Rival Japanese anime houses Shueisha (Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Dragon Ball) and Shogakukan (Pokémon and MegaMan) are merging their San Francisco-based U.S. operations ShoPro Entertainment and Viz into one internationally focused entertainment holding. The two parent companies, which are currently responsible for producing more than half of all anime programming in Japan, are hoping this new joint-venture will serve as a more direct conduit for moving their properties into TV, publishing, licensing and home entertainment outside of Asia.
Everyone is keeping quiet for now about the first initiative the new company will take on. But John Easum, senior VP of ShoPro Entertainment, says it will be charged with managing cross-platform rights in North America, Europe and Latin America for new properties culled from the libraries of Shueisha and Shogakukan.
Also a priority, Easum says, is building up the presence of Shueisha’s manga magazine Shonen Jump in North America’s burgeoning US$165-million graphic novel market, as well as spinning the property off into TV and consumer products.
The formation of the new company will not affect existing agreements for Shogakukan and Shueisha properties currently in the market, including deals with 4Kids Entertainment for Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! And though you might think that this merger would rule out the possibility of partnering with Shogakukan or Shueisha, Easum says the parent companies aren’t viewing the joint-venture as their exclusive representation. ‘We’re still seeking out partnerships,’ he says. ‘It’s an evolving process.’
Shogakukan and Shueisha will each own 40% of the new company, with ShoPro Japan controlling the remaining 20%. Viz’s current vice chairman Hidemi Fukuhara takes the reins as president and CEO, and Easum stresses that there are no layoffs in the works or on the horizon. In fact, ramp-up plans may involve taking on additional staff members in the areas of licensing and television.