Denpa Books is a newly launched independent manga publisher based in Portland Ore.
The new house was cofounded by Ed Chavez, former long-time marketing director at Kodansha’s Vertical Comics imprint, and Jacob Grady, founder and CEO of Fakku, a fast-growing publisher of adult (aka hentai or sexually explicit) manga, also based in Portland.
While Denpa and Fakku share some staff, the two publishing companies are separate entities, with distinctly different approaches to their publishing line-up. Denpa will offer a broad range of manga, Chavez explained, but will focus on an edgy, eclectic array of stories aimed at grown-up readers. The house debuted its first list at AnimeNYC in November 2018, launching with four titles.
In Japanese, “Denpa” has a literal meaning (“electromagnetic waves”), and a colloquial meaning (delusional, disconnected, or prone to wild fantasy) and the publishing house's name is a combination of those meanings. “The notion of waves stuck with me given how we are in an increasingly digital age. It's also a crazy idea, so I thought the name described the project well in a humorous way,” Chavez said.
Denpa’s initial line-up of titles includes gritty fare like Gambling Apocalypse KAIJI by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, the story of a group of down-on-their-luck men pitting their wits and guts against mobsters in high-stakes gambling challenges. Also released late last year was An Invitation from a Crab by panpanya, an anthology of experimental manga short stories; and Inside Mari by Shuzo Oshimi (creator of The Flowers of Evil), the story of an extremely introverted college student who switches bodies with a pretty, popular co-ed.
Denpa announced three new titles during AnimeNYC in November, including quirky horror master Shintaro Kago’s Super-Dimensional Love Gun, Pleasure and Corruption, a dark teen romance with BDSM undertones, and Heavenly Delusion, a sci-fi manga series by Masakazu Ishiguro. They’re also exploring licensing yaoi/boys love and yuri/girls love manga genres, and josei manga titles, which are aimed at older women readers, as well as acquiring doujinshi or self-published manga.
Currently Denpa Books distributes its books into the market via direct sales to online retailers such as Amazon, and Right Stuf; independent bookstores as well as to select comic shops and other physical bookstores.
“We're in early talks with full-service distributors in the U.S. and U.K. right now,” said Chavez. “Most of our sales are handled in-house as we are setting up accounts with retailers in North America.”
U.S. manga sales have been on the rise for several years. And a new generation of North American manga readers, Chavez explained, are more receptive to content beyond the usual teen-focused categories. “Manga is much more than just ninjas and fantasy titles,” said Chavez.
Many North American manga publishers have direct relationships to, or investment from, Japanese manga publishers. But Chavez and Grady are aiming to keep Denpa independent and open to licensing titles from various publishers. To date, they’ve picked up titles from such Japanese manga publishers as Kodansha, Kadokawa, Square Enix, Futabasha, Hakusensha and Wanimagazine.
Chavez said the titles on the Denpa list “are not what is commonly seen on American manga bookshelves.” And Grady added: “the manga industry in the United States has been stagnating for years. There has been little innovation in terms of what content has been licensed and how it is being delivered to consumers. Starting an independent company that expands the market for manga outside of Japan has been a goal of mine for many years.”