Naruto - Proving as popular as Manga had hoped

If there's one company that has really turned itself around, it's Manga Entertainment.  Back in the days of VHS Manga had such a grip on the market that their name was synonymous with anime, but as time wore on they became complacent and were left behind by the advent of DVD.  However, that's all changed now.  Manga Entertainment's rise back to greatness has been phoenix-like, a few years ago two brand new releases from them in twelve months would have signalled a good year, nowadays they are putting out budget boxsets and big name titles on a near monthly basis.

Signs of their meteoric rise have been increasingly evident this year, with a glut of massive titles peppering Manga's schedules.  '2006 has been a vintage year for Manga with the release of several massive new franchises including Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Karas and Naruto.' says Manga's Marketing Executive Jerome Mazandarani.  'Ghost In The Shell 2 Innocence has been an absolutely massive success for Manga with over 40,000 copies sold since March.  Karas was a real surprise hit and I am very excited for the release of Karas: The Revelation next year.'  In the UK's niche anime market, where titles are more likely to sell in the hundreds than in the thousands, the sales of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence are absolutely staggering.  Recognition means a lot, and Manga still have it from their VHS days when the first Ghost in the Shell film was a massive crossover hit.  The franchise has remained the biggest gun in Manga's arsenal ever since, but it isn't firing alone.

Karas was one of the best looking anime titles of the year

Manga have some financial clout behind them, and a recognisable brand name, and they have taken full advantage.  As well as the excellent Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG, Manga really turned heads with one acquisition.  'What can I say about Naruto?' muses Jerome.  'The fan reaction has been terrific. It's really exciting to be part of the Naruto phenomenon. I can see that it is gradually going to be an even bigger success in the UK than Dragonball Z.'  He may be right too.  Naruto has enjoyed very strong sales for an anime series, helped in no small part to its run on Jetix, albeit in edited form.  The acquisition of Naruto was a huge sign of how

much the anime scene in the West has grown.  Just two years ago it was thought that no-one could afford to license it, now it is being released in 3 disc budget boxsets.

Whilst Naruto, Ghost in the Shell: 2nd GIG and Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence have spearheaded Manga's catalogue in 2006, gone are the days when a couple of new releases were all they had.  This year they mixed old and new, unlike many other companies they looked to some decidedly retro franchises alongside their big brand new titles.  A new version of Tetsujin 28 came to DVD decades after the original series debuted on UK TV as GigantorAstro Boy was given a budget release, as was the epic sci-fi Robotech, and Manga also put out several boxsets and low price titles.  The 26 episode Heat Guy J was put out as a boxset for just 25, and the similarly lengthy Tokyo Underground also came out in boxset form for just 39.99.  Once upon a time an anime boxset would cost 60-80, if it came out at all, but now Manga have led the way with their releases, and the other companies have followed suit.

At one time Manga were in the wilderness, but now they are challenging ADV for the top spot in the UK market.  2006 saw them engage fans more than ever before, with a strong presence at anime events up and down the country.  A host of fan-friendly policies, from cheap boxsets to big name licenses and releases, have seen them become one of the most talked about anime companies once more.  Their 2006 titles have been very strong and they have made some brave decisions through the year.  Naruto could potentially have been disastrous for them, and the likes of Robotech and Astro Boy are pretty much unheard of by new fans.  However, they took the risks, and

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG, one of Manga's most consistant titles

  it's great to see a company release so many great new titles without neglecting the roots of Western anime fandom.

Manga have had a great year, backing up the strength of their brand name with a host of great titles that please both old and new fans alike.  So do their plans in 2007 shape up to their growth in 2006?  Well, read on and find out...