I Miss Tokyopop, Sort Of

This post, in its original incarnation was a stupid rant about how I can’t find more work in the manga industry right now. I thought about publishing it today and decided against it because it was just me whining. Then this little announcement from Tokyopop comes along…

(Click on the picture to see the facebook status.)

*Sigh*

The thing about this is that Hetalia vol. 3 had finished production right before Stu Levy shut Tokyopop down. Aside from printing, distribution, etc., it is paid for. Stu, if he still has the rights to publish it, can publish the heck out of Hetalia vol. 3 if he wants to.

The thing is: it’s not fair to the fans. (And I don’t mean just the Hetalia fans.) It is unfair because there are many fans out there who would love to see the next volume of Maid Sama, Gakuen Alice and all the other Tokyopop titles that they were expecting before the sudden shutdown. In fact, they’ve said so in the comments of that Facebook status. Clearly, fans want Tokyopop back, even if it’s just for that one last volume of their favorite series.

And there are volumes of Maid Sama, Gakuen Alice, Skyblue Shore and a number of other titles that we had finished production on only a few weeks before Tokyopop’s closure was announced. I was working on scripts for Chibisan Date and Diary of a Crazed Family right before the closure. I had even asked my managing editor to work on Flat after its previous editor had been laid off, but that title was months away from reaching editorial.

That means there are quite a number of licenses paid for and/or nearly ready for print. Stu could, if he wanted to, finish up the production with some help and put those titles out, assuming the Japanese rights holders haven’t yanked away those licenses already. I don’t know if he’d make the same kind of money off them as he would Hetalia, which sold gangbusters, but he’d probably still make some money off the more popular ones.

But, I’m guessing, this facebook status does not signal the resurrection of Tokyopop or a chance at getting Hetalia vol. 4 published. It’s probably a grab for money, to cut some of the losses that Tokyopop took by shutting down, although I couldn’t say for sure.

What I can say for sure is that I miss working for Tokyopop as much as I miss the excellent titles they had on their roster. (And some of the less excellent titles too.  Zone-00 may have had only half a dozen fans, but I was one of them.)

It was slightly less enjoyable towards the end, with my workload snowballing horrifically and the awful lettering teams we had, but I enjoyed almost everything I worked on. Tokyopop gave me a consistent work schedule and consistent pay, something I’m not getting in the manga industry without them.

If I could work with the people I worked with at Tokyopop again, I would do it in a heartbeat. Even for the same pay, which I now know is too low. I didn’t work directly with Stu, so the fact that the company is his wouldn’t bother me unless he made himself part of the production process again. But I would totally take back the Tokyopop where Stu ran around and did weird vanity projects while the rest of us worked on manga because that’s all we could really hope for at this point.

And, in the end, it would make me happy to see my name on the Hetalia credits page once more. Just not like this, Stu. If you’re going to publish manga again, please bring Tokyopop, the North American manga publisher, back to life.

About Daniella Orihuela-Gruber

Daniella is a freelance manga editor and blogger. She likes collecting out of print manga and playing with her puppy. Yes, someone got her a puppy already.
This entry was posted in Discussion, manga, news, opinion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to I Miss Tokyopop, Sort Of

  1. mikeydpirate says:

    I was kind of mixed feelings while I was reading that comment. It would be nice to have it but also it would suck to have to fight though the hoards to even get one. Then there is the pricing since surely it won’t be average price for such a limited printing. Then it would also be unfair to the fans of the other series that TokyoPop had since they weren’t have closer for their series. Personally, my cousin and myself were eagerly awaiting the ending of Future Dairy which is VERY close to completing.

    Hetalia fans are surely wanting this to happen and I do want this to happen but really no. Please don’t play with the fans feelings like this. I know the manga/anime companies take some consideration to the fans but in a situation like this it is best to just bow out gracefully. A few months ago Stu said that TokyoPop is pulling out of the game and it best that he stay out. Let the series go and allow the other companies have them so they can be taken care of. It will be better for the fans and for TokyoPop’s reputation.

    • At least, with Hetalia, the manga is very episodic so that we don’t really *need* closure. And, of course, with Hetalia you can just pick up where you left off with scanlations. So the problem is really with everything that didn’t get its last volume & the fans who wanted those volumes.

      But, if he can pull it off, there’s really no stopping him. Hetalia is a popular enough title and about 80% of the work on it is done. It’s not cool that he’s picking and choosing, but when has Stu Levy ever been the bastion of fairness and genuine love for the fans who love Tokyopop’s manga.

      • mikeydpirate says:

        You right about Hetalia being very episodic. There isn’t much continuity in the series to worry about. Still maybe I am just hoping that another company will pick up Hetalia so that way we can get future volumes. This possible printing of Volume 3 feels like it will just prolong the process (or possibility) of that happening.

        Stu Levy may also realize that Hetalia will make him money. If I remember correctly, Hetalia was on the New York Manga Best Sellers List for months after every printing. If he prints a volume of Hetalia then it almost be the same as printing money. As for how much profit he will make that depends but surely he knows he will at least make a pretty penny.

        • I was thinking the same thing. Stu probably sees the Hetalia fanbase as passionate & rabid about it. Those fans would buy almost anything related to Hetalia. He can play with them at the palms of his hand since he has some degree of power with the license.

          His status doesn’t even have a hint of “care”. It doesn’t feel genuine to me. Maybe Stu should’ve said “If you like this, I will do my damn best to bring it to you and bust my balls off doing so because I know I wouldn’t be here without you, the fans” or something like that.

          Then again, as Daniella said, since when has he ever gotten actual love from manga fans who know about him.

        • It also makes Hetalia less license rescue-able, I think. Vol. 4 isn’t even out yet, so if vol. 3 is published, why would a company rescue that title anytime soon? They’d probably wait until vol. 8 comes out and the previous volumes published by Tokyopop are well out of print.

  2. I really do wish manga companies would put out whatever titles they had finished before they bit the dust before they close for good, yes Two Flowers for the Dragon I’m looking at you but with all the TP titles that could have been printed, augh, that makes me really frustrated. Good lord Stu, people WANTED TP to stick around and keep publishing stuff, why did you have to take it all away?

    • The problem with that lies in the reasons why Tokyopop and CMX shutdown. It wasn’t because they were struggling so much financially that they couldn’t finish a series or two, it was because their owners pulled the plug. Stu and DC might have cited financial troubles and inability to make a profit as the reasons behind those shutdowns, but it’s not the same as a publisher who was trying very, very hard to make it to the next volume and just couldn’t do it.

      It just makes me so sad that he’s toying around with everyone now. We just wanted Tokyopop to keep on publishing. If that was still a possibility, even with only one or two books coming out a month in a limited run, I know everyone would have still loved Tokyopop’s manga.

  3. Did you read Stu’s latest update on the Hetalia situation?

    http://www.facebook.com/notes/tokyopop/hetalia-3-update/10150316977277230

    Now, I’m seriously wondering what he’s trying to prove here.

    • mikeydpirate says:

      I don’t know what he is trying to do. Is he trying to revive TokyoPop? Is he ‘experimenting’? Is he trying to make money? Is he just freakin bored and like to mess with people?

      The guy is saying that if he does this then Vol 4 will be printed as well which doesn’t makes sense. I guess he has the rights but I don’t get why any Japanese company will work with a company that is ‘dead’. The only thing I could think of is that Stu is trying to use Hetalia to pay back people or is planning to revive TokyoPop into a new and ‘improve’ company. If he does want to revive TokyoPop then he must be planning to use Hetalia as a way to raise funds.

      As Daniella said, doing this is just going to make it harder for other companies to rescue Hetalia. Why would a company want to deal with this mess when they can pick up a title that doesn’t have ‘drama’ behind it.

      • I’m not sure what’s going on either. It would be nice to know and it’s nice to see him clarify stuff, but I think the real proof will be when Hetalia 3 & 4 are in our hands.

        Johanna’s article, which you can see the link to in these comments because she linked to this post, said that further clarifications were made saying that Tokyopop would partnering with another company to make this all happen. If it’s a way to restart Tokyopop the manga publisher, I’ll bite. I’d rather see Tokyopop publish manga again, quite frankly.

        I know that people have a lot of mistrust towards Levy, but Tokyopop was a decent manga publisher when you get down to the nuts and bolts. If fans could have that decent publisher back, I think it would be a good thing.

        • mikeydpirate says:

          Forgot to mention this in my last reply but I found it funny that Stu said there be ‘limited retails’ that the vol will be in. I kind of laughed at the comment since I think that will be obvious due to Borders closing shop. Then again , from what Stu was saying a few months back it would seem like Borders was the only place selling manga.

          It will be interesting to see who this ‘partner’ is. Johanna did mention one potential partner but it is uncertain if they are the one. I am interested to see where this will go. My hope, and other surely, is that this partner is some remain of TokyoPop thus leading a revival of TokyoPop under a different name. A more realistic prediction is that TokyoPop decided to partner up with Viz/Yen Press/*Insert other publisher name here* to release Vol 3 (and potentially Vol 4).

          Guess all we can do now is just sit back an watch the fire burn.

    • Thanks for sharing this link with me. Hopefully, Stu is trying to prove that he cares about publishing manga again. Being more straightforward with fans is a good step too.

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  7. Jim Taylor says:

    It would be nice if somehow someone could work out co-operative deals with the rights holders of all of the English-versions of out of print manga titles and make them available through a company that has print-on-demand services, like Ingram (who already distributes a lot of manga on the wholesale level). Not only would this give new life to back-list, it would allow fans to inexpensively finish their series sets and it would put those greedy manga scalpers on Amazon and EBay out of business.

    • Thaaaat would probably never ever happen. It would have to exist through something like Jmanga.com as a digital thing, but not a print on demand publisher with no background in actually publishing manga. Maybe through a partnership with an existing publisher like Viz. I think Tokyopop was actually trying to do POD and it never quite happened.

  8. Jim Taylor says:

    It could happen if the right individuals were involved who could connect the right people to set it up. After all, where are all the digital originals of this OOP manga? Probably one of two places: either gathering dust on the English publishers servers [since it’s not financially viable to do another physical run] or gathering dust on the Japanese copyright holders’ servers [not much demand for English manga in Japan] after the American rights ran out. Jmanga.com is fine for those who want digital, but a POD publisher can use the same source for their images just as easily. I picked Ingram as their work is high quality and includes books that have a graphic content equal to or even exceeding manga in some cases, that they POD on behalf of other publishers. They do not POD merely text-based books. Just today, for example, a lady came in to my store with a full color, glossy children’s picture story book that looked like it had come straight off of a major press, yet when I flipped it over I discovered it was an Ingram POD. Sure, having someone like VIZ partner with them for guidance wouldn’t hurt, but the point is that these people have the machinery and technology already in place to do it and are doing it. I’m sure that VIZ and other American publishers with a portfolio of OOP manga and the Japanese copyright holders that have had a bunch of English manga originals dumped on them with the close of places like TokyoPop and CMX wouldn’t mind seeing them generating some extra revenue. Once the setup is done, there is very little overhead or risk, as, like the name says, it is print on demand and every book is sold before it is run. All the publishers have to do is sit back and collect their monthly portion of sales from Ingram [or whoever]. Putting it all together, though, probably does need someone from inside the manga industry looking to carve out an interesting job for themselves. ;-)

    • The reason why I’m saying it would probably never happen is because of the rights reasons & the costs. It’s way more fussy than you think and that makes the existence of Jmanga all the more amazing because these publishers had to get together and agree on stuff. If a company like Ingram was able to team up with Jmanga and provide POD services to whichever publishers agreed to it, I think that would be the best case scenario. But all this is assuming Ingram is affordable for manga publishers. If POD isn’t affordable, then there’s no way any Japanese publisher will bite.

      But in the end you have to remember that OOP titles go OOP for a reason. Just because a manga is in the back catalog doesn’t mean that the publisher has the rights to reprint it. Those rights have probably expired and they’ve probably expired because it wasn’t worth it to the publisher to renew those rights. They would then have to renegotiate and pay the Japanese rights holders again just to be able to do POD. It’s actually a much better tactic to use if a manga publisher is just starting out instead of having a long history. Negotiate the POD rights when you first buy a license, then start up POD when your initial print run goes OOP. If a company like Viz did it, fans would just pester the company about each obscure and poor selling manga in their back catalog. (Which they may not have access to anymore, let alone want to pay the rights holders for once again.)

  9. lovelyduckie says:

    You know I really didn’t realize how well Hetalia sold until I read your quote on Robert’s Anime Corner Store newsletter last Friday. I like Hetalia, but I didn’t realize it was so much more popular than some of the rest of the series. Before Tokyopop ended they had picked up a lot of new series that caught my eye more-so than in the past. Like Lady Kanoko, Stellar Six, Alice in the Country of Hearts, Future Diary, SkyBlue Shore, NekoRamen, and Deadman Wonderland. I was actually experiencing a bit of a Tokyopop revival in my collection when they announced the shut down. It seemed like they had found a way to find successful series that weren’t already owned by Kodansha, Shonen Jump/Shoujo Beat, and Square Enix.

    • Whaaat? I was quoted? D: Link please! Or at least tell me what they quoted.

      And yeah, Hetalia did pretty damn well. (As expected.) It was one of those titles that had a built in audience by the time it was licensed, which helps publishers a LOT. Unfortunately it went on sale at exactly the wrong time for Tokyopop, I think.

      I’m kind of glad to hear you were into the main Tokyopop titles before its closure. All were pretty good series. :) Some of them I worked on myself. But Shojo Beat is actually not a thing in Japan. It’s totally a Viz thing. Shojo Beat titles are an amalgamation of titles from a bunch of publishers grouped under one imprint. Which is kind of funny because their Shonen Jump and Shonen Sunday titles have to be completely separate all the time because those two publishers don’t want their shounen titles to get mixed up. XD

      • lovelyduckie says:

        Sorry stupid me, Johanna quoted you. I read it there, I got confused about where I saw the “which sold gangbusters” comment.
        http://comicsworthreading.com/2011/09/11/tokyopop-planning-the-return-of-hetalia-3/

        “Shojo Beat titles are an amalgamation of titles from a bunch of publishers grouped under one imprint.”
        Oh, here I was thinking they were all from a certain group of Japanese anthology releases. I’m not as familar with which magazine origins shoujo has…but that’s probably because each volume isn’t stamped with it like the Shonen Jump/Sunday titles. A bit off topic but…sometimes I like it when a series also mentions what other titles that mangaka did besides the one I’m reading. Sometimes I’ll move onto that series next. Although I must admit it bothers me when a series says “from the creator of XXX” and the XXX title hasn’t even been published in the US. But that’s usually because I REALLY REALLY wish XXX was released over here and it’s a tease to see it so proudly mentioned on another series.

        • Ah, OK. I usually don’t notice it if stores or publishers quote me, but other bloggers link back to the post or the blog. :)

          Yeah, it’s definitely hard to tell from the imprint that Shojo Beat isn’t all from the same place, but Viz just tries to cherry pick the best titles they can get. Even if you don’t remember the magazine names or know which publisher in Japan released what manga, it doesn’t really affect your enjoyment of those series, right? So I think it doesn’t matter much.

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