At San Diego Comic-Con, ICv2 caught up with VIZ Media Vice President Publishing Leyla Aker and Director, Publishing Sales and Marketing Kevin Hamric to get an update on the manga market and VIZ's place in it. In Part 2, we talk about major VIZ publishing and anime programs in the pipe. In Part 1, we learned what VIZ is seeing in the overall manga and graphic novel market and in the market for its titles, by channel, along with some of the dynamics driving the market.
The Toykopop properties have been announced as digital only, but you were just saying that some of the catalog product you’ve been bringing back has been getting good response. Could the plan for digital-only Tokyopop titles change as you see the response to some of the digital things that you're doing?
Aker: Absolutely it could. One of the titles we did re-release in print was Deadman Wonderland, which is far and away the best debut we've had this year. We knew it was a strong property going in, but we were even taken aback by how well it's been doing. That demand is still there so it's absolutely something we're keeping in mind.
In terms of the macro picture, you had about 300 releases last year. How many titles will VIZ release this year? And how does that break down between Perfect Square and the other VIZ imprints?
Aker: We're about that same number this year. We've settled around that, 300. Perfect Square is somewhere around 5-10% of that total. It's not huge.
VIZ is going to put Doraemon on TV here. It's a huge property in Japan and has never been presented here. What are your expectations for that?
Hamric: Doraemon was brought over with the help of Tokyo. There's no manga, no books involved. It started on Disney XD a few weeks ago. The numbers look pretty good. We're working like a broker for licensed product.
There is no manga?
Aker: Shogukukan starting releasing Doraemon manga digitally in English directly themselves through Amazon Kindle editions mainly.
Has that ever happened before--a Shogakukan English release?
Aker: No. At this point VIZ's involvement is purely on the animation and CPG [consumer packaged goods] side. Duraemon in Asia and in Latin America is a huge property; North America, not really to that extent. So it's incumbent on us to introduce it to the North American audience to try to grow it. And as it progresses we'll see what kind of formats we can put it into; how we can leverage the brand. At this point the concentration is on the animation and CPG.
You have several major releases at the end of '14 and early '15. What are you most excited about?
Aker: The two titles that I’m personally excited about are Monster, the re-release of Noiki Urasawa's series, which we had out of print for several years (see "VIZ 2014 Releases"). We finally were in a position to be able to reissue this series, which is one of the best manga series that's ever been created. We're doing these in Japanese Perfect Editions, which includes updates and re-drawings from Uruasawa. They're deluxe packages. They're 2-in-1s with all the bells and whistles.
We're also doing a series from him that has never been released in English called Master Keaton (see "Naoki Urasawa's 'Master Keaton'"). Being able to bring two Urasawa titles into the American market is awesome.
We have the Resident Evil tie-in series which is continuation of the last game. That will be released in the fall and certainly our demographic is going to love that.
We have a number of new releases in our flagship imprints, in Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat. World Trigger is starting in October. The first two volumes will be released simultaneously. It's a totally classic Shonen Jump type of title. And in December is Assassination Classroom, which was probably one of the most frequently requested series from the fans (see "'Resident Evil,' New Toriyama, More"). So that should really do well. Those are the things we’re really looking forward to.
You're releasing something from Toriyama, right?
Aker: Yes, there's Jaco The Galactic Patrolman and I know that will do well. It's the story of Goku from Dragon Ball's parents and how they met. There is a continuity. Definitely the Dragon Ball fans are going to be happy with that. I was looking at our life-to-date series performances and Dragon Ball and Death Note, and obviously Naruto, those properties, for whatever reasons, just sell and sell and sell. When you walk around here [at Comic-Con], it's all the toys and all the guys cosplaying. It's in the popular consciousness of an entire generation, which is great.
The other big push for fall is Vampire Knight, which is finally ending. We are going to be releasing a limited edition of the final volume with a variant cover, and we’re going to offer a gift pack accompanied by a limited edition mini art book. It's going to be a single printing so we're going to have to allocate that carefully.
The first box set came out when we were half-way through the series, the Day Class box set, so this is going to be the Night Class box set. We're doing a light novel for it, and we're doing the thing I referred earlier, a digital-only coda to the series. We're going to have all of that Vampire Knight coming out around Holiday. That's going to be a good ending to that series. Animation is re-releasing the whole run of the TV anime in a new box set as well.
This is out of your purview, but can you give us any updates on properties in development for TV or movies?
Hamric: We had one movie come out for us this summer that did very well for us worldwide, which also helped our book sales.
The title of the movie (Edge of Tomorrow) was different from the series (All You Need is Kill), but you were successful in grabbing that audience?
Hamric: Yes. We had the mass market tie-in with the movie cover and it did very, very well. We're very happy with that.
Aker: The trade edition and e-book version saw a lift as well.
Hamric: Things are in development. We're talking to a couple of different companies about things we have.
Aker: There are two pending things, but with film and tv development, who knows? Monster has been with Guillermo Del Toro for a while. He's a pretty busy guy. He's got a lot of things lined up, but supposedly it’s going to be developed for HBO at some point. It would be a fantastic series if that happens one day (see "Del Toro on 'Monster'"). And Death Note has had Gus Van Sant attached to it recently. Again, if it happens one day we’d be overjoyed but out of our hands.
Anything else going on with VIZ that we haven’t talked about?
Aker: Jojo's Bizarre Adventures. It's back, and between animation and the game the series lifecycle has come back around. That was the announcement that got the biggest fan reaction at Anime Expo. I think Jojo's probably the last of the Shonen Jump tentpole properties that we did not leverage completely into the North American market, so this will do that for sure. We're releasing deluxe editions of the first two story arcs starting in the spring. Going digital first starting in September and then leading up to the beginning of the print releases. I know that the core fans are really excited about it. We're going to see what the property is going to do
Hamric: On the anime side, just a small little thing called Sailor Moon. Couldn't be happier. For two weeks we had the number one show on Hulu, not just in our category, but the #1 show was Sailor Moon. It launched the week of Anime Expo at Fourth of July.
Aker: That is also gratifying because that is one that we knew would do well, but not that well. Then it just exploded.
Hamric: The pre-orders for the DVD/Blu-ray for this fall are already the largest VIZ has ever seen in its history. Mass is taking a tremendous position on this.
Aker: Which is amazing because with mass merchants (along with other retailers), there’s a caution around girls properties. Maybe the reason for Sailor Moon's popularity is you can watch it at age 8 or age 38. There’s the nostalgia buyers.
How are you going to age rate it?
Aker: The age rating will stay young teen because there’s no content in it to rate it older.
Click here to go back to Part 1.
For last year’s interview, see "Interview with Aker and Hamric, Part 1"
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