ICv2 caught up with VIZ Media Senior Director, Sales and Marketing Kevin Hamric to find out what’s been going in manga sales since last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, when we spoke to him last (see "Interview with VIZ's Aker and Hamric, Part 1").  In Part 2, Hamric reveals the number of releases Viz plans for the year, the title he says will be the company’s biggest of 2015, and what’s going on in anime.

In Part 1, Hamric shared the titles and dynamics that are driving growth in comic stores, including a 20% growth rate in sales of manga for female readers; and also gives an overview of dynamics in the manga market.

Last year you said you were doing about 300 releases, what are you looking at for this year?
Same thing.  On the books right now, 303.

Can you talk about what’s coming out this year? One thing we are interested in are the giant boxed sets (see "VIZ Plans Giant Box Sets").  You’ve done those before; have you found those to be a successful package?
Very much so.  With the two large ones coming out in July, Naruto and Bleach, plus what’s coming out in the latter half of the year, we have six new boxed sets total for the year.  Boxed sets are great for the consumer price-wise but collection-wise as well.  They sell extremely well on the online retailers, and fans keep on asking for more and more of them.

The biggest book coming out this year is Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past from the Perfect Square line on May 5th (see "VIZ Media Brings Back 'The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past'").  It’s been out of print since the 80s. It was collected in Nintendo Power magazine. There were a collection of storylines collected into a book-azine type product back in the ‘80s, and we’re reissuing it.

That should be big. Dark Horse has had such success with that art book they did and this should appeal to the same audience.
That’s going to be a huge book for us.

What else does VIZ have coming out between now and the end of the year that you’re excited about that has been announced?  What new series do you think have the biggest potential?
The things we haven’t announced yet are probably going to be the biggest things.  There’s a lot of things we can’t put out in print yet.  We just haven’t announced them.

VIZ did some announcements at Toy Fair about new master merchandise licenses (see "'JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures’ Merch").  Is that an area that VIZ is expanding?

Yes, it is.  With our consumer product licensing team there, as you know with that group in the company, we’re the licensor.  We don’t produce anything, we just manage the licensing part for the Japanese company.  We announced a couple of those:  Doraemon and a couple of other ones at Toy Fair. We’re looking into that more and more.  It’s worked well for everyone involved, this set-up, so we’re going to be expanding that.

What’s going on with anime?  When we spoke last year, you were getting ready to ship Sailor Moon.  How did that go?
Oh, my gosh.  It’s continues to roll.  That train’s never going to stop.  It was our largest anime laydown for physical product ever, for the DVDs and Blu-rays.

That’s an amazing thing to say in 2015, isn’t it?
Who would ever have thought that we would say that?  Also the streaming, our partnership with Hulu, the download to own, and it all picked up because of that.  It was a tremendous effort on our anime group.  They pulled it off, and with our partners, and it’s just been tremendous.

The reception from the fans has been just phenomenal.  We’re just happy that we’re able to bring them something they’ve been clamoring for for several years.

What do you see going on with the overall market for anime in general?
We’re seeing an uptick.  There’s a lot of interest again.  On TV there’s only been one outlet and that’s Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.  Because of the success of Netflix, Hulu and Hulu Plus, and even Amazon for a little bit, because of the stuff they’ve been seeing, now network television seems to be interested once again as well.  And once it’s gone off of TV and down to one channel, all these animation companies had to go somewhere, hence to deal with Hulu and Crunchyroll and everybody else.  So now it’s come full circle again and everyone seems to be interested.  There’s been an increase.  There’s definitely been an increase in viewership and an increase in sales, both physical and download-to-own and streaming.  I feel like anime’s in that position where we were a couple years ago with manga where we were down at the bottom and now we’re coming up on the arc again.  That’s where I think anime is at this point.

That’s got to be one of the few categories where sales of physical media are actually increasing in the video business.
It’s really cool to see, and we’re very particular about what we put out.  We just don’t want to throw a lot of stuff out there because I think that’s what happens in the past few years and why they got into a little bit of trouble.  There was just too much out there and not enough of the really, really good stuff.  All of the lower series were just dragging down the category.  So push that all over to streaming and download-to-own and as far as the physical product, just put the best of the best out there.

Is there anything else you want to talk about as far as what VIZ is doing the rest of this year?
I would just say to stay tuned for some pretty big announcements.  We’re going to have huge convention appearance again this year at the big conventions, but we’ve got some pretty big announcements coming out in the next few months.

Click here to go back to Part 1.