ANN reports that Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning to expand its outreach program to an wider audience this year to spread manga, anime, and other elements of Japanese popular culture:

The Japanese government already supports 10 overseas Japanese-language learning centers with about 3,000 students, but those will expand to 100 to 200 centers in the next three years. 210 million yen (about US$1.8 million) is being allocated to add 70 of those additional centers this year.

The Daily Yomiuri reports that Tokyo University Hospital in Bunkyo Ward has been asked to act as a consultant for Yakitate!! Japan creator Takashi Hashiguchi's new medical manga, Saijo no Meii (The Best Skilled Surgeon), which is currently serialized in Shogakukan's Weekly Shonen Sunday. This is the first time a hospital has acted as a consultant for a manga:

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The Columbus Dispatch has published an article titled "Comics no longer a joke in academia," which looks at how schools and colleges are beginning to take comics seriously as an form of art...thanks in part to the popularity of manga:

"With graphic novels and manga, librarians have seen an upsurge in demand the last three to five years, and many say manga is their highest circulation material," said Ann Kim, editor of special projects and graphic novels for Library Journal. "There is definitely more respect now."

Pachinko Vista is reporting that in 2007, Japan saw an increase in manga "tie-in" pachinko machines appeared in Japan. With around 140 machines, more than 1/4 of which are new machines, 55 of them are manga/anime related.

The machines are targeted at people from different generations, utilizing old titles such as Samurai Giants, Star Blazers, Tatter-man and more recent series like Basilisk and GTO. Some even became hit machines, such as Evangelion.

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topMagazine Data 2007, the 2007 edition of the Japan Magazine Publishers Association (JMPA)'s guide guide ti Japanese magazines, was released at the end of November.

The data book comes with data on 436 magazines from 57 publishing companies in Japan. The guide lists each magazine's format, forms of publication, dates, price and more, with each magazine categorized by genre. Moreover, each entry includes a brief description of the magazine from its Editor-in-Chief.

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ANN is reporting that a German company called Schwarzkopf & Henkel is using manga characters from Hiroshi Takahashi's Crows and Worst to promote its latest hair coloring product in Japan:

The new lineup will include more unusual colors: beige, ash, gray, blonde, khaki (greenish tint), and blood (reddish tint). The price for each color will be about 700 yen (US$6.00), and the new lineup will be launched on February 4.

From BusinessWeek comes an article titled "Europe's Manga Mania," which looks at how European fans are favoring manga over traditional Western comics:

While Western comics such as Donald Duck, Tintin, and Asterix long dominated the European market, young readers like Malis are looking eastward. The Japan External Trade Organization says German and French sales of manga totaled $212.6 million last year, making Europe the largest consumer of manga outside Japan.

Advertising agency JWT recently released its list of 80 things to watch in 2008. In the list, "Manga-inspired clothes" is No.43.

Source: FOX Business

ANN reports that the Japanese government has decided to spend 147 million yen to spread manga and other Japanese pop culture to Eastern Europe:

The decision was made during cabinet-level discussions between Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukuaga and the other ministers on the 2008 budget. Although the "Program to Spread Japanese Culture" will ostensibly send 30 people to teach Japanese in Hungary and three other countries, its main purpose is to introduce Japanese popular culture.