In 2006 Manga took great strides back
towards the top spot in the UK market with a combination of big name
releases and fan friendly policies, but can they keep this up in
2007? So far their new licenses have been interesting to say
the least, with a real focus on brand new titles that have been out
in Japan for hardly any time at all. Jerome is quick to
highlight Manga's new acquisitions, 'Tokyo Zombie
(live action - the Japanese "Shaun Of The Dead"), Tokko
(Babes, Blades and lots of Blood!) and Tactics.' he
announces, but there is one title that he is really looking forward
to. 'I am really excited about Noein from Media
Factory. It's a fantastic new 26 part series that we will
be releasing over 5 volumes in 2007.'
At the moment it seems that these four titles will lead the charge, but there's always a danger with anime this new that it will suffer from lack of recognition. Manga combat this with the continuation of some of their biggest franchises. 'Another 3 volumes of Naruto Unleashed (the uncut Japanese and English TV versions): Series 1 Part 2 (Episodes 14-26) is released on 26th December.' states Jerome, 'Series 2 Parts 1 and 2 will be soon after.' Along with this Jerome promises 'More Karas. More Ghost In The Shell.'. With both Ghost in the Shell films and both series of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex already available in the UK we are hoping that this means the
expected (but officially unconfirmed) release of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex film Solid State Society. It seems likely, and it will be interesting to see the long awaited second part of the stunning Karas too.
Manga have already announced the release of a budget Ghost
in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG boxset for 2007, and
the January release of the She, The Ultimate Weapon spin-off
Another Love Song. But even if you haven't heard much
about their newest titles at the moment, you soon will.
Tokko has been touted as a return to Manga's roots,
boasting the kind of gore-drenched supernatural horror and action
that typified their VHS releases in the mid-nineties. It looks
like it'll be more than just a guilty-pleasure video nasty too.
Noein is certainly an interesting one, combining great CGI
with some simple but effective animation. Unlike a lot of
flash-bang sci-fi nowadays the focus is firmly on story and
characterisation, and it's all the better for it. The last new
series, Tactics, never seems to get a lot of attention, but
this supernatural action comedy will sit happily alongside the likes
of Tokyo Underground and Naruto.
Jerome's got big plans for 2007 and his attitude to anime fandom in the UK is refreshing for those who remember Manga's wilderness years. But what are these plans? 'To make more money!' he proclaims! 'But seriously' he continues 'I want Manga to become the fan's favourite label. I also want to broaden the reach of anime into UK homes via TV, the internet and downloads. I want to bring more young people into the scene. I want to see anime other than Studio Ghibli in Asda, Woolworths and Tesco.' Hearing these kinds of sentiments from Manga is music to our ears, and they are sentiments that have been echoed by all the UK anime distributors this
year. However, it's not going to be an easy road 'Overall, I would like to see anime being taken more seriously by the entertainment industry as a whole. We are at the cutting edge of home entertainment. You know that, the fans know that and we (the labels) know that. We just have to work on the retailers and mainstream media a bit more.' For media to sit up and take notice it is necessary for them to be shown how big the interest truly is, and bring more people into the fold. 'Events like London MCM Expo really help to raise the profile a lot' says Jerome, 'and do not underestimate the power of cosplay to bring in a whole new generation of fans.'
These opinions really are great to hear, especially from a company with the brand recognition of Manga Entertainment. With all the companies taking this view (and believe us, they are) we are likely to see more and more anime - and more and more recognition - in the next 12 months than ever before. And to confirm this Jerome delivers these final tantalising words: '(We've got) loads more and some incredibly exciting new release announcements for later in the year. In 2007 Manga is going to kick it up a gear.' Of course this could simply be marketing-speech, but we don't think so. At the end of 2005 Manga made similar comments, and in 2006 we saw a slew of massive titles, including She, The Ultimate Weapon, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG, Karas and, of course, Naruto. Fans are already speculating about big titles like Blood The Last Vampire spin-off series Blood+ or the epic supernatural actioner Bleach, but who knows what they really have lined up for the next year? Well Jerome does, 'Shed loads' he announces proudly 'but if I told you, I'd have to kill you!'