It's hard to imagine now, but someday traditional comic book properties could dry up, and Hollywood studios will have to turn somewhere else for their franchises. While tween fiction is hot right now, and video games will always have elusive potential, one corner that has not been explored extensively is the world of anime and manga. What better place to start looking for a great property than VIZ Media, one of the first companies to bring translated anime and manga to the United States?
VIZ Media was founded in 1986 by Seiji Horibuchi, a Japanese businessman, who had moved to San Francisco nine years prior. In its first year VIZ (then VIZ Communications) published a slew of titles, including Legend of Kamui. These titles did not do very well in a comic book specialty market that was adverse to new ideas. Not one to get discouraged, Horbuchi began publishing manga as graphic novels and selling them directly to bookstores. This plan paid off in a big way, as book stores began to have sections dedicated specifically to manga. In 1993, VIZ acquired the license to Ranma ½, a martial arts relationship comedy. Ranma ½ was hugely successful for VIZ, and allowed for the publication of more manga throughout the '90s, The Guyver and Fist of the North Star being two of the best known. As anime and manga grew in popularity, VIZ began publishing Shonen Jump, an English adaptation of the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, a manga anthology. At the end of the 1990s, VIZ acquired another huge selling title, Inuyasha, about a demon in feudal Japan.
In the 2000s, VIZ began merging with other companies, including Japanese manga and anime distributors Shueisha and ShoPro Entertainment. In 2005, VIZ created the VIZ Pictures division, designed to release Japanese live action films in the U.S. VIZ Media also has a traditional print imprint called Haikasoru, dedicated to bringing Japanese science fiction writers to the United States. The 2010 novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, with illustrations by Yoshitoshi Abe, was bought by Warner Brothers, and is currently in production with Tom Cruise starring and Doug Liman directing.
Since VIZ Media has been around for so long, there are many properties they control that would provide excellent movie or TV show material: the immensely popular Naruto, about an adolescent ninja; Ranma ½, the martial arts comedy about a guy who turns into a girl when he is doused with hot water; and Inuyasha, the hugely popular fantasy series about a demon and a young girl searching for magic stones in feudal Japan.
For more information: http://www.vizmedia.com/
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