Well, it turns out that Tokyopop wasn’t really dead…it was just resting. Since the manga pioneer closed up its LA office nearly two years ago, there have been eyelid flickers like a POD program for some popular ongoing manga and back issue sales via Right Stuf, creators reprinting or finishing their OEL books at other publishers, and the continued, thriving existence of the German branch of the company. Now, Brigid Alverson sums up all the activity on the company coming back to life with a relaunched website and online sales. Its STILL just a shadow of its’ former self: no new Japanese licenses or back issues, just the OEL and a few US licensed titles. And controversial owner Stuart Levy explained what’s going on at Anime LA last week:

What does all this mean? Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy was at Anime LA last weekend, and in the Tokyopop panel (liveblogged here by Mike from Anime Diet) he explained that Tokyopop never actually went bankrupt but instead became a “virtual company.” He began rebuilding the company in 2012, and Nerdist is now hosting the website. Levy said that Japanese publishers are “reluctant” to go along with the print-on-demand system, but Gentosha, the publisher of “Hetalia,” is the most amenable. Tokyopop published volume 3 of “Hetalia” as POD and is currently negotiating for the rights to volumes 4 and 5.

While Tokyopop’s business model grew increasingly erratic over the years, there’s no denying that it founded a whole culture of readers and otaku, who have been eager for its return. So, a new, hopefully more sensible chapter begins.


  1. TokyoPop became a “virtual company”? What a joke. Having seen first hand the blunders they made and the revolving door of editors the reason they became a “virtual company” is because of Stu Levy.

    I’m sure he’s gung ho now until he’s distracted by a dog with a puffy tail.

  2. Manga and anime in the US has been nearly destroyed by a combination of piracy and Japanese companies charging unreasonable prices for licenses.

    Tokyopop sounds like they’re mitigating the licensing costs by…basically just not paying for new licenses. If they don’t have a plan for piracy, though, they’ll just suffer the same fate as before again.

  3. No matter what happened in the past… I wish them luck for the future because there is an audience out there looking for new material, whether it’s OEL or licensed properties.

  4. @Johnny Memeonic “Manga and anime in the US has been nearly destroyed by a combination of piracy and Japanese companies charging unreasonable prices for licenses.”

    Sorry, but if that were true, manga would’ve been destroyed not only in the US but everywhere around the world. And speaking of Germany, we have a still increasing Manga market even more than ten years after the boom, with five big licencing companies (Tokyopop Germany being the second biggest). So no, it’s mosty bad management that killed manga in the US, even beyond Tokyopop.

  5. Tokyopop died because the big licenses that were keeping the company afloat ended and the new ones were priced out of their range because there was actual money to be made. They were then left with stuff that even the Japanese barely read to the point where even their doing stuff on the cheapest of the cheap didn’t help.

    Manga’s doing fine but it’s no longer working on a just dump any old shit out there model.

  6. Heidi, sorry to go off-topic but I don’t know where else to comment on this…as a reader since the old Comicon.com days, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge you some higher site traffic. But I read posts via Google Reader and honestly, changing your RSS feed settings to preview-only is more likely to make me just hit “mark all as read” rather than open each post separately. I understand if you think this is the way you need to go with the site, but I hope you’ll reconsider.

  7. The thing is, though, the anime and manga industry was essentially built from Scanlation and Fansubbing. The illegal practices were there first and you can argue that the manga boom had more to do with the spread of high speed internet connections and easy access to the materials in question than anything. It’s fandom that’s entirely built off piracy so I’m not entirely sure anyone involved really gets to go shaking their finger about it. Except the japanese folks, I guess.

  8. Also releasing slower than scanlators is no excuse now. Tokyopop needs to lead with faster and smoother licensing and publishing laws.

  9. The problem with that is scanlators get copies of Jump when they are released and have them ready within hours. The only thing that will compete with that is a global release. they need to take a page from Fantagraphics and be more selective of what they release and make high end editions( I buy The Wandering Son for that reason), tankobon are no longer cheap alternatives. You can’t get cheaper than the internet.

  10. Screw Tokyopop and their obfuscatory, criminal contracts.

    As an aside, how do people read scanlations? They often use terrible fonts such as Comic Sans for lettering that make them a real chore to read. I guess kids don’t care about lettering.

  11. Seriously? No, scanlation did NOT create the market. It EXPANDED it. Viz and Mixx were the ones MAKING the market, mostly Viz, since they actually were doing Rumiko Takehashi comics like Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2, and Mixx was doing Sailor Moon. Then TokyoPop started doing some CLAMP, and they all had MAGAZINES that allowed people to purchase several titles at a decent price, until TokyoPop bought Mixx and started heavily competing with Viz. THAT spread it. When it initially started to boom, it was because of Cartoon Network and Toonami! Nothing to do with the Internet, since it didn’t function very well for that as it was impossibly user-UNfriendly. That happened as people realized there were thousands of manga that were out of our reach and the Internet became a better way to transfer files through IRC and then media file sites. What kind of bullshit story is that scanlation MADE it happen? It HELPED it; it didn’t CREATE it. Also, 90% of scanlators are not trying to compete with publishers, and real fans will buy the copies available in their countries as well as read the latest scans. Damn. I didn’t live through all that BS when you couldn’t find a graphic novel, much less a manga, unless you went to a comic book store. I was buying shit from FRANCE to get my manga jones on.

  12. That last comment is totally right…sure, the anime industry was entirely built on fansubs, but scanlations weren’t a factor until the manga industry was fairly well-established. Their ubiquity now is basically the same problem that American companies face with piracy in general. The main difference, though, is that scans of American comics are direct scans of the work as-published and are of basically identical quality to the official release. With manga, the official releases can offer better, crisper artwork and more professional translations than the scanlations (not that some “scanlations” aren’t just scans of the official translations, but most aren’t), but the trade off is that they often take months or years longer to come out than the scanlations.

    Also, not to argue with someone named Argumentative, but a couple corrections…

    “Then TokyoPop started doing some CLAMP”

    Actually, VIZ beat them to that with X/1999, though CLAMP never really broke through until Magic Knight Rayearth was in MixxZine so you’re still basically right.

    “TokyoPop bought Mixx”

    They didn’t buy Mixx, Mixx just changed its name. Stu Levy has owned the company the entire time.

  13. Jason Green delivering the TRUTH since the 1900s – Hahaha!

    Such a shame there are so many negative comments here. As I noted above, I wish them luck in the new digital arena. Whatever works (within reason) to provide content to readers.

  14. The negative comments are well deserved.

    The company folded, sorry I mean became a “virtual company” because of the stupidity of Levy. Just dumping money into ridiculous projects like TokyoPop soundtracks, music videos, Cine-Manga, animated web shows. The list goes on and on.

    The whole thing is a joke. It really is. A lot of really talented people lost their jobs because of boneheaded decisions by Levy. The problem is the guy fancies himself a writer, musician, director, producer, rock star, blah, blah , blah….

    I bet nothing will come of this announcement.

  15. Jimmie: I do what I can. =^)

    And yeah, I think the negative comments are pretty well deserved. I mean, Tokyopop did a lot of good things and a lot of bad things during their lifespan, but the people responsible for the good things (all the great editors and translators they had over the years) are long gone, and the guy responsible for pretty much all the bad things is pretty much the only guy left. And a lot of people got burned by Tokyopop…I can understand not being particularly excited that their zombified corpse is crawling out of its grave.

  16. WHYYYYYY?!
    I know I’ve almost been a troll when it comes to threads about TokyoPop here and on other sites like ANN. Yet they disgust me as a company… somehow more than DiDio’s DC! (Shocking.. I know..)

    Stu Levy is a grade A conman and huckster. PT Barnum would be proud of this bastard. Even ignoring the absolute garbage creator contracts he offered American an international creators of comics / manga / Amerimanga / OEL manga™ / whatever crap they call their wares this month. Just looking at how they treated their Japanese licensees is pretty shitty. I know Japanese companies charge and expect too much from their licenses, but TokyoPop really cheaped out on their end as a publisher. I know their editions of Blame! were disappointing. I sure wish Viz or Dark Horse had gotten it. And while TokyoPop helped cause the manga boom.. it was moreso through luck and connections. I almost moreso credit Borders who, in their dealings with TokyoPop, asked for the smaller format and lower price point. Of course Borders is gone now and it is partly due to the manga bubble bursting because companies like their buddies at TokyoPop flooding the market with subpar martial instead of focusing on A list titles. And TokyoPop in particular went for cheap titles and never marketed obscure ones (like my beloved Blame!) at the proper niche audiences. They tried to just sell manga itself as a brand instead of actually buying and promoting good titles.

    For crap in a hat’s sake.. this is the company that tried to get kids to buy “manga ringtones”. I still have a copy of their bullshit “Manga Manifesto” from some con around 2002 or something. It’s ridiculously dumb and unprofessional. Just because they were aiming for 14 year olds as a demographic, it doesn’t mean a company statement should sound like it was written by one.

    Now and at the end of their last hurrah, they seem to be stuck with a small more indie published hit like Hetalia. And from what i heard from some friends who are fans of the series, the TokyoPop editions suck. They hate the translation and stuck with their Japanese editions because they are lucky enough to be able to read Japanese. Even I noticed myself some bad pixelation that friends confirmed was not in the original Japanese print editions. There is no excuse for that in professional publishing. Similarly I have the Japanese edition of Blame! (which I sadly cannot read) and it is far better printed than the murky printing job TokoyoPop did.

    Of course this shit is nothing new. When TokyoPop failed to pony up money for licensees for the master recordings on Initial D, Stu Levy decided to put in all his own music. Because Stu Levy is a DJ. Wait.. no.. DJ Milky is a totally different person and author of TokyoPop’s smash hit manga with Couney Lo.. wait.. no.. nevermind her.. DJ Milky’s smash hit OEL manga™ Princess Ai™!

    So to hear that this scam artist is still trying to publish comics/manga, I am disgusted. I’m surprised he’s not trying to be a damned dj and in the music scene where he seems to want to be. Maybe he can get in on this dubstep crap all kids are listening too. Plenty of crossover at anime cons. Surely he can still hit on tons of jailbait anime fans by getting into dubstep.

  17. I really couldn’t believe some of the bad quality their translated books had. It’s bad enough that they were to lazy to translate the sound effects, but when SCANLATION look better than the actual product, it speaks volumes about the priorities of the comany.

  18. Well…then I hope this time TP learn their lesson. Back then, they kept release more and more mangas at the same time and half of them weren’t even that good. They need to pick mangas that would appeal to wider audience with better storylines/artwork.

    Not only that, they need to start managing their time and effort. Maybe they can do something like what Del Rey did; didn’t edit the sound effect but rather translate the meaning next to it. It’s so helpful for those who wanna learn japanese sound effect.

    And I agree with the person who said to make the packaging nicer. I bought “Bride’s Story” because it was hardcover and it came with a slip cover. If it weren’t for that fact, I probably wouldn’t buy it. It’s time to make those mangas look like they are worth it to buy it.

  19. If this is just another attempt at a money-grab, I hope it fails. Having collected the TP versions of Ikkitôsen (Battle Vixens) and Battle Royale, I know very much how badly skewed the “official” transations of those works could become.

    If, however, this is an hobest attempt to make something better for the fans and bite hard into the scanalation market, I hope it succeeds.

    We’ll just have to wait and see.

  20. Old article, but books are dead. All physical media has declined over the years, and, imo, manga books are a symptom as the same fate as newspapers, comic books, and so on. It’s *much* cheaper to read the same material on the Kindle or internet. Likewise, electronic media is moving away from physical CD’s, DVDs, etc. to internet music, iTunes, and other downloadable formats. TokyoPop and Viz greatly standardized manga — before then, Dark Horse was selling manga as flipped comic books, far more expensive than the tankoban format. But electronic formats to read manga is even less expensive. Time to move forward.

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