When Spirited Away, the animated film by legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyasaki, received the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, publisher Viz sprang into action. The house, which specializes in Japanese comics, or manga, has exclusive U.S. publishing rights to the graphic novel tie-in, released in five volumes between August and December 2002. Viz also publishes The Art of Spirited Away, a $34.95 large-format coffee-table art book;, and the Spirited Away Picture Book for children, a $19.95 paperback.
As part of the house's agreement with video/DVD retail chains Sun Coast (380 stores) and MediaPlay (about 76 stores), consumers now get a collectible bilingual poster with the purchase of the graphic novel or art book. The graphic novel is also promoted in materials inserted in the April 15 DVD release. Sales manager Mike Roberson also noted that the books now have "Oscar-winner" stickers. The graphic novel is among the top 50 bestsellers on BookScan and is a top seller on Amazon.com, according to Roberson, who declined to give exact sales figures.
The film, which has grossed more than $230 million worldwide, tells the story of Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl on the way to a new house with her family when they wander into a magical town and the parents are transformed into pigs. The graphic novel, which was a bestseller in Japan, is made up of animation stills carefully scanned from 35mm film prints. It was designed at Studio Ghibli, the animation company co-founded by Miyazaki, before it arrived at Viz for English translation and lettering.
"We've definitely seen a spike in sales since the Oscar," said Roberson, who also noted that Viz will publish Castle in the Sky, a new four- volume manga by Miyasaki that will accompany the existing DVD.