My first stop on Friday morning at San Diego Comic-Con was an invitation-only affair where the VIZ Media crew promised to announce some new titles for 2011. And sure enough, they did -- when I entered the room I was greeted by a bunch of giant Mameshiba plushes! Mameshiba is the latest addition to the VIZ Kids imprint of kid-friendly comics. The first Mameshiba books are due to debut in Spring 2011.
VIZ Kids Editor Tracy Todd promised that there will be Mameshiba board books, puzzle and sticker books too - but what I found particularly interesting was the news that the Mameshiba manga would be a completely new and original comics creation developed by the VIZ Kids editorial team with stories written and drawn by three creators from the U.S. and Spain.
The VIZ Kids' Mameshiba manga will feature two types of stories: short comic stories written by James Turner and illustrated by Jorge Monlongo, and shorter 1-page interstitial stories written and drawn by Gemma Correll. In one tale, the Mameshiba enjoy a swim in a kitchen sink, when one of them gets sucked down the drain. The rest of the bean dogs go on a mission to rescue their lost comrade.
For those of you who don't know Japanese or are not familiar with these critters, "Mameshiba" means "bean dog." But Mameshiba is more than just "beans" - they are dogs representing all kinds of nuts and legumes including lentils, cashews and even jelly beans. Each Mameshiba character has a slightly different personality, but they all have a knack for showing up unexpectedly to share some true and sometimes slightly disturbing trivia. You can see for yourself in these short video clips featuring Mameshiba in action.
I first encountered Mameshiba in one of those mugen edamame (infinite soybeans) toys I bought in Japan, that allow you to pop plastic soybeans out of its pod over and over again. Now VIZ, along with Toynami is teaming up with Japanese advertising/creative agency Dentsu in an effort to make these quirky critters a household name.
You can meet the various Mameshiba characters at their official website, and discover for yourself which Mameshiba is "twisted and tends to say things that alienate others" and which one is "a worrier who likes to give unsolicited advice."
MORE NEW KID-FRIENDLY TITLES FOR 2010 : PANDA MAN, POKEMON AND MAGIC PENCILS
Besides Mameshiba, Todd and VIZ Media Editorial Director Elizabeth Kawasaki also showed off several other new VIZ Kids titles for Fall 2010.
Panda Man to the Rescue by Sho Makura and Haruhi Kato - October 2010
Roly-poly, not-so-super hero Panda Man is 'the greatest martial artist in the world' - or at least he thinks so. He's clumsy, he farts and he has stinky feet - but when it counts, can he really save the day? But even if he can't, this humorous mix of mild potty humor, comic-book style action and puzzle fun makes for a fun introduction to manga for readers age 6 and up.
Look for two more Panda Man books to follow: Panda Man and the Treasure Hunt (December 2010) and Panda Man vs. Chiwanda (April 2011).
Taro and the Magic Pencil by Sango Morimoto - October 2010
In a format similar to the Panda Man books, Taro and the Magic Pencil mixes comics story fun with games and puzzles for younger readers.
In this series, a young boy named Taro loves to draw and create characters in his sketchbook. One day, a magician character pops out of Taro's sketchbook and tells him that the comic book world he has created is being threatened by a villain named King Crossout who wants to erase all of Taro's creations in Doodledom. Taro is then turned into a scrappy dog doodle by the magician, and given a magic pencil help to save his comic creations. Also, look for Taro and the Terror of Eats Street to follow in March 2011.
Pokemon Adventures Platinum by Hidenori Kusaka and Satoshi Yamamoto - February 2011
The latest stories in the ever-popular Nintendo's Pokemon (pocket monsters) series will debut in 2011, but that's not the only Pokemon joy to expect from VIZ. The popular pocket guides to Pokemon will also be released as a 2-volume boxed set with a double-sided poster featuring two Pokemon not included in the books: Shaymin and Asceus. Due out in late October 2010 and priced at $14.99, this set will be a great gift for any young gamer on your gift list.
See the rest of the VIZ Kids line-up at their official website: VIZKids.com, and stick around for more manga news, interviews and photos from Comic-Con!
Image credits: © Deb Aoki, © DENTSU, © Sho Makura and Haruhi Kato / SHUEISHA, © Comic-Con International