Kadokawa, a major Japanese publisher of manga, prose and digital content, has taken a majority stake in Yen Press, the Hachette Book Group’s manga and graphic novel imprint. Kodakawa plans to turn the imprint into Yen Press LLC, a joint venture between HBG and Kadokawa.

Kakokawa has taken a 51% stake in Yen Press LLC, leaving HBG with 49% of the joint venture. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of April. Yen Press cofounder and publishing director Kurt Hassler has been named managing director and publisher of the newly conceived joint venture.

Masaki Matsubara, representative director and president of Kadokawa, said the deal was driven by the fact that U.S. market remains incredibly important to Japanese manga publishers. He cited both the rebound in manga sales in North America and the continuing popularity of Japanese pop culture in general. “Visitors at anime and pop culture events held in North America continue to rise year by year, demonstrating the increased popularity of Japanese content in the market,” Matsubara said. “Kadokawa considers the North American market as the most important international market for the company alongside China.”

As another impetus for the agreement, Hassler also pointed to the growing popularity in North America of light novels, Illustrated prose works based on manga and anime properties. Yen Press is a longtime licensee of Kadokawa light novels. “I can’t think of another instance in the manga field where leading publishers from Japan and the U.S. have pooled their resources in a true joint venture,” Hassler said. “With the demand for manga and light novels already exploding, the possibilities seem endless.”

Michael Pietsch, CEO of HBG, said the new venture will combine Kadokawa’s “expertise in manga and light novel genres, digital distribution and anime platforms,” with HBG’s “sales, distribution and publishing support services.” Pietsch added that the venture "will further strengthen our Yen Press brand, and allow us to leverage Kadokawa’s superb reputation in both manga and light novel genres.”