Otaku USA Magazine
INTERVIEW: Square Enix Manga and Books Publisher Masaaki Shimizu Talks Humble Bundle

Square Enix Manga & Books is currently offering the Square Enix’s “Manga Collection” bundle through January 6. It offers $271 worth of manga in the form of ebooks, and part of the proceeds are being given to the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation. Binc describes itself as “a nonprofit that coordinates charitable programs to strengthen the bookselling community.” To learn more about this and what else is going on with the company, Otaku USA spoke with Square Enix Manga & Books General Manager & Publisher Masaaki Shimizu.

What is the Square Enix Humble Bundle, and how did you decide which titles to include?

Since our first publication (A Man and His Cat, Volume 1) in February 2020, we currently have published 27 manga series with 188 volumes in total under our Square Enix Manga imprint (as of December 2023), thanks to all our readers/supporters and everyone who’s been involved in the publication of any of these titles. Fortunately and thankfully, our publishing business here for the English-speaking regions have grown significantly since then (we’re now 6th largest publisher in manga sales in North America), but we know that there are many manga fans out there who still haven’t had the opportunity to read or even get to know about our manga yet. Then, our longtime friend at Humble Bundle came up with the idea to do a bundle of our manga titles this summer and we carefully chose the series to be included that would represent our manga catalog and show a gist of what we are offering as a newer manga publisher here. I hope this manga bundle would create an opportunity for any of those people who may be looking for something that they haven’t picked up as of yet.

Proceeds are being shared with the Binc Foundation. Why did you choose this foundation to give donations to?

It’s a small world that we live in and a friend of ours was one of the board members of this nonprofit organization, Binc, which was founded in 1996. We were hoping to find a way to get involved in this great cause to assist the employees of bookstores and comic stores. As we were setting up our bundle, Humble Bundle kindly offered us an option to add a charitable foundation of our choice so it was just natural that it came to us to share the proceeds (thank you so much to those who purchased or thinking about purchasing the bundle!) with Binc as a token of gratitude for these booksellers who bring out and connect our manga and books to our readers.

You’ve been involved in the manga publishing industry for years now, before being the publisher of Square Enix Manga & Books. What changes have you noticed over the years?

The manga market overall has grown so much over the three years since 2020 at a pace nobody has ever seen before, reaching its highest level by far in 2022 (more than 2.5 times as much as the market size peaked back in 2007). In 2023, we saw a downward correction by 25% or a bit more over 2022 as normalization of our lives accelerated after the pandemic. Having said that, the North American manga market has maintained at a much higher level than where we were pre-pandemic (still more than twice as much as 2020, the year with the biggest market size up to that point for manga). We believe that diverse interests of the manga genre have been reinforced as the number of manga readers grew over these years, and personally I’m hopeful that the market has a potential to see a growth trend again at a steadier (healthier) pace similar to the pre-pandemic rate of growth once we get through this correction phase.

What do you have going on and coming up at Square Enix Manga & Books? Are there any titles you’re particularly excited about?

Thank you for asking! Some of you might be already aware but the ongoing series that I’d like to mention here are the following two manga series now with two consecutive seasons of anime streaming.

The Apothecary Diaries (a manga adaptation of the light novel series with lots of twists and a little bit of romance at an imperial palace in the East) and Ragna Crimson (dark fantasy with dragons and lots of great action battles. This series is included in our manga bundle, too!).

The anime of these two series are currently running and continue to be streamed simultaneously with its Japanese installments until the end of March 2024 on Crunchyroll and HIDIVE, respectively. If you haven’t read the series, I highly recommend these series to those who are avid manga readers and also to those who are still new to manga. With these authors’ top-notch drawing and storytelling techniques, they draw us in instantaneously as we start reading and keep wanting to read more and more.

Also, we are most excited for all our upcoming series, including Smoking Behind the Supermarket with You, The Villainess’s Guide to (Not) Falling in Love, The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten, the printed edition of The Apothecary Diaries (Light Novel), and many more series, all of which we announced earlier in 2023.

Is there anything else you would like Otaku USA readers to know about Square Enix Manga & Books?

As our book publication portfolio is focused on our manga and our game tie-in books, we’ve been noticing that our readers have a high entertainment sensitivity, as the Otaku USA audience does. Our plan is to continue to present manga and books with a little bit of extra edge, which we think is one of our strengths, in order to live up to our readers’ expectations. So please keep an eye out for what we will be offering in our future announcements!


Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.