Viz Media Announces Surprise Kagurabachi License



With a shot in the dark, Viz Media announced on Twitter today that they’ve licensed the mega-hit WSJ manga Kagurabachi for an English print release. By all rights the announcement is a bombshell, but not in the traditional sense. Viz lorded this license over the veritable millions of fans, but never gave any indication as to when it might be announced- which makes it even weirder. This is the kind of announcement that you save in reserve for a panel or a big convention, so why now? It’s an interesting question that I sort of have an answer for, but let’s take a look at what Kagurabachi is actually about.

The Shonen Jump series that took the world by storm comes to print! A doting father is slain in cold blood in front of his young son, igniting a burning thirst for vengeance. Kagurabachi, by Takeru Hokazono, releases Fall 2024.

Viz Media

So, even Viz is hyping up Kagurabachi, and I mean, why wouldn’t they? They licensed it, so of course they want to reap the rewards of doing so- and that’s the part I really want to talk about (in two different parts).

Kagurabachi‘s success is probably the most well documented in the case of any manga period, and that’s because it was carried to its success by a Western fanbase. Truthfully, it’s the only case I’m aware of where a Western fanbase has been the core contributor to both the domestic and global success of a manga. After all, at its peak, Kagurabachi dethroned series like Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man in terms of readership on MangaPlus, nearly hitting the ever-coveted 1 million viewership mark. Now, it’s nowhere near those levels, hitting 139,000 views with its most recent chapter, but it still left it a formidable force in the digital manga market.

So obviously, there’s strong readership and interest in the English world for the manga… but it comes at a price. Let’s take a look at Sakamoto Days, a manga that debuted on Mangaplus in the very early days of the English manga boom, and has remained a long-running series. Back on the day its first chapter released, it garnered about 180,000 views. Its most recent chapter hit a grand total of 127,000 views (or about 12k views less than Kagurabachi) . Over the dozen plus volume spread, that drop is quite literally just a drop in the bucket compared to Kagurabachi‘s fall off in the order of several hundred thousands.

Where does that fall off come from? My argument is the social media movement for the manga. Originally, the whole idea behind Kagurabachi’s success stemmed from parody and successful internet humor, which drove interaction through the roof before it even was readable. However, the internet moves quickly through its phases, so the longevity of the humorous praise surrounding Kagurabachi quickly subsided, and fans transitioned into more earnest praise and interest in the manga- which evidently cannot replicate the hype generated by the various memes.

So what does this all have to do with Viz and it being such a quick license? Well, it’s rather simple. Kagurabachi is the most hyped up manga in North America right now. If you’re paying any attention to the numbers of Kagurabachi, you’d be worried about its long term success- which Viz is worried about. It’s a Weekly Shounen Jump title, so the odds of it being licensed made it almost inevitable. At that point, the most intelligent thing to do is to get ahead of the game as early as possible and ride the wave of popularity to financial success for the title.

Let’s take a positive spin on this Kagurabachi news though

The best thing you can take away from this is that your voice as a consumer is incredibly valuable- so long as there’s enough of you. It really does drive home the incredible importance ascribed to directly engaging with an official release for a series you’re interested in (where one is available). It also shows that publishers are willing to be on top of things when the money’s there, though that’s not much of a surprise. I think overall it just shows how much has changed in terms of publishing practices in the last couple of months. With Kodansha licensing Ashita No Joe, and now Viz bringing Kagurabachi over just after its first volume released in Japan, the world of manga in the West is looking very good. I only hope to see that confidence and ability extend to series that don’t perfectly fit the bill of manga classic or mega-hit.

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