We present the ICv2 2005 Manga Awards in two parts.  In Part 1, we name our Manga Publisher, Release, and Marketing Campaign of the Year.  In Part 2 (see 'ICv2 2005 Manga Awards, Part 2'), we choose our Manga Phenomena, Deal, and Controversy of the Year.


The ICv2 Awards are an on-line continuation of a tradition that began in Internal Correspondence, the print predecessor of ICv2, over fifteen years ago.  These awards are given as a way of reflecting on the events of the year and to draw some conclusions from them.  The ICv2 Awards are based entirely on the business impact of events on retailers, as determined by the editorial staff of ICv2.  For last year's ICv2 Manga Awards, see 'ICv2 2004 Manga Awards').


Manga Publisher of the Year -- Viz Media

For a second year in a row we have chosen Viz Media as the Manga Publisher of the Year.  Although we do appreciate variety, there was no way we could deny the top spot to Viz after the astounding performance of its Naruto property in the fourth quarter of 2005.  Spurred by the debut of the Naruto anime on the Cartoon Network, sales of the entire Naruto catalog skyrocketed (see 'So You Think the Cartoon Network Doesn't Matter?').  In the weeks following Naruto's first Cartoon Network appearance the first volume in the Naruto series, which debuted way back in August of 2003, suddenly became the second best-selling graphic novel of 2005, and the entire Naruto catalog vaulted into upper echelon of manga titles. 


In addition to the enormous success of Naruto, Viz can also claim the best-selling manga title of 2005, the first volume in the Full Metal Alchemist series.  In 2005 a number of other Viz releases such as Bleach, Wolf's Rain, One Piece, Death Note, Hot Gimmick and Zatch Bell also established themselves in the top tier of the American market.  Factor in the more than 325,000 copies of the various volumes of the Inuyasha manga that Viz has sold during the past twelve months and it is evident that 2005 was a very strong year for Viz Media.


Manga Release of the Year -- Full Metal Alchemist Vol. 1

It is hard to argue with the best-selling title of the year, particularly when that book, like FMA Vol. 1, sells extremely well in both the bookstore and comic shop markets.  As with Naruto, TV exposure of the FMA anime series (released in the U.S. by FUNimation) on the Cartoon Network played a major role in the popularity of this manga, but the manga itself is a gem--Hiromu Arakawa's enthralling series has adventure, character development, a unique setting, comic relief, and above all, heart.


Of course Naruto was a very close runner-up, but so was Tokyopop's Fruits Basket, which shared this award last year.  Fruits Basket is far and away the best-selling shoujo (girls) manga series in both Japan and the U.S., and it dominated sales in American bookstores during the summer months and has performed surprisingly well in the male-dominated direct market as well -- and the amazing thing about the Fruits Basket manga is that it has achieved top tier success with no TV support, relying instead on word-of-mouth marketing.  There is a much bigger sales gap between Fruits Basket and the fourth most popular manga property than there is between Fruits Basket, Naruto and Full Metal Alchemist, so it makes sense to honor all three top properties, which definitely dominated the manga market in 2005.


Marketing Campaign of the Year -- Tokyopop's Strip Program

While Tokyopop's strip outreach began with the August issue of Cosmogirl (see 'Manga in CosmoGIRL'), the publisher also reached an agreement with the Universal Press Syndicate, which has resulted in Tokyopop properties being serialized in a number of newspaper Sunday comics sections starting this month (see 'Manga Hits the Funny Pages').  On-going manga episodes in these publications should reach an enormous number of potential new readers, and as a result Tokyopop takes the marketing award for 2005.


Add in the fact that Tokyopop's cine-manga based on kid-friendly properties such as Totally Spies are selling big numbers (200K) and introducing large numbers of younger readers to the manga format, and it becomes apparent that Tokyopop is a market leader in attempting to expand the audience for manga.


For the second part, see 'ICv2 2005 Manga Awards, Part 2.'