NYCC, Day 1: Viz Media Manga Panel

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During our trip to the 2007 New York Comic Con, there were lots of amazing sights to see. Far away from the hustle and bustle of Star Wars, Marvel and DC was a quiet section dedicated solely to anime and manga. One of the most important of these was a panel hosted by the creative minds of VIZ Media.

If you're a fan of manga, then you are no doubt already familiar with the good people at VIZ. Hailing from San Francisco, VIZ is one of the leading companies in the American manga industry. Popular for developing novelizations of manga and producing both Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat magazines, VIZ discussed some of the exciting new developments in store for 2007.

The Speakers:

Cammie Allen - Product Manager – Publishing

Frances Wall - Managing Editor – "Shonen Jump" Manga

Urian Brown - Manga Editor

Marc Weidenbaum - VP Magazines and Editor in Chief of "Shonen Jump" and "Shojo Beat"

The room was fairly empty, but Cammie Allen was quick to point out that there was a gigantic "Star Wars" event going on at the exact same time. Nonetheless, the limited crowd was ecstatic to watch their favorite editors talk.

After some brief introductions, Allen started by thanking the fans for making "Naruto" Volume 7 the top selling Anime series of the year. 2007 also marks the 14th year of "Ranma 1/2," making it VIZ's longest running manga ever.

When they got down to business, a few new titles were announced for VIZ's mature offerings.

"I like to call it manga for smart people!" explained Urian Brown.

Up first was a slide of "Gyo." Due to the twist-heavy nature of the plot, the panel was reluctant to give too much away. Essentially, the story centers around a set of bizarre fish-looking creatures that come ashore and wreak havoc on the unfortunate humans. "If you're not squeamish, it's a great read!" Brown says. This horror manga will be released in 2007 and is certainly not for kids.

"Uzumaki" was the next property discussed. Focusing on a small Japanese town where the people become obsessed with the countless occurrences of natural and artificial spirals.

"This kind of manga affects your brain," said Brown, "By the time you're done you're seeing spirals everywhere."

Frances Wall then introduced another series making its debut in 2007. "Togari" is the story about a boy looking to escape from Hell. To break free he got to collect 108 sins in 108 days.

For people looking for manga that won't break their budget, check out "Portus." It's a one-shot horror manga that revolves around an evil video game. Think "The Ring" meets "Stay Alive," but in manga form.

"Hoshin Engi," the serial from the pages of "Shonen Jump" magazine will now be sold in complete volumes. "'Hoshin Engi' is manga that appeals to people with large imaginations," said Ms. Wall.

In a far less serious vein, VIZ also has a particularly wacky samurai manga in the works. It's called "Gin Tama" and stars a sugar-obsessed samurai that fights aliens with a wooden sword. Of course, much to his chagrin, he has glycosuria and can only enjoy one sugary parfait a week. This causes him to go into constant fits of withdrawal, flipping out and creating lots of silly fun. Look for it in July.

"Pretty Face" is another of "Shonen Jump's" newest serials to get the big book treatment. Appearing across 6 volumes, this complex series can only be really explained in bullet points:

  • It revolves around a high school boy named Randou
  • Randou secretly loves his classmate, Rina.
  • Rina has a long-lost twin sister. Wait for it…
  • One day Randou is horribly mangled in a bus accident and slips into a year long coma. With only a picture of Rina to identify him with, the doctors, logically, use this to reconstruct his face.
  • Upon waking, he discovers that he has been declare legally dead
  • Through a series of zany events, Randou, who now looks like Rina is mistaken for, you guessed it, Rina's long lost sister.
  • Randou, disguised as a girl, now lives with Rina and tries to find her real twin sister. (Even though she thinks Randou is her sister.)

"Imagine the hi-jinx!" Brown yelled, obviously understanding the audience's confusion.

And just when you thought they weren't going to mention Anime panties, here comes "Strawberry 100%!" This 19 volume, bi-monthly title chronicles the adventures of an aspiring filmmaker who witnesses a young girl's exposed panties thanks to an errant wind. He then dedicates his life to trying to capture this event again with his camera.

"It's 19 Volumes of chasing panties!" said Wall.

"Imagine the hi-jinx!" repeated Brown.

Others included:

  • a cute and touching story called Millennium Snow that will be released in April and July.
  • The five volumes of Yurara will start shipping every three months starting in June.
  • In July, Love Com will see the first of its 7 volumes on store shelves.

Moving away from their new acquisitions, the panel mentioned that a few of their mainstays like "Death Note" are wrapping up this year. But this just means they are making room for new favorites. In July, they will be presenting "Brave Story," a young adult fantasy book written by Miyuki Miyabe. It should be over 900 pages in length.

At this point, Marc Weidenbaum, the editor of "Shojo Beat" discussed the new direction of his magazine:

"What we're focusing on now is the manga and Japanese culture. That seems to be what interests our readers most."

In 2007, "Shonen Jump" magazine promises to be quite intriguing. "We're going to have an interview with the creator of Naruto," Weidenbaum said. Throughout the year there will be many changes in the magazine. They have plenty more in store for "Inu Yasha," "Bleach" and lots of others, too. So keep an eye out for the new and improved "Shonen Jump." The floor was opened for questions and there were two notable queries from fans.

"Any plans to revive the Blackjack series?"

Cammie Allen: "I don't know."

Brown added: "But all of us would love it if we could publish the rest of those!"

When asked about the possibility of bringing over the live action "Death Note" movies, we got a similarly coy response from Allen:

"We are aware of the live action films…" she said.

Well there you have it. There is a lot going on in the next year at VIZ media. Anime and Manga fans will have plenty of great novels, magazines and possibly movies to occupy their time.

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