The first volume of Del Rey’s U.S. edition of Faust, the critcally acclaimed Japanese literary anthology, is due out in August and the publication looks to break new ground for American publishers: Faust is a 5 year-old cutting edge literary anthology that combines Japanese short fiction with manga and illustrations by popular manga artists—including the American manga artist Fred Gallagher—added to the mix. Faust is also is known for popularizing Japanese “light novels” or young adult novellas with illustrations by noted manga-ka.
Although Faust is initially being marketed to manga fans, it varies a bit from the standard manga format. Each volume will have about 450 pages, about 30 of them in color, and the trim size is 4 ¾ x 7 ¼, slightly taller and narrower than most U.S. manga editions. The $16.95 price tag sets it apart as well. In the U.S., as in Japan, Faust will be sold at chain bookstores as well as specialty comics stores.
“I think of it as being a McSweeney’s for anime and manga fans,” said Del Rey editor Tricia Narwani. Del Rey plans to publish at least two volumes of Faust, picking the best and most accessible works from the seven volumes of the “mook” (magazine-book hybrid) that have been published in Japan so far.
“I think it will appeal to the more adventurous manga reader, the one who is looking for what’s really new and exciting and what is on the edge,” said Narwani.
For the American edition, Narwani and Del Rey’s director of licensing and acquisitions Mutsumi Miyazaki chose a mix of familiar and unfamiliar names. There’s art by the superstar all-female collective CLAMP, Death Note artist Takeshi Obata and Loveless artist Yun Kouga as well as prose fiction by writers who are stars in Japan but unknown here. The first volume will include an excerpt from the novel xxxHOLIC: Another HOLIC, by Nisioisin, who is also the author of the novel Death Note: Another Note, recently released by Viz.
And in an impressive international double-take, the second volume will include work by Fred Gallagher, the American manga artist whose webcomic/book collection Megatokyo will be published in the Japanese edition of Faust. So far, 260,000 copies of the magazine have been sold in Japan, a number that Miyazaki said is “exceptionally high”
Like its Japanese progenitor, the American Faust will contain a mix of genres and styles. “There are fascinating variations on mystery stories, there is adventure; there is literary fiction that edges into avant-garde experimentation,” said Narwani, who sees Faust as a way to help popularize light novels, young adult novels that have a large following in Japan. Many of the light novels published in the U.S. are tie-ins to manga and anime series, such as Boogiepop and Kino no Tabi. “So many of the light novels that have appeared in the U.S. so far have had a clear tie to an established property,” she said. “In the case of Faust, with the exception of the xxxHOLIC excerpts, these are light novels that are influenced by the sensibility of anime and manga but are not part of existing stories. It will be interesting to see how fans respond to this original storytelling.”
Faust is in many ways the creation of Kodansha editor Katsushi Ota, who single-handedly edits not only the Japanese Faust but also the Kodansha Box novels, a line of specialty boxed-set book publications featuring Faust creators. In an interview at New York Anime Fest last December, Ota said that he started Faust to help the writers he liked find a venue for their work, rather than to fill a void in the publishing world. “I knew all the young mystery novel writers who were influenced by pop culture in Japan,” he said, “not just dedicated mystery novelists but up-and-coming writers who were influenced by different media.”
The title Faust was inspired by the name of Ota’s previous magazine, Mephisto; both names refer to characters in the German writer Johann Goethe’s play Faust. In another published interview, Ota described his anthology as escapist reading for young men without jobs, money, or girlfriends.
Narwani said the stories address that but don’t reinforce it. “I see a serious attempt to address the emotional state of somebody who feels disaffected and outside of society,” she said. “There are a couple of stories about the hikkikomori phenomenon,”—the tendency of some young men to become recluses. “They are fantastical but address it in a serious way: Why would somebody live like this?” Narwani explained. “You will find a commonality about the stories in Faust: They are about unhappy, disaffected loners and the predicaments, magical or otherwise, that they find themselves in often proceed from where they are in life.”