Publisher's Weekly has an interview with Viz Media editorial manager Leyla Aker about the company's new Signature line of adult manga and their Ikki online comics site, which features... er... adult manga. The interview covers recent manga history and Aker describes some of Viz's thinking behind these ventures. I think a focus on adult manga is long overdue.
Even though I live in Japan and I'm a comic fan, I'm not really sure what the hard dilineations between age demographics are in manga. To my amateur eyes, there doesn't seem to be one in terms of who actually does the reading. But I'm reasonably sure the publishers have a specific reader in mind when they decide to put out a book. I mean, no one goes about this willy-nilly; you do it expecting to reach an audience. Right?
Right now the single most popular comic in Japan is One Piece, which means in terms of units sold it's probably the most popular comic in the world. I know some cool cats in their 30s who love the TV cartoon and read the comic book as well, but most of the people I talk to who tell me it's their favorite tend to be teens. Nodame Cantabile seems to have an older skewing appeal, with teens and adults reading it. I'm the only person I know who reads-- and obsesses over-- Nana, but there must be plenty of others if sales are any indicator. 20th Century Boys seems pretty mature to me; I doubt a kid could follow the story's time jumps, much less understand its sci-fi plot. And this is barely scratching the surface.
I tend to ignore things like Naruto and One Piece. That kind of comic adventure or fantasy doesn't particularly appeal to me. But I am into Ito Junji's horror manga, the works of Koike Kazuo and the like. What makes life difficult-- in a fun way-- is there are so many titles available here in Japan, it's an embarrassment of riches. It's like looking through a treasure chest to find a particular gold coin among millions. So for Viz Media to start an imprint which seems aimed squarely at me is wonderful.
It will simply make it a lot easier for me to find new titles to read.