To help catch us up on the state of the manga market, ICv2 spoke to VIZ Media Senior Director, Sales and Marketing Kevin Hamric as part of our Manga Week coverage.  In Part 2 of this two part interview, we discuss piracy, the pipeline of Hollywood productions featuring Japanese properties, the top prospects in VIZ’s 2016 line, and the reasons for the global growth in manga sales.  In Part 1, we drilled down into manga sales trends across channels, and talked about VIZ’s new hit, what’s going on in the streaming scene, and the scale of its impact on manga sales.

The Japanese are trying to deal with the front end of the pipeline (see "Japanese Police Thwart Digital Pirates – Again!"), but has anything changed in the piracy situation?
I would say it’s probably pretty stable right now.  Our parent company in Japan along with us and our peer publishers, we all work together to try to keep it at bay as much as possible.  I know you saw the stories about the arrests that were made in Japan.  It’s really stepping up the investigations and working with the authorities to put a stop to this.

Reviewing the last year of manga news, it’s striking how many Hollywood productions based on Japanese I.P. are in the pipeline.  Do you think it’s really going to happen, that movies will get produced?
It seems like it’s going to happen.  I’ve never in my career seen this much chatter about turning Japanese I.P. into movies but judging from the superhero stuff that’s going on with Marvel (they have like 13 movies in 16 months or something like that), and then people paying attention to anime’s rise and manga’s rise, I think the Hollywood studios are really going to make it happen this time.

Every year when we have this conversation we ask what your release count was in the last year and what you expect to release this year.  How many releases did you have in 2015 and how many do you expect in 2016?
We published just over 300 books in 2015 and our release schedule for 2016 has about the same amount, 300 new titles.

If you release count is stable and your sales are going up, that means you’re selling more per volume.  That’s a great thing.
It absolutely is.

Last year you predicted your Zelda book was going to be your #1 release of 2015 (see "Interview with VIZ’s Kevin Hamric, Part 2").  Was it?
No, it wasn’t.  Something called One-Punch Man and Tokyo Ghoul came along.

It was high up on the charts, though.
Zelda did very well and continues to do well month in and month out.  The backlist sales on that are fantastic.

What are your biggest releases in 2016?
We’re going to continue with One-Punch Man and Tokyo Ghoul this year.  We released The Art of Magic: The Gathering--Zendikar in January of this year.  The second book is coming out in July, The Art of Magic: The Gatherin-- Innistrad; Good Night Punpun comes out in March.  From Haikasoru, our Japanese science fiction imprint, we have Legends of the Galactic Heroes that starts in March.

Monster Hunter starts in April; Black Clover starts in June (see "’Black Clover,’ ‘Monster Hunter,’ ‘Koroko’s Basketball,’ More").  We’re doing two sports manga this year, the first one, Haikyu!!, that’s the volleyball manga.  Very popular in Japan.  That starts in July.

It is VIZ Media's 30th Anniversary this year.  We'll be sending out some information on what we’re going to do for marketing and PR and sales promotions, and everything like that, what we’re going to be doing at our cons this year.

From those hits from last year, how many volumes of each are coming out this year?  Are you putting material out on the same schedule as in Japan?
We’re getting there, yeah.  One-Punch Man will have four volumes this year.  And Tokyo Ghoul also has four volumes.

Is that a Japanese pace?  If it comes out every week in a magazine and gets collected, does that produce 800 pages a year?
Yes, that's about par for the course.

Of those new titles, which do you want to call out that looks like it’s going to be the bestselling of the new launches this year?
Monster Hunter we have pretty high hopes for.  There's a pretty big following for that.  But also Black Clover should do very well as well.

Anything else going on in manga space from your perspective?
It’s good time to be in the industry and we’ve got a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon right now, like you've written about with Walmart and everybody (see "VIZ Reviving Manga in Mass Merchants"), from all channels—library, retail, direct, mass merchants, specialty retail.  A lot of people are paying attention to us right now.

Manga sales have been up and down over the past 10 years, but right now the growth seems quite robust.  What do you think is driving that growth in manga right now?
It’s a myriad of things. It’s the economy.  That seems better, so there’s a little more discretionary money in people’s pockets.

I think they are also saying, 'OK, books, that is a viable form of my entertainment,' and if I’m going to be spending money every month, am I going to spend it on movies, on streaming, or on buying books, videogames, or whatever.  It's a viable part of their entertainment budget right now.

Also the fact that people of our age, we're passing down to our kids what we grew up with.  Pop culture and manga and anime are making its way into way into the accepted mainstream of the world, and not looked down upon any longer.  And, I’m seeing this globally, not just here in North America.  We're seeing it in Australia, Europe, India and Asia, so this is a global increase we're seeing right now, not just in North America.

Click here to back to Part 1.