Goblinrant Nerd Otaku Raves | Of VIZ and Virtue

*NOTE: Japanese surnames first*

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When I started reading VIZ Media‘s comics, my mind had exploded by manga.

I had been a diligent anime fan, trying to watch, view and observe as many animated series, videos, and movies, in order to keep up with what I believed should be the knowledgeable anime groupie.
Then I learned that many videos (OVAs, OAVs, TV series, and theatrical releases) often had a manga ancestor.

This from recognizing that much of what I watched had been serialized in Japanese phone book anthologies.

Then came Viz.

The North American publisher has often been mentioned in umpteen magazine articles as a forerunner of the American Fan’s foray into Manga.

Before Dark Horse‘s and Tokyopop‘s re-education of Japanese sound effects to American audiences, Viz was, and still is, at the forefront when it comes to seeing manga “as intended”. While in high school, my mind already expanded by new writers of science fiction/fantasy in the many short story anthologies I became obsessed with, there was Viz, their covers redesigned for the American fan.

Their stories Western left-to-right. And the most shocking, and what would appear sacrilegious to the modern, enlightened ‘otaku’, panels originally gray now IN COLOR, or, recolored for North American tastes (See? Many of us cut our teeth on Marvel, DC,  and “Archie”. A black-and-white comic story wouldn’t have cut the mustard back then).

But though my younger contemporaries may decry much of the ‘blasphemies’ we now refute in our anime/manga obsession, the younger fans may not understand that we earlier fans needed Viz THEN. The company has, in keeping with the times and publishing trends, overhauled their brand, just about quadrupled their title output, has their toes in social media, digital comics, etc. They also redesigned their website – Check It Out @ Viz Media ,

The company continues to push the proverbial envelope, especially when, I believe, it comes to their industry rivals: Dark Horse and Tokyopop.

Located in San Francisco, CA. , VIZ Media gives Japanese manga a home in several English-speaking nations. This includes: North America, the UK, Ireland, and South Africa. Please refer to their ‘About’ page for further information.

Viz did me a favor. They introduced me to Takahashi Rumiko’s, “Maison Ikkoku”, one of several classic series that helped to catapult her into a household name.

green cover Maison Ikkoku classic blue cover Maison Ikkoku classicperiwinkle cover Maison Ikkoku classic

VIZ Media had the series beautifully bound, each with a book design to resemble a different wall-paper motif and vignette in the lower right-hand corner, often with the two protagonists and/or company.

Of course, they were left-to-right, the price ranging from $16.95 – $19.95 (and was gut-busting to a community college student such as myself), and I had to read EVERY issue, just to get to the answer: “Does college student Godai Yusaku and landlady Otanashi Kyoko END UP TOGETHER?” (Nosiree Bob. Not gonna tell ya. Nope.)

It took two years to finish, broke my college-student budget, and emotionally drained me, but, what a helluva ride!

Move to the early 2000s, and there came a seismic shift in the North American manga industry. Fans were becoming exposed to more Japanese cultural references then the earlier, often older, fans (Heck, in my day, young’uns, we weren’t even called ‘Otaku’).

More fans learned to speak Japanese. Many even visited the Land of the Rising Sun.

These English-speaking Otaku were demanding more in their experience: they craved Authenticity.

What did this mean? It meant what Tokyopop had done: make their English manga read “backwards”, or, as Japanese fans read their regular media, RIGHT-to-LEFT. Dark Horse also got on the bandwagon, and between these American-based companies, industry experts cried out. Critics believed that changing the very way Americans READ would kill the manga industry before it even picked up momentum. Yet, as there were critics, there were supporters for this change.

In the end, the fans’ desires to fully immerse themselves into a media as their Japanese contemporaries won out. Tutorials were given at the beginning of each graphic novel, with an adorable character, often chibi-sized (bite-size or super-deformed) explaining how to read ‘the Japanese Way’.

Viz was in on the action too, and suddenly did something that many thought would be a money-breaker: VIZ Media reissued their earlier titles, slashed the cover prices by almost half (Tokyopop started the $7.99 – $8.99 GN pricing), and shrunk their book sizes by a third!

They chose their golden egg titles, such as “Maison Ikkoku”. I can’t quote sales, or records, but from a consumer-level, this did well for Viz. I spoke to other fans who were new to the series, and unlike me, they had an easier, quicker time finding and collecting the series. Each book cover had a simpler, softer design, different titles were no longer used, just “Maison Ikkoku”, and then a large number to tell the reader what volume issue.

Here are the NEW and IMPROVED: lime green New Maison Ikkoku coverpink New Maison Ikkoku cover

I also learned that these new cover illustrations were in keeping with the tankoubons (aka Graphic Novel or Trade paperback) in Japan! SWEET!

A lot easier than I had: trying to track down each title, only to realize I had bought two volumes later than what I currently read! The classical series were not obviously numbered, and only if you knew how to read the ISBN code on the back (*hint to those currently reading the series from the earlier Viz editions).

VIZ Media continues to expand and improve their repertoire. They are, after all, attached to three of the largest manga and anime companies: Shogakukan (I will post about this INCREDIBLE industry giant another time. And yes, they are Legend. Just think about our Random House, and you will get an idea), and Shueisha Inc.

They even brought little-known here, but industry-great There, Adachi Mitsuru’s newest sport-manga series “Cross Game” to a bookstore near you! But enough. There’s plenty more where that came from..if Viz has anything to say about it.

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