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Conventions add sizzle to summer news


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POSTED: Tuesday, June 30, 2009

July is a month that anime and manga news junkies like myself absolutely adore, with three big conventions hitting within a few weeks of one another.

Anime Expo in Los Angeles, the largest anime convention in the United States, leads off on Thursday for four days of fun. The attention then shifts to the East Coast's biggest anime convention, Otakon in Baltimore from July 17 to 19, before zipping back west for Comic-Con International at San Diego July 23 to 26.

Here are some of the questions I hope will be answered in coming weeks:

How will Funimation and Viz maintain their momentum as market leaders? Look at store shelves, industry sales lists and ICv2 analyses, and it's no contest, really — Funimation is gobbling up the lion's share of anime, while Viz is the undisputed leading manga publisher.

All the same, though, the tide can turn rather quickly. Sure, there will always be “;tentpole”; franchises, those series that will make money no matter what — the “;Dragon Ball Zs,”; “;Fullmetal Alchemists”; and “;Narutos”; of the world — but the way the rest of the catalog gets filled out is also important to a company's survival.

Keep an eye on what these companies announce will be arriving in the future. If you've heard of it, perfect. If not, maybe the concept will interest you. As long as they pick up titles in those two categories and not too many that are greeted with a collective “;Huh? What's THAT?”; they'll be fine.

What's going on with Kodansha's manga? Several U.S. publishers, most notably Tokyopop, Del Rey and Dark Horse, have mined golden franchises from Kodansha. From “;Ghost in the Shell”; and “;Akira”; to “;Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle”; and “;Negima,”; if it's a hit in the U.S. and Viz isn't publishing it, it's highly likely that what you're reading was originally a Kodansha book.

Which makes whatever Kodansha's future plans in the U.S. will be all the more interesting. Rumors have been swirling for close to a year now about Kodansha possibly entering the U.S. manga market under its own banner. Some speculated the plan would become a reality after the rights for several Kodansha properties, including “;Ghost in the Shell,”; “;Akira,”; “;Beck”; and “;Samurai Deeper Kyo,”; reverted to the publisher. Since then, “;Kyo”; has gone to Del Rey, while Amazon's Canadian Web site and Right Stuf have “;Akira”; and “;Ghost in the Shell”; available for preorder, with the publisher listed as “;Kodansha Comics”; and release dates listed in October.

October is just three months away, which would make now the perfect time for Kodansha to reveal any plans for the future. It's likely Kodansha has the muscle to push into the market on its own. But a stronger alliance with an existing U.S. publisher that knows the market could end up working just as well and erase some of the risk associated with the current economic climate, to boot.

For more industry issues that I think will be addressed at the “;big three”; conventions in the next few weeks, check out “;Otaku Ohana”; at blogs.starbulletin.com/otakuohana today.

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Follow Jason S. Yadao on Twitter at twitter.com/jsyadao or e-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)