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Otakon 2011
Viz Media Industry Panel

by Gia Manry,

Viz Media representative Amy Mar opened up the anime and manga licensee's Otakon panel late after the Tiger & Bunny panel ran over (as well as some of the usual technical glitches). Mar noted that she handles Viz Media's Twitter account and also talked briefly about the company's 25th anniversary celebration, including the Heroes of Anime promotion on iTunes (which includes free series premiers and seasons on sale for US$11.99 on iTunes, ending August 23 with a new set starting August 24). In October there will be a theatrical premiere for the Naruto Shippuden: Bonds film as well as a sweepstakes offering a free trip to New York to see the film's premiere and the opportunity to meet Junko Takeuchi, who voices Naruto in Japan. She will also be at New York Comic Con and New York Anime Fest.

Mar moved on to some of the company's digital efforts, including VizAnime.com and the newly-launched VizManga.com. The company is speeding up its Naruto digital releases, with one volume per week for volumes 36 through 45, and will also add Oishinbo digitally for US$4.99 starting tomorrow. Also starting tomorrow is Ai Ore's simultaneous digital and print release, along with The Story of Saiunkoku.

Next Mar ran through upcoming releases for their Haikasoru line, starting with Miyuki Miyabe's novel ICO: Castle in the Mist (due in August) and The Book of Heroes paperback edition (November), which she then gave away a free copy of. Additionally, Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights will be released in hardcover on November 15.

Print manga releases came next, starting with the re-release of Oh! great's Tenjo Tenge in 2-in-1 format; the first volume is currently on sale and Mar gave away a free copy of it to an audience member. Omnibus editions for Kekkaishi and Fullmetal Alchemist are also in the works, with the former already out and the latter in August. New Bleach and Naruto 3-in-1 omnibus editions are due in August. Mar gave away a Fullmetal Alchemist omnibus, but noted that these would only be through the first 12 volumes (four omnibus volumes).

Next came two art books, one for Maturi Hino's Vampire Knight and Katsura Hoshino's D.Gray-man. A new One Piece art book is scheduled for November 1, titled Color Walk 2; their goal for the book is to make it higher-quality than the original Japanese version since they have to re-scan everything anyway. A box set of the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Adventure! manga is currently in the works and will include eight volumes from the series, as well as a ten-volume box set for the Legend of Zelda manga by Akira Himekawa, set for October 25.

Viz will also release a full box set of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, with all 27 volumes set for November. The company has three books relating to Studio Ghibli's Arrietty in the works: an art book, two "film comics" books, and a picture book; the latter is scheduled for a January 2012 release.

A new Bleach character book will be released in 2012, as well as several shoujo manga: Miyoshi Tomori's A Devil and Her Love Song, Rei Tōma's Dawn of the Arcana, Tani MIZUE's The Earl and the Fairy. 3-in-1 omnibus editions of shoujo manga are also in the works, starting with Hana-Kimi and Skip Beat!, both starting in March 2012.

The audience applauded a short video for Mameshiba, the "not quite a dog, not quite a bean" mascot species which Viz will release two volumes for soon: the Meet Mameshiba! coffee table book and the Mameshiba on the Loose! comic. The next book is Mameshiba Loves Winter, which includes stickers and pop-ups; it's scheduled for November 2011. A Pokémon magnetic play book is also set for a November release. Speaking of Pokémon, Mar revealed a trailer for the Pokémon Zoroark: Master of Illusions film, and a manga will also be released at the same time as the film in September.

Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll will join the Vizkids line in January 2012, followed by Voltron Force (based on the American Nicktoons cartoon series) and the Mister Men Little Miss series in spring.

The audience applaued as Mar moved into the anime portion of her prseentation, starting with Vampire Knight Guilty volume 3, which is currently out. A box set for Guilty should be set for December, but won't include some of the bonu items in the individual releases. Kekkaishi set two is scheduled for September 13, along with Heroes 108 volumes two on August 16. At Comic-Con the compay announced that it will release the anime film Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, so Mar showed the trailer to the audience. It will be released on November 8 on DVD.

Next, the audience watched a trailer for a variety of Viz's streaming titles, including Tiger & Bunny and Naruto. There was a great deal of applause when Blue Exorcist appeared on the screen, as well as Death Note. Mar ran through the titles, also including Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan: Demon Capital and Blue Dragon uncut. If the streaming numbers are good for Blue Dragon they may release the uncut version on physical media as well.

Mar then scheduled 15 minutes for the question and answer portion of the panel. Most of the questions related to release dates for titles, such as the English dub for InuYasha: The Final Act, and Mar took down the titles to check in but could not say anything specific off the top of her head. She speculated that they may be trying to get the original voice cast, since it's been a while since the last series was dubbed.

Asked why Viz is cutting off their omnibus releases at twelve volumes, Mar noted that part of the goal was to make early volumes available when stores had been sold out for some time and weren't restocking. Originally the books were only going to go through 10 volumes and then they extended it to twelve. Mar said that it's much easier to find the volumes after 12.

The next question was about RIN-NE, which the audience member said hasn't been updated in a while. Mar replied that it hadn't been updated since the tsunami, and that she would ask about it. She knew that getting the translations done was difficult due to the tsunami but she didn't have the information to say for sure what was going on.

Viz has been looking closely at how digital titles to while considering the possibility of delving into their back list to release digital copies of books that aren't available anymore. Mar suggested that fans read more of their manga on Viz's sites if they want to ensure that this happens.

When asked about rescuing licenses from Tokyopop, Mar said that she wasn't sure but that she might have news closer to the holidays. Another audience member told Mar that voice actor Richard Cox, who played the title character, said in another panel that he had finished recording his lines for InuYasha: The Final Act, to Mar's surprise; she said she'd have to check with animation.

Another fan requested a Bleach speed-up/simultaneous release; Mar asked the audience if it would be interested in a digital speed-up and picking up the physical books later. Mar also told the audience that she'd like to do a simultaneous digital release with Weekly Shonen Jump but also noted that it would be a lot of work.

Asked about Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, Mar said she thought that they'd just had a meeting on it, but that since the show hasn't been among the most-watched on VizAnime it was probably a lower priority than other titles might be.

The last question of the panel related to the Viz Manga mobile application: has Viz run into any problems due to Apple's content requirements, such as the nudity in Ranma 1/2? Mar said that there have been a few issues with current series, but they haven't done Ranma because it would have to go back through the approval process since it's older. It might even need a new translation or flipped pages. Apple doesn't really tell the if there's a problem, they just don't approve the title, which is why they can't announce releases until shortly before they go online because they have to make sure it will be approved. Mar confirmed that Tenjo Tenge may never get a release in an Apple-related format.

Mar thanked the audience for coming and reminded them that they can ask her questions via the Viz Media Twitter or Facebook accounts.

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