While manga and anime aren’t the main focus of San Diego Comic-Con International, fans of both made their presence known as they greeted star manga artist Kohei Horikoshi, creator of My Hero Academia, one of the most popular and best-selling comics series in North America.
There weren’t many manga-related panels, and only a handful of new manga title announcements were made—many manga publishers choose Anime Expo to announce new titles—but it’s a list of great and much anticipated contemporary and classic works. And to top it off, Rumiko Takahashi, a much beloved manga legend was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. Here’s some of the manga highlights of this year’s SDCC:
My Hero Academia Is Here!
Given their busy work schedules, it’s rare that top manga artists from Japan make the trip to N. American comics shows. That’s why Horikoshi’s first-ever visit to Comic-Con and all things My Hero Academia generated a lot of fan buzz, as well as impacting manga and merch sales..
Fan frenzy about Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, a series about high school heroes-in-training, is at an all-time high. Seven of the top 20 graphic novels in June’s BookScan bestseller list were various volumes of My Hero Academia. The third season of the My Hero Academia anime is consistently one of the most-watched and most-talked about series on Crunchyroll, the anime/manga streaming service, and other online streaming services. The upcoming movie, My Hero Academia: Two Heroes, was previewed at Anime Expo in early July, with screenings in 400+ movie theaters scheduled in late September 2018 planned – only two months after its debut in Japan.
FUNimation’s and Viz Media’s two weekend My Hero Academia panels got capacity-plus crowds in huge rooms and they were still forced to turn away enough fans to fill the rooms several times over. Demand for tickets to Horikoshi’s autograph session (held at the Viz Media booth on Saturday) was overwhelming and Comic-Con security personnel had to be called in to manage the crowds. VIZ and Comic-Con show management worked together quickly to remedy the situation, moving the queue to the much larger Sails Pavillion on the upper level of the Convention Center
“Manga often outsells Marvel and DC titles,” said Candice Uyloan, senior director of product marketing at Viz Media. She continued, “We appreciate Comic-Con, but we wish they would recognize the rabid fandom for this stuff. We’d love to work with Comic-Con to create a more welcoming environment for manga and anime in the future.”
More Manga Movies On the Way
Besides My Hero Academia, the other big anime/manga series featured at SDCC 2018 was Dragon Ball Super. Akira Toriyama’s popular manga series started in 1984, and has seen a new burst of popularity thanks to this sequel anime and manga series by Toriyama. The Dragon Ball Super manga, illustrated by Toyotarou, and the upcoming parody one-shot, Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated as Yamcha! by dragongarow LEE, are both published by Viz Media. The Dragon Ball Super anime series from Toei Animation, and distributed by FUNimation is also keeping the franchise front of mind with fans.
Now, the Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie, which is coming to theaters in September 2018 has fueled a new push for all things Dragon Ball, with new toys, collectible figures, games and more – all showcased at the Dragon Ball activation area outside of the San Diego Marriott Marquis Hotel. The Dragon Ball North American tour will continue through October 2018, with visits to Washington DC for Otakon, Toronto for Fan EXPO, Portland for Rose City Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con, and Dallas Fan Days.
Other manga movies previewed at Comic-Con included the latest animated incarnation of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (a.k.a. Star Blazers), with Seven Seas’ publication of the classic Space Battle Ship Yamato manga by Leiji Matsumoto coming in October 2018.
Also screened was the live action adaptation of I Am a Hero, based on the zombie apocalypse in Japan manga by Kengo Hanazawa, published by Dark Horse, and previews of Alita: Battle Angel (a.k.a. Battle Angel Alita), the long-awaited live action feature film produced by James Cameron.
Kodansha Comics is re-releasing Yukito Kishiro’s manga edition of Battle Angel Alita as a deluxe 5-volume boxed set in November 2018. Kodansha Comics also revealed new art and more details about Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network, their upcoming original comics anthology, featuring short stories by Western creators set in Masamune Shirow’s cyberpunk sci-fi universe.
Many of the new titles announced were previously thought to have slim chances of publication in English, so these announcements were welcome surprises.
Drawn and Quarterly announced that they would be publishing the work of influential gekiga (grim, realistic) manga creator Yoshiharu Tsuge in seven career-spanning volumes translated by Ryan Holmberg. The first volume will hit stores in late 2019. While his work is available in French, only a handful of his short stories have been published in English. Tsuge has until now refused to license his work to English-language publishers, which makes this announce especially surprising.
“I’ve been chasing him for decades,” said Tom Devlin, executive editor at Drawn & Quarterly. He also described Tsuge’s work as “some of the finest comics ever made."
One of the biggest announcement was the return of Urusei Yatsura (a.k.a. Lum) by Rumiko Takahashi (Inu-Yasha). Urusei Yatsura is one of Takahashi’s early manga series, dating back to 1978. Long out of print, this kooky romantic comedy about a frisky alien and the hapless earthling who becomes the object of her affections will return as 2-in-1 omnibus editions, starting in January 2019.
Fantagraphics is publishing The Poe Clan by Moto Hagio, starting in 2020. This classic shojo series about a family of vampires is an early work by Hagio and is much beloved for its stylish take on supernatural drama. Also announced was BAKI the Grappler by Keisuke Itagaki. This 31-volume series about no-holds barred martial arts fighters, will be released digitally by Media-Do International starting in August 2018, before the release of the BAKI anime, which will air on Netflix this fall.
TokyoPop also announced new editions of Aria by Kozue Amano, a series they originally published almost 10 years ago, but never completed. The new editions of Aria will be 2-in-1 omnibuses with 7 volumes in all, starting in January 2019.
Manga Grabs Eisners and Inkpot Awards
The return of the Urusei Yatsura manga series happened the same day that creator Rumiko Takahashi, best known for the gender-switching comic series Ranma ½, was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Takahashi was not there to accept the award, but she is notably the first Japanese female manga creator inducted into the Hall of Fame, alongside previously inducted male manga legends such as Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) and Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub).
Comic-Con guest of honor Yoshitaka Amano was on hand to meet fans and preview Dark Horse Comics’ upcoming release of Yoshitaka Amano: The Illustrated Biography in November 2018. Amano was also honored by Comic-Con International with an Inkpot Award, a special award given to Comic-Con guests for distinguished contributions to popular culture.
My Brother’s Husband, a family-oriented manga about being gay in Japan by Gengoroh Tagame (best known as an erotic manga artist), won an Eisner for Best US Edition of Asian Material, and Kodansha also took home two Eisner Awards for their stellar AKIRA boxed set, which is now reprinting and will be available for purchase again in Fall 2018.
Manga and anime will probably will never be the main focus of Comic-Con, but Japanese pop culture and its many fans are increasingly making their presence felt at this international event. It remains to be seen if manga and anime will get more time and space at this show in the years to come.