We Speak to VIZ Media! (Interview with Laura Takaragawa)

Thanks for speaking to us Laura! VIZ Media are a Manga, Anime & Consumer Products organization; can you provide a general overview of these divisions?

Laura Takaragawa
Laura Takaragawa (Vice President Consumer Products and Promotions at VIZ Media)

Manga — VIZ Media is the largest global producer of English-language manga, dominating international publishing markets where two in every three manga sold are published by VIZ (USA, Canada, UK & Ireland, ANZ). Today, manga makes up 53% of all comics/graphic novel sales and is up a staggering 110.2% in bookstores from the beginning of the pandemic through 2022.

Anime — VIZ also is a leading distributor of popular anime titles. We distribute anime via home entertainment (DVD, Blu-Rays and also digitally to EST, AVOD and streaming platforms like Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Crunchyroll, Tubi, Pluto, etc…), these platforms have a reach of over one billion households globally.

Lastly our Consumer Products business is the third key segment of our business and we work with hundreds of licensees, retailers and branded partners to deliver a range of anime merchandise from tees, toys, food/beverage and other lifestyle products around the globe. VIZ is a top 20 Global Licensing agent, a Top 50 Global Licensor according to License! Global and represents licensed sales of over $660 Million annually.

The distribution of content has changed over the years and streaming is now stronger than ever. How do you navigate this along with Social Media and new and emerging platforms like TikTok?

Our focus in regards to navigating streaming platforms is to be where our audience lives and consumes content. We work with most major global and domestic streaming platforms (like Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, etc…) to provide maximum exposure in support of our publishing, home entertainment, and consumer products business.

As for Social Media and emerging platforms, first we always look to see where the conversations are most active. Secondly, we do our best to tap into the zeitgeist as well as initiate positive conversation around anime/manga and the fandom. This is done through content creation and community engagement/management. VIZ Media maintains official accounts on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and X. TikTok, in particular, can be challenging since it necessitates customized content, but the platform does have useful tools for tracking trends and the volume of engagement by property hashtag.

Anime Heroes

The VIZ Media portfolio is diverse to say the least. What are some of your current focus areas?

We are building upon our international business over the past two years and see tremendous growth coming from territories outside of the US. In order to grow that business, it is important that we have a compelling portfolio of titles that offers something for everyone.

One of our biggest growth titles is BLEACH and fans were overjoyed that BLEACH is Back after a 10-year hiatus in anime. VIZ has the merch rights for both Classic BLEACH anime (episodes 1-366) as well as the all new BLEACH Thousand-Year Blood War arc on a global (ex-asia) basis. Other key titles in our portfolio include Inuyasha, NANA, Dorohedoro (manga), Rooster Fighter (manga), Devil’s Candy (manga), Zom 100 and others.

Why do you think the anime genre is rebooting again?

Anime has never gone away. It has just continued to grow in popularity. Streaming and other video on demand (VOD) content providers have made anime more accessible than ever before. This has created avid anime fans across the globe!

Parrot Analytics reports global demand for anime content grew 118 percent over the past two years (2020-2022), making it one of the fastest-growing content genres throughout the pandemic. Grand View Research reports the global anime market was estimated at USD 28.61 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to over 60 billion by 2030.

Content providers are offering platforms across both classic anime and new titles. There are titles like Naruto and BLEACH for instance that kids in the early 2000’s grew up with and now are adults and have a special nostalgic connection to their favorite stories from their childhood and may even pass this down to their children and have a shared connection.

Finally, Social Media has given anime fans yet another means to express their love of the industry. Our anime fans are the best in the world and they love to share their passion with the community which is infectious and continues to fuel the fandom, especially when some of those fans are a-list celebrities like Michael B Jordan, K-pop band BTS and even Elon Musk share their love for our brands.

What is your strongest category in English speaking countries?

The strongest categories are apparel, collectibles and video games which make up a large % of the business. Although we are seeing a nice increase in lifestyle categories such as Consumer Electronics/Gaming Accessories, Food & Beverage, and even Health & Beauty Aids.

Culture Kings x JoJo's
Culture Kings x JoJo’s

How does VIZ Media tie licensing into the business and across your brand portfolio?

Licensing is a critical factor in our overall VIZ Media business. We act as both a licensee in publishing, as well as a licensor and an agent on behalf of many licensors in Japan. Going back to the three pillars of our business, each one relies heavily on licensing.

As the largest publisher of English language manga, VIZ is a licensee of the content (often through Japanese publishers like Shueisha and Shogakukan — both of whom are our parent companies). We also act as an agent on behalf of licensors for anime rights where we produce home entertainment in the form of DVD/Blu-Ray.

We license titles like Naruto and Sailor Moon for instance and many more. We also license and distribute content through streamers and content providers like Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, Disney+, Tubi, Pluto and others. Finally we represent a growing number of anime and manga titles for Consumer Products.

In some cases we are a licensor and are part of the ownership consortium and in other cases, we are granted the rights from a licensor acting as an agent on their behalf.

Our portfolio has grown significantly and includes many of the most-loved anime titles like Hunter Hunter, Death Note, JoJos and more. Additionally, international expansion has been a big focus for us in consumer products and we are securing broader rights across our titles.

Roster Slide

Moving into the 4th quarter of 2023 and into 2024, what is on the horizon both globally and more specifically in Australia?

We are very excited to have welcomed WP Brands as our new agency for Oceania earlier this year. WP’s market expertise and outstanding reputation coupled with VIZ’s anime portfolio will allow us to get even more great anime merchandise into the hands of fans in Australia and New Zealand.

Currently, our global partners have a great presence within the hard goods sector such as 3D collectible items from Bandai and Funko. We already have a successful specialty apparel program in place and we plan to have a wider range of titles available for our anime fans (including more offerings from Death Note, Hunter x Hunter, One Punch Man and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure).

We held our first Australian summit last month and we’ve received tremendous responses from the existing partners and numerous potential partners. Multiple halo programs are in discussion and we will be able to announce more details over the next few months.

Our goal is to build a strategic licensing program in Australia to cater our anime fans at all different retail levels and categories. Also be on the lookout for the hit anime title that everyone is talking about this summer, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead which snagged a Netflix Top 10 on the Global Non-English TV list over its premiere weekend.


This article is also featured in Edition 45 of The Bugg Report Magazine