We caught up with VIZ Media Senior Director – Sales and Marketing Kevin Hamric for our annual Manga Week interview, and learned about the state of the market (including the possible impact of politics), Pokemon, Dragon Ball Super, Legend of Zelda, and other key 2017 releases.

ICv2:  Maybe you can start out by giving us an overview of what you’re seeing with the manga market overall.
Kevin Hamric:  The manga market is still strong -- it looks like for all manga publishers --  especially for us for the holidays. We had a great holiday season.  The three‑for‑two sale at Barnes & Noble in December into January was the best that they ever had, and the best that we ever had with them.

There does seem to be a little bit of a concern going forward with a soft January and a soft February.  I think I want to attribute that to the current political climate.  There's just a little uneasiness out there.  From talking to the retailers, they say store traffic is off a bit, and sales are down.  We're noticing it pretty much across the board.

Across channels, you mean?
Yes, but that’s just in the United States.  Everywhere else, we're selling books.  In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, India, January and February were very strong.  It's just the U.S. that seems to have dipped these past couple of months.

Did you notice any drafting of other manga titles behind Pokémon?  Is Pokémon an on‑ramp that's getting people into other manga?
Pokemon does seem to have brought people into stores, and is helping, especially those chains that have Pokémon for sale in the regular manga section, and not in the children's department.

Where I think we're seeing a little bit more drafting on the teen, young adult, and the adult side is that Tokyo Ghoul was still extremely strong at holiday.  I think that brought people into the section as well.

That's streaming, right?
It is, yes.

Anything change in the last few months in terms of the streaming environment, new shows coming on, or anything that's helping?
Nothing that's been recently released, but One Punch Man is coming back on with season two.  There's going to be another season of My Hero Academia coming shortly.  Later in the year, those would be the bigger releases on the anime side.

Netflix is going to be releasing a live action movie for Death Note, hopefully this summer.

Are they were nailing that time down at all yet?
All we're still hearing is summer.

Are you going to have any special product associated with that, or just ride with what you've got? 
We're just going to ride with what we have, and probably push the Death Note Black Edition.

Looking at what's happening in 2017, one of the big things, obviously, is Dragon Ball Super, which has started on TV now (see "'Dragon Ball Super' Comes to Toonami").  Looks like you're launching the first volume of the manga in May, is that right?

Yes, May.  This is one of our big titles for the year, written by Toriyama himself.  He's back, and back strong.  We're very happy about this.  This is going to be one of our key titles for the year.

How did the anime and manga do in Japan?
They did very strong, very, very strong, as you would expect.  Based on that, and what we're seeing on the Japanese edition, we're expecting big things out of this.

Are you going to get a second volume out in 2017?
Nothing scheduled for 2017 yet.  We haven't seen volume two in Japan yet.  The first one's out.  I don't have the exact date.  I'll take a guess.  I'm guessing it was about a few months ago.

And what about Pokemon, any special publications planned this year for Pokémon?
We've got more of the regular manga, XY, and all that coming.  As you probably know, Pokémon Go, a week ago Saturday, released Gen II, with all of the Pokémon out of the Gold and Silver arc.  We've immediately seen an uptick in those volumes, 8 through 14.

What we do have coming is Pokémon Adventures 20th Anniversary Art Book in October.  This is artwork, sketches, and even a brand new manga short story from the artist of Pokémon Adventures.  This did come out in Japan last year, which was the true 20th anniversary.  A good reason why we waited was we were able to get a new Pokémon short story in the book.

What are your other top releases for 2017?

The Legend of Zelda ‑‑ Legendary Edition, of which volumes one and two [Ocarina of Time, and Oracle of Seasons / Oracle of Ages] are out right now.  These are beating our expectations by huge numbers. We've got the other three [Majora’s Mask, March; The Minish Cap / Phantom Hourglass, May; Four Swords, July] coming out this year. There'll be five in all.

These are basically two‑in‑one bind‑ups of the 10 manga in really nice packages (see "New 'Zelda'").  They're, like I said, exceeding expectations.

We’ve also got Legend of Zelda ‑‑ Twilight Princess coming, volume one in March (see "'The Legend of Zelda--Twilight Princess'").

It's a two‑volume series based on the very popular Nintendo game.  The book was released digital‑only in Japan, and now we've got it in print. We're looking for big numbers out of that.

We've got Boruto, which is Naruto's son.  This picks up years later, with Boruto.  He'd rather not be a shinobi and the hokage.  He wants to play video games, rather than train.  He does have a little bit of a passion deep in his heart, and that's his desire to defeat his father.

This is not drawn by Kishimoto‑sensei, or written by him, but it is supervised by Kishimoto‑sensei.

We also have Manga in Theory and Practice.  This is not a manga book, but this is learn-how-to-create-manga guide from Hirohiko Araki, who created JoJo's Bizarre.  He's just a master of the medium.

As you know, how to draw manga is a very popular segment as a trade in Japan.  This is just a really good in‑depth look at theory and practice of manga through its history.

When's that coming out?
That comes out in September.

Then we've done very well with our SuBLime line in print, which is yaoi, boys love.  Now, we're going to do some yuri titles, girl love books.  We've got After Hours and Sweet Blue Flowers coming out, both in September.

Sweet Blue Flowers is the genre‑defining saga of love and friendship between girls. T his is the most widely‑known and most highly‑regarded series of the yuri genre.  After Hours is just a very lively, heartfelt story set in the club music scene in Japan.

Yaoi's a subset of shojo or josei. Who is the target audience for yuri?
That would be the shojo genre.  It's still girls reading yuri as well.  It's just like yaoi.

We've got Golden Kamuy, a tale of high adventure and survival on the Japanese frontier.  It's really a Western type of story set in the Japanese frontier.  It's a very accurate portrayal of the Ainu people, who are the indigenous people of Northern Japan.

Also in the shojo line, we've got Vampire Knight – Memories (see "More 'Vampire Knight'"), continuing stories from the bestselling shojo series of all time.  It picks up years later, where Vampire Knight left off.  These are just a collection of stories.

When we talked in October (see "ICv2 Interview:  VIZ's Kevin Hamric"), you said at the time you were going to be talking to Diamond, and putting together some displays for comic stores.  Did that happen?
We're still working out the details with them on that.  They’re not really displays, but assortments, adjusted assortments.  We're still working out the details with them.  We've got the assortments picked out, it's just the logistics on how to make this happen.

Any idea when they'll be ready to roll?
Our goal is to start this our new fiscal year, which is April.  Our goal is to start this in April.

Do you know how many merchandise assortments you're going to do?
We're probably going to have three different sizes.

Click Gallery below for large images of the covers referred to in this interview.