Aiming for America

By Andrew Duff

Recently, The Weekender was given the chance to interview Horie Nobuhiko, co-author of the manga “Fist of the Blue Star” and chairman and CEO of Gutsoon! Publishing and CEO of Coamix. Now, for anyone who hasn’t checked out Gutsoon!’s Raijin Comics – the first active compilation of manga in America – or its latest creation, “Fist of the North Star: Master Edition,” you owe it to yourself to check them out, since both are fabulously well done.

W: How did you come up with the name Gutsoon! Publishing?

-HN: We wanted a name that sounded like an onomatopoeia, but for a Japanese sound effect. It also means to do something forcefully, or with guts.

W: What’s your favorite manga included in Raijin, and why?

HN: “Fist of the Blue Star” because I’m one of the co-authors.

W: The mini-magazine Raijin GA (Game and Anime) is an interesting add-on. What was the inspiration for its creation?

HN: When we were doing market research there was a lot of interest in other parts of Japanese popular culture, so it was an experiment.

W: Raijin’s online community seems very strong, why is Gutsoon! offering so much to its customers?

HN: We wanted to keep the price as low as possible, and direct distribution [through the Web site] was the best way to keep the cost to consumers down.

W: “Fist of the North Star: Master Edition” blew me away. Why did you guys take so much time with it?

HN: Originally, several years ago, we left the translation to Viz, but this time, we wanted to show how good manga, particularly this manga it is. We wanted to breathe life into it and show why manga is so popular in Japan.

W: Any upcoming contests or surprises coming to Raijin?

HN: First, I don’t know if you’ve heard about our $100,000 manga contest, which can be found for subscribers on the Web site. We can’t tell you much about other plans, or they wouldn’t be surprises.

W: The artists and writers for Raijin put together some amazing work. How deeply are they involved in the process of their manga being translated and reformatted for Raijin?

HN: They are quite involved in the process, most of them are right in the building. We have to make small changes for American sensibilities, and we ask for their approval. There are daily checks with the artists and writers for approval.

W: Would you say Raijin comics is succeeding in everything it set out to do in America?

HN: No, we don’t believe we have. There’s so much more I’d like to do – simultaneous release of mangas in both American and Japan, and a two-way street with American manga artists. We’re only about 50 percent to our goals.

W: Do you have any dream projects you have yet to do?

HN: What we’d really like to see now is a manga based in America, with an American backdrop. We’d also like to work with Hollywood and turn some of Raijin’s mangas into movies. (This year in Japan, there will be brand new “Fist of the North Star” movie.)

W: What’s your favorite anime series?

HN: I’m a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki, who created “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke,” but I’ve got many I like; it’s really hard to pick one.