This is pretty big news. I think it’s pretty unprecedented for Viz, seeing as they are pretty much a medium for Japanese publishing giants Shogakukan and Shueisha’s manga titles.
Deb Aoki, a prominent manga writer, editor and cartoonist talked to Viz editor Eric Searleman (who tweeted the big news) about this major decision:
“Eric Searleman: ‘We’re considering everything. The format will suit the material. For example, there’s no law that says our original comics need to mirror our manga trim size. Let’s mix it up.’
“We want to do something fun and fresh. Why bother otherwise? We want our books to be an alternative to what’s already out there. It’ll be hard work, but we are confident we can get it done. The bottom line is this: the quality of the comic takes precedent over everything else.”
Here’s a link to the rest of that article.
While Viz isn’t the only U.S. manga publisher to put out original (non-Japanese) content, original English manga (OEM) in the past has been either substandard or hard-to-sell. Currently, Tokyopop, the former bastion of OEM publishing, has scaled back its OEM efforts to only those manga with huge fan following or commercial ventures due to economic hardships. Other manga publishers only have small lines of OEM content, if any at all.
Can Viz do it? Probably. Despite closing the girls’ manga magazine Shojo Beat earlier this year, Viz opened the New People building in August with much success. In other words, I think Viz is becoming more experimental. The company is just cutting out what no longer makes them money and trying new and exciting things they think could work. Obviously they wouldn’t try it if they thought it would be completely unsuccessful.
On another note, Tokyopop’s original content submission rules have been under a lot of criticism by aspiring cartoonists and others for being legally iffy and unfair to the submitters. While Tokyopop is a considerably more experimental company than Viz, Viz is usually more successful at similar endeavors so maybe we’ll see more fair submission guidelines from Viz.
Will Viz do it better? Odds are in their favor, but we’ll see when the first examples of original content come out.
On another topic, also related to Viz, Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster” will be debuting on the SyFy Channel tonight at 11p.m. Pacific. My twitter feed is positively abuzz about it too.
I’m pretty excited for this because “Monster” is one of the greatest manga I’ve ever read. Its a powerful, suspenseful drama about Dr. Kenzo Tenma, who has been wrongly accused of murder. In an attempt to clear his name and to erase a past mistake, Tenma goes into hiding and chases after Johan Liebert, who is the real mastermind behind the murders sullying Tenma’s good name.
Throughout the manga we see the extent of Johan’s evil and genius contrasted against Tenma’s tenacity, skill and inherant goodness. It is the kind of manga where you get to know the characters and when you put down each volume you’re excited about what happened and eager to read the next one.
I can personally vouch for this as I saw the manga be introduced to my anime club and then circulated so widely throughout the members that there were waiting lists for certain volumes. Each and every person I spoke to about the manga had the same excited reactions as everyone else.
The series, published by Viz, recently ended, so I am quite excited to see the anime go on air so that new fans can be pulled in. “Monster” is one of those classic titles that has been underappreciated except by hardcore fans.
See the reaction to “Monster” on Twitter.