In mid-May Square Enix, a major video game developer and top five manga publisher in Japan, announced a multi-year sales and distribution agreement with Penguin Random House to launch Square Enix Manga and Square Enix Books. The two New York City–based imprints will publish manga, light novels, and art books, as well as other books related to various Square Enix game and anime properties.

Square Enix is the publisher of the popular video game Final Fantasy, a popular epic fantasy role-playing game that has been releasing titles since 1987, as well as such bestselling manga/anime properties as High Score Girl (now airing as an anime on Netflix) and Soul Eater.

The Square Enix Manga and Square Enix Books imprints will launch with eight books that will be released in the fall and winter of 2019, before quickly ramping up to 50 books for release in 2020. The imprint will be directed by general manager and publisher Masaaki Shimizu, who will relocate from Tokyo to New York City to oversee the business. Square Enix Manga and Square Enix Books will be distributed to the book trade by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

“The imprint is fully owned and operated by Square Enix,” Shimizu said, emphasizing that this is the first time the company has published manga directly in English. Shimizu said the launch “is a testament to the vitality of manga fandom in the U.S.” and praised the “expertise and experience” of its partner Penguin Random House in book publishing, sales, and distribution.

All of the books will be available in English worldwide, and the list will offer a mix of print and digital releases. “Our first priority is print releases for now, but we’re also planning digital editions to give people more options to access our content,” said Shimizu.

Tania Biswas, formerly senior editor at Yen Press, will join Shimizu as a senior editor at Penguin Random House. She will help manage the editorial, localization, and production side of Square Enix Manga and Books. Biswas is a veteran North American manga publisher and has worked at Yen Press since its launch in 2007.

“She was a major force behind Yen’s acquisition of many great Square Enix titles, including the English edition of Black Butler, which she edited,” Shimizu said, adding that the imprints will add more staff over the summer.

The initial Square Enix list includes a novel, Final Fantasy XV: The Dawn of the Future, plus nine manga series titles including Hi-Score Girl, the heartwarming A Man and His Cat, a boys love title Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!, several fantasy series including The Misfit of Demon King Academy, and My Dress-Up Darling, a comedy romance about a teen boy who loves to sew and a girl who loves cosplay.

Square Enix manga and light novels are of course not new to the English language market. Longtime North American licensees include Viz Media (Fullmetal Alchemist, NieR:Automata novels), Yen Press (Soul Eater and Black Butler), Vertical (Arakawa Under the Bridge), Seven Seas (Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka), and Dark Horse (other NieR:Automata titles and Final Fantasy art books).

Square Enix will continue to license manga to other North American publishers, Shimizu said, as well as publish through its own imprints. Indeed, while Square Enix is “very pleased” with its U.S. licensing partners, Shimizu explained that “we have been only able to publish 14% of our Japanese catalog in English through our licensees. We believe that this new program will create favorable conditions for us to deliver titles that are not yet available to our readers here.”

Shimizu added: “Publishing directly will also mean that we can take the North American market into consideration from the very beginning of the planning and development phase of each manga series or book. We may even be able to consider developing original products that cater to readers in North America.”

The initial releases are designed to reflect the depth of the Square Enix catalogue and include iconic titles from its gaming and manga lists and newer releases, including a “perfect edition” of Soul Eater, a series previously published in English by Yen Press. The forthcoming perfect edition will have 17 volumes in a larger trim size with original cover illustrations by the author, Atsushi Ohkubo. Square Enix Manga and Books, Shimizu said, will also be able to more easily sync up releases of its manga/light novels with SE games and anime releases.

“We will strive to contribute to the growth of the manga market in the English-speaking world,” said Shimizu. “We may be just starting out in this market, but we are building on a foundation of decades of successful manga publishing in Japan and some of the most popular IPs in the entertainment world.”