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ADV Expands to Anime Toys and Manga

30 Mar, 2004 By: Edwin De La Cruz

It was at last year's consumer trade event Anime Expo that Houston-based publisher ADV Films president and CEO John Ledford announced the creation of manga (comic) and toy divisions.

“It's huge,” said Ledford of the opportunity for the new product lines. “But so far most of what's been available has either been a half-dozen major franchises that were big enough to attract the attention of the major toy companies, or are items that have been brought into the [United States] by a handful of specialty vendors who have to go overseas and buy toys at Japanese prices, then pass those extra costs along to the consumer.”

The newly launched ADV division will create affordably priced toys and collectible merchandise based on the company's film, manga and original content properties. The first to get that treatment is Jonathan the Seal, from Kaleido Star, which streets May 11 (prebook April 13). ADV Toys will issue the plush animal this summer in a five-inch size ($7.99) and a 10.5-inch size ($14.99).

Trying to replicate Japan's craze with anime-related merchandise in the United States is no easy task, but for ADV it's a simple matter of supply and demand.

“Anime fans are well known for collecting merchandise related to their favorite titles,” Ledford said.

But it's a double-edged sword. Ledford said there's an abundance of merchandise available in Japan while a show is on the air, but supplies tend to dry up quickly -- and become overpriced -- by the time the property makes it to North America.

ADV hopes its anime-related toys will not only find their way to more traditional toy retailers, but also to specialty stores such as comic book shops and video rentailers that have a strong anime customer base.

“What was needed was something in between these two extremes, something that could cater to the needs of fans of a wider variety of shows while keeping the prices more reasonable,” Ledford said.

On the publishing side of things, ADV has been very active. With more than half of the anime studios publishing comics, this is a market that ADV could not afford to pass up. According to Ledford, the company tried to develop comics and merchandise during ADV's early years but quickly switched gears to focus on programming acquisitions instead.

“We decided at that time to focus our main efforts on video and putting the word ‘anime' into the mainstream of American public consciousness,” Ledford recalled.

As years passed and mainstream audiences took notice of the genre, ADV began its move into publishing last year by starting up Newtype USA, the Japanese counterpart of which has a monthly circulation of 300,000. The circulation for Newtype USA is near 100,000, according to the company.

The strategic move to publish comics followed soon after the magazine's launch, and ADV's manga roster has grown to more than 25 titles in less than a year. For its April 27 video release Azumanga Daioh Vol 1: Entrance, the manga has already been published. ADV plans to continue to develop strategies that can be compared with the way these multimedia releases are handled in Japan.

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