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Yumi Hoashi Interview

EIC and VP of Magazines for VIZ

One of last year’s most significant developments in manga was the arrival of the Shojo Beat anthology fromViz and the accompanying line of graphic novels. The magazine will be observing its first anniversary soon, and Yumi Hoashi, Editor-in-Chief of and Vice President of Magazines for Viz, was kind enough to answer some questions about where Shojo Beat has been and where it’s headed.

DW: To start off, what’s your take on the first year ofShojo Beat? Did it live up to Viz’s expectations?

YH: It has exceeded our expectations. We had two main objectives with Shojo Beat – the first was to introduce manga to a new audience – an audience not familiar with manga at all; and the second was to provide fans of shojo manga with an anthology similar to Shonen Jump but geared primarily to female readers and lovers of shojo manga. According to our reader surveys, each issue has over 10% (and sometimes even close to 20%) of people who have been introduced to manga through Shojo Beatmagazine. Very exciting. We believe that manga is no longer considered a niche category as evidenced by the number of titles, such as Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist, Rurouni Kenshin, that have entered the USA Today’s Top 150. I would love to see manga spread to the same extent as Japan, read by every age group, with more and more genres introduced to the US market.

DW: What about the companion line of graphic novels? I’ve seen several of them pop up on the BookScan graphic novels list, which must be exciting, as there isn’t generally a lot from the shôjo category among the higher-tier sellers.

YH: Yes indeed, it is exciting. What will be more exciting will be when we see them pop up in the USA Today’s Top 150!! I think that as we take up more shelf space as we release more titles, and with our noticeable spines, we’ll see more strength in sales.

DW: Is it possible that the success of the Shojo Beatbooks might be partly attributable to the fact that they’re clearly branded as shôjo? Lots of publishers have plenty of offerings in that category, but Viz has taken the lead in specifically marketing them as such.

YH: I’m a strong believer in branding, as seen by the success of the Shonen Jump imprint!! Practically every title that we release under that brand can be seen in Bookscan Top 50. All of the spines under theShojo Beat imprint have a similar look and feel. Because there are people new to the category, branding our books in the same way should make it easier for the new readers to navigate through the many titles that are being released by all the publishers. Having said that, we hope that we’re not alienating the male shojo manga fans!

DW: Not this one, trust me. What’s coming up in the anniversary issue?

YH: Lots of exciting stuff! First of all, we’re using different color ink for the manga pages, instead of black. Readers will be able to enjoy our manga in either cyan or magenta, similar to the anthologies in Japan. Unfortunately, we can’t use colored paper, but at least it’s getting closer to the original! We’re also introducing a new manga by Matsuri Hino, the creator of MeruPuri – Vampire Knight. This title is performing excellently in Japan, and we’re excited to bring this title to the US so quickly after it started in Japan. We’ve also made some changes in the design so that it’s easier to navigate.

DW: What can readers look forward to in Shojo Beat’ssecond year?

YH: We’ll be periodically swapping out titles and introducing new titles, as well as previewing new titles that we are releasing straight to graphic novels. 

DW: Vampire Knight will be replacing Godchild in the magazine, right? Was that the plan from the beginning, that Godchild would be part of the inaugural year, then be shifted out of the rotation?

YH: As mentioned above, it has always been our intention to swap out titles periodically, so that we can maintain the freshness of the magazine, and also make it easier for new readers to become involved in the manga. 

DW: Moving over to the boys, let’s talk about Shonen Jump for a bit. It seems to move a lot more copies thanShojo Beat, but it’s also had longer to build an audience. Do you foresee Shojo Beat hitting Shonen Jump numbers down the road?

YH: I’d love to see the same numbers, but the huge main difference between Shonen Jump and Shojo Beatis that most of the titles in Shonen Jump have mass market acceptance through the anime. Therefore, when we put Naruto or Yu-Gi-Oh! on the cover, for example, even fans not familiar with manga or the magazine, may pick it up, leading to the huge numbers we see with Shonen Jump. For Shojo Beat, we don’t have that luxury, so we have an uphill battle ahead of us. If we can get our Shojo Beat titles on TV, then we’d be in a better place.

DW: Jump has a lower age rating than Beat. Could you give me a little insight into that decision?

YH: We’re always sensitive of ratings. We’re aware that although ratings are not an issue in Japan, we have to be responsible when we’re offering it up to the US market. There’s still a perception that comics are for kids, when in fact, specific titles are geared toward specific age groups. The US manga market is still young, and as publishers, it’s our job to inform the buyers of manga, that some titles may not be for them. For Shonen Jump, we rated the magazine T for Teen, because we feel that the content is suitable for that age group. For Shojo Beat, we rated it T+ for Older Teen, because the content is more geared toward that age group. There are some titles, like Crimson Hero orBaby & Me, that can be enjoyed by younger readers, but as most of the other titles are geared toward the older age bracket, we rated the magazine T+.

DW: With the imminent arrival of the Bleach anime on Cartoon Network, is there any temptation to start serializing that book in Jump? I think it would be hard to resist, and it already seems like earlier volumes of Bleachhave gotten a bump in sales from the news, though it’s always been a fairly strong seller.

YH: Although we won’t be serializing Bleach in the magazine, we’ll continuously feature this title within the pages of Jump. In fact, we’ll be previewing a chapter of Bleach in the magazine to celebrate the fact that it’s going to be on air. You can expect to see features on the manga, on the anime, and on merchandise, similar to the treatment that we’ve given the other properties under the Shonen Jump brand.

DW: What are your thoughts on the market for manga anthologies in general? Where do you see that segment of the manga market heading?

YH: The more anthologies there are, the better I think it will be for the manga market. We’ll be able to establish a manga magazine category. Right now,Shonen Jump is usually categorized under Games/Humor and doesn’t have a dedicated category. Unfortunately, I don’t see any other companies entering the market with anthologies, which is understandable, as it takes an awful lot of commitment of resources, but I would welcome more anthologies from other companies. 

DW: I’d love to see more anthologies, to be honest. I think Viz could put together a wonderful title from your Shonen Jump Advanced books, like Death Note andD.Gray-man. Is there any possibility of that kind of new product?

YH: You’ll have to stay tuned! VIZ Media has been a pioneer – we were the first to bring manga to the US market, we were the first to introduce a manga anthology to the mass market, so you never know!

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