Bad News for Manga Companies Continues: Viz Lays Off 40%

Viz Media logo

Publishers Weekly is reporting that Viz Media laid off “as many as 55 people”. In addition,

it appears its small New York office, which had about 5 staffers, has been closed. The number of staff released represents about 40% of the employees at Viz Media.

Declining sales in the US manga industry over the past two years are blamed, although manga still does well in comparison to other book genres.

Viz Media logo

In a formal statement the company confirmed the layoffs although a company spokesperson declined to respond to specific questions about the numbers of staff released. In the statement, Viz acknowledged that it is “restructuring to adjust to changing industry and financial market realities,” and said it “had to refine its workforce by eliminating certain positions and making cuts in other areas.” The statement goes on to say that “We are of course saddened by these departures,” but that “we feel confident that with these changes, Viz media will be more streamlined and able to withstand the climate of the economy at this time.”

Viz was generally considered to be the most successful in the US manga market. If they’re laying off at this drastic a level, it lends more credence to rumors of the demise of smaller companies, such as Go! Comi and Aurora.

Anime News Network points out that Viz previously restructured, with layoffs, in February 2009.

Update: (5/12/10) More reactions. Gia Manry (link no longer available) looks to keep things in balance.

With no obvious “next Naruto” on the rise and big hit Fullmetal Alchemist about to end its run in Japan as well as general economic difficulties world-wide, it should come as no surprise that VIZ is tightening its belt for what may be a pretty lean year -– or several.

Daniella Orihuela-Gruber compares the company’s actions to what Tokyopop went through a year or two back.

This reminds me a little of what happened to Tokyopop a few years back and while it sucks that people have lost their jobs, perhaps it will be better for the company overall. I also can’t help but think that maybe a few of Tokyopop’s recent recovery strategies, such as publishing fewer books per month and spacing out releases more, might have saved a few jobs.

Update 2: Viz posted a statement to fans (link no longer available) that reads in part:

We wish to apologize to our wonderful fans if this news has caused you concern. Be assured VIZ Media remains committed in its obligations to you. We have no plans at this time for drastic measures such as product cancellations or business line closures. Your favorite series are not going away.

So they’re going to get the same work done with 60% of the people? Nice trick, if you can manage it.

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