you haven’t be sure to pick up our release of the original phenomenal manga  here.

Intern V-LOG: Flowers Of Evil Episode 3

DANG!

What Flowers Of Evil has been doing right so far, it has been doing RIGHT. Episode three brings us, the lucky viewers, more absolutely luscious backgrounds, unattractive rotoscope glory, and that heavy atmosphere of unease which has become a trademark of this show. I would not say that this Anime is a particularly easy watch, but it’s one that’s well worth the time. As stated, this episode continues to excel in the ways it has in the first two episodes. I’m absolutely loving the time the show is taking to establish the town and the mood.The scene where Kasuga is going to school in the morning to return Saeki’s gym clothes is dragged out, but it does a fantastic job of making you feel how tense and unnerved he is. Little details in this episode, like Kasuga running to a young girl playing with a basketball and having a three second scene where one of his friends running up to him does nothing but poke him in the stomach a couple times before entering the school building, really do make you feel like this small insignificant town is just as much present as any of the characters. You begin to feel stuck, just like Kasuga and Nakamura.


In my review of last week’s episode I said I felt that, because the atmosphere of the show to so much more precedence over anything else, the actual character interactions between Nakamura, Kasuga, and Saeki were kind of flat. While I still don’t think a lot of the interactions were as impactful and strong as they are in the original source material, this episode definitely did it better than the last. There’s hope yet. One related thing I noticed while watching episode three is not only do these characters look and move more like real people than most anime characters, the way they spoke also sounded very realistic. I’m not saying Flowers Of Evil is the first anime to not have exaggerated voice acting (because that would be a lie) but it was nice not to have a “Kyaa” or “Uguu” in earshot. Though it’s more than just lack of exaggeration. These character didn’t sound like anime characters or even movie, they sounded like real people talking, especially Nakamura. 


While as a whole the character interaction, while definitely getting better, isn’t perfect, there was one scene in this episode that absolutely was. MINOR EPISODE SPOILER or something so don’t read the rest of the paragraph if you don’t want to. In the middle of the episode, after Kasuga chooses to hand Nakamura B
audelaire instead of the essay she requested in the previous episode, she tackles him down, forcibly strips him of his clothing, and forces Saeki’s gym clothes onto his body. Not only is it fun/disturbing to think about how the pre-rotoscoping filming process for that seen happened, it, in my opinion, was the most intense and powerful moment in the show yet. The subtle rotoscopped motions paired with Nakamura’s forcefulness and that creepy smile as she’s essentially having her way with Kasuga made for an unforgettable scene. I’d go as far as to say that the anime portrayed this one particular moment more memorably than the manga did. I’m hoping to see more of this in Flowers Of Evil.


It’s still slow paced, the show is moving literally a chapter an episode at this point. It’s okay though because what it is building it’s doing so spectacularly. The third episode has been the best of the three so far and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it will portray where the story goes next. Even though I know what will happen, I’m still excited to see what happens through the unique lense of this anime. Things are about to get real intense for our maybe-not-so-loveable boy protagonist in his rotoscopped adventures. 

Be sure to watch The Flowers Of Evil on Crunchyroll, but if you haven’t yet, pick up our release of the phenomenal original manga right here

-Chris

BLOG POST: On The Flowers Of Evil Anime

So the first episode of the anime adaption of our The Flowers Of Evil has aired, which you can watch on crunchyroll, and if you aren’t aware of this fact, EVERYONE HAS BEEN UP IN ARMS ABOUT IT! Both fans of the comic and those who are unfamiliar with it have been making a big fuss. This is mostly due to how the creative liberties this adaption has chosen to take resulting with everyone in the show looking nothing like their manga counterparts, or like anime characters much at all. All of the character animation was done with rotoscoping, which is an animation technique where live footage of real people is shot and then traced over to produce the final line-work. The result are not character designs who have soaked up the moe trends that have been present for the last decade but anime characters who look strikingly realistic, kind of eerie, and definitely not cute. While many have found these designs abrasive, some have embraced this different take.

As someone who absolutely ADORES The Flowers Of Evil, who past company responsibilities genuinely thinks it is the best comic being published today, upon watching the show I have welcomed these rotoscoped characters. You should try to as well.

For established fans of the manga, the first episode of The Flowers Of Evil, presents quite the departure. Not in terms of the story, so far the events have occurred essentially the same. As I’ve already explained, the character designs are completely different, but the departure doesn’t stop there. This show goes out of its way to present itself as strange. Not weird, not quirky, and not random, but strange. The pacing has been slowed down a considerable amount, and the anime uses a considerable amount of time to build its atmosphere which is one of unease. Plenty of establishing shots of rather gorgeous background artwork paired with strange but fitting ambient music that help set the mood and tone of the show. Of course, how the rotoscoped animation fits into the entire piece is important too. These characters don’t only have a realistic quality to their design, but their movements are, due to the nature of the animations, lifelike as well. All of these factors come together in a neat package to make The Flowers Of Evil an interesting show on its own merit. The creators didn’t just want to create a straight adaption, nor did they want to create something that the market was already flooded with.

I would argue that for these reasons alone The Flower Of Evil anime is worth checking out, of course the fact that it adapts a fantastic manga only helps. Be sure to check out both.

-Chris