Cosplayers at AX
Cosplayers at AX

Held this year at the Long Beach (Calif.) Convention Center, AnimeExpo, an annual fan festival celebrating anime, manga and cosplay, opened to crowds of 20,000 on the first day and peaked at around 30,000 on the second day. Official attendance for this year was 44,000, up from the 40,000 fans that attended in 2006. AX officials also announced plans to move next year’s show to Los Angeles.

Hordes of cosplayers showed off their costumes; anime was screened from morning till night; and the convention center stayed open until the wee hours to let fans dance and party. There were multiple screenings of the live action Death Note movies (based on the manga series), allowing attendees to view them at their convenience. Likewise, the animated feature film, Tekkonkinkreet, Sony’s adaptation of Taiyo Matsumoto’s manga about an underworld of tough kids who take on the yakuza (Japanese gangsters), also premiered. Viz Media is releasing a giant omnibus collection of Tekkonkinkreet: Black and White this September. Another movie to premier was Mushishi, a live action feature film starring Japanese heartthrob Joe Odagiri, based on the mystical Del Rey manga of the same name. And not to be outdone, Transformers, Hollywood’s much hyped sci-fi blockbuster film, was screened for viewers on Expo’s last night.

Curiously, category leaders Viz Media, Tokyopop and Del Rey Manga were absent from the exhibit hall, and only Viz held a panel at the beginning of the convention. While fans were clearly having a great time, there have been rumors of exhibitor dissatisfaction with AX staff and general complaints about the scheduling of panels—the “Future of Manga” panel, for instance, was held at 9:30 a.m., while many attendees were still standing in line.

Anime and movies aside, AX attendees wanted to hear about manga, and there was plenty of news to talk about. Broccoli Books, known for a lineup of super-cute manga titles, announced its new licenses, The World of Disgae 2, an art book, and a Disgae prose novel. Both are based on a video game in Japan whose popularity led to a manga series. Aurora Publishing, a new manga publisher debuting this summer, arrived with its new releases, giving away copies of its new shojo series Walkin’ Butterfly and star yaoi-manga-ka Makoto Tateno’s Hate to LoveYou, the first title from its yaoi imprint, Deux. Hate to Love You is Tateno’s first yaoi, produced before she began her popular yaoi series, Yellow.

Digital Manga Publishing will launch its new Platinum line with Tatsuo Yoshida’s classic adventure series, Speed Racer: Go Go Go, which will be released in February 2008, just ahead of the March premier of the new Speed Racer movie. DMP’s Platinum line of manga titles will feature premium packaging—the Speed Racer release will feature two hardcover volumes, a double omnibus of about 600 pages each, sold together in a slipcover. Other DMP licenses announced included Mikiyo Tsuda’s Family Complex, a spinoff of her two series, Princess Princess and Day of Revolution, as well as Flamboyant, an art book with some nudity that is aimed at a mature audience.

DMP announced 20 new additions to Juné, its yaoi/boys’ love imprint, including 17 manga titles and three prose novels. DMP even ran an “after hours panel,” 9-10 p.m., that required photo ID to weed out underage fans. Fans cheered for the vampire yaoi Necroholic and All Nippon Airlines—which, in true boys’ love tradition, has been dubbed ANAL. Explicit boys’ love publisher 801 Media was also met with enthusiastic cheers. New 801 books for 2008 include The King of Debt, about a beautiful young man who finds sexy ways to pay off his gambling debts, and A Prime Minister’s Secret Diplomacy, a new work from star yaoi manga-ka Youka Nitta.

Go! Comi hosted Aimee Steinberger, who presented highlights from her book, Japan: Ai, a book of illustrations from Steinberger’s trip through Japan. New Japanese licenses from the company include A.I. Revolution, described as Absolute Boyfriend, but deeper; Yu Higuri’s Angel’s Coffin; and two new series from Her Majesty’s Dog creator Mick Takeuchi, A Wise Man Sleeps and Cy-Believers. The publisher’s new shonen (boys’ oriented manga) book is a new “harem” series (shy boy surrounded by cute girls) called Kamisama Kazoku.

Seven Seas Entertainment announced two new yuri (girls involved with girls) titles for its Strawberry imprint: First Love Sisters and Voiceful. Other manga announcements included two properties: Kagekara Mamoru and Zero's Familiar. Seven Seas has also licensed Wicked City, a 10-volume manga series, for 2008. The company is also working on an original manga prequel that will coincide with the release of the Hollywood movie adaptation of Wicked City, scheduled for 2009.

Seven Seas publisher DeAngelis is also adapting The Pirate and the Princess, a Japanese prose novel series aimed at children. The book is about a girl pirate, and the publisher has also sold 90,000 copies to Scholastic Book Fairs. DeAngelis has permission from the Japanese licensors to embellish certain parts for American audiences. And Seven Seas is also getting into the yaoi game with In God’s Arms, a Japanese property, and Invisible, an original manga that will be written by Tristan Crane and illustrated by Rhea Silva. And the biggest surprise for the company came when the Japanese government named Seven Seas’ original manga, Hollow Fields, a runner-up in its Nobel Prize of Manga International Manga Award, for foreign-created manga.

DC Comics’ manga imprint, CMX, made it official that Shirley, a one-shot by Mori Kaoru, about an English maid character from her maid series Emma, will be published by CMX in 2008. But more importantly, CMX revisited the controversial Tenjho Tenge series, which had been subject to a fan boycott in 2005 after CMX heavily edited parts of the original series to remove nudity in order to give it a teen rating. CMX plans to give Tenjho Tenge a mature rating beginning with volume 15. But CMX manga editor Jim Chadwick warned fans that the series will still be edited for content, although future edits will be lighter. “We’ll be showing much more that we’ve shown before,” said Chadwick. CMX has plans for other mature-rated books including Orfina, Presents and Variante—which will feature a larger trim size and a higher price, at $12.99. Tenjho Tenge will retain its current trim size and pricing. “We don’t want people to think CMX equals editing,” said Asako Suzuki, CMX’s director of manga, who said CMX is changing the way it handles mature manga titles.

Meanwhile, Dark Horse Manga, known for publishing unusual, often mature manga works rather than the teen-oriented shojo that dominates the U.S. market, announced two big licenses: Hiroya Oku’s Gantz, a precisely illustrated manga and anime series about a game of life and death, and a vampire series, Blood+.In Japan, Blood+ has developed into three different manga series and two prose novel series, as well as an anime that will begin airing on the Cartoon Network next year. Dark Horse will release the manga and prose novels together starting in 2008. “This is the most competitive license I’ve ever seen,” said Dark Horse’s director of Asian licensing, Michael Gombos. Likewise, licensing Gantz from Japanese publisher Shueisha was a two-year process. Gombos also announced the Korean girls’ manhwa, Bride of the Water God. Dark Horse has plans for a new work from legendary manga-ka Kazuo Koike called Color of Rage, a one-shot, 400-page omnibus about two workers—one Japanese, one African-American—on a whaling ship. “We are in a new era of manga,” Gombos declared.

Yen Press, the new Hachette comics imprint launched by Kurt Hassler and Rich Johnson, brought 5,000 free samplers—all of which were gone by midday the second day. “People have been asking us to give them the posters [from our booth], “ said Yen Press’s Hassler.

This year, AnimeExpo returned to the Long Beach Convention Center, its old stomping grounds, after three years at the Anaheim Convention Center. But according to AX publicist Chase Wang, AnimeExpo has outgrown both venues and will move to the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2008. “We’ve grown to be the largest manga and anime convention in the U.S.,” said Wang, who noted that Baltimore’s Otakon, the other major manga and anime convention, is about half the size of AX. “We’re not just fan-based anymore. The industry is coming here. Hollywood is coming here [to promote] Transformers before it’s released. We’re expanding in influence.”