Yesterday it was announced that Tokyopop was laying off senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, editor Troy Lewter and editor Asako Suzuki.
My heart sunk.
These weren’t just any old layoffs for me; Lillian had been my mentor as an intern. She was an invaluable resource for me, even when I went from intern to freelance. She gave me criticism to help me develop my skills, she helped me translate things I couldn’t translate, she loved the blog posts I wrote for the weekly newsletter, she discussed manga reader trends and Ai Morinaga with me. Without her, I couldn’t have learned how to be a manga editor.
Lillian was the most experienced editor left at Tokyopop. (And let me tell you, there weren’t too many full-time editors left by the time I started there.) It is hard to wrap my mind around why she was let go. It makes no sense to me, no matter what context I put it in, whether it be that Tokyopop is hurting financially again or that the company’s focus may be shifting away from book publishing.
Either way, Lillian is a treasure trove of information and passion for manga. It’s not that the remaining editorial staff and freelancers can’t do a stellar job themselves, but Lillian’s shoes will be hard to fill. I’ll literally be trying to do that as I took on three titles she used to edit before I knew she was being laid off. (Gakuen Alice, Clean-Freak: Fully Equipped and Maid Sama!) But it’ll be hard because there’s nothing more useful than years of know-how and experience and Lillian has way more of that than I do. (And fluency in Japanese!)
I cannot describe in words how Lillian’s departure affects me. The news made me cry yesterday morning and I only began to feel better until my boyfriend got home and I had something else to focus on.
But as many friends have reminded me, jobs in the entertainment industries don’t exactly have a lot of security. I could probably count the number of people I know who haven’t been laid off in recent times on my two hands.
It still doesn’t help me understand why Lillian was let go. It’s not that I could pick and choose who should have taken her place in these layoffs. Troy being laid off makes little sense to me as well since he handled a lot of the licensed manga, what’s going to happen with all that? (He also had an epic Doctor Who figurine collection on his desk.) Asako was hired not too long ago, so in a sense I can see why she’s gone, but why hire someone when you know your budget can’t support it? (I would have loved to learned from Asako’s experience too. I was excited to be working with her.) That doesn’t leave a lot of people to lay off without severely crippling the publishing side of the company.
I’m not going to say bad things about the company here, mostly because I do love Tokyopop. I love the people I work with and, although I don’t have much interaction with some of the higher-ups, they’ve always been kind to me. Stu Levy was the one who found my tweet two years ago and pointed me in the right direction. I got my internship because of him. Without that internship, I wouldn’t have gotten my career as a manga editor started. Someone had to approve hiring me as a freelancer a year ago and my recent pay raise. I’m grateful to those people, although I’m not sure who did what there. I’m also sad whenever someone bashes Tokyopop for something untrue or just because it’s easy. They don’t see all the people who try so hard to please fans on a regular basis. That’s what the people in editorial try to do every day.
I’m not bitter about working for them. I might be underpaid (all freelancers are, really, it’s not a Tokyopop-only thing), but no one’s treated me badly at Tokyopop.
I just don’t understand why Lillian and the other editors are gone.
Please, instead of leaving comments hating on Tokyopop or any of the company’s execs (because you’re really just making things awkward for me there), why don’t you open up to the credits page a Tokyopop manga you enjoyed that published in the last six years. If Lillian, Troy or Asako’s names are in there, give thanks for their hard work. If there’s anything a manga editor doesn’t feel enough of, it’s praise and love for their job in bringing manga to print.
It’s back to work for me now.