VIZ Media didn't have a presence on the Javits Center exhibition floor, but their Sunday morning panel at New York Comic-Con showed us that they had more than a few exciting manga announcements up their sleeve for 2009 and beyond. The big news from that morning? The announcement of a new series by Rumiko Takahashi, news about artistically innovative graphic novels for grown-ups by Fumi Yoshinaga, Taiyo Matsumoto, Asano Inio and Natsume Ono for Fall / Winter 2009 - 2010, the addition of Ultimo to the Shonen Jump magazine line-up in Summer 2009, plus an array of new manga for kids, teens and adults.
A room full of fans came out to see what VIZ Media's marketing gurus Candice Uyloan and Mark Chang had to say about the latest and upcoming releases in anime, manga. While not the mood wasn't as frenzied as Saturday's Yen Press event, there was still lots to get excited about. Here's some of the highlights:
NEW MANGA BY TAKAHASHI, TAKEI GET ACCELERATED U.S. RELEASES
The marquee announcement for Sunday's panel was the accelerated releases for two fresh-out-of-the-oven manga series from Japan by Rumiko Takahashi, Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei.
- A New Series by Rumiko Takahashi - Date TBD, 2009
Since the last chapter of Inu-Yasha appeared in Japan in 2008, fans all over the world have been eagerly awaiting the next series from bestselling creator Rumiko Takahashi. Chang and Uyloan announced that VIZ will be picking up the as-yet-unnamed Takahashi manga for the U.S. market for release sometime in 2009. Takahashi-sensei's new series will be featured in Shogakukan's Weekly Shonen Sunday magazine, the same place where her past hits, Inu-Yasha, Ranma ½ and Urusei Yatsura were featured.
From the sounds of things, VIZ's plans for this new series by Takahashi-sensei seems to be following the trend established by the current accelerated release schedule for Naruto, e.g. where they'll be trying to trim the traditional lag time between a manga's release in Japan and its eventual publication in English in the U.S. Look for more updates on this tantalizing tidbit in the months to come.
Ultimo by Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei in Shonen Jump - July 2009
The big manga media event at New York Comic-Con 2008 was the announcement of Ultimo (a.k.a. Karakuridôji Ultimo or Mechanical Boy Ultimo), the cross-cultural manga collaboration from American comics legend Stan Lee and Shaman King manga-ka, Hiroyuki Takei. This time, the Ultimo news revealed was the addition of this new shonen manga series to the monthly line-up in the U.S. edition of Shonen Jump magazine in July 2009.
Lee wasn't on hand to bring the noise and hop up the hype, but he was there in spirit. A video of his message to Japanese fans was played for the NYCC crowd, complete with subtitles and a hearty "Excelsior!" to all.
The prelude chapter of Ultimo was featured in the April 2008 issue of Jump SQ II magazine in Japan, and was published in English in the September 2008 issue of Shonen Jump magazine -- an unusually short lag time between its Japanese and American publication dates. The first chapter of the Ultimo saga appeared in Jump SQ. in March 2008, so having this chapter appear in English only four months after its Japanese debut is an unusually quick turnaround when most manga take years to arrive in the U.S. after its publication in Japan.
Overall, this kind of accelerated release schedule is a positive trend for U.S. manga fans, who often rely upon illegal scanlations to read the latest chapters of their favorite manga days after it hits the newsstands in Japan. If all goes well, hopefully other publishers will follow suit.
NEW 'INDIE' STYLE GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR GROWN-UPS
At both the ICV2 Graphic Novels Conference and at Friday's Publishers' Weekly Comics Week panel, VIZ Vice-President of Corporate Partnerships Liza Coppola mentioned that VIZ was looking to capture the attention (and dollars) of grown-up graphic novel readers who made Watchmen a humungous bestseller throughout 2008. While she mentioned Oishinbo and Vagabond as being appealing for readers craving more sophisticated fare, these new titles added to VIZ's Fall 2009 line-up would also fit the bill nicely.
- What a Wonderful World by Asano Inio - October 2009
From the creator of Solanin (one of my favorite manga of 2008) comes a two-volume story, What a Wonderful World. According to Uyloan's description:
"Master magical realist manga-ka Asano Inio takes the readers through the daily lives of several characters. We see the darkness that plagues them and their struggle to overcome it… what everyone really wants is for this to be a wonderful world."As an added bonus, both volumes of What a Wonderful World will be released concurrently in October 2009.
- GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto - November 2009
Fans of Matsumoto-sensei's bold, surreal and visceral storytelling have been clamoring for more from the talented manga innovator who created Tekkon Kinkreet: Black and White and Blue Spring. Now GoGo Monster, a new one-shot from Matsumoto-sensei is poised to deliver lots of memorable, mind-blowing imagery. In this story, a young boy can see imaginary creatures -- but are they really just a figment of his over-active imagination or is it something more?
- Not Simple by Natsume Ono - January 2010
Originally published in IKKI, Not Simple is the first of several titles by Ono-sensei promised to appear in 2010 and beyond. While not well-known in the States, Ono-sensei's work features a mix of simple, stylized characters and graphic realism drawn with bold strokes that will remind many readers of American / European indie comics creators like Seth, Adrian Tomine, and off-the-beaten-path manga artists like est em.
"Her works are known for being complex and heavy -- it has lots of heavy themes," said Uyloan. "You'll be seeing a lot from Ono-sensei from Viz Media, so we hope you'll enjoy reading her series."
FEMME-FRIENDLY JOSEI MANGA FROM YOSHINAGA AND YOSHIHARA
What can grown-up manga readers do when they still love the romance and female-centric storytelling of shojo manga, but they've outgrown the fantasy and high school crushes of the typical shojo story? Josei (ladies) manga is the answer, but so far, there isn't a whole lot of it available in English. VIZ is looking to change that just a bit, with two new josei manga titles.
- Butterflies, Flowers by Yuki Yoshihara - December 2009
"This one is for older shojo manga fans," said Uyloan. "It's an office romance." But unlike the real-life office romance seen in Suppli, this one has a fun twist about a poor little rich girl who finds that her past has created unusual tension in the workplace.
Choko is from a noble family, but recent circumstances have lead to her working at an ordinary office job. Her boss is a bit of a jerk to her for reasons unknown -- until one day he accidently calls her 'milady,' and Choko discovers that her boss was a former servant to her family.
All My Darling Daughters (Aisubeki Musumetachi) by Fumi Yoshinaga - January 2010
After adding Ooku: The Inner Chambers to their line-up, it probably shouldn't have been surprising that VIZ would have yet another title from Yoshinaga-sensei in their Fall / Winter 2009-2010 line-up. Nevertheless, it's great to see a new title from Yoshinaga-sensei, and especially one that sounds the kind of smart, engaging, reality-based josei manga stories that many grown-up fans have been clamoring for.
All My Darling Daughters focuses on Yukiko, a single professional woman in her thirties who lives with her mother. "It has an interesting take on relationships," said Uyloan. "Not one to miss if you like real-life stories."
GUNS, MERCENARIES AND MUTANTS FOR SEINEN MANGA FANS
- Dogs: Bullets and Carnage by Shirow Miwa - August 2009
The prelude chapter, Dogs: Prelude (Volume 0) is due out in April 2009, but the action kicks into gear with the arrival of the first volume of Dogs: Bullets and Carnage in August 2009.
Described as "one of the most popular series in Ultra Jump magazine," Dogs: Bullets and Carnage features "lots of mutants and beautiful girls with wings," said Uyloan. Much like the characters in the recently released Maximum Ride manga, the winged warriors of Dogs: Bullets and Carnage are "trying to figure out why they were made into mutants." Uyloan went on to promise that Dogs would have "lots of action, lots of weapons, swords and guns. It's kind of gory."
Jormungand by Keitaro Takahashi - November 2009
"Death is their business, and business is good" -- or at least that's the tag line that introduced the addition of Jormungand to VIZ Media's Fall 2009 lineup. This seinen manga series was originally featured in Monthly Sunday GX magazine, the home of another action-packed, gun-slingin' title, Black Lagoon. Described as featuring "mercenaries and child soldiers," Jormungand promise more hard-boiled action for fans who are already hooked on Black Lagoon.
SQUEAL-WORTHY SHOJO: NATSUME'S BOOK OF FRIENDS, BOYS OVER FLOWERS SEQUEL
Shojo Beat fans also received news to make them squeal, as Uyloan and Chang announced three new shojo manga series and a new art book featuring illustrations by Arina Tanemura.
- Natsume's Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujincho) by Yuki Midorikawa - January 2010
Currently featured in Lala magazine (the home of Vampire Knight), Natsume's Book of Friends has been generating a lot of buzz on the U.S. shojo fan circuit that's only gotten more intense as the anime version of Natsume Yuujincho recently debuted on Crunchyroll.com.
In the tradition of supernatural series like Mushishi and Kekkaishi, Natsume's Book of Friends is a gently humorous, heart-warming and magical adventure series about a high school boy who can see yokai, or Japanese ghosts / spirits. Trouble is, he's the only one who can see them. As he's tormented / chased by these otherwise invisible creatures, Natsume's classmates think he's a bit of kook.
When Natsume moves to the hometown of his now-deceased grandmother, he discovers that his grandmother had the same gift as he did. But she used her powers in a very different way, as she battled the yokai to write their names in her 'book of friends,' an act that bound the yokai to do her bidding. Now Natsume feels compelled to set these spirits free. But with these great powers come great responsibility -- and sometimes unexpected consequences.
Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box by Yoko Kamio - October 2009
When Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango) ended with Volume 36 after selling over 35 million copies in Japan, Kamio-sensei left a few plot threads dangling. Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box picks things up a year after the events of Volume 36, and fans find out what happened next for willful and spunky poor little poor girl Tsukushi, her stubborn and ultra-rich boyfriend Doumyoji, and the rest of the F4 boys.
- Beast Master by Kyosuke Motomi - November 2009
Originally featured in BetsuComi, Beast Master is a 2 volume-series that offers an unusual twist on the 'Beauty and the Beast" theme.
Yuiko is an ordinary high school girl who loves animals -- maybe a little too much. Then she meets Leo, a transfer student who has an unusual affinity for creatures great and small. But Leo is more than an animal lover -- when he's in danger, he acts more like a beast than a boy, and it looks like only Yuiko can tame her strangely innocent yet savage classmate.
Gentlemen's Alliance Cross Art Book by Arina Tanemura - November 2009
Tanemura-sensei's stories feature some of the most lush, detailed and sparkly shojo manga artwork around. Now fans can enjoy more of her illustrations for Gentlemen's Alliance Cross in a full-color artbook for collectors. Much like the Art of Full Moon art book that came out in 2008, the Gentlemen's Alliance Cross art book will include lots of commentary from Tanemura-sensei and two pieces of art that have not been released anywhere else.
NEW KID-FRIENDLY MANGA FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
- Choco Mimi by Konami Sonada - July 2009
A candy-colored comic for girls, Choco Mimi is yonkoma (4-panel) manga about two very cute and very fashionable young tweens. Choco is serious and reliable while her best friend Mimi is a bit spoiled and silly -- but these two girls share fun, friendship, recipes and fashion tips with each other and their young fans.
A fun cross between Hello Kitty sweetness and Bratz sass, Choco Mimi is currently featured in Ribon magazine and has already been adapted into a live-action TV series in Japan.
Yu-Gi-Oh! R by Akira Ito and Kazuki Takahashi - October 2009
The latest installment in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game / anime / comics franchise follows the adventures of Yakou Tenma, the protégé of Pegasus J. Crawford, a former foe of Yugi Mutou, the hero of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! series.
The first volume will also contain an exclusive Yu-Gi-Oh! card for playing and trading.
NARUTO GENERATION NINJA MANGA EXTRAS PLUS WATCH & WIN CONTEST
As these volumes roll out, Naruto is taking a break from its monthly slot in Shonen Jump magazine in the March and April issues, but to make up for it, VIZ is giving fans a chance to test their ninja knowledge at ShonenJump.com and win prize packs featuring their favorite characters. If you need hints to win, check out the bookmarks included in Naruto volumes 38, 39 and 40 (on sale March 3, 2009) and volumes 42 and 43 (on sale April 7. 2009) for hints.
To celebrate the arrival of the Naruto Shippuden anime episodes on Naruto.com, VIZ is also starting up a watch and win contest in March. Just watch the latest episodes on Naruto.com and answer a question about the episode. If your answer is correct, you'll be entered to win Naruto apparel, video games and DVDs.
NEW NOVELS FROM NOVALA TAKEMOTO & VIZ'S HAIKASORU SCI-FI IMPRINT
VIZ continues its slow and steady growth of its prose offerings with a new two-part novel from Novala Takemoto (the author of Kamikaze Girls), and four titles to introduce their new sci-fi imprint, Haikasoru to the world. As Uyloan put it, the titles selected for Haikasoru offer "pulp fiction with a pulse and a brain."
- Missin' / Missin' 2: Kasako by Novala Takemoto - August 2009
VIZ is presenting a two-volume set of novels by author, Gothic Lolita taste-maker and fashion designer Takemoto. Missin' was first published in 2000 and was Takemoto's first novel. Missin' 2: Kasako the sequel followed in 2004.
The tagline for Missin' is "How far can you go to get what you want before you lose your mind?" and sure enough, this Gothic-tinged tale follows a young girl who has an overwhelming obsession with a pop star -- an obsession that leads her down a dark path.
Lords of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa - July 2009
Sixty-two years after human life on earth was annihilated by rampaging aliens, the enigmatic cyborg Messenger O is sent back in time with the mission to unite the humanity of past eras—during World War II and in ancient Japan, even back at the dawn of humanity—in order to defeat the alien invasion before it begins. But amidst a future shredded by war, love also waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself?
All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka - July 2009
In this "violent version of Groundhog Day," a soldier named Keiji finds himself fighting and dying in battle only to find himself revived later to relive the events of that day over and over again. Then on the 158th time, Keiji notices something different -- a female soldier on the battlefield. Does she hold the key to ending this never-ending loop of destruction?
Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Noiri - September 2009
In the future, Earth scientists discover that a tower is being built on Mercury, and that someone is building a ring around the sun. Aki is a female scientist who is sent on a mission to discover who is behind the ring, and find a way to stop them.
ZOO by Otsuichi - September 2009
From the author of GOTH comes a new collection of scary short stories. "In the human zoo, it's hard to tell who has the keys to the cage," or so goes the tag line for this book. A sampling of stories include a serial killer who has built a house with the corpses of his victims and a man who records the decomposition of his dead girl friend, one Polaroid picture at at time.
ZOO is a bestseller in Japan, where it sold over 740,000 copies. "This is a very, very hot author," said Uyloan.
ODDS & ENDS: PONYO, DEATH NOTE AND NANA, HONEY & CLOVER ANIME HINTS
Chang and Uyloan made good use of their hour-long slot as they packed in a bunch of news and hints about other coming attractions from VIZ. Some choice tidbits:
- More Death Note Movies Coming Soon - June 2009
Death Note Relight: Visions of a God is a feature-length anime that retells the Death Note story from shinigami Ryuk's point of view. Look for this one to debut in June 2009. When asked about the fate of L: Change the World, the third chapter in the live action Death Note movies, Chang and Uyloan couldn't say much, other than "it will be released this year" from VIZ Pictures.
Ponyo on a Cliff By the Sea Ani-Manga, Picture Books and Art Book - July 2009
When the latest film from Studio Ghibli arrives this summer, it'll be accompanied by four volumes of the full-color ani-manga, a large-format picture book and a luxe art book featuring character sketches, background paintings and behind-the-scenes facts about this magical story about a little fish girl and her friendship with a young boy.
Honey and Clover, Nana and Monster Anime News?
At almost every VIZ Media panel, at least one fan asks, 'so when will the Honey and Clover, Nana, Vampire Knight and/or Monster anime series be released in the U.S.?/ The March 2009 issue of Shojo Beat promised a release date for the Nana anime sometime soon -- but when pressed for firm dates, Uyloan and Chang could only shrug "we'll have more news for you soon." When that was met by groans, they assured fans that these titles will be out sooner than later -- and hopefully that means before 2010.
Next up: NY Comic-Con photos and a report from CMX Manga's panel. Thanks for hanging in there! More to come!
Image credits: © Deb Aoki, © Reed Exhibitions, © Asano Inio, © Natsume Ono, © Fumi Yoshinaga, © Yuki Midorikawa, © Studio Ghibli