Jul 25, 2012
For today’s Otakultura RTMI feature, we have an interview with Oh-No! Manga’s Branch Manager Arnold Morales, for the Philippine’s pioneer manga anthology. In this interview, we will get to know more of this up and rising comic publication as well as their new event in store.
OTK: Please kindly introduce yourself.
OHM: I’m Arnold Morales, and I’m the Brand Manager for Oh-No! Manga. To date, there are two of us
but he’s currently overseas exploring opportunities outside the Philippines for the brand.
OTK: So why is your partner currently abroad?
OHM: If you’ll notice print issues are a jump off ultimately if you noticed us at Otakuzine or Ozinefest. You’ll see there the flash games and videos. So basically Oh-No! Manga is starting out on print and would gradually diversify to other mediums like gaming, animation, merchandise in both digital and traditional. We’re exploring such opportunities there.
OTK: What made you think to start Oh-No! Manga?
OHM: Actually what made the push is more of a hobby during our childhood. Now what we’re working professionals, it came to pass. Now, you can see our like with manga and anime with the advancement of digital technology and animation. So you can say the environment now is perfect at this point in time.
OTK: Yes, since there’s an strong enthusiasm for manga right now.
OHM: It really got a boom. In the past it was Voltes V, Daimos, and Mazinger Z as well as Dragonball and others. During our generation, we had our priorities so it could not be helped. So for the generation 2-3 years younger than us, it’s just right with the wave. If you can remember when GMA launched “We are Anime”, that was it. That was when the hype came in.
OTK: So what was the inspiration for starting this company?
OHM: Basically we went back to the community. We observed that 1) the community was ripe and 2) the talent was stable; they were already there. So for us, why not help other people reach their goals. It is a support to the community.
OTK: I can kind of understand what you mean by the community being ready. I remember during the nineties the culture for comics; cartoons, manga, and anime were still mixed. I think it’s good to say that the culture now is totally different for western and eastern.
OHM: Exactly, you can really see a demarcation.
OTK: So how does the publication process work?
OHM: The publication works like this. Like I said earlier, we are more on the support of local talent. The concept of publication is an anthology; so it’s a compilation of so many artists, so many writers, and so many colorists. Sometimes the writers are different from the artists before it is submitted. That’s why they’re more like freelancers. Yes, we do have an in-house group but we do also have contributors. So unlike other publications that the talent is with us in the company, it’s more of the work of others – not what we want but what the people want. The balance for example, we have 5 books. The content of the 5 books didn’t come from us; the content of the books came from the contributors who know more of the market, their audience – their followers.
OTK: So that means you are aiming at different target audiences?
OHM: Yes, take for example Better Boyfriend of Enjelia Villanueva. Even before it went out in Oh-No! Manga it already had a good fan base; international too. And her talent, her works, was already exposed in the net. So, to properly feature her talent as a Filipino manga artist, we gave her the opportunity to show her work in print. Now even some of our in-house artists like Power-J, he’s also very well-known in the circle. He also has a book and a story. Our other contributors also have their own audience. Some have sci-fi, the others more on adventure related.
OTK: Yes, I noticed that too with other competitors. They work as a compilation usually, but from what I can see here there’s around 1 story per release.
OHM: Actually the format we’re doing is 2 titles per issue. So far almost all of our releases are a mixture of anchor novels held by in-house artists and the one-shots that are submitted by contributors. That’s why you’ll notice in our 5 books are all main series; three consist of a series and a mix of a one-shot.
OTK: So that means that you are open for one-shots?
OHM: Yes to all one-shots, to mini-series that we’ll run for 4 issues only, or even full blown series that will run for a year.
OTK: As long as it’s interesting.
OHM: As long as the feedback is good from the market. It’s easier to review something if the artist or the contributor already has a strong reputation. If they’re new they can start with a one-shot, then look at the feedback; then, build up the exposure for balance. And since the story didn’t come from us, technically we aren’t dictating the content of the story. Of course we still edit them. That’s why if you’ll look at Enjelia’s work for example, her work is already in chapter 8 for the online version; but, the one released here at Oh-No! Manga currently is in chapter 1 and it’s different from the original chapter 1. The same goes all the way up to chapter 4 which is totally different from its online counterpart. It’s so that the experience will be different; but it’s basically the same story.
OTK: can you say something about your current artists/contributors and series?
OHM: The authors with a series running right now are Enjelia’s Better Boyfriend. There’s also Jayron Zapanta, his is Coin and Flour. Enjelia telecommutes with us when working with Oh-No! Manga. For the one-shot contributors, if they have something to submit it could be by referral from our in-house. So we have two in-house artists with Enjelia and Jayron Zapanta. For other contents that you can see, like Girl Gamer Girlfriend, it’s also Enjelia’s but we had to stall it because we still don’t have any clearance with the story line since Ragnarok Online is involved. That’s why that series is on hold for the moment.
So that’s the exposure for in-house artists which hold their own series. The contributors from third parties have one-shots. We’re also learning how to turn them into series too.
OTK: So it’s comparable to what other publications do that go with a one-shot first, then if the feedback is good; they’ll turn it into a series.
OHM: Yes, exactly.
OTK: So what’s the future of Oh-No! Manga?
OHM: The future of Oh-No! is to showcase Filipino talent in a global scale. The usual case is, Filipinos only know that a Filipino made a work once they’ve seen it from abroad; and then they just realize that the person who made it was a Filipino.
OTK: Yes, that usually happens to comic book artists like in DC and Marvel.
OHM: For this it’s the opposite, you’re going to say it up front that it’s made by Filipinos; then introduce it overseas. That’s why we’re aiming to be the premiere manga anthology in the Philippines. Now it starts with publication because it’s the easiest to traduce. You edit it, you print it, and then you distribute it. After publication, is merchandise once you have a solid following for the works. We’ll go into merchandising like figures, dolls, key chains, etc. Then third, there’re games, flash games, interactive games, downloadable like those in the appstore, choose your own adventure games; interactivity is the focus with the capacity of technology. It’s just a waste if you say you’re going to limit yourself in print. You just have to validate first [the works], then go on to digital media. If print is easy, digital is easier because all you have to do is download it since it’s in online. You can instantly distribute that overseas but of course it doesn’t have to stop there. There’s a difference in the Philippine exposure from the Asian exposure. After the print, the exposure, and the merchandise here in the Philippines; once you’ve established the brand, not necessarily the market since it’s subjective, once you’ve established the brand here the “Oh-No! Manga” brand. It goes out, first in Singapore and hopefully in Canada because you can showcase the talent then. I’m sure the foreign interest for these can double for Filipino talent. People already see these here since it’s already here, they already know these since we’re used to it –especially the works and art of these artists. Once the works go abroad it’s a totally different game. Once it goes overseas, the thing that presents as a resume or the basis of Oh-No! Manga is the Philippine market; it’s the Philippine exposure, the Philippine brand name. So after that, once it goes overseas, since we’re seeing a bigger wave of interest outside the Philippines, because of the well rounded interests. There’s works from Japan, Singapore, as well as China; once you present it outside the Philippines you’re not limited to the complexity of the Philippine market because in the Philippine market you already have followers. Of course you have to survive, you have to generate revenue. Since us Filipinos, we’re a thrifty people that’s the part that needs to convert. Once we gain a folio here in the Philippines, we’re going to export it hopefully by the end of the year. It’s that fast. Technically it’s easy, once you’ve made a folio then you have a market locally then you multiply then send it outside the country after editing it for cultural sensitivity. That’s why right now, if you’ll notice, our releases are in English. There are a lot of Filipinos who want to submit in Tagalog, not that we dislike Tagalog, but it’s difficult to export because you have to translate it first. Ultimately the market is not limited to the Philippines.
OTK: So there’s a possibility to expand.
OHM: It’s not a possibility, we will do it, and we will expand. It’s part of the plan. We first have to have a solid base in the local market; actually not just the local market. We need to have a solid known brand locally, so, for example, it reaches Singapore they’ll say, “Ah, this is Oh-No! Manga from the Philippines,” and not “This is Oh-No! Manga that sells well.” Not like that. It’s the strength of the brand, not the business plan.
OTK: We’ve heard that you’re going to hold an event. Can you say some details regarding this?
OHM: Basically the upcoming event is this July 29 at SM City North EDSA Sky Dome. It will be the first Oh-No! Manga cosplay camp as well as the official launch of our pilot series; namely Better Boyfriend and Coin and Flour and Silent Destiny Onusa, which is our fantasy related title. It’s more of a writer’s event, more of a publication event to showcase the titles that are ready to be launched – previously we had to rely on third party conventions. What they’ll think is that it’s an indie or informal publication. Of course it’ll still be for the community, we won’t limit it to just manga, it has to be well rounded so there will be cosplay, vocaloid, jpop, singing, and the bands. It’s going to be a concert of some sort.
OTK: So total entertainment?
OHM: Well, we’d like to see it as that [laughs]. But of course, the manga component should still be there, that would be our primary material. In the event we’re going to have competitions like the vocabattle singing, karaoke competition, dance battle, there will also be a battle of the bands. There will also be a manga drawing contest. The prizes are good for the manga drawing contest, actually all of them. There will also be a cosplay competition. That would be our anchor, the unifying factor. In the cosplay competition, we’ll be giving away 1 netbook computer as the main prize. The vocabattle, band battle, and dance contest, we’ll be giving mp3 players. For the manga drawing competition, we’ll be giving away items from Art Media. That would be our three main competitions. In the convention, there will also be a unique 18 foot Gundam display. Aside from the competition and the display, there will also be an on-going production for a cosplay book for release this September 2012. Oh-No! Manga is now accepting contributions for the cosplay book from whoever wants to get featured in the yearbook/annual coffee table book for the Philippines. Right now, our program is that, if possible, annual or if the demand is good, quarterly.
OTK: So final words and invitations for the readers of this interview?
OHM: Before the last remark, there’s still more! [laughs] We’ll also be having an indie sketching studio so Oh-No! Manga artists will be with us to teach and to demo how to draw. We will also be in partnership with the Animation Council of the Philippines to bring in 3 Cintiq demo machines. So there will be like demonstration on manga drawing there like manga 101 using Cintiq. Then, there will be a cosplay school for first time cosplayers as well as for the curious. Our speakers there will be Ryan Simbul and miss Loki Heart. We invite everybody to join us, to come. Anyway it’s a whole day affair. Our time table will be from 9am to 11pm so we’ll make the most out of it. There will be a lot of people who will perform so it’s going to be a fun event.
OTK: So why SM Sky Dome, specifically?
OHM: I think we chose SM Sky Dome because first and foremost, [events] it’s usually held in SM Megamall or SMX. We chose Sky Dome because it’s close to the residential areas. We chose a place that’s easy to go to. Number 2, since it’s close to the residential areas, if you add the schedule which is Sunday, the family will be free. And with the Sky Dome being in the center of SM City North EDSA at the Sky Garden, it’s easy to go to. So unlike SMX which is a bit out of the way or at Megamall which is at the 5th floor, they’re still the best positions of course. We just think holding the event in Sky Dome will be most convenient to all who want to attend, plus to those who want to get into that hobby – the first timers. We’re going to be very open for everybody so hopefully the event will be a success and we promise to give a good show.
Oh-No! Manga Cosplay Camp will be held at the Skydome in SM North Edsa this July 29, 2012.