2002 - The most Powerful

by Isaac Alexander,

Anime News Network's staff recently assembled together to select the 5 most powerful people of the year in the North American Anime industry, and the 3 most powerful in the Manga industry. We gave the panel the following definition to ponder: A person with power in the world of Anime & Manga has the capability to effect significant change--or to prevent significant change--in the actions they take.

By this definition, power is not just achievement and should not be confused with gaining a certain market-share. Nor should power be mistaken for popularity, qualities that sometimes go hand-in-hand with power but sometimes do not. Nor is power the same thing as innovation, although the powerful sometimes do innovate, and those who innovate sometimes gain power as a result.

Finally and perhaps most difficult to assess, power is subtly different from influence. News sites, for example, have a certain influence, especially among fans, and while this can--in some cases--translate into power, they are not the same thing.

  1. Henry Goto Vice President of Animation Pioneer Animation
  2. John Ledford President & CEO ADV Films
  3. Ken Iyadomi Executive Vice PresidentBandai Entertainment
  4. Al Kahn Chairman & CEO 4Kids Entertainment
  5. Gen Fukunaga President & CEO Funimation Productions

  1. Seiji Horibuchi - Founder, President and CEO of Viz
  2. Michael Richardson - Founder, President and CEO Dark Horse
  3. Stu Levy - Founder, CEO of Tokyo Pop

Anime's most powerful

Henry Goto of Pioneer Animation has presided over growth of his company for a number of years. Pioneer this yeas has released quite a number of title: Armitage, Cardcaptor Sakura, Hellsing, Adventures of the Mini Goddess, Niea 7, Gatekeepers, Sailor Moon Super S, Sherlock Hound, Soul Taker, Tenchi Muyo! : Magical Project S, Vandread, X TV and Zoids. Pioneer continues to grow the about of dub studios it uses to release more anime titles.

Besides the anime that Pioneer itself releases on DVD, the most Important, yet least visible, aspect to the company's power is their distribution of titles from Bandai Entertainment and Viz. Bandai's good fortunes this year, with hits like Love Hina and new Gundam series, were also to the benefit of Pioneer. Viz titles such as Hamtaro and Inu Yasha have also benefited Pioneer in the distribution anime. Being responsible for two other large anime companies gives Pioneer an enormous amount of clout with retail stores.

TV exposure continued this year although it was not as prominent as compared to previous years but that looks to change in 2003 with Lupin the 3rd starting up now on Cartoon Network, as well as Lain on TechTV.

Manga's most powerful

This year has been a quite a ride for Seiji Horibuchi. The largest announcement was the restructuring of ownership of his company. The addition of Shueisha as an investor in Viz, along with longtime investor Shogakukan, should strengthen the company even more than before. With two of the largest Japanese Manga publishers as your principle owners, Viz has the opportunity to lock up quite a few manga titles.

Viz clearly made the largest product announcement of the year in the Manga industry when they announced that they would be producing an American version of the number one Japanese Manga anthology, Shonen Jump. Sales figures for the first volume of this new anthology have been very impressive, the first volume sold out all 250 000 copies.

As for other comic series, Viz has numerous titles in the top 250 comic book sales according to October figures from Diamond Distributors. Titles such as Dragonball Z, Ramna 1/2, Battle Angel Alita, Inu Yasha, and others continue to be some of the top comic books sold overall. Animerica Extra and Animerica Magazine continue to sell well in the anthology and magazine markets. Graphic Novel sales are also starting to really effect the expansion of manga with more and more titles being released in this format and being sold at mainstream retailers such as Suncoast and Barnes & Noble.

This year's most powerful list was made up entirely of the Presidents, Founders and CEOs of the various companies. However, in the future it is very possible for other people to make it into the list. While the person with the most power in any company will always be the one at the top, it is possible that they will delegate this power to other people. It is the person who makes the final decisions regarding licensing and distribution that makes in into this list. For example, at Dark Horse, Michael Richardson himself travels to Japan to close their licensing contracts and makes the distribution decisions as well. But if one day Mr. Richardson decides to leave the Manga side of his company entirely in the hands of a trusted employee, it would be that person that would make it into this list.

Another interesting aspect of this list, is that it does not reflect our current view of the industry. This is a list of the most powerful people through all of 2002, had we made a list of the most powerful people right now... it would be somewhat different.

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