By Guest Writer Chris Campbell of Anime Rest Stop
Located in the heart of Tokyo with a number of dedicated employees, Bushiroad is a multi-media company that specializes in producing collectible card games, video games, mobile apps, visual novels, and various other forms of Japanese entertainment. The company has been a viable entity since its establishment in 2007, garnering the interests of otaku all over Japan. Now those efforts are being transferred into brokering alliances with prominent companies such as Bandai Visual, Nitroplus, and Kinema Citrus.
Although the company has branched out in a number of ways, the core business started as a producer of collectible card games and trading cards. One of the CCGs that has been a remarkable star for the company and has been used as a stalwart in its penetration of the American market is Cardfight Vanguard. In many ways, the game is a competitor of the popular Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters card game and the Pokemon franchise. Like its industry rivals, Cardfight Vanguard (or simply Vanguard) also has a seasonal anime series that is climbing in popularity on Hulu and Crunchyroll. Titled The Cardfight!! Vanguard, the show has been greenlit for more episodes, showing its general appeal while continuing the steady release of trial and master card deck collections.
Although Cardfight Vanguard leads the charge for many of its Bushiroad collectible card games such as Jewelpet, Future Card Buddyfight, and Weekly Shonen Sunday vs. Weekly Shonen Magazine (a collaborative effort with Kodansha), Bushiroad has a stand alone hit in Japan in the form of the Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, a detective story that follows four girls solving mysteries. Although this series is similar to other Sherlock Holmes homages in Japan (like Sherlock Hound and Detective Conan/Case Closed), Tantei Opera Milky Holmes has seen success in the form of an anime, a video game series, a visual novel series, and a manga.
Another series that joins the ranks is Long Live! School Idol Festival. This video game turned anime series focuses on a group of high school girls who yearn to be pop idols while dealing with the trials, tribulations, and friendships they share along the way. For anime fans, it is in the vein of shows like K-On! And AKB0048 (the fictional story about the massive all-girl pop group called AKB48), but for American audiences it is reminiscent of Fame and Glee but in anime form.
While Bushiroad has managed to get these series licensed beyond Japan, media organization has more than just trading cards and cartoons to help its U.S. strategy. In 2012, the company acquired New Japan Pro Wrestling from Yuke’s Interactive, the former developer of the WWE Smackdown video game series.
For those unfamiliar with the organization, New Japan Pro Wrestling is a professional wrestling company that has been in business since 1972. Founded by one of the legendary forerunners of Shoot Style Wrestling, (a precursor to MMA), Antonio Inoki, the promotion has prided itself on its presentation of tremendous physicality. A fighting technique known as “strong style” that is a mixture of showmanship, pageantry, and grandeur in and out of the ring (e.g., Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammad Ali), making it the WWE of Japan to many pro-wrestling enthusiasts.
NJPW has created many amazing stars and moments in the world of professional wrestling with a massive talent pool that includes luminaries such as Andre the Giant, Mil Mascaras, Tiger Jeet Singh, Hulk Hogan, The Steiner Bros., The British Bulldogs, Bad News Allen, Bam Bam Bigelow, Stan Hansen, Bret “The Hit-Man” Hart, Owen Hart, Eddie Guerror, Rey Mysterio, Jr., Chris Jericho, Vader, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sabu, Lord Tensai (aka Giant Bernard), Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan, Adrian Neville (PAC), and Prince (Fergal) Devitt among so many others. The native talent of New Japan spans the ages from the likes of innovators such as Tatsumi Fujinami, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, and Keiji Mutoh (known by his alter-ego The Great Muta) to modern-day aces like Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, and “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada.
Back in May of this year, New Japan decided to join forces with Ring of Honor to run two super-shows featuring the stars of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Including “The Phenomenal One” A.J Styles (fresh off his 11 year stint in TNA Wrestling) as New Japan’s IWGP Heavyweight Champion, against the new and seasoned stars of Ring of Honor like Adam Cole, Michael Elgin, Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong and various others. This collaboration helped Bushiroad just as much as it did Sinclair Broadcasting (the parent company of ROH). Sinclair needed the prestige and credibility of NJPW to boost attendance (and ultimately sales) of the event while Bushiroad yearned to get New Japan noticed by more American fans. This marriage is the second tour of New Japan in the United States (the first hosted by Jeresy All Pro Wrestling). Since then, New Japan Pro Wrestling merchandise such as Bullet Club T-shirts (highlighting the top heel stable in NJPW, led on-screen by AJ Styles) have been popping up on American websites such as prowrestling tees.com and Amazon. Not to mention simulcasts of NJPW events such as Wrestle Kingdom and the G1 Climax tournament have appeared on Ustream.
In short, Bushiroad is positioned for success for years to come with a sound strategy behind some of their hot commodities and a dedication to what brought the company there in the first place: Remaining faithful to its core businesses while expanding into other areas of entertainment. Although there are obvious obstacles to overcome, Bushiroad seems determined to capture the American market and shows no signs of backing down.