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Digital Manga Guild

Digital Manga Publishing was among the first companies to recognize the importance of the Yaoi audience. This spring, DMP used the power of Yaoi fans and Social Media to bring a beloved title back to print. Hikaru Sasahara recently sat down with YGG to talk about its history and its future.

YGG: What made you start Digital Manga Publishing in the US?
DMG: It was a couple of things. My family still runs a small anime studio in Japan, so I grew up anime. And since I grew up with animation, I always wanted to see Disney. Because back then ó well still, it is the King of Animation. So from my childhood, I always wanted to go to America. That was one reason. And I always wanted to do something that was in line with my fatherís business which was anime. I used to actually distribute anime on video cassette. But then I switched to publishing. 
There was one more reason. When I came to the US in 1972, I always wanted a business ó not to work for someone elseís company. I wanted one of my own. I just asked ĎWhat would be good for me to do in America?í Being Japanese in America, what would that give me an advantage? What could I do that not many Americans can do? That happened to be manga. Just like I see Americans living in Tokyo starting their own businesses. They always try to do things that Japanese cannot do because of their knowledge, history and connections they have. So, thatís what I tried to do.

YGG: When did the company begin in the US?

YGG: Is the BL Audience different now than when you started the company?
I donít think so. They still seem to be the same. I think the size of the market has changed since then. The size of the audience decreased a few years ago. Now, it seems to be coming back.

YGG: The audience does seem to be growing. There were three Yaoi Manga on the New York Times Bestseller list last year.
I was shocked at that. One was ours. The Finder Series.

YGG: Congratulations on your Kickstarter success.
Thank you very much. We notified the publisher in Tokyo. They were very excited.

YGG: How does Digital Manga select the BL titles it licenses?
That is one of the few things I donít do myself, because I donít know about whatís out there. My editors choose them. They look at what the fans are requesting and whatís available for license to decide.

YGG: We noticed that you have had great success with Kickstarter and Tezuka. What made you decide to do a campaign for Finder? Everyone in the media was surprised.
It was mentioned everywhere that there was surprise. Thatís what I most enjoyed. When you do something new, you can surprise a whole industry. We did it for a number of reasons. A Kickstarter campaign is an excellent way to promote a title. Everybody called me crazy. But Kickstarter is a fan driven thing. It makes fans start talking about the title and learning about it.

YGG: Will you do another Kickstarter campaign for a Yaoi title?
We are definitely looking at that. We have to decide on a title. We canít discuss the title right now, because we still have to get approval from the publisher.

YGG: There is a lot of frustration amongst fans in the US about how few BL titles are published here as compared to Japan. Could Kickstarter be used to fund localization of titles?
Yes. Absolutely. We really want to bring more titles to the US, but the current licensing system in Japan makes that difficult. Currently, we have to pay a minimal guarantee upfront ó way before the book is released into the market. That is a really risky gamble. That system is from 40-50 years ago. There are 100s of titles weíd like to get, but that old system is a problem.

YGG: There was an article in Publisherís Weekly about the state of the manga market in the US and the potential for growth. Do you see a potential for growth in the US?
I believe so. Those old folks in the US that were screaming ĎAmerica is Number Oneí are gone. The younger generation is taking over. Iíve talked to these young kids in places like Silicon Valley. They donít care where the product is coming from, they just want lots of cool looking stuff. And the internet is exposing people here to so much from Japan. There is a lot of interest in everything from Japan. The manga industry went from zero to a six billion dollar industry. There is a lot of potential for growth.

YGG: Another issue for Yaoi fans is that there are a lot of BL stories in magazines that we never get to see here. Do you think you will ever localize magazines?
Yes. Actually, we were the first company to publish a yaoi magazine. We compiled 8 or 9 different issues. It actually went really well. The problem was that it is so difficult to get approval. Each volume was by a different author. Some said yes. Some said no. It was a crazy process for us. But it sold really well. Weíd like to do another one.

YGG: Do you think there will be a loosening of approvals in the future?
Itís getting much looser and lenient, but the thinking in the publishing industry in Japan is so old. They donít want to move or change. They hang onto the old systems. But I think things will change.

YGG: What is the current stutus of the Dgital Manga Guild (DMG)?
Before DMGís main focus was on creation of manga titles. While this still may remain true to some extent, DMG is now shifting to focus on training and recruiting localizers.
On a lot of our bigger projects, we need experienced localizers. While this is possible to find outside of DMG, we were looking for methods to give new individuals a chance to improve their skills. More or less, we are reformatting our ideology and our methods to create opportunities for inexperienced individuals that we can use on our other bigger projects.
That being said, DMG will still produce manga, but it will now be less focused on the bunk approach, and more focused on training and granting to experience to those who desire it.

Upcoming Yaoi titles from DMP for 2015:
ZE vol.10
Twittering Birds Never Fly vol.2
A Waltz in the Clinic
Even So I Will Love You Tenderly
Tyrant Falls in Love vol.9
Does the Flower Blossom? vol.2
Border vol.4
Iíve Seen It All vol.3
As Many As There Are Stars
ZE vol.11
Border vol.5
Does the Flower Blossom vol.3