Kodansha Announces New Licenses at Sakura Con



I’ve had a few… theories about Kodansha moving forward post-Ashita No Joe, and a lot of them have been confirmed with this surprisingly sweet suite of announcements. With it, they’ve blown Yen Press’ announcements (which you can find out more about with my friends over at Behind The Manga) and proven to manga readers that they’re listening to them as well as starting to break free from just following trends in the manga market. So, let’s take a look at what was announced, and then afterwards I’ll give my own 2 cents on the direction of Kodansha USA’s direction with these licenses.

You Must Be This Tall to Propose!

By Fumi Mifuyu (story & art)

Chitose Oki has a huge crush on his nextdoor neighbor Tomo, but there’s one small problem—his height. Back as kids, when his dream girl said she wouldn’t marry him until he grew up, poor Chitose took that quite literally. These days, it’s not just height—one embarrassing misunderstanding after another keeps them from seeing eye to eye. The truth is, they’re both head over heels for each other, but it’s a tall order to confess your feelings to the one you love.


As a digital license I’m not overly likely to be a reader of the series, but it’s definitely interesting to see a modern era Lovely Complex land this side of the pond. Add to it that it’s a seinen high school romance, and the fact that this is a first time mangaka, and it’s sort of a hard one to just let slip by.

Thoughts: Definitely worth keeping an eye on

Thunder 3

By Yuki Ikeda (story & art)

Three ordinary schoolboys come into possession of a DVD that supposedly opens a gateway to a parallel universe, but when their backs are turned Pyontaro’s little sister Futaba passes through and gets kidnapped by the aliens that have overrun that version of Earth! Discovering that their cartoonish bodies make them supermen in the hyper-realistic parallel universe, the boys set out to rescue Futaba.


Despite looks, Thunder 3 is actually a manga that started up in 2022 under (yet again) first time mangaka Ikeda Yuki. With a strong visual identity, and an equally capable story, Thunder 3 is a manga that’s certain to find a community within the English market.

Thoughts: Coming from the well tenured Monthly Shounen Magazine, it’s definitely an easy pickup.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Cucuruz Doan’s Island

By Junji Ohno, Hajime Yatate, Yoshiyuki Tomino (story), Junji Ohno (art)

Former Zeon mobile suit squad leader Cucuruz Doan has deserted, taking up residence on a small island where he helped to raise a number of orphaned children. But what about the other members of his squad? While the original story was told from federation pilot Amuro Ray’s perspective, Ohno’s limited series goes beyond the original television episode to explore the ramifications of Doan’s actions on his own troops, bringing us a multilayered and emotionally complex view of the events from Zeon’s perspective.


Kodansha continues to grow their catalogue of Gundam manga with this license, making for their third in the series- though their current two are both under Vertical Comics. Not being a die-hard fan of the series itself, I don’t have much excitement or disdain either way, though I do think it’s good to see commitment to such a long franchise.

Thoughts: (Potentially) great news for Gundam fans, nothing new for everyone else.

Honeko Akabane’s Bodyguards

By Masamitsu Nigatsu (story & art)

They have only one goal – to kill Honeko Akabane! One day, Arakuni Ibuki learns that his childhood friend, Honeko Akabane, is being targeted by assassins! Both of them are in Class 3-4 at Sosoji High School, and Ibuki is ordered to protect Akabane for one year. His goal is to ensure that she graduates safely, but he must do so without her realizing it. And so begins his secret life as a bodyguard at school! However, there seems to be more secrets within the so-called “Class 3-4”…?!


Another helping of first-timer mangaka from Monthly Shounen Magazine, Honeko Akabane’s Bodyguards is another title that’s seen a healthy amount of discussion in Western circles. It really shows how attentive Kodansha has been in terms of fresher material, and how they’re willing to bet on far more novel ideas these days.

Thoughts: At least worth checking out the first volume.


By Chiyo (story & art)

Amelie Kurosaki is your typical high school student—or so she seems. She tries to stay quiet and abide by the rules; she has a crush on her delinquent classmate, Paco, who she’s always fighting with. But her secret crush isn’t the only thing Amelie is hiding—she’s actually a vampire who’s forbidden to fall in love with humans. But after a series of events, Amelie’s hidden identity is revealed—right in front of Paco.


Yet another vampire series- which I absolutely won’t complain about. Though they’re not a first timer like others on the list, Dra-Q is a very new manga, with only a single volume released in Japan currently. It’s quite the bet that Kodansha is making, considering that Chiyo’s first series (Homeroom) remains unlicensed.

Thoughts: A surefire purchase for vampire fans.

Dogs and Punching Bags

By Kaori Ozaki (story & art)

After leaving her isolating life in Tokyo, 34-year-old Nichiko returns to her remote island hometown for her estranged alcoholic father’s final days. There she meets Chimaki, an eccentric young man who stirs up old memories and feelings Nichiko had all but decided she no longer deserved. But despite his puppy-like enthusiasm for life, Chimaki’s almost obsessive need to rescue people and animals seems to be compensating for an unspeakable past.


It’s taken 6 different announcements to get to a mangaka that has been licensed in English previously. Kaori Ozaki is the author of both this series and The Gods Lie (alongside about 9 other manga). Though it’s their most recent work, unlike Dra-Q it’s complete at 2 volumes which shows considerably less risk.

Thoughts: A series that seems certain to grip every reader that picks it up.

Love on the Horizon

By Machi Yamashita (story & art)

Art university student Nagi Kitagawa is hopelessly in love with Yuu Yamasaki, his senpai in the folk song club who also happens to be his next door neighbor. Yuu seems to have it all—good looks, a great personality, and he’s also super popular—so Nagi can’t help but think he’d never fall for a shy, innocent country bumpkin like him. One night, after drinking too much at one of their club get-togethers, Nagi helps a drunk Yuu get home safe—but before he can go back to his own apartment, Yuu wraps Nagi in his arms and falls asleep, trapping Nagi in his embrace. Nagi sneaks out the next morning, careful to not wake Yuu up, and vows to keep the incident a secret. But when Nagi finds himself growing closer and closer to Yuu, his unrequited feelings only grow stronger… And could it be that his love isn’t as one-sided as he thinks it is…?


From the same magazine as Kodansha’s recently release Number Call (great read, though I’m yet to post a review) is Love On The Horizon– the first (and only) BL of Kodansha’s announcement suite. Once more, it’s a recent manga from a first-time mangaka, showing a great degree of faith in the industry.

Thoughts: Easy pick up for readers with its 2 volume commitment.


By Nobuyuki Fukumoto (story), Kaiji Kawaguchi (art)

Two miles up in the unforgiving heights of Mt. Owari, hikers and friends Asai and Ishikura are hit by a blizzard and lose their way. Injured and sure of his imminent death, Ishikura confesses to killing a member of their university hiking club five years ago. However, Asai then stumbles upon shelter and carries them both to safety, only to realize that the confession has forever changed their relationship—and that the brutal elements may no longer be the most deadly threat around.


A one-shot manga from the end of the 90s? Don’t have to tell me that this is a golden opportunity. For those that don’t “quite” get it, Nobuyuki Fukumoto is the author of Denpa-licensed (though part 1 only) Gambling Apocalypse: KAIJI. Pulling out one of their one-shots is a very strong message.

Thoughts: Buy this one-shot and prove Kodansha right.

Shimazaki in the Land of Peace

By Gouten Hamada (story), Takeshi Seshimo (art)

After surviving a terrorist incident as a child, Shingo Shimazaki was forced to join the League for Economic Liberations’ revolutionary army. Now, thirty years later, he’s back in Japan and trying to assimilate to a normal life. His Japanese may be awkward, and his grasp of ordinary tasks a little weak, but he has all the combat and surveillance training of a green beret. There are many kindhearted souls who want to help him – and a few not so kind ones who will do anything to stop him.


When this series first began (in Kodansha’s Morning magazine) I, alongside everyone else, joked about the fact that Mads Mikkelsen was now in a manga. After giving it some time to prove itself however, it’s a very compelling and unique work- that much like everything else on this list is from a first time mangaka (though only the author, Takeshi Seshimo is actually a rather accomplished artist).

Thoughts: Despite silly initial reactions, it’s worth giving a try.


By Makoto Shinkai (story), Denki Amashima (art)

High school junior Suzume has no idea why the beautiful stranger she meets is looking for ruins, for a certain door. Soon after pointing the stranger, Souta, in the direction of an abandoned resort, she thinks better of it and goes to try and stop him. But before she can find Souta, Suzume unknowingly opens a decrepit door to a world beyond time and place—and stumbles into an adventure of seismic proportions.


Though this license in particular is no “real” surprise, I find the most interesting aspect the fact that its artist is a first-timer. Kodansha has been putting a lot of faith in new talent this last while, and I have to say it’s been paying off in spades for a lot of their ventures.

Thoughts: For Shinkai fans, but not many others.

Senpai is an Otokonoko: My Crossdressing Classmate

By Pom (story & art)

First-year high school student Saki Aoi can’t help but find herself head-over-heels for her senpai, Makoto Hanaoka. After all, Hanaoka-senpai is tall, beautiful, and oh-so-cool—who wouldn’t fall for a girl like her? Saki, with her bright and bubbly personality, doesn’t hesitate to confess her feelings. However, Makoto turns her down, saying that they’re not the person Saki thinks they are—because Makoto isn’t a girl, but rather a cross-dressing boy!


This is an interesting one, Senpai is an Otokonoko is not exactly an extremely popular series in Japan, evidenced by its adaptation going to Project No. 9 (though it looks impressively good for the studio). Conversely though, Pom has a healthy degree of history, though mostly in one-shots that provide the foundation for this story. That’s all to say, this has got my attention, and it seems Kodansha’s getting closer to being “on the ball with anime adaptations”

Thoughts: With the anime arriving first, there’s opportunity to test the waters before committing.

Fall in Love, You False Angels

By Coco Uzuki (story & art)

All sugar, no spice, and everything nice… that’s the impression the beautiful first-year high schooler and “heartthrob angel” class president Otogi Katsura gives to those around her. In reality, Otogi is brash, assertive, and has no problem calling out a jerk when she sees one—the complete opposite of her soft spoken vice presidential counterpart, the equally beautiful and seemingly perfect Toki Ninomae. the complete opposite of her soft spoken vice presidential counterpart, the equally beautiful and seemingly perfect Toki Ninomae. One day, when a group of boys try to hit on her at the train station, Otogi doesn’t hold back and gives them a piece of her mind—and, to her surprise, Toki enjoys seeing this side of her. Not only that, it turns out the seemingly polite, put-together vice president has a hidden side of his own… and Otogi now finds him more attractive than ever! Now “partners-in-crime,” Otogi and Toki agree to keep their hidden sides a secret from the rest of their classmates—but could this shared, dark secret also bring them closer together…?!


Surprisingly, it’s taken until now to see the first shoujo license of the suite, though they remain strong with an ongoing Dessert title from a rather fresh mangaka. Though it’s their second serialized work, this is Uzuki’s first (of the two) to make it to multiple volumes. Also, it only started in 2023, which makes for yet another surprisingly quick license.

Thoughts: Much like the synopsis, a work that seems to promise plenty of sugar and spice.

I Want to Love You Till Your Dying Day

By Nachi Aono (story & art)

At the mysterious orphanage where Sheena lives, death is nothing new to its residents—girls who no longer have families of their own, who are raised as weapons of war, taught to kill and take the lives of others without batting an eye. Everyone, that is, except Sheena, who wishes for nothing more than the growing conflict around her to end. On the night of her roommate’s death, Sheena meets a strange girl covered in blood, who smiles despite the turmoil surrounding them. The next day, the girl appears as a new student in Sheena’s class and introduces herself as Mimi. Initially thought to be a school myth, there are now whispers in the orphanage’s halls that Mimi is their secret weapon—an immortal who cannot die. When Mimi is later assigned as Sheena’s new roommate, Sheena’s world grows even more complicated when she begins living with someone who loves and welcomes death, when all Sheena wants to do is stop it…


Seeing the success and popularity of Whisper Me A Love Song, Kodansha’s brought out yet another Comic Yuri Hime title here. In similar fashion to Coco Uzuki, Nachi Aono is a mangaka that struggled for a spell to find extended success, but found it in 2018 with this series and has been going strong with it for over 6 volumes now. While not quite as radical a decision as other licenses here, it’s sure to still be well received.

Thoughts: Another surefire success within the Yuri genre.

So what can you learn from these Kodansha Licenses at Sakura Con?

The first thing to appear is that Kodansha has made a stark departure from last year’s version of these announcements. While not the colossal 21 title announcement of last year’s Anime Expo, it’s a considerable improvement over the 3 print announcements that we got on this same day last year. Also much like Kodansha’s 2023 Ani Expo announcements, this features almost a suspicious lack of digital titles compared to what we’re used to.

Having only a single one to speak of in a suite of 13 licenses is an equally surprising feat as Kodansha’s 2 at Anime Expo previously. Throw on top the older series poking their heads out and the fresher mangaka, and you’ve got yourself something of a pattern.

Kodansha is showing more faith in the English manga market.

Previously, Kodansha showed a great deal of hesitation with their choices, especially for print titles. Even in summer last year I wouldn’t have guessed that Kodansha would license a series at only 2 volumes from a first-time mangaka- regardless of popularity. Similarly, a one-shot from the 90s would have been an inconceivable announcement (even more than the Initial D omnibus release).

Anyways, my point is that despite surprise and shock, Kodansha has made a pivot towards considerable interest in the English manga market. You can find its roots in summer 2023 with the Anime Expo announcements alongside the reveal of Oma Sei’s Blood Blade. There, you can feel the gaze shift for Kodansha. Digital exclusives are seeing a decline, we’re seeing English original manga, the K-Manga app came out, Ashita No Joe was licensed, and now this set of announcements.

Kodansha realizes the potential that exists in the print market, and understands the maturity of a consumer base that doesn’t act entirely on recognizable names or anime adaptations anymore. Perhaps the most stingy of the publishers has opened their eyes to the safety of a settled manga market.

It’s great news, and is still just the tip of the iceberg. While Kodansha may be aiming for massive heights, they’re taking things in stride. Having pulled up Ashita No Joe and dusted it off, they’re holding out on its success (as mentioned in the reveal of the license) so that they can bring more classics to market. In the meantime however, they’ve turned their focus to newer titles that have a chance of popularity and/or an adaptation.

So, the onus now lays on the manga readers of the West. Kodansha is giving readers an incredible opportunity to open the flood gates on manga through them as a publisher. With the Kodansha titles available alone it’s an incredibly valuable opportunity, but it’s also equally important for trend setting in the market. So get out there and make sure you support the releases you’re interested in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.