Home Publishers Tokyopop A little Tokyopop follow-up

A little Tokyopop follow-up


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:

(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…)
Saving Life 1
Foxy Lady 4 (still says pre-order though its release date has passed)
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.

  1. Heaven help me, I own every single one of the manga series pictured here. Yes. Even that horrible cine-manga BS with Paris Hilton which is no more a manga than if I photocopied my read end and drew a word balloon on it. I bought it on clearance as historical evidence of what utter garbage TokyoPop stamped the word manga onto. Talk about brand dilution. Not that the word manga should ever had been a brand like TokyoPop was making of it. Just another word for comics, folks.

    Meanwhile I only bought one issue of Love Hina. Yes, issue. Back when TokyoPop was trying to hook US readers, they had their early titles as floppies. This was when they went from Mixx to TokyoPop. This was followed by the trade collection format we all see today. Of course Viz and Dark Horse were already doing this as well. The manga big bang hit when TokyoPop dropped the price and size and pushed into stores like the late Borders.

  2. heck i can remember when the floppys for love hina came out which did floor me at the time, course if i remember right tokyo pop issued them day and date with the release of vol 1 of the trade heck the very first week tp re-lunched they’re manga line i’d gotten cowboy bebop v 1 and love hina v 1, but what about Hetalia is it moving to a new publisher which it SHOULD by the way

  3. Years ago I took one of TokyoPop’s old flyers promoting their ‘manga revolution’ that I had kept and did a segment by segment analysis of it and how skewed their double speak was. I posted it on a blog back in the day, sadly on a site that’s long gone and eaten up by another site so badly integrated that even I couldn’t find my blog. I might still have the scans and text somewhere. I never drank their manga flava Kool Aid and they never really promoted a number of good books they had that I did think were wonderful.

  4. Poo. I forgot to add my reply about those floppies. Now that you mention it, I remember that. The floppies didn’t last very long. Then again simply emulating a publishing format isn’t going to get stubborn American comic fans to try your Japanese books. Same way their OEL Manga failure tried to superficially emulate the format TokyoPop was publishing manga in. They weren’t fooling die hard manga fans into reading American books. As someone who enjoys books from both shores, I know it’s a frustrating problem, but TokyoPop’s solution was very shallow.

    To be fair, not that most of the industry has too many good ideas on it either. I asked Jim Lee at a con recently about DC tapping into the huge numbers, like the ones at the anime con the week before which beat the ones at the comic con we were at. Someone had already asked about Minx. And he pretty much said DC really didn’t know how to reach them.

  5. Sorry to see them go, even if the only manga I’ve ever purchased was MIXXzine #1 (which, sadly, I can’t even sell for a dollar at a garage sale). Some of the artwork was gorgeous and their books always seemed to garner plenty of shelf space as well as accolades.

    Having been a publisher myself, I know it ain’t easy. I only wish there was more information about the decision behind the closure, so that OTHERS may learn from their mistakes and circumstances.

    Was it Borders’ Chapter 11 filing? Decreasing margins? Poor management? Lower sales and increased marketing expenses? Digital piracy? Rising production and overhead costs? Failed film projects? Accounting irregularities? Demographic changes?

    Katherine Dacey so far seems to be the only one to offer specifics, but is that educated guessing or gleaned from insider info?

    The more info we have, the better the rest of the industry can become. I always shared my errors with other publishers to help their business and stay in the game. I hope Stu does the same.


  6. I must say I am greatly disappointed. I love mangas, mainly Fruits Basket, and I haven’t even gotten to finish the series yet. (Purchasing them) And now I cannot even order copies from my local booksellers. Its very disappointing and I still don’t understand why this is happening.

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