Discovering manga for adults via Viz's premiere mature reader imprint Signature
As I mentioned in my Josei Beat article, I'm jumping from publisher to publisher and imprint to imprint in search of "manga for adults" and listing them as recs starting with the market leader in manga Viz. I've listed the mature titles from Viz's Shojo Beat imprint now it's time to talk about Viz's premium line for collectors, mature readers, and adults: Viz Signature.
About Viz Signature
Viz Signature started in February 2006 with Monster by Naoki Urasawa and Golgo 13 by Takao Saito, but it didn't take off until 2009 when Viz launched IKKI. Launched on the heels of Shojo Beat magazine's closure, IKKI was an online magazine named after its print counterpart in Japan. Viz Signature IKKI (or SigIKKI) featured seinen manga from the print magazine along with interviews from the mangakas and their editors and other cool extras. SigIKKI wasn't Viz's first foray into courting adult (mostly male) readers. (Does anybody remember the Pulp magazine and imprint?) However, Viz Signature IKKI, now just Viz Signature, was and still is the most successful adult reader venture just by virtue that it's still standing, and we're not calling the imprint "Editor's Choice" either.
Viz dropped IKKI from Viz Signature when the magazine closed in Japan, and while the magazine is gone, it's not forgotten. Many manga people love today and have on their shelves come from IKKI magazine. Examples include Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida, Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi, and House of Five Leaves by Natsume Ono.
If you're looking for alternative manga, mature non-smut manga, and manga intended for adults, then Viz Signature isn't a bad place to start. The imprint contains series from a wide range of manga of various art styles and genres. If you're coming from American comics and graphic novels, of superhero origin or otherwise, this is also the imprint for you.
While the imprint has expanded beyond its seinen manga roots, it is still... mostly seinen manga. (Seinen manga is simply manga aimed at men aged 18-40.) So, it's a good place to start if you're looking for seinen manga too. Finally, Viz Signature has stuff for collectors. If you're looking for "high quality" printed manga with treatments like hardcovers, color pages, French flaps, textured covers, and more, then the imprint will have a series for you too. As long as you're a "mature reader" or an adult, there is something for you in this imprint. (If you're interested in a deeper dive into the Viz Signature imprint, then read The Manga Critic's article from 2012 here.)
As of this writing, there are over 80 actively licensed series in Viz Signature's coffers, and I'm not magnanimous enough to list them all. You can explore for yourself via the Viz Signature page here. Instead, I will pull out some highlights, and the highlights are Names You Should Recognize, LGBTQ+ Manga, Shoujo/Josei Manga, Print Only Manga, Digital Only Manga, and finally, Viz Signature on Viz Manga App/Website. Scroll through or click the bookmark for the lists!
Names You Should Recognize
You should know the name of the people behind the manga you read at the very least. Viz Signature is chock full of works by the same people, and some of those people's works are only brokered through Viz. Examples include Naoki Urasawa and Rumiko Takahashi. It will be a sub-zero day in Hell before we see anyone else license Naoki Urasawa's works. So, writing in Happy! on those monthly Seven Seas reader surveys is a colossal waste of energy only surpassed by penciling in Billy Bat.
So anyway, here's the skinny. I'm listing only the mangaka with at least 2 (actively licensed) works in Viz Signature and/or Viz's larger catalog. (While some mangaka like Daisuke Igarashi, Aki Irie, and Takako Shimura do have other works in English, it isn't through Viz. 😉)
Haro Aso (Alice in Borderland, Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Hyde & Closer**)
Fumi Yoshinaga (All My Darling Daughters, Ooku: The Inner Chambers)
Naoki Urasawa (Asadora!, Master Keaton, Monster, Mujirushi, 20th Century Boys, Pluto, Sneeze)
Paru Itagaki (Beastars, Beast Complex, Drip, Drip)
Tsuyoshi Takaki (Heart Gear, Black Torch**)
Rumiko Takahashi (Came the Mirror & Other Tales, Maison Ikkoku, Mermaid Saga, Urusei Yatsura, etc.)
Taiyo Matsumoto (Cats of the Louvre, GoGo Monster, No. 5, Ping Pong, Sunny, Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White, Tokyo These Days)
Sui Ishida (Choujin X, Tokyo Ghoul, Tokyo Ghoul Jack**, Tokyo Ghoul: re)
Inio Asano (Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction, Downfall, Goodnight Punpun, Solanin, What a Wonderful World!)
Kazuo Umezz (Cat-Eyed Boy, The Drifting Classroom, My Name is Shingo, Orochi)
Tatsuki Fujimoto (Fire Punch, Goodbye Eri, Lookback, etc.)
Natsume Ono (Gente, House of Five Leaves, La Quinta Camera, Not Simple, Ristorante Paradiso, Tesoro)
Yuji Kaku (Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku, Ayashimon**)
Junji Ito (Fragments of Horror, Frankenstein, Tomie, etc.)
Takehiko Inoue (Real, Vagabond, Slam Dunk**)
(**Not Viz Signature manga)
There are 4* in the catalog thus far, and they are...
Blue Flag by Kaito
Sweet Blue Flowers by Takako Shimura
To Strip the Flesh by Oto Toda
Until I Love Myself by Poppy Pesuyama
As I mentioned above, Viz Signature has expanded beyond its seinen manga roots. Below is a list of manga that was serialized in magazines aimed at girls (shoujo) and/or women (josei) that Viz thought would appeal to the target audience of the Signature imprint.
All My Darling Daughters by Fumi Yoshinaga (Melody)
Children of the Whales by Abi Umeda (Mystery Bonita)
Deserter by Junji Ito (Gekkan Halloween)
Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito (Nemuki+/Shinkan)
Frankenstein by Junji Ito (Nemuki/Nemuki+)
The Liminal Zone by Junji Ito (Line Manga/Nemuki+/AERA dot)
Lovesickness by Junji Ito (Nemuki)
Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand by Yoko Komori (YOU)
Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga (Melody)
Smashed by Junji Ito (Nemuki)
Sensor by Junji Ito (Nemuki+)
Soichi by Junji Ito (Nemuki)
Tomie by Junji Ito (Gekkan Halloween/Nemuki)
Tombs by Junji Ito (Gekkan Halloween/Nemuki)
Will I Be Single Forever? by Mari Okazaki (Feel Young)
Finally, some Manga Erotics F series like Gente and Ristorante Paradiso are labeled as josei in databases whereas other manga from the same magazine like Sweet Blue Flowers (in Viz Signature), Velveteen and Mandala (published by Kodansha/Vertical), and Lychee Light Club (published by Kodansha/Vertical) are labeled as seinen or nothing at all. I don't know how or why they are labeled this way. So, I'm just gonna say that the super defunct magazine Manga Erotics F has some interesting manga that you should check out.
Print Only Manga
Some series are only available physically, and they are...
After School Charisma by Kumiko Suekane
Kingyo Used Books by Seimu Yoshizaki
Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt by Yasuo Ohtagaki, Concept by Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino
Naoki Urasawa (Asadora!, Master Keaton, Monster, Mujirushi, 20th Century Boys, Pluto, Sneeze) - entire catalog is physical-only
Digital Only Manga
Some series like Bokurano: Ours are no longer printed but are available digitally. Few works like Will I Be Single Forever? were never released physically. This list is about works you can still read (and purchase)...but digitally.
Bokurano: Ours by Mohiro Kitoh
March Story by Kim Hyung-min and Yang kyung-il
Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka
Saturn Apartments by Hisae Iwaoka
Will I Be Single Forever? by Mari Okazaki
All of these manga are marked with "Digital Only" like so:
Viz Signature on Viz Manga App/Website
In case you missed it, Viz launched a new manga reading app creatively named Viz Manga. Similar to the Shonen Jump app, you can read the latest and back chapters of select Viz series. The Viz Manga app is for anything and everything non-Shonen Jump/Jump magazine related. As of this post, you can read the following Viz Signature series in the app and/or on the website.
Alice in Borderland
Came the Mirror & Other Tales
Cat Eyed Boy
Cats of the Louvre
Children of the Sea
Dead Dead Demon's Dededede Destruction
The Drifting Classroom: Perfect Edition
House of Five Leaves
I'll Give it My All...Tomorrow
Insomniacs After School
The Kingdom of the Gods
La Quinta Camera
Maison Ikkoku: Collector's Edition
Mermaid Saga: Collector's Edition
Mermaid Scales and the Town of Sand
No Longer Human
Oishinbo A la Carte
Orochi: The Perfect Edition
Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White
Venus in the Blind Spot
What a Wonderful World!
Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
Hopefully, I got them all!
The list is subject to change and growth, but this is what is on the app/website as of this post. Note that Blue Flag, Hell's Paradise, Golden Kamuy, and other Jump magazine-related works are available via the Shonen Jump app.
Comprising popular manga and mangaka and niche titles as well as avant-garde works ranging in genres, themes, and art styles, Signature is Viz's premiere adult imprint, and it's one-of-a-kind. It's the only general adult manga imprint offered by a big manga publisher. If you're interested in manga similar to what Signature offers you'll have to look to the select manga catalogs of Dark Horse (which mostly publishes American comics and graphic novels), Fantagraphics (which publishes cartoonists and graphic novels from around the world), and Drawn & Quarterly (which publishes cartoonists and graphic novels from around the world). Additionally, you can look through indie manga publisher's catalogs like Denpa, Star Fruit Books, and Glacier Bay Books. Finally, if you're looking for horror manga and mangaka besides Junji Ito, try Kazuo Umezz, Shigeru Mizuki, and Star Fruit Books' horror imprint Blood Orange.
So, there you have it. Hopefully, you have found something to read. Before I leave Viz alone, I'll have to talk about the non-imprint imprint Viz Media and my favorite BL imprint...SuBLime. Look forward to it!
(Edit*: to add Sweet Blue Flowers.)