In a move that combines a major manga publishing house with its parent company's U.S. licensing arm, Viz LLC and ShoPro Entertainment will become a single, as-yet-unnamed company based in San Francisco. Although Viz is calling it a merger, the move looks more like an elaborate reorganization that will bring U.S. manga publishing and anime and merchandise licensing operations together into one company.

Liza Coppola, v-p sales and marketing at Viz, said the merger will consolidate a disparate group of properties controlled by both companies. "It means more ShoPro properties for us," said Coppola, "and ShoPro can license Viz manga properties that it doesn't right now. It will give the new firm more clout when we're talking to TV networks and manufacturers." Hidemi Fukuhara, former vice-chair of Viz, has been named CEO of the new company.

Viz is the U.S. manga and multimedia entertainment subsidiary of a joint venture between Shogakukan and Shuiesha, two of Japan's largest manga publishers, and taps into the vast content of the two firms for its manga publishing. ShoPro Entertainment is the four-year-old U.S. licensing subsidiary of Japan-based Shogakukan Production, which produces animated content for broadcast, TV film and other formats.