While manga and anime aren’t the main focus of the San Diego Comic-Con, held July 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center, there were still plenty of Japanese pop culture events, guests, and announcements to catch the eyes of manga readers and anime fans.
The big buzz at this year’s show was a first-time visit by Hidenori Kusaka and Satoshi Yamamoto, creators of the long-running and hugely popular Pokemon Adventures manga, published by Viz Media. Pokemon has been a pop culture phenomenon in North America almost since the day it debuted over 20 years ago, but this year, interest in Pokemon was especially high thanks to Pokemon Go, the wildly popular augmented-reality mobile game that debuted a week before Comic-Con opened. Everywhere you looked at Comic-Con, people of all ages were staring at their phones and swiping their screens to catch pocket monsters.
The game only added to fan excitement about Kusaka and Yamamoto’s appearances at Comic-Con, and the duo attracted huge crowds at their appearances and signings. Viz released a special mini artbook just for the show, and quickly sold out all available copies of Pokemon X•Y, the latest stories in the series.
Kusaka and Yamamoto weren’t the only guests from Japan at Comic-Con. Tsutomu Nihei, the creator of epic manga SF stories such as Biomega and Knights of Sidonia came to Comic-Con with several new projects to share with fans. Nihei, along with Polygon Pictures director Hiroyuki Seshita debuted the trailer for a new anime adaptation of BLAME!, a gritty cyberpunk SF manga that Nihei first drew almost 20 years ago. The new BLAME! anime series will debut in 2017 on Netflix, which is also where two seasons of Nihei’s most recent series Knights of Sidonia, a epic mecha SF story, are currently airing.
Kodansha Comics and Vertical Comics have recently re-released two of Nihei’s previously out-of-print series that had been published by Tokyopop: NOiSE, a single volume prequel to BLAME! that is now available in digital format from Kodansha Advanced Media, Kodansha’s digital division, on Comixology, and a new “Master Edition” of BLAME! published by Vertical that features the original story in two volumes-in-one omnibus editions at a larger trim size. Vertical reported healthy sales of their early release of first volume of BLAME! Master Edition at Comic-Con, which bodes well for its upcoming debut on comic shops and bookstore shelves in early September.
For North American manga publishers, Comic-Con comes in the middle of three of the biggest fan conventions devoted to Japanese pop culture content. Anime Expo in L.A. and Japan Expo in Paris, both in early July; and Otakon in Baltimore in mid-August. In recent years many manga publishers have turned their attention (and marketing focus) toward Anime Expo over Comic-Con, with some houses, among them Kodansha Comics and Yen Press, opting for a low-key promotional presence in the Comic-Con exhibit hall in comparison to previous years. While there were far fewer new title announcements made at Comic-Con this year than the past, a few companies did offer new products.
Udon Entertainment announced several new additions to their video game-related manga and art book line, including manga by Yuztan based on the fantasy action game Dragon Crown from Atlus (creators of the popular Persona games). Also new is Udon’s first prose novel release, Street Fighter: The Novel by Takashi Yano, with illustrations by Yusuke Murata (One-Punch Man).
Viz Media revealed a new addition to their Studio Ghibli library imprint, an art book featuring Princess Mononoke, the epic historical fantasy by the great anime director Hayao Miyazaki, and new books based on RWBY, a fantasy adventure based on the anime from Rooster Teeth Studios.
Kodansha Comics previewed a new unflipped (Japanese language comics read from right to left and are sometimes "flipped" or photographically reversed to read left to right for English speakers), and uncut edition of Masamune Shirow’s acclaimed epic SF manga series, Ghost in the Shell. The new edition is due for release in 2017 to coincide with the upcoming release of the North American feature film based on it starring Scarlett Johansson. This new edition of Ghost in the Shell will be presented in the original right-to-left Japanese reading format, with the original sound effects left intact.
Kodansha also gave fans a sneak peek at even more new art from the upcoming Attack on Titan Anthology, a new anthology of Western all-star comics creators, including new cover art by Paul Pope (Battling Boy), and variant cover art by Paolo Rivera (Daredevil), Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman). This original collection of new stories set in the world of Attack on Titan by some of the top creators in Western comics is due for release in October 2016, at New York Comic-Con.
Pioneering manga publisher Tokyopop, which ceased publishing in North America in 2011, is making a comeback. The publisher had a new title announcement: a new two-volume manga adaptation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, featuring the classic tale told from Beauty's point of view, then the Beast's. It's scheduled for a March 2017 release, to coincide with the release of the live action film film starring Emma Watson.