Update: Viz Media has posted a news item on their site talking about the news below;
"Restructuring at VIZ Media
VIZ Media is in the process of refining its focus and is restructuring to adjust to changing industry and financial market realities.
As part of the restructuring the company had to refine its workforce by eliminating certain positions and making cuts in other areas.
We are of course saddened by these departures, and sincerely appreciate the hard work, passion and dedication of those that have moved on, but we feel confident that with these changes VIZ Media will be more streamlined and able to withstand the climate of the economy at this time.
This restructuring was not insignificant; however, this was primarily an internal reprioritization to build toward our future. We wish to apologize to our wonderful fans if this news has caused you concern. Be assured VIZ Media remains committed in its obligations to you. We have no plans at this time for drastic measures such as product cancellations or business line closures. Your favorite series are not going away."
Through information sent to Publishers Weekly, news has come down that the company has closed its New York office comprising of five employees while another 55 or so jobs were eliminated or consolidated at the company's San Francisco headquarters, which amounts to nearly 40% of the total employees. Viz Media went through a restructuring in early 2009 that involved some layoffs as well, and those with longer memories will remember previous layoffs as well over the years that streamlined or altered the course of the company, though those tended to get less attention during the boom years.
Which are most assuredly over as manga sales continue to decline, with current estimates showing that 2009 was 20% less than the year before, sure to delight some "fans" who want nothing licensed by publishers or for them to even exist.
Speaking of not existing, though it's taken awhile, hints by those at Go! Comi appear to have come true as not only did the company shutter their forums awhile ago, but they've closed down their site entirely by the most unhealthy of means - letting the domain name expire. Their twitter account has also been deleted and the company has released no titles in October 2009. While the publisher had some very well received titles, they never really gained a lot of ground overall in mindshare or marketshare though they had quite a loyal following with some intriguing and offbeat titles.
Combine this news with the recent changes at Yen Press with their monthly magazine going online and once again we have another bleak picture for the manga industry with no real solutions in sight, largely because they're all hamstrung by the Japanese publishers and contracts that keep them from moving firmly into the future with full download to own solutions through various platforms, be it straight on the web, custom PC/Mac software of an iPad/tablet solution.
Personally speaking, I fell out of manga five years ago when the glut became too much and it was impossible to keep up with series I wanted to read because there was simply too much at once. And looking back at it, with the large boxes or full shelves of manga, there's no way I can go back. While I fully support those who want real books in hand, a growing segment of older fans are becoming like myself in that they only want a digital solution for the most part and are treating anime and manga as entirely disposable entertainment as opposed to collectible entertainment like we have since the mid 90's and particularly since the anime and manga boom at the beginning of the decade when DVD gained full mainstream acceptance.
The problem is that people like myself are willing to pay for these digital solutions, though I suspect a great many of the younger generation won't go that route. But until there IS a solution out there like this, as I keep a close eye on what Marvel is doing with their iPad world along with other comics publishers, a great many of us simply aren't going to purchase manga or comics for awhile. Which is self defeating, but not surprising considering the economy and general state of mind for many fans with the deluge of bad news in the last couple of years. Manga and anime publishers need to find more positive things to talk about on a regular basis and actively work that while also really finding a solution that works instead of just cutting, cutting and closing.