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Shueisha brings Japanese media content to the US, Europe, Asia & South Africa

Interview - November 2, 2016

Manga and anime content provider Shueisha is one of Japan’s leading publishing houses. Established in 1926, it has since expanded its operations into a full publishing company producing general magazines, comics, picture books and dictionaries, as well as collection volumes, literature books, alongside history and arts collections. It also operates portal sites that include women’s magazines and comics, and a mail-order site to sell items listed in fashion magazines. President Marue Horiuchi explains the company’s international strategy, varied acitivities, and flourishing partnerships bringing Japanese media to a wider audience.



What are the current trends you are witnessing in the publishing world in Japan at the moment?

In recent years, we have seen paper publishing decreasing while digital publishing is increasing rapidly. Twenty years ago, the whole market value was 2.7 trillion yen, whereas now the market is just approximately 1.5 trillion yen. This shows how greatly the use of paper has been reduced. Magazines are on a decreasing trend; however children’s books are still maintaining a stable number of publication figures. Also, the number of bookstores has diminished from 25,000 to 14,000 due to the strong growth in digital publishing.


The company has a presence both domestically and is also growing internationally. What in your opinion if you can summarize is it that makes Shueisha unique today?

Shueisha was formed 90 years ago by separating as an independent company from Shogakukan, a publishing house established with a focus on education, whereas Shueisha originally concentrated on the entertainment field. One unique aspect of our company is that we are not only focusing on merely one industry or one kind of genre, but we have a wide variety of listings. As long as there are areas in which people are interested, we are happy to extend and further broaden our range of publishing. This is well demonstrated by the fact the we have chosen to develop four very different kind of projects to celebrate our 90th anniversary: a literature series dedicated on the adventure theme, beautiful photobooks on endangered animal species, 20 hardcover comic series for students on history, and a theme-based art collection book series. Regardless of whatever methods we are using, as long as our products are able to satisfy our customers, we will continue on this path.


What are the types of new projects and platforms that you are offering which keep you ahead in such a competitive market today?

Two important points: first is about digital publishing and how should we produce content more widely through digital mediums. And secondly, though we do already have presence in American and European markets, we need to broaden our scope of business and define our approach to Asian or Asean nations and territories, where the circumstances and the background are somewhat different.


How do you see the company’s positioning in the market today and what is the key strength of the businesses brand?

Our company is very strong in manga and animation as we have very good content. We hope we can further promote it towards the younger generations. We are aiming to reach out to a wider customer base both domestically and internationally. Manga is closely related to animation, and animation itself has an intimate relationship with movies and games. We hope we can create more partnerships with related companies and industries to make sure our products get more exposure.


“Manga” has become a word that symbolizes Japanese culture. Shueisha publishes a wide range of manga including boys, girls and youth manga such as “Dragon Ball”, “One Piece” and “Naruto”, producing numerous smash hits. These manga titles are licensed in over 35 countries and regions, and are loved by many fans all over the globe. What are the key strategies behind further expanding this Japanese manga culture to a wider more global audience?

We have different strategies for different regions and countries. For example, for North American and European countries, we have established our companies there so we can expand our business locally.

In the future, we have to focus more on the Asian and Middle-Eastern markets. We have our manga already translated into Arabic. For the Asian market, we put efforts into studying different ways to distribute our products to different regions. In Taiwan, we hosted a One Piece exhibition in which 300,000 people attended.

Since the manga culture was born in Japan, it is quite time-consuming and cost-consuming if we move abroad to adapt to different cultures. We already have established a long-term partnership with Shogakukan, and this February we collaborated with five other companies to open up a store in Bangkok, Thailand. We call it Cool Japan shop but for now we are only in a testing period. As you know, these companies are in the same industry, so we are rivals. But we decided to work together to explore overseas, and this is a good thing.


Can you take us through the relationship between the tri-ownership of VIZ Media and the types of synergies realized by the group?

VIZ Media is owned by three companies that rank among Japan’s largest creators and licensors of manga and animation: Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd.

VIZ Media is a leader in the publishing and distribution of Japanese manga for English-speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa, and is a global ex-Asia licensor of Japanese manga and animation.

As a company we have a good relationship with VIZ Media them and continue lines of communication. But mainly they are responsible for taking business decisions in America and Europe.


VIZ Media Chief Marketing Officer Brad Woods says, “We have access to more titles than Marvel, but in terms of Western influence, manga is only in its infancy as a mainstream media.” Following these comments, what is the vision for VIZ Media and its plans to take Manga more mainstream in the US?

America has good print publishing sales: the revenue is about $80 million, while the digital side has space to be further explored. The company has grown with comics as the foundation basis. Regarding novel franchises, a successful example that has contributed to expanding our popularity was “All You Need Is Kill”, which later became the Hollywood motion picture “Edge of Tomorrow” starring Tom Cruise. We are expecting VIZ Media to fully realize its potential in many areas other than manga in printed and digital media.


What are your thoughts on the commercial potential of taking a number of manga stories into TV series or feature film adaptations?

We have many ongoing projects, especially in Japan, with many duration lengths. In the licensing department, around 30 people are working to make sure we that we can produce and expand into this kind of business. In the past, we used to wait for licenses only to get some small benefits from them. But recently, we are trying to get more work actively, trying to get to the business efficiently. We hope that paper publishing will increase, from there we can transport to animations, games, movies and other goods. For example, for franchises like Dragon Ball and One Piece, we can translate them easily to animations, movies and games, and even events.


What are the plans to grow VIZ Media’s presence, reputation and general awareness in the US and what has been achieved so far?

Since 1986, VIZ Media has grown the manga and anime market in North America. Recently, they’ve also expanded to the United Kingdom, Ireland, India, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We’ll continue to work with VIZ Media to grow awareness in those territories and beyond.

VIZ Media is a leader in the publishing and distribution of Japanese manga for English-speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa, and is a global ex-Asia licensor of Japanese manga and animation.


Do you have plans for partnerships, to expand to other business areas, or merges and acquisitions during the period when the media industry is not doing so well?

We don’t have any plans as yet. For the time being, the only plan is to unfold our business in the US through VIZ Media, and as I just mentioned, get more people to know about manga. Since you asked about M&As, for us, rather than the business scale, content quality is more valuable; producing the finest product is a big deal.


What a final message would you like to give to readers, particularly in the US?

American entertainment media, such as dramas, animations and movies, have always been a big part in my life, influencing me a lot. For me, I hope I can develop more Japanese content through VIZ Media in America and other Western countries. I want our company to become a bridge between America and Japan, to bring Japanese content to the American society.