200806041425-1Okay as you may have heard by now, while we on the road, Tokyopop announced its split into two divisions: a publishing arm and a movie/multi-media line, called Tokyopop Media. They alaso announced the layoffs of 39 people, and a 50% reduction in their publishing line. A bunch of people have weighed in on this, including:
Chris Butcher
Brigid Alverson
Matt Blind
Simon Jones
Johanna Draper Carlson

We recommend reading all of these entries, but a few points jumped out at us. Blind and Butcher have excellent business analyses of the move, with Blind adding:

Typically a reorganization and spin-off is done to isolate risk, maximize business potential of individual units, and present clear options to investors for business segments that, while related, depart radically from a firm’s core business. AT&T from ‘95-’97 springs immediately to mind (even over the breakup of the Bells, which was ordered by the courts) as the AT&T-NCR-Lucent division was done voluntarily — and presumably was purely a business decision.

So it’s just business, not the end of the world.

As Tokyopop isn’t a publicly traded company (and doesn’t have to play these investor games if they don’t want to), I have to wonder why bother with a reorganisation at all, unless of course one expects a part of the business to tank, tank hard, and tank soon.

In addition, Alverson has this observation:

Tokyopop suffers from an extreme lack of focus—they toss out a lot of ideas, some good, some bad, and then don’t follow up. I also agree with Lori that more focus on the global titles is not a bad thing, if they pick strong books and give them the support they need.

Our email is still overflowing with behind the scenes dirt, but the above seems to be an important piece of the puzzle: over the last few years, TP has launched a lot of initiatives — OEL, OGM, The Harper Collins deal. manga on phones, manga in newspapers, a manhwa launch, comics on MySpace, comics on YouTube, movies, tv, etc etc etc…but it hasn’t really stuck with any of them long enough to make them work. We’re reminded, sadly of CrossGen towards the end, another company run by a charismatic and talkative “visionary.” As one CrossGen employee told us as that company cirdled the drain “We call it ‘Comic on the Moon’…what are they gonna come up with next?”

A fact reported by PW, but not picked up much elsewhere: Tokyopop has pulled out of San Diego, and is rumored to be pulling out of Anime Expo as well. Yet another sign of cost-cutting.

One thing that has emerged from our email is that part of the problem is that TP has burned a lot of bridges, including, surprisingly, in Hollywood, where they seem to have developed a bad reputation, with several people telling us the usual reaction to the name of Tokyopop being brought up in meetings is “eye rolling.”

And what about all those OEL/OGM books slated to came out? From what we’re hearing, no one knows what is happening, with phone calls and emails to editors unreturned or else big time confusion still ruling.

BTW, we’d be checking up on some of these rumors for comment, except that we have no idea who to ask. While no one has said who exactly was laid off, Director of PR Susan Hale was among those let go– she sent out a letter to industry friends yesterday. Hale had no staff or assistant, and no replacement has been announced, so we’re clueless as to who to go to anymore.

As for who else was let go, a Facebook group for those laid off has started and looking at it, we get the following names (most unknown to us, and most layout artists, we’re told):
Stephanie Duchin, Mike Estacio, Paul Kersh, Chelsea Jane Windlinger, Michelle Prather, Christopher Tjalsma, Keila Ramos, Lauren O’Connell, John Lo, Michelle Nguyen, Holly Slear, Trond Knutsen, Shannon Watters, Jessica Chavez, Gavin Hignight

More as it comes in.


  1. I just checked the websites for San Diego and Anime Expo and neither list Tokyopop as an exhibitor. The NY Anime Fest still lists them as a sponsor.

  2. Tokyopop are what we, in the legal profession, call “a French comicbook publisher”. And by French, we mean they go around on push bikes with a chain of onions around their necks, wearing berets.

  3. I am reminded of the waning days of Disney comics, when production staff was cut to two people and everyone in marketing kept their jobs. Production then had to do everything, and they were miserable. Disney Comics was shuttered within the year.

    David Welsh summed up Tom Spurgeon’s post well: “In fact, you could look at Tokyopop as another specialty publisher having to make changes or risk dying off altogether, and not much of a unique news story at all.”

    Ayup, been, done, t-shirt.

  4. If you look at the people who were invited to the Facebook group but haven’t replied yet, two names jump out, Tim Beedle and Paul Morrissey. They are editors, not sure what lines Tim runs but Paul was one of the Manga Pilot editors, according to TP’s response to last week’s blowup…

  5. I am just shocked that talented hardworking, and charismatic people were let go just like that. It’s not like they were even “cutting the fat” , these people seemed like really important pieces of Tokyopop…if anything I think they should stop trying to make a movie buisness, and produce product ( OEL, Korean, Manga Ect, ect ) at a steady pace with high quality standards without so much glitz and glamour.

    But hey I’m just a comic artist, what the hell do I know, right?

  6. I’m really bummed out about this. One person missing that I had to add:
    was Mandy Willingham Author and Artist Relations Associate. She had the thankless task of corralling us all over the country and making sure that the artists were getting what they needed and hooked up at conventions and such. She took over and made things super rock. I will miss working with her.

    As far as the other editors, I always wanted to do a book with Luis (in addition to my way cool editor Bryce), and I really liked Paul and Tim. My heart goes out to them. I’ve been through many layoffs in the games industry, many of them handled like this one. It is crap. I hope that they land on their feet. There is a lot of talent in the list of 39, I hope they find somewhere that appreciates their talent.