The North American manga market is back and stronger than ever. Perhaps the best place to measure the resurgence over the past few weeks was in Southern California—first at Anime Expo in Los Angeles over the July 4th weekend, and this past weekend in San Diego at Comic-Con International 2015.
July is the height of comic convention season in North America, and that was especially true for manga publishers. With Anime Expo held on the first weekend of the month, and, this year, San Diego Comic-Con held only a few days later, manga publishers such as Yen Press, Viz Media, Kodansha, Crunchyroll, Vertical, and Udon announced numerous new manga and light novel titles for 2016, including a few long-requested fan favorites like Rose of Versailles, Bacanno! and Princess Jellyfish.
Both shows gave fans the rare opportunity to meet creators from Japan, including Julietta Suzuki (Kamisama Kiss), and Miki Yoshikawa (Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches) at Anime Expo, and Kazuki Takahashi (creator of Yu-Gi-Oh) and Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi (creative team for the new Ultraman manga) at SDCC. Shojo manga fans got to see original artwork created especially for Viz Media's Shojo Beat imprint's 10th anniversary, on display at both shows.
With attendance at well over 130,000 over four and a half days, San Diego Comic-Con has been the undisputed king of comics shows in North America for years. But Anime Expo has been growing quickly too. This year's AX attracted over 90,000 attendees to the Los Angeles Convention Center. AX also appears to attract a younger crowd than the sold-out-months-in-advance SDCC, which has become quite difficult in recent years for casual fans to attend.
With only a few days separating the two shows this year, several manga publishers like Yen Press, Digital Manga, Kodansha Comics, and Crunchyroll opted to focus most of their promotional efforts at the more Japan-content focused Anime Expo. Publishers with a toe in both the US/international comics and manga worlds like Drawn & Quarterly, Udon, and Dark Horse were more likely to be found exhibiting at SDCC. A handful of companies, like Viz Media and Vertical exhibited at both shows. Tokyopop, the pioneering though controversial manga publisher that shut down its North American operations in 2011, is back, too, albeit via panel appearances at AX and SDCC, all the while dropping hints that about few new publishing projects to come in 2016.
By most accounts, manga sales were strong at both shows. Viz Media sold out of show exclusives and early releases for hot titles like Tokyo Ghoul and Ultraman, generally by mid-day. At the Vertical Inc. booth, fans snatched up titles with strong word-of-mouth buzz like Ajin: Demi-Human and Knights of Sidonia (which is getting a resurgence of interest thanks to the anime's second season on Netflix), and the new omnibus edition of perennial bestseller, Chi's Sweet Home, Konami Kanata's charming, all-ages cat comic. Kodansha Comics sold stacks of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches and Noragami, a supernatural action/comedy series that has been selling so well, they're speeding up releases from bi-monthly to monthly, starting in October 2015.
There were plenty of new title announcements, though with a few exceptions, most noteworthy new titles were revealed at Anime Expo
On the anime front, a lot of buzz was generated by Viz Media's One-Punch Man anime trailer debut. Set for release in October 2015, this anime adaptation of the Eisner Award-nominated comic about a bored superhero who's too strong for his own good is probably at the top of most-anticipated anime for the Fall 2015 season. One-Punch Man has over 5 million copies in print in Japan, and VIZ Media's long-awaited print edition of volumes 1 and 2 will hit shelves in September.
While the main Naruto manga series has ended, Viz Media is continuing the franchise with the fall 2015 release of the Boruto movie, a feature length anime about Naruto's son. There are also several side-story novels, including Kakashi Hiden about Naruto's ninja mentor.
At AX, anime fans were abuzz over the US releases of novel and anime adaptations of The Legend of Galactic Heroes, Yoshiki Tanaka's classic epic space drama. Much like Macross (a.k.a. Robotech) and Mobile Suit Gundam, The Legend of Galactic Heroes features space-faring warfare and gripping human drama. Viz Media's Haikasoru prose imprint will debut the first of three planned volumes of the novel series in Spring 2016 to complement Sentai Filmworks' release of the anime series.
Viz also announced new titles for early 2016 from fan favorite creators, like Shuriken and Pleats, a new ninja-themed romance from Matsuri Hino, the creator of Vampire Knight, and Behind the Scenes, a high school story about teens who are into making movies from Ouran High School Host Club creator Bisco Hatori.
Yen Press, Hachette’s manga and graphic novel imprint, announced it is adding seven new titles from Japanese publisher Square Enix to its simultaneous Japanese/English publishing program, including Black Butler, and new titles like Handa-kun, a prequel to Barakamon and Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade. They also added Baccano!, the light novel series by Ryohgo Narita, the creator of Durarara!!
To delight of many fans, Kodansha Comics picked up the publishing license to Princess Jellyfish, Akiko Higashimura's romantic comedy about a rooming house of female nerds who have to overcome their social ineptitude to save their home from developers. Kodansha's 2-in-1 omnibus editions will hit stores in February 2016. At Comic-Con, the house also revealed a variant cover for their special edition of Attack on Titan Volume 16, the latest volume in the wildly popular series, featuring artwork by Tony Moore (The Walking Dead). In December, a special edition of Attack on Titan Volume 17 will include a limited edition DVD, with a 30-minute episode of the anime that fans won't be able to get from anywhere else.
Omnibuses are bigger than ever (both literally and figuratively) at Dark Horse Comics, with their new 3-in-1 editions of Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal, Kosuke Fujishima's Oh My Goddess, and Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, all due for release throughout the rest of 2015 and into 2016.
Udon Entertainment probably pulled off the biggest out-of-left field surprise by announcing their acquisition of The Rose of Versailles, Riyoko Ikeda's much-loved classic manga about Marie Antoinette and Oscar de Jarjayes, a girl raised as a man who became the commander of the Palace Guards. The Rose of Versailles is one of the best-selling shojo manga of all time, with over 15 million copies sold worldwide (mostly in Japan, but also popular in France).
Udon also picked up superstar manga artist Moyoco Anno's Sugar Sugar Rune. This kid-friendly story about two young witches was previously published by Del Rey Manga, but Udon is promising new translations and higher-quality reproductions shot from Anno's original artwork.