VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive manga and animation licensing and publishing companies, commemorates its 20th Anniversary on July 7th, 2006.
VIZ Media began as Viz Communications, Inc. in 1986 and was formed by co-founders Seiji Horibuchi, who remains VIZ Media’s co-chairman and Satoru Fujii, who approached Shogakukan, Inc., one of Japan’s biggest publishing houses, about developing a vehicle that could publish popular manga (graphic novels) for English-speaking audiences. Horibuchi and Fujii were ardent manga and anime fans and Shogakukan was eager to offer its titles to a wider audience. While at the time, manga in North America initially existed as something of an anomaly, interest grew after VIZ published some of its first successful titles that included RANMA ½, AREA 88 and BATTLE ANGEL ALITA. In 1996, VIZ was catapulted into the mainstream of North American pop culture when it offered the first volume of what would become an anime phenomenon - POK?©MON. The series about the adventures of wickedly cute Pikachu and his friends became a hugely successful runaway hit with millions of copies sold. A decade later POK?©MON remains a strong title in company’s catalog. The success of the property also allowed VIZ to expand its repertoire and publish titles for older audiences with more refined tastes.
In 2003 Shueisha Inc. took a 50% ownership interest in VIZ and the company launched SHONEN JUMP magazine, marking another notable benchmark. The publication mirrored the popular manga anthologies in Japan that offered a variety of series each month. Many successful anime series initiallybegan in manga form in publications like these. With an affordable cover price and an expansive page count, SHONEN JUMP served as a launching vehicle for many successful VIZ series like DRAGON BALL Z, YU-GI-OH! and NARUTO. The magazine now touts a monthly circulation of 200,000 and has become the most successful manga monthly outside Japan. The success of SHONEN JUMP also led VIZ to launch a sister magazine, SHOJO BEAT, in 2005 which offers a similar format but with content geared towards the growing number of sh?“jo manga fans.
In 2005, VIZ merged with ShoPro Entertainment, an affiliate of ShoPro Japan and a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc., to form VIZ Media. ShoPro served as a global licensor specializing in animation, entertainment production and consumer products and its core competencies complemented VIZ’s publishing operations and would provided for the further expansion of manga and anime across North America. Subsequent business deals with publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster have further expanded the scope of VIZ Media’s reach at the sales, distribution and retail levels. In September of 2005 VIZ Media entered into a groundbreaking joint venture with London-based Copyright Promotions Licensing Group to form VIZ Media B.V. to drive the long-term growth of its Japanese manga and animation brands in the burgeoning European market.
Since its launch, VIZ Media has remained a dominant force behind the tremendous popularity of manga and anime in North America. The company’s manga titles are regularly featured best sellers on national literary sales charts and anime series like INUYASHA, NARUTO and ZATCH BELL! regularly draw millions of television viewers. In April 2006 of this year, VIZ Media announced an innovative joint venture with Cartoon Network for the broadband broadcast initiative - Toonami Jetstream. With this venture, VIZ Media extends its reach into new media and platforms, positioning the company for even greater success.
‘It’s extremely gratifying to see how the manga and anime genres have been so wholeheartedly embraced by such a broad-based North American audience,’ says Hidemi Fukuhara, CEO of VIZ Media. ‘Twenty years ago we never imagined that the public would respond to the degree that they have, and the momentum that drives VIZ Media has now inspired us to look to even greater goals for the future. Our continued publication of some of the most popular manga series, the expansion of our anime catalog, and the dedication to nurturing the growing sh?“jo phenomenon all exemplify our commitment. We look forward to the next twenty years being as exciting and gratifying as the first!’ Also leading the company’s direction and strategy are the Executive Board members which include John Easum, Executive Vice President, Akira Fujita, Executive Vice President, Hyoe Narita, Executive Vice President, Madoka Ayaki, Senior Vice President, Administration, Tonik Barber, Senior Vice President Business Affairs, General Counsel and Dan Marks, Senior Vice President, International.