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NYAF 2007: VIZ Media Panel Report

At the New York Anime Festival, VIZ Media was represented on a panel by Wendy Shimamura, associate product manager for home entertainment at VIZ; Nicole Boyer, senior sales associate with Simon and Schuster for VIZ manga; and Manny Rodriguez, who handled DVD distribution for the East Coast. Shimamura began the panel by commenting on the success of the New York Anime Festival, saying that it’s an amazing confirmation of their efforts to see new shows and new conventions every year to see how the fanbase continues to grow.

(l to r) Nicole Boyer, Wendy Shimamura, and Manny RodriguezBoyer began her portion of the presentation with the VIZBIG editions, which are slightly larger than the standard manga digest sized paperback and will have a higher page count and more extras than the digests. The first she showed was the recently released Tekkon Kinkreet, based on the anime movie of the same name, which Boyer noted was named one of the best graphic novels of the year by Publisher’s Weekly. She followed this up by displaying the first VIZBIG reprint of Rurouni Kenshin, which should be available in February 2008. The book will be $17.99 per volume for 3 volumes, and the VIZBIG editions will have extra story pages, bonus art pages, a color section, and several other extras. This volume will be followed by Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z VIZBIG editions in May 2008, in advance of the live-action Dragon Ball Z movie coming in August 2008. Boyer told the audience that she wasn’t supposed to tell us that the second VIZBIG volume of Dragon Ball Z should be out in August 2008, and not to put this information up on the Internet. Oops. Sorry, Nicole.

Boyer continued with news about the latest Naruto manga. Volume 28 will pick up the story two-and-a-half years later, with an older and wiser but still obnoxious lead character. The volume will be out in March 2008, and with new volumes continuing to follow every two months. She also highlighted the upcoming Naruto Fanbook, largely created by content submitted by fans to Shonen Jump magazine.

The latest success for VIZ Media has been Death Note, and Boyer stated that 2008 will be the “Year of Death Note” with a lot of related books and merchandise appearing. Although all 12 volumes of Death Note are already published, Boyer showed off a 13th volume: Death Note: How to Read, which will be a handbook to the manga that will also include exclusive information (such as what the mysterious L’s real name is) and bonus manga. She also showed off a new hardcover library edition of the first digest volume, which will be available in December 2007 or January 2008. The original novel Death Note: Another Note, will chronicle the past history of L and show how he came to power. This volume will be coming in Feb 2008 — and will hopefully see anime in full swing and the live-action as well.

Boyer rapidly covered several new manga coming in 2008, such as:

  • Ral Grad by Takeshi Obata, coming in February 2008. This series is about a boy whose fate is tied with dragons in shadowland.
  • Gun Blaze West, by Nobuhiro Watsuki of Ruroni Kenshin and Buso Renkin fame. Coming in April 2008, Boyer recommended this manga for Trigun fans.
  • Boyer began the shojo manga section with High School Debut by Kazune Kawahara, which will begin in serialized form in Shojo Beat in December 2007, with the first manga volume appearing in January 2008. New volumes will appear bimonthly.
  • Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara will begin in serialized form in Shojo Beat in August 2007 and in manga digest form in January 2008. New volumes will appear every 4 months.
  • Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa and Sai Kawashima, will be coming in February 2008. The single volume manga is about a man who returns from the dead so he can stay with his family for a little while longer. The prose novel Be With You will be appearing in the same month.
  • Honey and Clover by Chica Umino will be released starting in March 2008 with new volumes every 4 months. The slice-of-life manga about poor college students has been a big hit in Japan, Korea, and Thailand. During the Q&A, Shimamura revealed that VIZ has the rights to the Honey and Clover anime, but they have not selected a production company yet.
  • The “twisted shojo story” Monkey High! by Shouko Akira premieres in Shojo Beat in February 2008, with manga digests appearing in March 2008. New volumes will be released quarterly.
  • Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time by Tohko Mizuno will be appearing in April 2008 with an anime tie-in with Bandai. New volumes will appear every 4 months. In this manga, a girl is transported to ancient Japan to save the world.
  • Set in a magic school, the single-volume I*O*N by Arina Tanemura (Full Moon and Gentlemen’s Alliance) will be coming in April 2008.
  • B.O.D.Y. by Ao Mimori will begin in May 2008 on a quarterly release schedule. The manga, which has already published 11 volumes in Japanese, ceners on the “host club” culture of Japan.
  • Moving on to shonen manga, Boyer started with Switch by Naked Ape. Coming in March 2008, Boyer described it as a bad cops, bad streets title that will appeal to fans of Quentin Tarantino movies. New volumes will appear bimonthly.
  • Nightmare Inspector: Yumekui Kenbun by Shin Mashiba begins in April 2008 on a bimonthly release schedule. The series will center on a mysterious tea house filled with restless souls.
  • Record of a Fallen Vampire by Kyo Shirodaira and Yuri Kimura. This manga of a vampire king searching for his lost queen begins in May 2008 on a quarterly schedule.

In addition, the Kamikaze Girls paperback prose novel by Novala Takemoto will be hitting bookshelves in January 2008. This was the novel that inspired the recent movie, released by VIZ Media to theaters last year. Another prose novel, Socrates in Love by Kyoichi Katayama, will be released in February 2008. This novel was the original source of the manga that came out last year.

While discussing the shojo manga, Boyer noted that Shojo Beat has a circulation of 130,000, and that half of the readers are 18-34 year olds and the other half are 12-17 year olds (or “the next generation of shojo fans”).

Moving on to anime, Manny Rodriguez thanked the fans for making 2007 a fantastic year, from a sold-out, one-night, 170-theater run for the Naruto movie to the successful download-to-own (DTO) video initiatives and the one-year anniversary of Toonami Jetstream. Rodriguez said they would continue with these initiatives and had a lot of good stuff coming in 2008 that they couldn’t talk about yet.

Wendy Shimamura went on to discuss VIZ’s wildly popular ninja-in-training, saying that the fifth Naruto uncut boxed set was just released on December 4. The box is available in a standard edition for $49.98, and a special edition that will include a special pack-in summoning creature statue of Gamabunta. There were only 15,000 Gamabunta figures made, and this boxed set will also come with a wooden tray to display all the summoning figures to come in forthcoming boxed sets. Shimamura said that VIZ was accelerating its uncut boxed set release schedule, with Volume 6 coming on February 12, 2008; Volume 7 on April 15, 2008, and Volume 8 on June 10, 2008. The faster schedule is to keep up with the Cartoon Network premiere episodes, and hopefully even catch up with Japan.

Next, Shimamura showed the Buso Renkin DVD boxed set. This series will only be released in a boxed set format, in 2 boxes for all 26 episodes of the show. The first volume will be available on April 29, 2008,and will include 13 uncut episodes and interviews with the English cast and voice director. The second box should follow “soon after.” It was also pointed out that book 10 of the manga will be out in January, and that it will be the final volume of the manga series.

Shimamura moved on to the Download-to-Own initiatives, which was launched with Death Note, followed by Bleach and Naruto. DTO video is now available with Direct2Drive, Akimbo, and Xbox Live, but Shimamura said that the service would soon be coming to the Amazon Unbox service. More details, such as the launch date, would be available in the next couple of weeks. Shimamura stated that DTO video was definitely an area VIZ wanted to grow and expand in.

On the one-year anniversary of Toonami Jetstream, Shimamura said that the next year would expand the catalog of available shows. She noted that the site is averaging 1.7 million unique users per month, with the top 3 properties being Naruto, Pokemon, and MÄR. Naruto alone has been streamed 27 million times since its Jetstream debut, with Pokemon coming behind at 22 million streams and MÄR falling just short of 20 million. Next week should see the debut of Eyeshield 21 on Jetstream.

At this point, Boyer took the opportunity to note that the success of manga and anime meant that “We are changing culture in the United States. Just look outside. Sooner or later, we’ll all be dressed like that.”

During the Q&A session, Rodriguez said that there was no news about a release of the Bleach movie akin to the Naruto movie, but that “it’s looking good” and to keep your eyes open for more news.

The Q&A period was also when Boyer stated that VIZ should begin publishing the Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo manga series in 2008, but she would now need to kill us because we’re not supposed to know about it. She also re-invoked one of her frequent themes, saying, “Don’t put this on the Internet.” She said that Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo had been so successful that the original artist has gone back and started making new manga.

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