Manga publisher VIZ Media announced that it will be launching a new science fiction/fantasy imprint called Haikasoru that will focus on translating SF/fantasy novels by Japanese writers.
"Haikasoru will be doing 12 books a year, science fiction and fantasy, mostly novels," VIZ Media editor Nick Mamatas said in an interview. "There is a type of Japanese novel—short, heavily influenced by manga and illustrated, called the 'light novel.' Haikasoru is not a light-novel imprint, though we will be publishing some books that have light-novel roots and others that were more upmarket in Japan."
Mamatas described Japanese SF as "more organically optimistic" and "more interested in adventure stories, exciting ideas" than its English-language counterpart. "[It also] often expresses a desire for international unity," Mamatas said. "Japanese SF is accessible, the novels are tight and compact, and many of them are for people in their late teens or early 20s. It's a natural fit for people who grew up on manga."
One of Haikasoru's launch titles in July will be The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa. "If you like Lois McMaster Bujold, you'd like Ogawa, or at least The Lord of the Sands of Time," Mamatas said. "In a lot of ways that book represents what we like about Japanese SF: It's rollicking, has fun with the settings, has a strong romance element and big fights."
Given its manga roots, Mamatas sees Haikasoru as being able to bring SF/fantasy to a new audience. "It's not uncommon for people in the SF field to wonder how the next generation of SF readers [will] get hooked on SF as kids," he said. "I think Haikasoru might be one of the ways we can find that new generation of readers."