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ShoPro & VIZ to Merge

ShoPro Ent. Inc. and VIZ Llc., two prominent North American-based companies specializing in Japanese content, are merging this spring to create a new entertainment company. The still unnamed venture, to be based in San Francisco, will leverage the unique collaboration, vision and ownership of three global powerhouses in Japanese manga and animation, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc. and Shogakukan Production Co. Ltd. (ShoPro Japan).

As one entity, the new company will benefit from pooled resources and creative talent, and gain access to Japans strongest content, augmenting its ability to reach a wider audience.

ShoPro Entertainment - an affiliate of ShoPro Japan, a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc., one of Japans largest publishing companies - is a leading global licensor specializing in animation, entertainment production and consumer products for such properties as INUYASHA and MEGAMAN NT WARRIOR. VIZ -- a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc. and Shueisha Inc. -- is a leading publisher of manga for English speaking audiences, including the best-selling graphic novel titles YU-GI-OH!, DRAGON BALL, ALICE 19TH, RANMA 1/2 , and the mega-hit SHONEN JUMP magazine. VIZ is also a top producer of Japanese animation home video/DVD titles such as POKEMON, INUYASHA and BOYS OVER FLOWERS.

We are uniquely positioned to develop entertainment content across all available mediums for people of all ages on a worldwide basis, said Hidemi Fukuhara, vice chairman of VIZ and incoming president/ceo of the new firm. Combining our collective strengths creates obvious brand building synergies. Merging and incorporating the expertise and support of Japans three largest and most respected content creators, provides [the new company] with a significant competitive advantage.

Harnessing VIZs and ShoPro Entertainments combined assets, the new compnay aims to become an industry leader worldwide for audiences of all ages. Going forward, the combined company will grow its business by working with its parent companies to maximize their brands exposure on an all rights basis, including TV broadcast, publishing, home video, licensing, consumer products and promotions.

In order to nurture and grow the worldwide exposure of Japanese manga and animation, said Osamu Kamei, exec director of Shogakukan Inc., we have decided to step beyond the corporate framework that exists in Japan, and form a new globally oriented company by merging VIZ and ShoPro Ent. I strongly believe that the partnership of the three companies, Shueisha, Shogakukan and ShoPro Japan, will be a major step forward for the Japanese contents business.

Kazuhiko Torishima, exec director of Shueisha Inc., said, At the root of the globally successful Japanese character business, is manga. The question we face is how to best communicate and introduce the culture of manga to children around the world.We believe the answer lies in [combined company], which will allow us to unify and manage our business under one roof. In this regard, we will be able to respond much faster to market needs and thus greatly expand the exposure of manga.

Senior exec director of Shogakukan Prod. Co. Ltd., Yutaka Saito, added, We have made much progress in cultivating the worldwide market for Shogakukans content business. We are now deeply honored to partner with, not only Shogakukan, but also Shueisha, whose content has achieved so much success and acclaim. By representing all rights for our brands, we will be able to maximize our exposure on a global scale. We are excited about making this happen.

Headquartered in San Francisco, ShoPro Ent. is a leading global licensor of animation, and all associated rights including merchandise, home video, motion picture and publishing. ShoPro Ent. affiliate of ShoPro Japan, a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc., one of Japans largest publishing companies, develops and markets animated entertainment starting from initial production, television placement and distribution, to merchandise licensing and promotions reaching audiences and consumers around the world. For more information, visit www.shopro-entertainment.com.

Founded in 1986, VIZ is a multi-media entertainment company specializing in Japanese entertainment properties for U.S. audiences. Based in San Francisco, VIZ, one of the top comics publishers in the U.S, is a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc. and Shueisha Inc., two of the largest publishing companies in Japan. As a leading publisher of manga and producer of animation for English speaking audiences, VIZ serves the growing Japanese content market for fans of all ages and offers an integrated product line including magazines, graphic novels, videos, DVDs and audio soundtracks. For more information, visit www.shonenjump.com or www.viz.com.

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Rick DeMott
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