Viz presents novel ideas for expansion


POSTED: Monday, February 02, 2009

It's time for yet another comparison between the haves and have-nots in the manga industry—a comparison that's rapidly becoming “;Viz versus everyone else.”;

Viz, which shall henceforth be known in this space as “;the House of 'Naruto'”; for its signature moneymaking franchise, announced last week that it would be launching a new line of translated Japanese science fiction and fantasy novels. The new Haikasoru imprint will launch starting with two books in July and two books in September, ranging from $13.99 to $15.99:

» “;The Lord of the Sands of Time,”; by Issui Ogawa, about a cyborg sent back in time to unite humanity against an alien threat.

» “;All You Need Is Kill,”; by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, about a military recruit sent out to the battlefield to die ... only to be reborn the next morning ... only to die ... again ... 157 times. The 158th time, though, a mysterious female soldier appears ...

» “;ZOO,”; by Otsuichi, a collection of 11 dark sci-fi and fantasy stories.

» “;Usurper of the Sun,”; by Housuke Nojiri, featuring a female scientist traveling to the sun in a last-ditch effort to save the world.

Whether the Viz touch will translate into sales remains to be seen in a market that largely hasn't taken to Japanese novels as much as manga unless there's some tie-in to a major anime or manga franchise. The last high-profile attempt, Tokyopop's “;Pop Fiction”; line in 2006, fizzled and flopped, with none of the multivolume series—“;Twelve Kingdoms,”; “;Scrapped Princess”; and “;Kino no Tabi”;—getting anywhere near finishing their respective serializations. That Viz would launch a new imprint in tough economic times also seems a bit risky.


Tokyopop Trims

Just how risky that market is right now—and how it's increasingly headed more toward contraction than expansion—brings us to Tokyopop, self-anointed “;leaders of the manga revolution.”; It would appear, though, that the revolution has hit another speed bump.

A list posted by Johanna Draper Carlson last week at the Comics Worth Reading Web site (tinyurl.com/ce94ja) revealed that volumes from 16 series were pulled from Diamond Comics' distribution system. Among the series on that list are two series previously jeopardized when ADV Manga first ran into trouble, “;Aria”; and “;Tactics,”; as well as the long-running drift-racing epic “;Initial D.”;

It should be noted that these series aren't necessarily canceled; recent staff layoffs meant some titles had to be rescheduled. But as the few of us still holding out hope that someone, if not ADV Manga, will translate new volumes of “;Gunslinger Girl”; and “;Yotsuba&!”; can attest, any hiccups in the release schedule are certainly cause for concern.


Meeting roll call

» MangaBento: Meetings this month for this group of anime- and manga-inspired artists are 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 22 at the Academy Art Center, 1111 Victoria St., Room 200. For more information, visit www.manga-bento.com ...