MangaCast 2.0: Ed Chavez on the Growth and Future of MangaCast

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MangaCast changed a lot in the past year, both in content (new features) and style (new layouts), what do you think are some of the biggest improvements?

Ed: Improvements... Well the new look is very clean, but just otaku enough not to threaten your average manga reader. I'd guess the best improvement would be more written reviews and an added international perspective. Pea and Julie have been great helps over the last few months. Not only providing content for the site, but they are also bringing in some good ideas that I would not have thought of. That has really helped the MangaCast network grow a bit.

The new MangaCast theme looks great! Where did you get it? Where did you find those robot/monsters in the banner?

Ed: The robots! Well, we like to call them mecha, but then again we are an otaku type of blog. Honestly they are available from Livejournal. Nothing special really, but I am a big fan of giant robot sci-fi manga. Sadly there are very few of those titles in English, but I generally enjoy those that do make it across the pond.

There are some new faces at MangaCast, like mangamaniac, alierarobot, readilbert, etc. What are they in charge of, and how did they end up at MangaCast in the first place?

Ed: Ah, the staff additions. Well, Julie, Aliera and Pea came on board after I posted a help wanted ad. Initially they were going to help add more shoujo content to the site, and they have done a great job with that. I am happy to see that they are not exclusively sticking to shoujo though. They are providing some great content ranging from international perspectives to convention reports and interviews.

I would like to say that the MangaCast is still looking for more help. I would love to have another podcaster. Maybe someone to join me in the MangaCurrynoMaki podcasts.

Manga Maniac Cafe's Julie joined the bandwagon earlier this year, how did MangaCast and MangaManiacCafe end up working together? Care to tell us a bit more about the deal?

Ed: One of the things I wanted to do with the MangaCast from the beginning is create a manga network for manga commentary. We started with the SAMAcast and the NinjaConsultant's Manga Recon podcasts back in 2005. We tried to expand some more in 2006, but the MangaTheory show was put on hiatus after the host moved to Japan. Julie answered my call for help and she has been a great asset to our site.

I don't know if there was much negotiating involved in our "deal." I was already a fan of her blog and I think she was reading the MangaCast. I thought her perspectives would be appreciated by the MangaCast's growing readership and I hope the MangaCast has helped the MangaManiacCafe as well.

There have been rumors of a MangaCast 2.0, and something seems to be up over at Care to tell us what that is all about? What's the future for MC?

Ed: Hmm, do you mean Well this is a project that has been in the works for a year now. There are a couple details about its origins that I should not talk about, but I can say that we have wanted to do this for a while. Essentially we would like to move away from LiveJournal. It wouldn't be a total break away. We'd leave certain elements over there. The community element of the LJ format has been very helpful in our growth, but we also lose a bit in image recognition as well flexibility.

When we move over we would like to have a number of "channels" set up for all of the programming. There would pages for release information from the States and abroad. A page for podcasts, which would also link to other manga related podcasts. I would have pages for the MangaBlogCast, MangaManiacCafe... Also there would be pages for publishers from Japan and the US. It's really a big project and one that I possibly am being too ambitious about. But I think I will get around to it someday. (Hopefully I'll improve my code skills).

The future looks very much like the present. We will continue to do reviews and commentary. I want to bring back some of our programs at a reasonable rate. We have SDCC this week and Comiket 72 in a few weeks. I want to go to MangaNext, but I am not sure if I'll make it at the moment.

I have a new program that will debut soon called the "Taste of Manga." I cooked this up with Jason Thompson at AnimeExpo. It will be similar to the Manga a la Carte's as it will not be in audio. Instead of focusing on doujinshi these will revolve around serialized manga and gastronomy. I don't know what people will think about it. Cooking manga isn't big here but I have a special place in my heart for it.

What's a typical day for Ed at MangaCast?

Ed: It's pretty laid back, but I have to say it has become my life's work in a way.

Everyday I have a set number of websites to comb for information. 90% of them I look to for stuff I will never post on the blog. What I look for are manga release information, marketing trends, doujinshi trends and magazine news. Little of that is relevant to the average Western manga reader. I almost wonder how relevant that is to a manga licensee since the markets are so different. But I check sales and releases from Japan because I want to figure out how the two markets are different and where they do converge.

The rest of the time is spent reading manga, reviewing manga and talking manga. There is also some networking to be done. I occasionally toss in some public service work and soccer into the mix, but manga, whether it's in English or Japanese, takes up a lot of my time.

How do you feel about LiveJournal as a blogging platform? Does it provide everything you need? Anything you feel it's lacking in? What other blogging tools are you currently interested in?

Ed: LJ is great for starting up a project like this. At its core it is a great networking tool where communication and interaction is extremely easy. At the same time as LJ is becoming more mainstream, I have noticed that I cannot even type certain things without getting error messages and whatnot. When discussing media and art, freedom of expression is vital, and I don't take those restrictions lightly or in a positive way.

LJ is also a little tricky because of the RSS issues. Podcasting isn't naturally integrated into LJ unless you use their special call-in service. So we have to use a RSS generator. It's also a little funky with its programming. I'd love to have badges for my blogroll list, but I cannot add that feature without some tricky code work. LJ is so simple in some ways, but so rigid in others.

New Layout

I have been testing WordPress, but that is very limiting. It works well as a blog, but not so much for anything else. I have looked at some Japanese tools. I like Ninja Tools, but I noticed that I am really not up to par with my programming skills for something that fancy.

Thanks for your time! Any last words before we finish?

Ed: I would like to thank the readers and listeners for two years of manga related adventure. Together we have seen the industry grow quite a bit and I am sure it will only get better.

I would like to ask all of you, though, to try to experiment with manga a little more. One of the things we do at the MangaCast is talk about the bigger picture, the mangasphere. What is popular will always be mentioned by the MangaCast and other sites, but there is much more to this form of entertainment to experience.

I would love for our readers to sample some of the random titles they see listed on our Manga Release lists. Maybe look out for some of those strange sounding books on the Japanese Rankings charts. And if they get a chance to read our articles in Otaku USA, maybe suggest some of the genres mentioned in those pieces to publishers out here. And if they have suggestions for the MangaCast, I would love to hear them as well.

Essentially, I would like to see manga continue to grow in a way that will not only expand the English market, but to make it possibly so that there is a manga for every taste and personality.


MangaCast 2.0 Launched

In October 2007, MangaCast officially launched MangaCast 2.0, powered by WordPress. This is an interview posted on ComiPress with MangaCast's Ed Chavez, who talks about what the new site will offer:

After years of development, MangaCast 2.0 is finally launched! Anything you'd like to say about the new site?

Ed: Took a little longer than I thought it would, but I am really happy to see it live. The LJ was great and will still be around. But our new home is where we really want to show how much manga mania we collectively posses.

So the LJ site and the new site will be run concurrently? Will there be different kinds of content on each site, or are you planning on slowly phasing out the LJ site?

Ed: Well, the LJ will remain for those who are used to seeing us there. I think I will update it every week or so. Provide links to the new site. After a while I think we might just turn it into an LJ feed as a few other blogs have done.

When was the idea of a 2.0 first conceived? Has there been any major design/concept/software changes from then to now?

Ed: Well, it was thought up spring of 2006. One of our producers, Jack Tse, came up with idea, and he provided the banner you see on the front page. Things kinda stalled a bit and we experimented with a few looks, but after finding something that matched our color scheme and worked with the concept of manga we... Well we sat on it for about 6 months. It wasn't until I got some advice from a former manga editor that I pulled the trigger and worked on the site in earnest.

I wanted to add more Japanese links and such. Those might come later but right now I want to ask for more banner links. Manga is a visual medium, so I want to have those on the site when possible. I think we have a CP button/banner up now ^_^v

The new site runs on WordPress, the same software that powered other well-known manga blogs like MangaBlog and Love Manga. What's your impression on this blogging tool? Did you consider other tools?

Ed: To be completely honest, it is much harder to work with than LJ. There are little HTML bugs that are hard to resolve. Particularly when dealing with images and aligning text within tables. It is also not very podcast friendly. There are widgets and add-ons that help. But some of them don't work well with other plug-ins. Finding that balance has been difficult. But we are working on it. I looked at Drupal on the advice of a manga site admin. It looks very spiffy. But I didn't have the knowledge to really make it work. Maybe for MC 3.0, but that should be years years away.

Could you share some info with us regarding this mysterious 3.0?

Ed: There is no info yet. But if we ever do take it to that level the MangaCast will be hosting CP and... Just Kidding.

So overall what should the fans be expecting from the new site?

Ed: Well much of the same. Podcasts, written reviews, rankings, manga release news... By the time of this announcement our newest program will be up. That will be the informal launch for the site. Jack Tse will host: This Week in Manga All Jack, all manga, in his own words. Should be a fun podcast. I will be providing pages with Japanese publisher information. To help promote knowledge of those companies. Give people a quick look at the magazines and books those pubs release to make them more relevant to readers in the west.

Thank you! Any last words?

Ed: Last words... MangaCast 2.0 just started so I don't think its time for that quite yet but I hope manga fans will continue to support our blog. And as always I want readers to consider the MangaCast a network and a community. If they want to provide content they know where we will be there with open arms, And if they just need information we will be there with facts and our share of opinion as well.