Once again, pop culture fandom congregated en masse at the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con International 2014, including plenty of fans looking for manga and anime. While there were fewer manga-related panels on the programming schedule than ever, there were still lots to see on the floor and publishers reported strong sales at this year's show.
Compared to years past, the list of new manga licenses announced at Comic-Con was fairly short—many announcements were made earlier in the month at Anime Expo in Los Angeles, and likely more will be made soon at Otakon in Baltimore. In fact, only four manga publishers had panels scheduled this year: Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, Udon Entertainment and Drawn and Quarterly. Viz Media had no new titles to announce, so that left Kodansha, Udon and D&Q to offer new title announcements at Comic-Con to get fans buzzing.
Udon Adds Robotech, Kill La Kill
Udon Entertainment announced that they will be publishing the manga adaptation of Kill La Kill, the red-hot anime series from Studio Trigger that has been streaming on Crunchyroll.com and Hulu.com. It's hard to explain how over-the-top crazy Kill La Kill is without revealing too many of its twists, but it's fair to say that this will be a title to watch out for in 2015.
Udon also announced a freshly-inked deal with Harmony Gold to publish new artbooks based on the classic sci-fi action series, Robotech (a.k.a. Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA). Harmony Gold Creative Director Tommy Yune joined Udon Entertainment CEO Erik Ko on stage to preview art from these new books featuring original concept art and sketches pulled from the vaults, and not based off books previously published in Japan. Since this deal is so new, details like release dates were not available at press time, but this is also one to watch.
Udon also announced other buzz-worthy art books and graphic novels including fan favorites based on video games like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Professor Layton and Katamari Damacy, and a pair of art books featuring the animation art of manga legend Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy). They also announced new additions to their original Manga Classics imprint including Emma by Jane Austen, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, all due in early 2015.
Kodansha Rides ‘Titan’ Wave
Kodansha Comics also announced a pair of new manga titles for their 2015 schedule: Let's Dance a Waltz by Natsumi Ando, a shojo manga about ballroom dancing from the creator of Kitchen Princess, and Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches by Miki Yoshikawa, a shonen manga comedy featuring magic, romance, and a bit of gender-bending. Yamada-kun is currently available online via Crunchyroll Manga, as is two of their other recently-announced acquisitions, A Silent Voice and The Heroic Legend of Arslan.
Kana Koide, general manager of Kodansha USA and they’re distributor, Dallas Middaugh from Random House Publisher Services, were on hand to showcase these new titles, and to hand out samplers of Attack on Titan, a title that Middaugh described as a "once in a decade phenomenon." With over 1.5 million copies available in print in North America and 40 million in sales in Japan, plus over 57 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list, and a much-loved (and much-watched) anime series, interest in Attack on Titan continues to grow. Kodansha is riding this wave with the recently-released Attack on Titan Colossal Edition, and upcoming releases of the Attack on Titan Guidebook and two box set collections with volumes of Attack on Titan, Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, and Attack on Titan Junior High packaged for holiday gift-giving.
D&Q Adds Gekiga, Mizuki’s ‘Hitler’
While manga wasn't the main focus of their panel, Montreal-based Drawn and Quarterly announced new additions to their line-up with Trash Market, a collection of "dark, beautiful and funny" comics by Tadao Tsuge (brother of indie manga icon Yoshiharu Tsuge).
Originally published in late 1960's-early 70's in GARO Magazine, this collection of short stories will be edited by Ryan Holmberg, who previously worked on PictureBox Book's Ten-Cent Manga series. Incidentally, The Mysterious Underground Men by Osamu Tezuka from Picturebox (also edited by Holmberg) took home the Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material - Asia. Look for Trash Market to hit the shelves in February 2015.
D&Q also announced that they'll be publishing Hitler, a graphic novel biography of the infamous WWII German dictator penned by Shigeru Mizuki (Onwards Toward Our Noble Deaths and Kitaro). This one will take a bit longer to make it to stores, as D&Q is looking to complete publication of their multi-volume Mizuki manga series, Showa: A History of Japan first. Hitler will likely debut sometime in "late 2015 – early 2016."
Viz Media Hails Hello Kitty’s 40th
Viz Media didn't announce any new manga licenses at Comic-Con, but they did have lots to show, sell and celebrate on the exhibit hall floor, including an SDCC-exclusive edition and early release of Hello Kitty Hello 40, an original tribute art book, featuring "40 stories plus one for good luck" featuring everyone's favorite cat as drawn by some of today's top talents, including Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Gene Luen Yang (American-Born Chinese) Jenni and Matt Holm (Babymouse), Chynna Clugston-Flores, Lark Pien and much more.
"No one turned us down when we asked them if they wanted to contribute to this book; everyone was so excited about it! " said Traci Todd, Viz Media senior editor for children's publishing. "We were very open to the artists' interpretations of her," explained Susan Tran, senior marketing manager at Sanrio, “and this shows in the variety of art and stories in this full-color hardcover book. " Elizabeth Kawasaki, senior editorial director at viz, and co-editor of Hello Kitty Hello 40 added, "There's been a lot of interest in this book from overseas; we're hearing from companies who want to buy it, distribute it or publish it in Spain, Singapore, India and many more."
VIZ Media's trade edition of Hello Kitty Hello 40 won't be on sale to the general public until late October 2014, to coincide with Hello Kitty's official birthday on November 1 and Hello Kitty Con, a special Sanrio event planned from October 30-November 2 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles.
Viz also showcased its other new kids comics creations, Catbug's Treasure Book and The Search for Catbug, two original books based on the hit Cartoon Hangover animated series, Bravest Warriors. Sam Lavagnino, the pint-sized voice actor of Catbug was also on hand to greet fans and sign books.
Sailor Moon had a big presence at the Viz booth, with giveaways and special events to celebrate the return of the original Sailor Moon anime and the new Sailor Moon Crystal series now streaming on Viz's Neon Alley and Hulu.
Other recently announced titles from Viz include their upcoming release of the first two arcs of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, the cult fave Shonen Jump series that has a new anime series on Crunchyroll. The digital editions of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood will be available in September 2014, with the print edition to follow in February 2015.
Strong Sales for Vertical, Dark Horse, Yen Press
While publishers like Yen Press, Vertical and Seven Seas didn't have dedicated panels on this year's Comic-Con schedule to showcase their latest and greatest, everyone reported strong sales and fan interest in their latest releases.
At the Yen Press / Hachette booth, copies of sci-fi action manga Accel World by Reki Kawahara were sold out by Thursday. Other fan favorites at the Yen Press booth included both the manga and light novel versions of Sword Art Online, as well as Black Butler and Soul Eater.
Vertical sold every copy they brought of In Clothes Called Fat by Moyoco Anno, a new one-shot focusing on one woman's struggle with her body image and the eating disorder that comes from her obsession. Vertical Marketing Director Ed Chavez also reported renewed interest in Knights of Sidonia by Tsutomu Nihei, partly due to Netflix currently screening the anime exclusively on their site. Other pick hits include the latest volumes of What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga and Chi's Sweet Home by Konami Kanata.
Dark Horse showcased Dragon Girl and Monkey King: The Art of Katsuya Terada, a lavish, full-color original art book featuring the work of this renown illustrator and manga artist. Last Gasp also hosted signings by Terada to shine a light on Erotic Engineering, another Terada art book that's published by PIE Books that they're distributing in North America.
Seven Seas Print Sales Rebound
Seven Seas also reported strong retail sales over the weekend, with top titles like Monster Musume, A Centaur's Life and Arpeggio of Blue Steel enjoying a lot of attention from fans. But despite having several of their titles available via digital channels like Comixology, managing editor Adam Arnold reported that Seven Seas is now focusing more of their attention on print publishing.
"In 2014, we published 100 volumes of manga, in 2015, we're looking at publishing over 120 volumes," he said. "Retail for our manga is really strong right now: Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, indie shops and bookstores. I think it's found its niche." He continued, "Everything's cyclical. The anime industry in North America experienced its crash a few years ago, and the manga market imploded too, but now it's rebounding."
With upcoming projects like Dance in the Vampire Bund: Secret Chronicles and Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Bet on My Heart due in Fall 2014, and strong sales for a growing line of titles, Seven Seas is looking ahead to their next year, and hopefully next decade in the manga publishing biz.
With tickets and hotel rooms sold out months in advance of the show, it's gotten increasingly difficult, if not impossible for casual fans to attend Comic-Con. Many manga/anime fans have turned their attention to the much more accessible, but increasingly crowded events like Anime Expo and Otakon. These anime-centric shows will probably continue to be the main venues for new manga announcements in summers to come, but judging from the strong sales and throngs of fans who came out for the panels and special events, manga will continue to have a place at Comic-Con International.