Just a few days ago, the unexpected (but very welcome!) arrival of Neo Magazine was announced– it will be the UK’s first dedicated anime magazine (as well as featuring a whole range of articles on Japanese pop culture too) to be released for a long, long time and is set to hit nationwide stores on the 25th of November.
In the flurry of excitement surrounding Neo’s launch, we’ve been able to speak with the magazine’s editor Stu Taylor. Covering a whole range of topics; from how Neo initially got started to the possibility of including cover-discs with the magazine; this interview should be considered an essential read for anyone with a passing interest in this newly born (and rare) UK anime magazine.
The image to your right is the new magazine cover. The old cover, which is currently featured on the Neo website, is an out-dated prototype.
Paul: What is your role on the magazine? Is there a big team working behind the scenes or just a few devoted anime/Japanese pop culture fans?
Stu Taylor: I’m the Editor on Neo – basically meaning that I work out what’s going in it each issue, commission freelancers, act as the mag’s pimp to PR agencies etc, and also write the odd review and feature.
The full-time team is very small but we have the notable likes of Jonathan Clements and Paul Gravett backing us up on a regular basis.
Personally, my background is publishing/editing videogame mags and writing comic books for the likes of 2000AD, Games Workshop and Marvel UK. My interest in anime and manga was sparked by one thing (like most of those who were impressionable teens during the late-Eighties) – Akira!
Paul: NEO has pretty much burst onto the scene from nowhere- how long have you guys been planning and working on the magazine?
Stu Taylor: I was approached the mag publisher – Uncooked Media – back in [scratches head] I think early-summer this year (in one of those friend-of-a-friend, incestuous type of things that tend to happen in any creative industry).
Basically it was noticed that there is a gap in the market for a dedicated anime/manga magazine, and that there now appears to be a sufficient audience to warrant launching a title to support that demand.
Whilst primarily covering anime and manga, Neo also broadens its appeal by catering for fans of Asian Cult Cinema, videogames, and those with an interest in J-Pop (we have an hysterical profile on Japan’s answer to Beyonce, Ayumi Hamasaki, in issue one).
We do want to appeal to the ‘hardcore’ fan, but we also don’t want to alienate those who have come in off the back of watching the anime sequence from Kill Bill, for example.
Paul: What are your thoughts on the UK anime industry? Presumably you feel it’s strong enough to support a magazine?
Stu Taylor: I kind of jumped the gun and started to answer this question during the last. To carry on though…
2004 saw a tremendous leap in the amount of anime produced and, more importantly, sold in the UK. I personally feel that Spirited Away and the aforementioned Kill Bill played a part in sparking peoples interest in this. From the conversations I’ve had with the likes of ADV and Optimum Asia, 2005 looks set to build upon these foundations.
When I interviewed Monica Rial for issue one (out 25th November, kids!) she commented on how the market in the US had exploded the past couple of years. I was in the States earlier last month and was bowled over by the amount of shelf space dedicated to anime and manga. Borders, for instance, had practically its entire Graphic Novel section dominated by manga – stuck in the corner, like an incontinent grandparent, were the homegrown stuff from Marvel and DC. The complete mirror opposite of what we have here. Although, saying that, my local Borders has slowly begun to expand its manga section… largely thanks to the herculean publishing schedule of Tokyopop.
So yes, I think the UK market can support – in fact, demands! – a magazine like Neo. But we’re far from complacent, and since Uncooked is a small company, we don’t have the cash to splash on expensive advertising on TV, etc.
So we’ve had to be a bit clever, inserting flyers in the likes of Dead Leaves and a handful of other Manga Entertainment titles, flyers in a number of sushi bars in London, full page ads in Invader! (Uncooked’s free videogames mag that has a circulation of 80,000 through indy game stores) and Yu-Gi-Oh! World (Uncooked’s regular monthly). And of course through the website (once it’s polished off) and you guys!
Seriously, our success is based on whether everyone who has been demanding a magazine like this, actually goes out and buys it. And in return, we’ll do our very best to provide you with an entertaining, informative and, hopefully, essential mag that you’ll look forward to reading every issue.
Incidentally, the first issue will be on the shelves for about six weeks for the Xmas period, issue two goes on sale 6th January and every four weeks after that (13 issues a year!)
Paul: Was it hard work convincing high street shops like Borders to stock NEO?
Stu Taylor: Believe it or not, Borders was a piece of piss (relatively speaking). It is far more open to magazines of any and all sorts – look at the variety you get. The tough nuts are the ‘big ones’ like your supermarkets, WHSmith and specialists like HMV and Virgin. The latter is on board, HMV I believe are almost there and WHSmith’s are taking us too.
Now this is the bit that most people don’t know – due to the wealth of product out there, big operators like WHSmith cottoned on a long while back that they can charge publishers for the shelf space.
Factor in to this the cost of printing (which is a lot!) and the fee to the distributor (which is a lot!), salaries, monies to freelancers, and sundry other costs, and you can see that getting a mag like Neo out on the shelves is not easy in that tough climate.
But hey, nothing worthwhile was ever easy.
Paul: People are already anxious to know if NEO will include any freebies (like cover discs containing anime previews) attached to future issues?
Stu Taylor: Well, hopefully after reading my last answer you’ll see that this is not possible for issue one. The costs involved in giving away a freebie could prove prohibitive – I’m waiting to watch Neo walk before it starts to run like an Olympic athlete.
However, that aside, there are some very real plans already in place to sort out a cover disc for a future issue. Watch this space (and buy the mag, out on 25th November).
Paul: Is NEO intended to be similar to a magazine like NewType USA but with more focus on anime fandom in the UK? What kind of content can we expect to read?
Stu Taylor: We’re definitely not out to be a strict copy of NewType USA, although it is a fantastic looking mag (pricey though, wouldn’t you say?).
Each issue will review the latest anime releases, as well as offering features on some forthcoming treats or ‘forgotten’ classics.
But as I mentioned, Neo is not solely about anime, and offers similar content on manga, Asian Cult Cinema (Chiaki Kuriyama and a feature on the Americanisation of The Grudge in issue one), videogames and J-Pop.
As far as future content direction goes, it will be based on the response we get from readers. Any magazine worth its salt pays attention to what the majority of its audience likes – you can never please all of the people all of the time, but sales figures give you some idea, as well as reader letters and responses to surveys (of which we’re running our first in issue two, giving readers the opportunity to chew over two issues).
Paul: A big thanks to Stu for agreeing to this interview.
UK fans seem to enjoy complaining about how small our industry is comparision to the US, but now we have a real chance to support a magazine on our own! On 25th November, make sure you get down to your local Borders (or WH Smiths) and get yourself a copy of Neo – the £3.50 price isn’t going to kill you and just think, you may not even have to import that expensive NewType USA anymore! Anime UK News wishes the best of luck to Neo Magazine.