Whenever I talk about anime or manga I usually
rant incessantly talk about how doomed the industry is. Well, there’s one company that’s actually managing to turn a profit and stay financially healthy, and there are two news points that let me illustrate why. The company is Viz, who mostly does manga but also owns the big Shonen Jump series like Naruto and Bleach and Inuyasha.
Viz has just announced a new Shonen Sunday imprint, which will launch Rumiko Takahashi’s new manga Rin-ne simultaneously with its Japanese release — always a smart move nowadays, especially with a series from the lady who created Inuyasha and Ranma 1/2. But here’s what’s really interesting to me — Viz is own by two Japanese publishing companies, Shueisha — who publishes Shonen Jump in Japan and effectively owns all those series — and Shogakukan, which publishes Shonen Sunday and owns Takahashi’s work and other big series. Shueisha and Shogakukan fucking hate each other. Try to imagine Marvel and DC co-owning a publisher in Japan, which prints both companies’ comics. It’s insane that the company can get anything done — but both publishers have actually put the U.S. company ahead of their squabbles, and Viz has profited immensely from it. Furthermore, while most Japanese anime companies force their U.S. subsidiaries to purchase the license to their series — so, like Bandai USA has to pay Bandai Japan a shit-ton of money to release a Gundam anime in America — Shogakukan and Shueisha count Viz as a real company, give them the series “for free,” allowing Viz to make a much greater profit for themselves and their Japanese owners. Why other Japanese companies refused to do this, I’ll never know.
The other news is that Viz is “catching up” my beloved One Piece manga, much like they did with Naruto a year or two ago. Currently, the U.S. edition is on volume 21, while Japan is on volume 53 or so. Beginning next January, Viz will release five One Piece volumes per month, for a total of 30 volumes and $250. And I’ll buy them all. And be broke. But very, very happy. And Viz will more or less be releasing it’s biggest manga series concurrently with Japan, negating a large part of the reason for online piracy. Which is why Viz rules and most other anime/manga companies are sinking or have already sunk.