Although the news coming on a Friday afternoon news dump did dampen response a bit, there has been a ton of reaction to Toykopop shutting down its US publishing activities.
On the America’s Greatest Otaku website, Tpop publisher Stuart Levy recently wrote about his plans to move to Japan and make a documentary, surely not the thoughts of a man looking to revitalize his publishing plan.
for the next year of my life I will be living in Miyagi making a documentary about the tragedy and how the Japanese people are overcoming it and rebuilding their lives. It will be a very challenging and difficult project but I am dedicated to making it happen – and all proceeds from the film will be donated to Miyagi.
Honestly, all of your passion and love for Japan have kept me going, even when times are tough. I very much appreciate your support – of the manga, shows and culture I’ve been fortunate to bring to America.
On his Facebook page, VP Mike Kiley today wrote:
A lot will be written today but one thing above all else should never be forgotten, and it is the one thing above all else I will treasure for the rest of my life: the privilege over the past 13 years of working with the most amazing, talented, bat-shit crazy editors, marketeers, salesfolk, accountants, designers, and production mgrs … the staff of TOKYOPOP!!!
Katherine Dacey is the first of the manga blogosphere to weight in with an obituary:
Levy had more terrific ideas in a week than I’ll have in five years, but it often seemed like good initiatives never got the financial support or managerial oversight they needed in order to succeed. The TOKYOPOP website is a telling example: at the height of MySpace fever, Levy re-imagined the company’s web page as a social network where teenagers could share pictures, discuss manga and anime, and post fan fiction. Yet no one at TOKYOPOP anticipated the need for site moderators to remove copyright-protected material, prevent flame wars, or curate worthwhile content. As a result, the site quickly degenerated into a semi-literate mess, with high school students excoriating their French teachers and sharing tips on where to read illegal scans of favorite manga.
But she also notes that it is a difficult time for publishing in general.
Almost all of the manga publishers that have folded in the last three years were small, independent companies that lacked the monetary resources to compete for A-list licenses and subsidize operations. That TOKYOPOP persisted as long as it did is testament to the quality of its books, and to the loyalty it engendered in fans whose first manga were Sailor Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Parasyte.
Anyone who doubts that manga STILL has a passionate audience should read the comment section on the ANN story about the closure. It’s currently down due to maintenance but there are plenty of disappointed fans of many series that will not finish now, notably the critical darling ARIA. Jason Yadao has more thoughts:
But for the rest of us, it’s a sad, sad day. This means the Hetalia manga is effectively dead in the water. So are a bunch of pleasantly quirky titles that Tokyopop has picked up over the past year or two, including Future Diary, Skyblue Shore, Neko Ramen, Deadman Wonderland, The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko and many others that I’ve been intending to review if I ever had the time to read and write reviews these days.
Michelle Smith has a list of books slated to come out before the May closure:
APRIL RELEASES: (already in stock) V.B. Rose 12 Silver Diamond 9 Gakuen Alice 16 Ratman 4 The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko 2 Future Diary 10 Karakuri Odette 6 (at least this one got an ending!) NG Life 9 Shinobi Life 7 Neko Ramen 4 Priest Purgatory (Volume one? There’s another one in May…)
(forthcoming) Saving Life 1 Foxy Lady 4 (still says pre-order though its release date has passed)
MAY RELEASES: Hetalia: Axis Powers 3 Maid Sama! 9 .hack//G.U. 4 (novel) Priest: Purgatory Happy Cafe 8 Fate/Stay Night 11 Sgt. Frog 21 Maid Shokun 1 Sakura’s Finest 1 Samurai Harem 8 Deadman Wonderland 5 AiON 3 Hanako and the Terror of Allegory 4 Butterfly 2 Ghostface 1 The Stellar Six of Gingacho 3 Clean Freak, Fully Equipped 2 (another ending!) The Qwaser of Stigmata 2
Series finales that had been scheduled but will now not materialize include V. B. Rose, Portrait of M & N, Alice in the Country of Hearts, and The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko.
And Brigid Alverson looks at the most explosive question of all: What will happen to the dozens of original comics series that Tokyopop published as part of its global manga initiative? Some of them, like EAST COAST RISING, complete but never published? She focuses in on a departmental move several years ago that turned out to be key:
Back in June 2008, when Tokyopop had its first major shakeout, the company split in two, with COO John Parker taking over the publishing end, Tokyopop Inc., and Levy and Kiley heading up Tokyopop Media LLC. It’s my understanding that the latter company holds the rights to their global manga, and it is not closing up shop.
What does this mean for creators? It could end up being a good news/bad news situation. With no publishing division, Tokyopop has zero incentive to hold on to print rights to the global manga. The story I keep hearing is that what Stu and his crew really want to do is develop the comics into media properties, with Stu at the helm. Obviously, this is what Toyopop Media is all about, but with the publishing division gone, it may make sense to allow the creators to get their print rights back, because then they would have an incentive to promote the properties. On the other hand, Levy and Kiley clearly still intend to continue their efforts to turn these stories into something other than print comics, so they are likely to hold on to the other rights. (The sole Tokyopop movie so far is Priest, which is due out this summer after a series of delays.)
You might recall that when Toykopop left HarperCollins for Diamond a few months ago, Parker also left and went to Diamond, where he now handles business development. The moves were unconnected, but Parker being tasked with overseeing the publishing line at Tokyopop was obviously a road to irrelevance for a business that is now focused solely on licensing.
The story of the global manga might be sad if you consider it the story of a bunch of young, naive creators who signed over their rights. (Some of them must be very very glad that their defenses of Tokyopop back on The Engine message board are now gone for good.) But as we’ve said here many times before, if you consider it the story of a bunch of young creators who got a chance to make their mark and get into the game, then it was one of the most successful programs of the last decade.
The history of Toykopop is going to be a mixed one, but it did bring together a whole generation of fans and create a market for the material that had never existed before. Let’s let Stuart Levy have his moment. He’s right: the Manga Revolution was won, and it was Levy’s musket that led the charge.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.