Here's an update on what's going on in the Japanese manga scene, with special attention to creators and series that are likely to be licensed in English and other languages.
Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki's tale of a Meiji-era assassin who renounces his former ways is one of the most popular manga of all time, both in the U.S. and Japan. The series ended with volume 28, which was published in 1999 in Japan, so it was big news when an ad in Shueisha's Jump Square magazine announced that Watsuki is bringing Kenshin back for a short series. The story launches in May, and the ad describes it as a "reboot," which may not mean the same thing to Japanese audiences as to the rest of us. Coincidentally (or not!), the live-action Rurouni Kenshin film will premiere in Japan in August. Since Shueisha is one of Viz's parent companies, and Viz published the original run of Rurouni Kenshin in English, they are a good bet to license this series as well.
Manga creator est em, who is best known in English-language circles for her lovely yaoi manga Seduce Me After the Show and Red Blinds the Foolish, has a new series in the works: Ippo. The outlines are a bit vague, but the main character is a maker of hand-crafted shoes who has recently returned home from a trip to Florence, Italy. This sounds like something Natsume Ono would write; I'd love to see those two collaborate on something. This series will run in Shueisha's Jump Kai magazine, and est em's other current series, Golondrina, runs in another Shueisha publication, Monthly Ikki. Est em's previous work was licensed in North America by Deux (the yaoi imprint of the now-defunct Aurora) and Netcomics, but Viz would be the most likely publisher for her work now.
The February issue of Young King Ours magazine will include a supplement collecting a six-chapter Hellsing side story that lays out the backstory of Walter C. Dornez. Dark Horse publishes Hellsing and manga-ka Kouta Hirano's other series, Drifters, in the U.S.
Bad news for fans of the shoujo manga Stepping on Roses: Creator Rinko Ueda is bringing it to an end in this year's sixth issue of Margaret (available Feb. 20). The eighth Japanese volume came out last year, so presumably there will be one more. Viz published vol. 6 last July.
You know he's unbeatable: The 13th volume of Black Butler tops the latest Japanese manga rankings. Go, Sebastian! Vol. 31 of Kaze Hikaru is in eighth place and vol. 30 of Fairy Tail is number nine.