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Business

Japanese publisher taps Southeast Asia comics market from Malaysia

Left to right: Yoshinori Kodama from the Embassy of Japan, Kadokawa chairman Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, and Yew Chen Han, who holds 20% of Art Square Group, exchange a memento in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

KUALA LUMPUR -- Kadokawa, one of Japan's largest publishers, is aiming at tripling the revenue of its 80%-owned comic producer in Malaysia, Art Square Group, through exports to the region.

     The push means Kuala Lumpur will become the publishing group's development hub in the region. Art Square Group already has a dominating presence as the biggest comics content provider in the country. Locally, the Malaysian company is popularly known for its Gempak Starz brand of publications. One of its best-selling comics is Lawak Kampus or "campus joke," a 12-year-old publication that sells about 150,000 copies of each of its volumes. It is currently on its 25th volume.

     Kadokawa wants to inject its 70 years of publishing knowledge into the production of Gempak Starz before moving on to other mixed media, including animation films, games and merchandise.

     "We think that after mixing with Kadokawa know-how, there would be more viable content," Susumu Tsukamoto, the company's executive told reporters on Thursday. "With the new content, it is possible to export to Southeast Asia and other Muslim countries," he added.

     In five year's time, it aims to triple the annual revenues of the rebranded Kadokawa Gempak Starz, with 40% of the total coming from exports. Current annual revenues are 30 million ringgit ($7 million). Most of its current publications are in Malay, Mandarin and English due to the multiethnic makeup of Malaysian society. But the lineup will expand to include Arabic, Indonesian and even Japanese in order to enhance its export potential. The company has already sold the copyright for Lawak Kampus in China, Indonesia and Thailand.

     Besides books, Kadokawa also produces animation, feature films, games and other digital media. It is increasingly looking for growth overseas, moving into China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Last year, it announced plans to open 10 schools across Southeast Asia including Malaysia, focusing on design skills for the animation industry, according to news reports.

     Government estimates show the creative multimedia industry in Malaysia is worth 18.7 billion ringgit. Kadokawa has also signed a deal with InvestKL, a government agency in charge of attracting foreign investors and assisting them to grow their business, to mutually develop talents for the industry and identify export markets.

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