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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Tokyopop, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Former TOKYOPOP Editor’s “Rant” On Scanlations and Aggregators

Titan

Let’s just say the manga advice series I did has reaped some…benefits. And other stuff that I didn’t expect. Whatever the case, there was an answer in the manga adapter piece that naturally raised an eye:

…and specifically comics-related experience, is going to serve you well. And whatever the industry overall may say about scanlations (and believe me, I could totally rant about aggregator sites all day), that’s not a bad thing to have on your resume, as far as I’m concerned. 

When that was said, I naturally was curious and asked if she was serious about being able to rant about aggregators and scanlations all day. Her response by email:

I would totally be up for a good rant!

So that’s how I have this conversation I did a few weeks ago with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl, the adapter of Loveless and adapter/editor of a few titles on Crunchyroll and former editor at TOKYOPOP, today for your reading or listening pleasure. Have fun!

Before we begin, let’s start in the past: How did you become interested in manga, and how you got into the manga industry?

The short version is I’ve been a comic book fan pretty much my entire life. I’ve read a lot of Asterix and Tintin when I was a kid. I went through a big Marvel Comics phase when I was in late elementary through middle school, and then I’ve also always been interested in Japanese culture for various reasons. When I was in high school that’s when Sailor Moon started airing on Cartoon Network, and suddenly these two interests came together for me, like Japan and then the animation/manga side of things, and I really got hooked.

Because Sailor Moon was my first anime and manga love, I knew about TOKYOPOP from really early in the process and kind of in the back of my head I was always like, “Yeah, wouldn’t it be fun to be a manga editor someday, that would be a cool job!” So I went off to college, double majored in English and Japanese because I liked languages, and the Japanese department was small, I really enjoyed it there. I kind of expected I graduate, go work somewhere for a couple of years, and maybe go to grad school.

By a stroke of fortune, TOKYOPOP happened to be looking for a junior editor, it was the first time they had a junior editor position, and they were specifically looking for someone young, who they could train in the ways of creating original manga specifically. This is 2004, almost exactly 10 years ago at this point. And I had the right skill set for that. I had the Japanese language, I had the English, I done an internship in publishing in New York over a summer, so spring break my senior year in college I flew out to Los Angeles to interview and a couple of weeks later they hired me and almost as soon as I graduated I moved all the way across the country to LA and started a new job.

I was at TOKYOPOP for almost seven years, little over six and a half years, basically until the company shut down so I got laid off in February 2011 and the whole company shutdown two months later. Which was a pretty long haul as far as TOKYOPOP is concerned. It’s a company that always had a high staff turnover rate for various reasons, but it also had a really great gift for attracting interesting and hard-working people, so almost all the people who I know at TOKYOPOP have gone on to do really cool and interesting things, a lot of us are still really good friends with each other, so even though it was, you know, it ended in me getting laid off, it was still a really great experience for me to have and I’m glad I moved to LA, I’m glad I had this opportunity, and I’m glad they gave me that opportunity. I mean, they didn’t know who the hell I was when they hired me as a 21 year old so…to pull myself all the way across the country…I hope they think that decision paid off for them.

Sailor Moon

So how was it like to work at TOKYOPOP, back when the manga industry was doing pretty well, and then conversely, when the economy started to decline?

You know it’s interesting, because for all the flack TOKYOPOP gets for a lot of things, they were really prescient about where the industry was going. Part of the reason why, and even in 2004 when everybody thought the manga industry was at its peak, and it was, there was a sense internally that things weren’t necessarily gonna last. There’s a variety of reasons why that was the case.

For one, Kodansha had been one of the licensors that TOKYOPOP worked with a lot, from Sailor Moon to Peach Girl to Parasyte, to a lot of CLAMP titles, and Kodansha was moving away from TOKYOPOP and started their relationship with Del Rey, which was a big licensor hit in terms of what titles we had access to, and the philosophy behind trying to do original content was in part because we wanted to have our own titles to replace the licensed stuff coming from Japan, to see if we could get kind of a homegrown manga industry going in the US that would give us access to stuff that people were excited about in the same way they were excited about Sailor Moon or Fruits Basket. It didn’t really work out the way we entirely expected it to, although I’m still really proud of the titles that we did, and, speaking of people who have really been watching the industry, a lot of the artists who worked for TOKYOPOP have also gone on to do really interesting things in their subsequent careers.

So yeah, I think there was a sense of flux right there, in terms of the direction that things were moving in, and this is something I’ll talk about later in this rant, but there’s a lot of great things about being able to work with licensed titles, but there’s a lot of restrictions that come with it as well, and when you are the co-creator or part owners of original content, that means you have a lot more flexibility with what you can do with those titles and that includes, among other things, releasing them digitally, which was something that the Japanese licensors had been really, really, really slow to come around to. I mean any company’s gonna have its ups and downs, particularly a creative company, and one involved in a volatile industry. You know, Stu Levy’s a really big personality, and he and I have always gotten along really well, and his decisions were a big part of why they wanted to hire someone like me, so I’m really grateful for that. But you know, every company has its ups and downs…but I got to work with so many terrific, motivated, smart, and committed people over my time there and I wouldn’t have given that away for the world!

Ok, it’s time. Now you get to rant. Feel free to start wherever you want!

I think the best way to approach this subject is to kind of talk about the history of anime and manga content on the web, and I can track it through some of my own personal experience with that side of things. Like I said earlier, I started as an anime and manga fan with Sailor Moon in 1998, so I was using like, AOL and dial up to get access, and this is back in the days when there were very few anime titles being released in the US and there’s basically no manga. Viz had been doing Ranma ½ and a couple of other things, but you know, TOKYOPOP was just starting to release their magazines and then probably when I was a senior in high school was when they started releasing the bind up versions of Sailor Moon.

Until then the only way you could get that content was through basically illegally trading tapes with other anime and manga fans online. I don’t even remember who I got this from, but there was someone who I found through a network of fans who, I think I paid them like 10 bucks or something, and they emailed me a videotape with 12 episodes of Sailor Moon Stars taped onto it. This was like crappy quality, it’s 12 episodes, I think I asked for the beginning and then the very end of the series, because at the time it was being released on Cartoon Network but they only done the first two seasons, like Sailor Moon S was just getting released as I was heading off to college.

So I knew that there were 5 seasons of content out there and there were a couple of sites where you can find out general episodes and summaries of what was happening, but the only way to actually see them was through these pirated means. It was slow and they were low quality, so anytime you had an opportunity to purchase legitimate content, even though it’s still a VHS tape, like I went out and brought the Sailor Moon S movie when it came out on VHS, and that was just so much better quality than these third or fourth generation fansubs that were going around. It just hasn’t been taped over a zillion times.

And I think part of that kind of barter process was instilled in it, the idea that, “This is not the best way to enjoy this material.” The best way to enjoy it is to purchase a legitimate copy. The fan community was very much driving the other fans and within itself to these legitimate sources when they became available. For whatever reason I don’t remember there being much scanlation going on at the time. I think the resources were still too limited for that to be the case, and then I kind of disappeared into college in the mountains, so I feel like I fell out of what was going on in bookstore culture and I went back in and suddenly there’s this enormous manga section, things have completely changed in that two or three year time. But at the same time I was ahead of my college’s anime society for a couple of years so I was in charge of purchasing, so as more things were starting to become available, and the industry was really starting to grow, we had access to more content that I was able to spend some of the school’s money to purchase that and again, find these legitimate sources to bring the stuff over for my friends and colleagues in college.

Hikaru no Go Vol 1 Hikaru no Go Vol 3

At first I really started paying attention to scanlations ironically when I was studying abroad in Japan and at that point I had two and a half years of Japanese language study under my belt so I could kind of read manga relatively competently and I was completely obsessed with Hikaru no Go. I had a boyfriend back in college who wasn’t a Japanese major but he’s the one who actually taught me how to play Go when we first started dating, and so I read this series about this kid who plays Go and I was like, “Oh my god, he would totally love this! But I’m reading it in Japanese, there’s no way for him to read it, I’d really like to share this with him but what can I do?” And a friend of mine told me about this website called Toriyama World, which was a scanlations community that was mostly doing Shonen Jump titles, they were doing Hikaru no Go, Bleach, Hunter x Hunter, and Naruto. So I sent my boyfriend these links and he got to read Hikaru no Go at the same time I was reading it. It was really exciting, and it made the long distance thing a lot nicer.

Simultaneously, Toriyama World started fansubbing the Naruto anime as it was coming out. And that was my first exposure to BitTorrent, and boy did that change everything. So instead of crappy third generation fansubs that are passed around on video tapes or like the year before one of my anime society friends found a cash of fansub stuff online and kind of dumped it onto the school network so I spent a couple of days of finals week downloading—

W-Weren’t you supposed to be studying or something? *laughs*

Oh I was totally studying, I was a Japanese major…I was a bad Japanese major, I bet my Sensei’s were all ashamed at me *laughs*. So this was accessing content in completely different ways. We’re talking DVD quality, coming out the same week as the episodes in Japan, with, depending on which group you were talking to, there were varying qualities of translation, but they were generally pretty good.

Skip to two years later, I get hired by TOKYOPOP, two of the founders of Toriyama World are my co-workers oddly enough – it took me a while to figure that out – so there was an obvious connection between scanlations and fansub industry and “legitimate” anime and manga industry. There’s a lot of translators, at least there were, I assume this is still the case that we’re coming out of, the fansub community, there’s a lot of editors who were coming out of the scanlation community.Both editing and translating are kind of apprenticeship positions where you can be a Japanese major and sort of learn the language but the way you get good at sort of the nuance of translating things that are colloquial which is by practice, there’s kind of a learning process. Textbook Japanese and what people use in real life VS Japanese that people use in anime and manga. And you kinda have to practice that and the scanlations and fansub community is one way to get that experience. And there’s definitely a recognition, or certainly a tacit recognition, in the industry, that these people who are really passionate about the media they’re working on, they really care about the quality, so they make good employees.

Fruits Basket had just been licensed, or just started getting released when I started at TOKYOPOP, I think we were on volume 5, and that series had been picked up by TOKYOPOP in part because of an online survey that they run, which asked what titles should we do, and everyone was like you should do Fruits Basket. People wouldn’t have known about Fruits Basket as even an option if it weren’t for things like scanlations and fansubs. It’s very clear that those built a level of awareness for some of these early properties in the marketplace at the time and they still do.

This is why it’s kind of exciting where we are now: Magi shows up on Crunchyroll and it’s a huge hit, people seem really excited about it, so when Viz picks up the manga rights to do a release of that there’s a group of people that are already super into that series and they’re planning to buy that book. It certainly happened with Attack on Titan last year.

So the feedback loop between sort of brand awareness and however you’re getting it, and people purchasing the stuff later, that’s really important and something the industry is very aware of. The problem that you run into – and the animation community has been able to solve this problem thanks to services like Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu and being able to get these series simulcasted in Japan – that hasn’t really happened quite as much in manga, and there’s a lot of reasons why that’s the case, but it’s incredibility frustrating why this is the case.

Gakuen Alice

The best example I can think of is during my final few years at TOKYOPOP. I was working on a series called Gakuen Alice, which is a long running shoujo series, it ran in Hana to Yume, the same magazine as Fruits Basket. We started it as soon as Fruits Basket finished, and there was a sense in the company that we needed another big hit. Fruits Basket had been an enormous money maker for TOKYOPOP for years and there wasn’t anything that was such a big hit on the horizon for us, and for a lot of other companies as well. We were going to really try and make Gakuen Alice a hit.

And there was a lot of reasons why I didn’t think it wasn’t ever going to be that big a hit, or at least not in the same way: it was a different tone, it’s a different kind of age group, characters are much younger, and the story’s dark but in a different way. But it’s still a really good series, and it’s something that I really enjoyed working on and I’m very proud of, and it sold…not very well at all. Like it didn’t even sell like half of Fruits Basket numbers, it sold like less than a quarter of Fruits Basket numbers, which, whatever, media creations are a tough industry. You can think something can be a hit but it’s not, hits come out of nowhere, we would be completely surprised at what people were picking up on.

The frustrating thing about Gakuen Alice was that at the time – 2010, 2011 – it was the third or fourth most popular series on MangaFox. There were literally millions of people reading that series every month. And not even a fraction of them were actually buying the book. You hear a lot of criticism of “legitimate titles not being as good and the translations are awkward, fansubbers are more authentic, and etc, etc.” Yeah, maybe sometimes, but the scans for Gakuen Alice were terrible. Absoultely awful! Like they were scanning stuff from the Chinese editions and sort of backtracking it into English, everything was awkward, the quality of it was terrible from a visual perspective, and we were working our butts off to make this a really good looking book. So it was incredibly frustrating to see that there was all these people enjoying an inferior and mediocre product and we have something that we really want them to enjoy and get excited about, and they weren’t doing it.

But I don’t think this is really the fault of the fans, or at least not directly, and I don’t think it’s the fault of the companies. I think it’s kind of a larger issue where there’s a disconnect between enjoying content online and realizing where it comes from, and that there’s people who make their livings by creating it, and when you’re enjoying it for free, you’re sort of denying people the ability to make their livings. And obviously with the demise of TOKYOPOP for whatever reason, that denied me the ability to make my living for a while, and I started doing other things instead, and just doing manga as a sideline freelance business.

But for the creators back in Japan, for original creators here — so like I spend a lot of time on Tumblr, and I see this all the time, every single week: there’s some artist who are great fan artists, great original artists, and they post stuff on Tumblr, and then a day later they see their work going around with their name not attached to it anymore. And you’re like “We’ll ok that’s great, the people are still seeing your work and you’re still getting your art out there to the broader world and they’re enjoying it.” But these are people who do this for a living, whether it’s because they’re being paid to or they make money doing commissions, so when you take their name off it and sort of disconnect them from that process, the million people who saw that piece of art, maybe 1% of them would have liked to give that artist $10 for a commission or buy a poster for $20. And they don’t have the ability to do that anymore.

And they will have fights with the people who are taking their name off and it would turn into this weird artistic rights discussion of like, “Yeah you should just appreciate that people are enjoying your stuff.” But it’s like, “I need to buy groceries, you know, this is my job,” and whether people are like, “Oh, artists should just do what they love because they love it.” Well, yeah, hopefully everybody has a job that they enjoy to some extent. But, some of these people have gone to school for this in the same way people go to be a lawyer or a doctor, so you don’t expect a lawyer or a doctor to work for free, why would you expect an artist to work for free? “No, it’s because they’re passionate about their craft!” Well yeah that’s true, but again, somebody’s gotta pay the bills.

So I think that kind of fan feedback that had existed when I was first getting into the fandom and then into the industry has been completely disconnected, both by internet culture in general and by the nature of the aggregator sites, which, they’re not even connected to specific scanlation groups, like the Gakuen Alice chapter – one chapter would be done by one group, one chapter would be done by the next group, there’s group credit there, you would go back to their website and would see that…it becomes this kind of meaningless product that you just blaze through at 100 miles an hour and read 100 chapters of manga over the course of an evening and it kind of goes in one ear and out the other. Manga is designed as a product to be read quickly and to be read in bulk like that. I can see, I’m 100%, as a manga fan, understand why that’s appealing, but the fact that very little of that traces back to an idea of “I love this creator, I love their work, I want to support them,” that’s what I found very frustrating.

The Dreaming

And for some people, it’s not even on their radar in some ways. One of the artists that worked for TOKYOPOP, Queenie-Chan — she did a series for us called The Dreaming, and she’s done a lot of manga work in various contexts since then — has been doing a couple of articles recently on what it’s like to be a Western manga creator or non-Japanese creator and she worked in Australia. She talked about doing a presentation to middle school kids and showing them what kind of stuff do you read and what they were into and she mentioned that you could go buy it somewhere, and the kids were like, “You can buy manga?” Like they just had no idea that they could go to the bookstore and buy copies of the stuff that they love.

I read that article. I believe they were in the library for this presentation, right?

Yeah they were in the library, it’s like, “urgghh!” That’s so…urgghhh, I feel so bad for my friends who are working at Viz and Yen Press and stuff and like, “How do you overcome that? How do you kind of deal with that disconnect?”

…Yeah, that’s kind of the bulk of my rant. *laughs* I mean the secondary thing is, and this is another reason why I feel sorry for my friends who are still working on the company side even though I envy their steady paychecks, is the licensors, and the nature of digital publishing in the West. It’s been so difficult to get comics content to a place where you can buy it digitally. And I think that more and more people want to consume things on their computers and they want to read them on any sort of tablet device, but that’s a relatively new thing.

So when I was at TOKYOPOP, ComiXology as a company was just starting out and we were trying to work with that to put some more titles up there, and since then ComiXology’s become huge and recently TOKYOPOP’s managed to put our old original titles on ComiXology, and I know there’s a few other manga publishers who are doing some licensed stuff on there. The Japanese, kind of rightly or wrongly —  it’s not really my place to make a judgment on this, and also I’ve been out of that part of the industry for about three years now, so I’m not as up on this as I used to be — they’re really nervous about digital stuff. They’re really nervous about putting content from different publishers in the same context together. That’s always been an issue, like, back in TOKYOPOP when we had an advertisement, “There’s a bunch of TOKYOPOP series, we want to put them on one page together!” But characters from one company, like characters from Hakusensha and here on the side characters from Kadokawa. Ok, fair enough. But that means when you’re coming up with a way, like what would the Crunchyroll of manga look like, and now there is a Crunchyroll of manga, and there hasn’t been until very recently. Like that was a really difficult thing for the Japanese to come and agree to. JManga tried to do it but they were working with what I would describe as second-tier licensors for the most part, and so the content that they had wasn’t necessarily what people were excited about — although I was excited to be working on Tactics for a while.

But yeah, they were really worried about sort of reverse importation, so like stuff coming out digitally in the US, then people reading it in Japan, and it was very strange at the time. So just trying to get digital rights out of them was like pulling teeth for so long. And that really felt like it held back the industry when it was clear that was the direction things were going in. I don’t really know what flipped the switch and what made that change all of a sudden. Maybe the success of Crunchyroll in general, maybe it’s clear that ComiXology and similar programs is a profit making opportunity and that is something that is working well and so many people want to engage in, but it was so incredibly frustrating as someone working at TOKYOPOP to see the writing on the wall and see that like, there’s so many people who want to consume this stuff online and we are unable to provide that for them.

I mentioned this in the manga adapter interview that a lot of the people in the US publishers know what the problem is, and then convincing the licensors that that’s a problem and that we need to find a solution to it, that’s a whole ‘nother story. So it feels like the people on the US side get the blame for these decisions like “why do you do it this way?” We would if we could! We would love to do that! Write a big email to so and so in Tokyo and tell them that’s the way you want to consume your media because we’ve been telling them that and it hasn’t been moving things forward.

So…yeah….I feel that’s a relatively reasoned rant. Was that sufficiently ranty for you? *laughs*

*laughs* You said all day!

Uh…well I can keep talking! *laughs*

Fruits Basket

Well ok, I guess a couple of things I can bring up…you made a great distinction about how times have changed, like back then you could put up an online survey and people would actually buy the product, but I think nowadays if you try and do survey, like I know there are people who would want to buy a series called Chihayafuru or another series, but then, there are people who then won’t buy it. Like, what’s going on here?

That’s the really frustrating thing about online polls. They get answered by the people who like answering online polls and they don’t necessarily predict consumer behavior. That’s been one of the frustrating things about the industry, and while I think this is true for about any sort of consumer industry, media in particular, there’s often been a disconnect between people who actively communicate with the company and the general buying public. So if you went by the taste of the manga blogosphere, you’d think we need to be publishing a lot more indie, josei, and seinen manga…and that stuff doesn’t sell.

I mean I love those genres, and I’m kind of indiscriminate in my reading taste, I’ll read almost anything, but yeah, we’ll see how this changes, I always have this kind of belief that the kids who are reading, who are 15 while I was 25, and were kind of getting into anime and manga at the same age that I was when I was getting into it, would kind of blow through shoujo and shounen stuff, and if they continue to be manga readers their taste would mature and they’d start to want stuff that’s a little more complicated, more sophisticated. That’s not to underrate the sophistication of shoujo and shounen, I think there’s some really amazing stuff that happens there, but there’s a difference, and we’re just starting to get to the point of the industry where now those kids are almost 25. They’re where I was when I was working at TOKYOPOP and my tastes started to change. So I’m curious to see how that affects things and if their tastes do start to align more with their age group in some ways.

That’s a difficult thing, you have to always take feedback, online polls, and what the reviewers say with a grain of salt. “Like that’s your opinion, you’re really smart and we respect your opinion, but I think the 10 other thousand people reading this title are reading it for very different reasons than you are. And they’re getting something very different out of it than you are.” And I think that’s okay. We think that’s a need that we need to serve. And just because you love this series doesn’t mean that more than 5 other people are going to love the series. And 5 people are not enough to make a book profitable.

This is the way the publishing industry works in general. What happened during the early days of the manga boom is that everything was a best-seller, everything was selling thousands and thousands of copies, and as we blew through the pre-existing titles that everybody knew and was excited about and started to get to things that were newer, more obscure, or didn’t have the name recognition like a CLAMP, things started to even out and so it resembled more what conventional publishing in the US looks like, where the Dan Brown’s and Stephen King’s, and Fifty Shades of Grey’s of the industry paid for everything else. There are very few things that are popular or super profitable. It’s the few bestsellers that support the rest of the industry. And that’s kind of the way I think things are now. That’s just the way it is. And if you have enough best sellers, and enough stuff that’s doing well, then you can afford to take on stuff that’s a little more different and unusual and a little more risky than to kind of feed that niche but you need to have that core of people buying Naruto & Bleach every month to be able to take that risk as a company.

It’s been interesting, now that I’ve been out of the industry and see it from the outside. to see what people are doing with stuff. Like Yen Press really likes to do these high-end cover editions for stuff, it’s a little more off the beaten path. So like A Bride’s Story, which is a gorgeous book, I don’t know what the sales numbers are for that, but they’ve done a fabulous job with it and it’s not something that I would expect to be a huge best seller, so I hope that they’re making tons and tons of money on it because it’s so great, but I think they’re counterbalancing that by making it a higher end product. It costs a little bit more, so maybe only half as many people would buy that as an average Yen Press title but they can balance out the profitability by making a higher end edition.

I think the companies here are getting creative with how they strategize and manage to kind of put out more unusual content without it making a huge dent in the profitability, but that’s always going to be a tough battle.

How do you think the scanlation system has changed from when you started in the industry to today? When we traded emails you talked about there was a difference from the old system compared to today, so could you elaborate on that?

I’ve never been directly involved in scanlations on the creation side so I may be speaking out of turn on this, but I feel like there’s, as an occasional consumer of scanlations, there’s certain groups that really pride themselves on quality and groups that pride themselves on speed, or function like that’s their goal, to get it out there as quickly as possible. And I think that’s really interesting. And again, the aggregate sites you get a mix of translation and production quality. You can really sort of see that in action, almost on a chapter by chapter basis like, “Oh this translation I understand what’s going on, it’s really clear, it’s catchy and punchy,” a chapter later you’re like, “Ughhh, this barely looks like English! Like did they just run this through Google translate? What the hell is this font that they’re using? Did they even bother retouching this stuff? *laughs* Even the scan quality’s really weird!”

And I feel like back in the day where there’s a higher bar of entry, where it was a little harder to put together a group of people and have access to these resources, it forced people, you know it was only people who were committed to this, and into it, who were going to bother with this stuff, because you have to obtain the volumes from Japan, you’d have to have a pretty good scanner, internet speeds were slower so it takes a longer time to upload images, and sharing back and forth between people is a lot more of a pain in the neck. I think that just slowing down the process a little bit, it would reinforce quality. At the same time…I hope this doesn’t come off as “Oh, everything is terrible now, the internet’s ruined everything—“

Uh-oh! *laughs*

*laughs* No, it has absolutely not! I think the modern age is amazing, the resources available and the fact that so many people all over the world can enjoy this stuff and can get involved in this I think is amazing. So I think that the resources that are available to people now are just—I couldn’t even imagine when I was a teenager. Like there’s just so off the radar of what’s possible. But I guess I want there to be a little more consideration of the process and for people to think a little more critically about what they’re doing, and that it’s not just “this content magically exists and we’re going to magically put it on this site so billions of people can enjoy it, possibly at the expense of the person working very hard to create it,” Because manga creators work hard, that is a thankless job. Unless you’re one of the big ones, you’re not gonna be making a living doing it. I feel that there’s some sort of anarchist corners of the internet that’s like “wrest creativity away from corporate productions,” and you know, ok, whatever, but your average manga creator, these people work themselves to the bone to make this stuff!

I saw the creator of Nura: Rise of The Yokai Clan’s schedule. I went like, “Wait, you only get two hours of sleep on one day?!?”

Yeah, like the people who work on weekly schedules, sure they got like eight assistants working for them but they’re doing 20-30 pages a week, that’s crazy!

In a certain way Bakuman showcased the type of work schedule a mangaka usually goes through.

Bakuman Vol 7 Bakuman Vol 20

Right, right. Yeah, say what you want to about corporations, and I’ll be the first to get in line and be like, there’s a lot of nasty things that can be said about some of the corporate domination of media, but at the end of the day the people who suffer when this material’s been pirated are the people who are creating it. And those are the last people who should be suffering. Because you know the great thing about manga is that it’s so creative and inventive and the best stuff out there is really amazing and those people should be profiting from their work.

So I think one of the things I mentioned in the manga adapter email was that I thought that the quality of translators in general was improved. I’d be curious to hear what other people in the industry think about that because I think to some extent it’s part of the generation of people who grew up on this stuff and are coming of age and now they’ve graduated college with their own degrees in Japanese or whatever, and their own ideas on how manga should be read and what’s the best way to do a translation, and I think that’s really cool and interesting. I’d be curious if other people, even anecdotally, share my feelings on that.

Adapters are still a really important part of the process and to some extent it’s because I believe in the process of specialization. I myself feel like I’m the jack of all trades but master of none, so I really respect people who commit themselves to getting really really really good at one part of their craft, whether it’s being an artist, writer, or being a manga adapter and being able to come up with — and I said in my answer that I have a hard time coming up with distinct character voices. I can recognize them when they’re there, but honestly creative writing’s not my specialty, so finding someone who really knows how to make one character’s speech style distinct in English as opposed versus other characters, I think that’s really a great skill.

But I feel like at the same time more and more translators that I work with kind of get that and they know what manga is supposed to look like, sound like and they just have a better instinct about that in some ways? It’s not universally true, like there’s definitely some scripts that I feel like I have to massage a lot more than others, but I don’t know I guess I find that heartening.

The other funny thing about scanlations/fansubs industry going legit is that you have a zillion people who are used to working for free and now there’s some freelance opportunities when you’re like now I can pay them something! You don’t end up getting paid very much, but I think for a lot of people it’s like, “I was doing it before, at least now I’m getting something so it’s gotta be good!” I think that’s really a bit of the problem. Because you compare what people are getting paid for digital content versus what they’re getting paid to work on stuff that’s going into print, and there’s a huge difference.

I mentioned this in the previous interview as well because a lot of this is because I had no idea what the profitably is like in the digital space, and I don’t know if anybody else does either, I’m sure the people inside the company has a better idea than I do, but I still think it’s a new enough part of the industry that I think it remains to be seen how much money you can invest in it and still be profitable. I’m hoping it’s all really successful, and that it continues to grow and thrive, and that everyone gets a pay raise at some point. I think everybody who I’ve worked with really loves what they’re doing and they’ve worked pretty hard and I’d like to see them get compensated for that a little bit better.

sigh

One last question: It feels like, for people trying to get into manga,  they’re really unsure of what’s legal and what’s known, so I want to just ask you do you think manga publishers are doing enough to educate people on manga, what goes into making manga, etc? Like a couple of months ago the New York Times did an article where they were listing comic book apps and they listed a manga site app…but it wasn’t a legal one. So it makes you wonder: are manga publishers doing enough to say this is what’s legal, this is what manga is, stuff like that?

That’s a really good question, and I think it ties into something I said before where there is this cultural disconnect between content creation and legal vs illegal or intellectual property rights. In some ways I feel like it’s not just the manga publishers’ job to do that. Like maybe there are ways they could be addressing that a little bit better and be more proactive about that but at the same time I feel like saying that kind of throws anime and manga fans under the bus and it’s definitely not just them. Like anybody who pirates a TV show or downloads a book rather than paying for it and downloads a PDF somewhere, like I think there’s a whole cultural conversation that needs to happen about IP and how the work gets handled. And this is what we’re seeing and that’s kind of a side result of it that happens to be particularly obvious in this particular industry for certain reasons.

I think this is where I’m going to be really off the mark because this was stuff that was going on three years ago and I have no idea how it’s developed internally since then. There was for a time, sort of an attempt, among the US Manga publishers to join up and shut down sites like OneManga and MangaFox that kind of got thwarted for various reasons, partly because we were a US company and some of these hosting sites were hosted in places where the US doesn’t have any sovereignty. If your servers are in Russia, or Sweden, if you’re PirateBay or whatever they were based, there’s only so much you can do under US law to be able to deal with that. And even if you do, it’s super expensive, so if you’re running a business that’s on a tighter profit margin, is it worth spending a million dollars in legal fees to try and prevent that? Maybe? Maybe not? I think that’s a really hard calculus to make. And again, I have no idea where that ended up panning out internally, this is what I recall from three years ago.

That’s another thing, marketing to people in this day and age is really tricky, particularly kind of the younger audiences, kids who are on their cell phones, on the internet all the time, kind of talking to them in more conventional marketing ways, whether it’s like the ads in the back of the books or stuff at conventions, I think it’s really difficult to have that conversation to get people to pay attention to it. So it might be nice if people did more but I’m not sure what that would consist of, other than a larger cultural conversation. Who knows, maybe it’s already being addressed just by the companies trying to provide alternatives in better ways so if people want to read manga digitally now we’re starting to have a lot more viable ways of doing that. I was thinking about this the other day, would it make sense for Viz to advertise on MangaFox?…Maybe?

*laughs*

Like…kind of? Like how much are the Japanese licensors are going to totally flip out if that happens? The idea that Viz is giving money to the people who are stealing from them, allowing this method of stealing from them. Obviously not necessarily Viz, MangaFox only posts things that are not available, etc, but yeah the Japanese licensors are going to be pissed about that. I remember that that was a debate internally at TOKYOPOP at one point, it was like, “Do we try and squash these companies or do we try and advertise on them?” *laughs* Like it’s a weird calculus to have to be making.

And I would say for all the things that are super frustrating about aggregator sites, there is still the awareness factor. There are still ways of providing kind of a preview taste of content and getting people excited about it. Game of Thrones is one of the most pirated shows on TV right now but it’s still a huge hit as far as HBO is concerned. Is the piracy preventing it from being a huge hit or is it helping it because more people are being exposed to it and maybe they’ll later buy the DVDs or merchandise? That’s really one of the more bizarre things about the media landscape right now: does that really help or hurt? I think it hurts more than it helps, but there are cases where you’re really not sure about it. So…I don’t know. I’m glad that’s not my decision!

But I do hope we have that cultural conversation sooner rather than later because that reflects so much of a landscape right now, but yeah I’m not sure that’s Viz’s responsibility to lead the way on that necessarily. Or people are just like, “Oh it’s Viz, they got like tons and tons and billions of dollars because they got Naruto, so we don’t really need to bother giving them our money, they’re already rolling in it.” Yeah, but they’re a publishing company. Publishing companies are never really rolling in it. I think that’s what people need to understand. It’s not like Hollywood where Disney has a gazillion different profit centers and they’re really raking in the cash. Publishing is always a really hit or miss game.

Lillian, thanks for taking the time to do your “Rant”. *laughs*

Thanks for giving me the opportunity!

5 Comments on Former TOKYOPOP Editor’s “Rant” On Scanlations and Aggregators, last added: 5/19/2014
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2. Must read: Chuck Austen’s advice to Tokyopop creators: ‘Move on’

201303190254 Must read: Chuck Austen’s advice to Tokyopop creators: ‘Move on’
With Toykopop hovering somewhere between somethingness and nothingness, one thing is certain: owner Stu Levy will never give the creators back their books as long as he might be able to leverage them in Hollywood. Fair enough; he paid the money and the creators signed those bad contracts.

In case you came in late, back in the day Toykopop signed up dozens of young (and a few not so young) creators to produce brand new original manga-styled graphic novels. The contracts gave more than 50% of the rights to TokyoPop and although many books came out—and a few even did well—when the manga giant imploded, many series were left unfinished.

One of them was The Boys of Summer by Chuck Austen. In the course of researching the Tpop story, Brigid Alverson wrote to Austen and he responded with an essay of surpassing clarity:

Tokyopop was a stupid, poorly run company that took our brilliance, and sincerity and passion and crapped on it. But they also gave us something important, something useful.

They gave us an opportunity to get our work out there, to develop fans. To display our creativity and professionalism. How many people can say they’ve created 200 pages of graphic novel? Or 400? Or eight? Not many. You should be damn proud of what you achieved. Don’t let Tokyopop’s stupidity take that accomplishment away from you the way they took your creation.

Instead use it. Use what you did, what you achieved, and build something for yourself. You’re not just a one-trick pony. You’re an amazing, energetic, imaginative creator who can do something even better. So get over it. Stop complaining and wishing for miracles, and let go. Take the good you got from the experience with the unctuous Stu Levy and make something else, something better, something fan-frickin-tastic for which you retain all rights, rights that Tokyopop, Marvel, DC, and every other corporate sphincter in the world will wish they could take from you, editorially digest into a flavorless pablum for the masses, and poop out to their audience.

Now, Chuck Austen has been many thing in comics, from his early days drawing Miracleman (our own Padraig will certainly mention him anon) to drawing porno for Aircel to writing Superman to writing the Avengers to creating cartoons. At many points he’s been an object of derision from fans and the butt of jokes but…I think he might be having the last laugh:

I’m now a successful producer at Cartoon Network, and in my spare time I write a popular and solidly selling series of novels based on a TV series I created many years ago but never sold — all made possible because of positive response and respect for my comics and manga work. Fans from that world followed me to my novels, and those have earned me more money than I even made off of a television series I co-created and saw become a number one hit.

There is much more in the piece, but basically, Austen is explaining how to Have A Career, Not A Project. You keep on going and keep producing and finding opportunities and you don’t look back.

I know a few people in this business who are still mourning a book that got stolen from them in the ’70s. No lie. If you can only create one successful property in 40 years, maybe this wasn’t the job choice for you. Of course, as I always say, this does NOT EXCUSE PUBLISHERS WHO RIP OFF CREATORS. No way, no how. But still…I can only think of two cases where, as it happens, a team of creators had only one idea and that was it. One is Siegel and Shuster—they had their big, world changing idea and sold it for $130.

The other is Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With all respect to their further output, they hit bingo the first time out when they created the Turtles in 1984 as a self-published comic. Luckily, they had a great agent, held on to everything and made several fortunes along the way. (And one of them lost several fortunes as well.)

The best advice is DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. But if you do…you must move on and create something else. And don’t make the same mistakes again. Chuck Austen didn’t. Learn from him.

10 Comments on Must read: Chuck Austen’s advice to Tokyopop creators: ‘Move on’, last added: 3/20/2013
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3. Final volume of BIZENGHAST to come out after all

201206011422 Final volume of BIZENGHAST to come out after all
As we’ve been noting, of late the ashes of Tokyopop have been stirring, and several volumes that were thought lost are actually coming out in one shape or another. BIZENGHAST #8 by M. Alice “Marty” LeGrow is the latest book to find a new life as a print-to-order book via The Right Stuf and digitally through Graphicly. BIZENGHAST was one of the most successful of all Tokyopop’s homegrown manga (as making it to volume 8 would indicate) and it’s been spun off into an art book, coloring book, novelization, animated shorts, merchandise, and a tabletop role-playing game, according to ICv2.

At ICv2, some of thebusiness particulars of this deal are discussed, including the fact that LeGrow will have a similar compensation package to the original:

“I DO receive royalties from this book just like all the others,” LeGrow said.  “I was paid in full for the entire volume before Tokyopop stopped publishing, and in fact have been offered (and completed) extra work to do ancillary art and the book layout, for which I was very generously compensated by Tokyopop… Tokyopop has always dealt fairly with me in their contracts and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to do so.”  LeGrow created new art for the splash page and art for the postcard that’s free with purchase.


In a less pointed interview with Nerdist News’s Tokyopop newsletter, LeGrow has more about the project, including her thoughts on the whole “OEL” manga movement:

M. Alice LeGrow: I never really thought of myself as "the vanguard," really…I think American-made manga style comics are really in more of a resurgence now, since titles like GoldDigger and the like have been around so much longer. It was early manga-influenced comics like that that really encouraged me when I was young, and made me want to become a comic artist myself. As for the debate on "Japanese/non-Japanese," I can only speak for myself and say that I never really felt my work was truly trying to be manga, per se. I feel that I was heavily influenced by it, especially when I was younger, but now I'm settling on a style that is a hybrid of many different influences. For everyone else involved in that argument, I say just draw your comics, throw 'em into stores and let the world sort it out.


LeGrow’s next project is THE ELEPHANT BOOK, which was funded through Kickstarter and tells the story of two youngsters named Williams and Fairfax who get caught in a conspiracy while living in Philadelphia.

201206011427 Final volume of BIZENGHAST to come out after all

0 Comments on Final volume of BIZENGHAST to come out after all as of 6/1/2012 5:33:00 PM
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4. Tokyopop is sorta back with Hetalia: Axis Powers

hetaliavol3 Tokyopop is sorta back with Hetalia: Axis Powers
After hinting at it on their Facebook page for a while, Tokyopop’s surviving member, Stuart Levy, announced a little wee return…as a licensing entity, anyway. The Right Stuff, in conjunction with Gentosha Comics, will republish three volumes of Himaruya Hidekaz’s HETALIA: AXIS POWERS, including the first two—which came out from Toykopop before it imploded last year—and the never-before-in-English third book, which was in production when Tpop went away.
HETALIA was one of Tpop’s late hit pick-ups, a satirical look at World War II’s Axis powers as a bunch of snotty boys. The popularity of the book has led to a lot of cosplay, which looks a little alarming but isn’t really about dressing as the Gestapo.

The Tokoyopop daily mailer reveaeld more release details; although a limited number of all three books will be available—with 8 pages in color—after the initial print run, the books will be POD only, and without that color insert.

Patience is a virtue and, believe us when we say this, you guys are perhaps the most virtuous fans out there. It is with great pleasure that we're able to announce that we have partnered with Gentosha Comics and Right Stuf, Inc. to publish Hetalia Axis Powers, Vol. 3 in English-translated book form for the first time ever.

In addition, reprints of the first two volumes will be available exclusively through RightStuf.com. Volume 3's first print run, which features an exclusive eight-page color insert from the original Japanese manga, will be available in late June 2012 and is available for pre-order at a reduced price of $10.99. That translates to 30% savings for 100% brand new Hetalia, which ain't too shabby.

Despite the overwhelming demand by fans for us to bring back Hetalia, it should be noted that we have adopted a print-on-demand model for publishing this volume. As the first run will have limited quantities, pre-ordering is highly recommended or else you may find that copies have run out faster than Italy can introduce Germany's face to his palm. Plus subsequent volumes won't come with those swanky full-color pages. For those of you who can't wait til June for your Hetalia fix or need to brush up on your history, the first two volumes are available immediately for $15.99. We guarantee it's at least three times more fun than reading The Economist.

Stay tuned for more details on our publishing operations as they emerge and join the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus pages. Never before has history been so fun and we're happy to be a part of history in the making by bringing Hetalia, Vol. 3 to our English-speaking fans. We've got to say, it's good to be back, TOKYOPOP fam, and your patience and support means the world to us. Go ahead, say it with us now: "PASTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"


As the mailer hints, this might not be the only former Tokyopop title that we’ll see resurrected this way. It does seem like a sensible way to provide the fans who were clamoring for thes

4 Comments on Tokyopop is sorta back with Hetalia: Axis Powers, last added: 5/6/2012
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5. Tokyopop back….sorta, teamed with GeekChicDaily

201110121437 Tokyopop back....sorta, teamed with GeekChicDaily
GeekChicDaily, the daily nerd news email, is launching an edition for New York, and also teaming with the Tokyopop brand for a special edition spotlighting Japanese culture trends and news.

The New York edition will cover the Big Apple’s lively offerings in geek culture, following localized versions for LA and a national edition. GeekChicDaily also added Microsoft’s Mich Mathews to its board of directors.

Teasings of the Tokyopop edition had excited fans to think they were returning to publishing, but the Tokyopop Facebook page quelled the rumors:

Loyal Fans, we’re very thrilled by your excitement but need to clarify: unfortunately we are not re-launching the manga – those properties have reverted to their owners and are amazingly difficult to get back. We’re launching an all new editorial TOKYOPOP newsletter about all things otaku and Asian pop-culture, powered by our friends at GeekChicDaily. We think you’ll really enjoy the news we’ll be bringing and apologize for the initial misunderstanding.


PR below:

Following the explosive growth of the National and Los Angeles regional editions, GeekChicDaily, the leading pop culture, opt-in email newsletter and cross-platform content publisher, today announced its expansion into the New York market and the upcoming launch of special edition “TOKYOPOP Powered by GeekChicDaily.”
 
With a focus on events and pop culture influencers in the NY Metro area, GeekChicDaily’s New York Edition will continue to deliver a daily dose of popular culture, from comics to video games, film, television, toys, collectibles and applications,  alongside multi-platform media partner and nerdcore site, Nerdist.  In addition to editorial coverage, the company will also co-host local events that help New Yorkers feed their inner geeks whether on the web or on the town. To sign up, visit http://bit.ly/rqP3hs.  Official launch partners include Street Fighter® X Tekken®, AMC’s The Walking Dead, Toyota, and OtterPops.
 
“Servicing the biggest media market in the world has always been a top priority and following the overwhelming enthusiasm from our National edition and GeekChicLA audience, New York was an obvious next step,” said GeekChicDaily Co-Founder and CEO Peter Y. Levin.
 
GeekChicDaily has also partnered with TOKYOPOP, the major publisher that popularized manga in the West to produce a special edition powered by GeekChicDaily that will cover the hottest Asian pop culture news and trends. “TOKYOPOP Powered by GeekChicDaily” is an evolution of the original TOKYOPOP magazine a decade ago, which featured Asian Pop Culture lifestyle, including manga, anime, gaming, music, cos-play, gadgets, celebrities and more. The magazine and online companion reached over 100K + subscribers. While TOKYOPOP was forced to discontinue its North American manga publishing operations in Spring 2011 due to the declining book retail environment, “TOKYOPOP powered by GeekChicDaily” revives the TOKYOPOP brand in an exciting way, leveraging its substantial social media footprint to tie the Asian-infused content across multiple platforms.
 
“GeekChicDaily and its daily, opt-in format provide the perfect opportunity to revive the original TOKYOPOP magazine Asian P

7 Comments on Tokyopop back….sorta, teamed with GeekChicDaily, last added: 10/16/2011
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6. Review: Deadman Wonderland Vol 3 by Takaoka and Kondou

 

Title: Deadman Wonderland V 3

Author: Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou

Publisher:  Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427817433

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ganta’s desperate struggle for survival continues as the second round of the Carnival of Corpses kicks off, but when he is matched against Minatsuki, Ganta learns that his new friends are not what they seem…and it may cost him his life! Yo, having infiltrated Ward G, trespasses into the ring and reveals that Minatsuki is his sister. Although memories of Ganta’s childhood friend, Shiro, return to him when he needs it the most, his savior may prove to be a devil in disguise. This downward spiral into the insanity of "Deadman Wonderland" holds startling revelations!

Review:

Deadman Wonderland is the perfect example of one of the reasons I feel like  I have lost my manga mojo.  I was thoroughly enjoying this action-packed sci-fi series when its US publisher, Tokyopop, abruptly shut their doors for business.  Stu Levy, per his own infamous Tweet, was bored with the publishing industry.  Books were too old-school for him, so he turned his back on all of his fans and totally rained on their parade.  Bye-bye almost ten years’ worth of collecting the old fashioned, boring books his publishing company had been blitzing the market with.  Bye-bye series that I had come to love and anticipate, and in part prompted me to start this blog in the first place.  Ouch!  Talk about a slap in the face…

Deadman Wonderland is the type of series I didn’t have much interest in when I first heard about it.  I’m not a big fan of horror yarns or stories with graphic violence, though after taking a look at some of the titles I am following, I am going to have to admit that I do like some of these kinds of books.  While this title doesn’t have a lot of over the top violence, it does offer its fair share of blood sprays, explosions, and destructive combat scenes.  After reading the first volume, I was hooked.  How is Ganta going to survive and get out of Deadman Wonderland?  Will he survive the Carnival of Corpses?  At first glance, it doesn’t seem that he will survive very long, with his skinny frame and gullible nature.  Better for US fans if he had only lived the span of four graphic novels – we wouldn’t have been left hanging when yet another manga publisher shuttered their offices.

This volume has Ganta facing off against Yo’s sister in the second round of the Carnival of Corpses.  Minatsuki is a psychopath, and she gets off on lying and killing.  Her hair is her deadly weapon, and she can whip her opponents to bloody ribbons with about as much effort as it takes a normal person to yawn.  Their battle gets off to a fierce and furious start, and it looks like Ganta’s going to go down fast.  Then Yo arrives to complicate matters even more for the hapless Ganta.

I like this series, and I don’t know why.  The action is mind-numbing, the plot is erratic, and most of the characters are one-dimensional.   Still, there are enough twists and suspense to keep me turning the pages.  I like Ganta quite a bit, and I want him to survive, to find out why he’s in DW, and to somehow find freedom for himself.  I also like Shiro.  I want to know everything about her.  A fe

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7. Tokyopop’s Stu Levy is on Kickstarter for earthquake documentary


When last we saw former Tokyopop owner and publisher Stu Levy, he was in Japan, sleeping in a truck on his way to deliver food to the victims of the March 11th Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that left parts of the country devastated. At the same time that Toykopop was shutting down for good, Levy announced his intention to spend a year making a documentary about the disaster and the survivors’ heroic efforts to help others through the tough times.

Well, now there’s a trailer for this documentary and a Kickstarter page looking to raise $20,000 for post (color grading, etc) and marketing for the film, whose purpose he explains thusly:

I believe we can help heal these wounds by paying tribute to the amazing resilience and quiet spirit of the many victims and volunteers of Tohoku.  By letting them know  we admire and respect them, we encourage them to continue the good fight – at a time when even the strongest warriors would grow weary.

We also gain insight into how our own inner strength can help us if we ever find ourselves in a life-threatening situation.  I believe we can all learn from these incredible heroes.

201108021726 Tokyopops Stu Levy is on Kickstarter for earthquake documentary

There’s also a Facebook page supporting the project. Some may find some irony in Levy’s turning to crowd funding now that his own publishing empire has gone to ground, but clearly there are good intentions here. Maybe Levy can also help out some people closer to home by giving them back the rights to their creations one of these days?

[Via GeekChicDaily]

3 Comments on Tokyopop’s Stu Levy is on Kickstarter for earthquake documentary, last added: 8/3/2011
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8. Thought for the day: Tim Hodler on Tokyopop

201104181331.jpg

Tokyopop is closing down its manga line. Not long ago, this company and others like it were sometimes pointed to as the future of comics publishing. I suppose they still might be.

Via The Comics Journal

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9. More on Tpop: WEHT Chuck Austen?

Bos3 Ch 05 001
Well, speak of the devil. Benjamin Ong Pang Kean catches up with Chuck Austen and his erotic baseball manga BOYS OF SUMMER. Turns out after the first volume was pulled from retailers for the racy cover and interiors by hentai artist Hiroki Otsuka, all three volumes were completed, but two will never feel the touch of sweet, sweet paper to ink.

When contacted by Newsarama again, Austen said the whole TokyoPop experience has made him grown “quite a bit” as a creator. “It reminded me what a joy it is to work on something personal for a fanbase that’s more interested in the kind of thing I like to create - romantic comedy like Mitsuru Adachi [Touch, Miyuki, H2, Slow Step], and character thrillers like Naoki Urasawa [Monster, 20th Century Boys]. I’ll never go back to superheroes or work-for-hire ever again. Not that I’ve been asked. [laughs]

Austen reiterated that “[Volume One of Boys of Summer] got printed with a cover that was deemed inappropriate for bookshelves by a distributor, and in typical TokyoPop business fashion, it was never made available with a new cover.

“The original Volume #1 has always been available online, but never anywhere else, and barely promoted. But the other two will not get out.”


Austen is particularly saddened that a planned 3-volume omnibus will never come out:

“The Boys of Summer: The Complete Season — after something like 6 or more years of waiting and difficulties, after having been written, drawn, lettered, formatted, paid for, and almost drawn by me at one point (hence the extra ten pages of art - I actually drew something like 60) — is canceled. Done. Killed in utero. It had been scheduled, solicited, ordered, and [was scheduled to head] for the printer [that] week. “It is no longer. It is a dead book. A dead tree books, technically. They decided it was better to eat the up-front cost and not pay any more for printing and distribution, and potential returns. “It may see life online, as a webcomic for TP. But it will not be printed. Unfortunately.

14 Comments on More on Tpop: WEHT Chuck Austen?, last added: 7/22/2008
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10. Morning Manga updates

§ Tokyo Pop has announced it is cancelling thew following titles, all due for January ‘09:

Beyond the Beyond Volume 5
Blazin’ Barrels Volume 11
Karma Club Volume 2
Kat & Mouse Volume 4
Kindaichi Case Files, The Burial Francs
Lagoon Engine Volume 6
Lagoon Engine Volume 7
Nosatsu Junkie Volume 7
Queen’s Knight, The Volume 13
Queen’s Knight, The Volume 14
Saver Volume 7

§ Over at Newsarama, Benjamin Ong Pang Kean looks at the coming of Kodansha with a long, intensively researched article that includes comments from the various US licensers.

Nevertheless, [Tokyopop] remains optimistic about the Kodansha USA news. “I just returned from ALA [the American Library Association] (where the librarians love manga!) and I saw the official news about Kodansha — it reminded me of the announcement of a few years ago when Kodansha and Del Rey announced their partnership, which helped to grow the market,” Associate Publisher Marco F. Pavis said. “We expect this move to have a similar impact on the U.S. market during these challenging times. We will continue to work with Kodansha on various, innovative projects. Our relationship goes back more than ten years — as you know, TokyoPop and Kodansha helped to launch manga in the U.S., and a number of their series are still among our bestsellers, including The Twelve Kingdoms, Samurai Deeper Kyo, and Rave Master (I can’t wait to meet Mashima-san at San Diego Comic-Con). Overall, we welcome Kodansha to join us as we continue to build the category.


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11. Manga news roundup; Tpop and Gentosha pact

ComiPress has an exhaustive guide to all the manga-related SD doings. Simon Jones has a guide to the guide. Among the interesting tiddle taddle-bits: Although absent from the show, Tokyopop announced a deal with Japanese publisher Gentosha

Global manga giants TOKYOPOP and Gentosha Comics have entered into a worldwide partnership to advance the cause of the manga revolution. Under the terms of the alliance, TOKYOPOP will provide sublicensing agency services (outside of Asia, France, and Italy) for Gentosha Comics’s world-class library of manga hits, including titles like GRAVITATION, LAMENT OF THE LAMB, and ARM OF KANNON.

The companies will also pursue a wealth of co-development opportunities in the digital, film, and merchandising spaces.

The TOKYOPOP/GENTOSHA COMICS alliance is expected to yield great results not only in the world of printed books, but will also represent a significant addition to the growing library of properties that TOKYOPOP is developing into feature films, television series, and web shows.


Japanator has the color commentary.

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12. Business news briefs

200904061336
• ECCC news: The initial launch of the BOOM!/Fox Atomic partnership will be an ongoing 28 DAYS LATER comic:

Initial launch story will be firmly based in 28 DAYS LATER continuity with the first arc focusing on Selena. Bridging the gap between 28 DAYS LATER and 28 WEEKS LATER, a few key questions will be answered along the way: what happened to Selena after 28 DAYS LATER? How did Selena happen upon the machete she wields in 28 DAYS LATER?


The creative team wasn’t mentioned, but the Tim Bradstreet (Above) and Sean Phillips(Below) cover art that came with the PR is a good start.

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• ECCC News: Writer/Artist Rick Remender has signed an exclusive with Marvel, where he’s writing PUNISHER. The article doesn’t mention any exceptions for his creators-owned books like FEAR AGENT and THE END LEAGUE, so one assumes those are on hold for now.

Todd Allen continues his look at a post-direct market world with a survey of monetizing webcomics:

The first thing we need to do is acknowledge that the online readership of many print comics is larger than the paid physical readership. .CBRs are popular, as are torrents. No two ways about it. You have to accept you have a problem before you can deal with it.

The second thing we need to do is understand what revenue models work for webcomics and why. If the print publishers need to get into digital distribution, reinventing the wheel is folly, and potentially dangerous.

• Heed Japan: Masahiro Itabashi’s romantic comedy series Boys Be has come back as a comic for cell phones.

The new manga is called Boys Be 2009 1 and as far as I can tell is an updated version of the original 1991 manga, revolving around students dealing with both platonic and romantic relationships in their daily lives, particularly average-guy Kyouichi Kanzaki and his childhood friend Chihara Nitta.

• John Jakala catches that Tokyopop has raised the price of their GNs from $9.99 to $10.99:

I’m assuming the price increase won’t be accompanied by any additions to the manga volumes, like better paper stock or color inserts. It would be interesting if Tokyopop followed a page from DC’s recent playbook and offset the price increase with backup features. Like DC, Tokyopop could use the price increase as an opportunity to publish fan favorites that don’t sell well enough to justify individual publication. It’d be especially interesting if Tokyopop used such backups to complete the many OEL series stuck in publishing limbo. Of course, you’d run the risk of fans complaining about charging more for series they don’t want to read, but if the prices were going to go up anyway, I assume most fans would rather get something additional rather than nothing at all.

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13. More on KING CITY’s move

Mutliplewarheadspage31
Over at CBR, the stupendously talented Brandon Graham (see above) talks more about how KING CITY went from purgatory at Tokyopop to publishing at Image:

Graham released “King City” Vol. 1 in 2007 through American manga publisher TOKYOPOP, and gained an Eisner nomination for Best Writer/Artist - Humor in 2008. The company planned to follow it up with Vol. 2, only to cancel the release as part of blanket cuts made to their digest-sized American OGN line. To add insult to injury, Graham was already around 130 pages into drawing the book when he found out TOKYOPOP wouldn’t be releasing it, and they weren’t willing to give him back the rights to the property so he could take it somewhere else.

Enter Image Comics. There’s something that sets Image apart from most other contemporary comics companies, according to Graham: they make comics. “They don’t do movies or video games, they just want to publish comics,” Graham said. Image’s “comics first” mentality made them specially-suited to print “King City,” while letting TOKYOPOP hold onto the actual rights to the book.


Hm, now why would Tokyopop have no interest in publishing something that is so valuable that they would never give up the movie rights? Does that make sense?

There is a moral to this story, kids…can you guess what it is????????

PS: The image above is from Graham’s Oni series, MULTIPLE WARHEADS.


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14. Publishing news: Tokyopop, SHUTTERBOX, O, Hex, Lobo, etc., etc.

A LOT of publishing news out there we haven’t had a chance to collate due to San Diego Madness™, so let’s get going:

§ Rich Johnston reports that international licensing manager Francine Burke has left DC. Burke is a longtime publishing guru who also worked at Marvel, and some smart company is sure to snap her up.

§ Johanna Draper Carlson attends a recent virtual press conference thrown by Tokyopop and reports on what was said:

After that, there was a short statement about how this is a year of “refocusing and reorganizing” for Tokyopop. They have about half as many titles now as a year ago in order to better focus on “what we think can be successful in a slow market”. They want to regroup and regrow to be in a better position to handle what’s going on in the economy. In terms of causes for this change in strategy, returns had a big impact on them, because “the book market works on consignment”. Most of their audience shops at Barnes & Noble and Borders, and spring 2008 brought “massive waves of returns”. Now, they’re working on controlling inventory and being much more careful about what is printed.


shutterbox§ Speaking of Tokyopop, SHUTTERBOX by Tavicat, a pioneering work of Ameri-manga is now back in the hands of the creators, according to a post by Rikki Simons, and they are shopping it around; four volumes were printed; a fifth volume is completed and awaiting publication:

In answer to the numerous inquiries from some of the ShutterBox series’ many fans: YES, we are now actively seeking a way to continue the series, both to publish the new volumes, and to republish the now out of print earlier volumes. We are open to and exploring both traditional publishing or through new methods. Interested publishers can e-mail me at rikki@rikkisimons.com and I’ll forward any proposals to Ken, or can contact Ken directly at KenFLevin@gmail.com.

ShutterBox, the first American series published by Tokyopop (2003), is a high fantasy romance about a young lady named Megan Amano, who, when she dreams, is transported to an afterlife world where she attends school as the only living exchange student in a school for muses.


§ NBM is bringing Guido Crepax’s sexy adaptation of The Story of O back into print.
[Link via Adri Cowan]

§ A 128-page JONAH HEX graphic novel is in the works from regular writing team Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and artist Tony DeZuniga.

Lobthrax

§ It turns out the Sam Kieth-drawn Lobo story will be written by Scott Ian, best known as the lead singer of Anthrax, and yet another long time comics fan.

“I have a bit of that going on with the comic book character Lobo. I find it much easier to write comic books than lyrics, actually, because it’s a natural dialogue,” Ian said. “Writing song lyrics is not natural, but over the years, I know what I need to know to get it done. I find it quite easy to capture a character and use my own personality and humor.”


So, I guess the two-issue series WON’T be about Lobo getting in touch with his feminine side after all. Rats.

10 Comments on Publishing news: Tokyopop, SHUTTERBOX, O, Hex, Lobo, etc., etc., last added: 7/12/2009
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15. Manga dance: Tokyopop loses Kodansha license, Del Rey gets distro, OEL in limbo

dragonheadLikely top news if not for that other story yesterday, Brigid Alverson dropped the bombshell that manga giant Kodansha is letting its licenses with Tokyopop expire. It’s a huge story and as good a chance as any to look at a whole host of recent Tokyopop developments.

Brigid has TPop’s statement:

The Japanese publisher Kodansha, from whom TOKYOPOP has licensed many terrific series over the years — Chobits, Love Hina, Samurai Deeper Kyo, Rave Master, Initial D, Kindaichi, Life, GetBackers, and Love Attack, to name a few — has decided to let all existing contracts with TOKYOPOP expire on all manga series that they have licensed to us. As a result, Kodansha will not renew any licenses with TOKYOPOP for any new manga volumes. What does this mean? TOKYOPOP will not be allowed to complete the publication of any series that is currently in progress; in addition, TOKYOPOP will not be allowed to reprint titles after the current inventory has been sold out, so once these series are sold out at retail, they will not be available for consumers to purchase. The reasons for Kodansha’s decision were not communicated to TOKYOPOP.

We have received many emails and phone calls about titles related to this announcement, and given the nature of the negotiations, we could not definitely answer any of those questions until now. We love all of these series, and we are disappointed that we will not get to enjoy the outcome of some of our favorite manga. We hope to see these series completed some day…. However, if they are ever published again, they will not be published by TOKYOPOP.


Dec073911David Welsh has the complete list of Kodansha licenses, including the manga blockbusters that put Tokyopop on the map, like Chobits and Love, Hina, and such critical darlings as Dragon Head and Planetes, all of which are now or soon will be out of print. Deb Aoki has the list of unfinished series and a follow up post with the status of Kodansha’s various licenses. Some have been picked up by other publishers — Dark Horse is putting out omnibus editions of Clover and Chobits, and Del Rey picked up Parasyte — but the big news concerns Kodansha’s long-awaited entrance into the American market as its own publisher.

And sure enough, ICv2 is right along with the news that the still-mysterious Kodansha manga line will be distributed by Random House

The manga which Kodansha will be publishing in North America (see “No More Kodansha Manga for Tokyopop” and “Kodansha Titles Turn Up on Amazon”)  will be distributed through Random House.  There had been some speculation that the Kodansha titles would be published as an imprint of Random; we’ve confirmed that the relationship will be for distribution. 

Titles coming from Kodansha includes new editions of Akira and Ghost in the Shell, according to Amazon listings ferreted out by astute fans, but other details are speculative. While the manga market has softened up since the economic downturn, Kodansha’s entrance will surely boost the excitement level a bit with their vast library of worldwide hits.

Chobits Vol 1Meanwhile, what about Tokyopop? The company has been seen as staging a bit of a comeback after a rough year or so which saw big layoffs. They recently announced new fall titles, including Domo, a new Hack and more. Although some saw the Kodansha defection as a body blow, this Anime Vice interview with Tpop spokesperson Kasia Piekarz reveals that they must have seen it coming and had some kind of plan in place:

Anime Vice: Was Kodansha’s move expected, or was it an unpleasant surprise?

Kasia Piekarz: It wasn’t completely unexpected as we haven’t licensed anything new from Kodansha in quite some time. What surprised us most was that they cancelled licenses for series that were almost finished, such as Samurai Deeper Kyo and Rave Master. From a fan and collector’s perspective, that doesn’t make sense to us.

AV: What are TOKYOPOP’s plans in the wake of this? Will TOKYOPOP be cutting down on its release schedule, or will we see them ramping up licenses from other publishers and on original works instead?

KP: As I say above, at this point, we actually didn’t have a lot of new Kodansha titles on our list, even with the continuing volumes. We were down to a handful a month, if that. So, no new changes aside from those that have already happened prior to this announcement.


Even when you see a truck barreling down on you, you can only brace for impact so much. In some ways, it’s a sad story. Seven years ago, Tokyopop flipped their manga and created a revolution that rearranged bookstores and helped pave the way for the graphic novel boom in general. They were the game changers.

And now? As Simon Jones gently suggests, Kodansha has no reason to explain its rejection of Toykopop:

While things seem to be picking up again for Tokyopop lately, the company  had been under the financial weather, amid ongoing turmoil in the book retail market and tightening competition between mid-list manga titles.  Kodansha’s own ambitions to expand their international reach is the least well-kept secret in the world at this point.  And however rocky the alliance between Kodansha and Random House may have gotten, that seems to be a thing of the past, with Del Rey still acquiring new Kodansha licenses, including series which were initially published by Tokyopop.  Dark horse, too, received new Kodansha licenses (perhaps as penance for GitS).  Does Kodansha really need to verbalize a reason for letting the TP licenses lapse?  No.   Surely, in their heart of hearts, TP already knows why.  (And, to give comfort to TP fans,  they’re probably quite prepared for it.)  Kodansha has chosen to place their chips elsewhere… although we may be missing some of the more private nuances, there is no great mystery.


In doing business with Japanese companies, trust and honor are everything and keeping these personal relationships in place trumps any profit motive. That Toykopop has not been able to maintain these relationships is only one of the reasons that their booth at San Diego this year was a couple of tables and not the giant island of past years.

Kingcity Image CvrDon MacPherson has been covering the other side of Tokyopop’s publishing of late, namely their once much touted OEL line. In a recent column, he looked at the innovative deal which is seeing Brandon Graham’s KING CITY finishing at Image. KING CITY is one of a number of OEL books that never finished their run at Tpop, Graham himself was the mover for the deal.

“It’s pretty much the same as it always was with Tokyopop. I’m definitely more interested in the long term results of the deal. Hopefully any good sales I get from Image pushing the book will go on to my next Multiple Warheads issues at Oni,” he said, noting that if things proceed as he hopes, he’ll really be able to carve out a satisfying and comfortable career in comics. “Maybe in a couple years I could be comic-book middle class. This paying my rent off of comic books is pretty exciting.”


However, other Tpop OEL creators — Ross Campbell, Eric Wight and Becky Cloonan — are left with unfinished books in limbo:

“No word on The Abandoned. I haven’t talked to Tokyopop in a long time. I think everybody I once knew there has been fired, heh,” Ross Campbell told Eye on Comics. “I’m definitely sort of interested in something like Brandon’s thing with Image, but the difference is that Brandon had already drawn King City Volume 2; it just wasn’t released.”

[snip]“I’m not positive about the specifics of Brandon’s deal, but my impression was that they were for books already finished, which Tokyopop is allowing Image to publish,” Wight said, noting he assumes the Tokyopop/Image deal would see Tokyopop getting any royalties paid by Image.

[snip] Becky Cloonan was already working on the second volume of East Coast Rising when Tokyopop shelved the project. Whether or not the property returns in some form remains to be seen, she said. “I still really love the series (ECR), but when TP cancelled the book, I moved on to other things, she said.


In the same post, MacPherson catches up with Tpop marketing man, Marco Pavia, who says that they are watching sales of King CIty.

Priest Film PosterTokyopop also recently announced that other finished but not published OEL titles would go online:

Modernizing the magazine serialization made famous by Charles Dickens, today TOKYOPOP will debut PSY*COMM volume 3, with a new chapter serialized weekly for free until the series concludes its story arc. The launch of this new volume of PSY*COMM marks the debut of TOKYOPOP’s online manga program  that will include continuing volumes of BOYS OF SUMMER, EARTHLIGHT, KAT & MOUSE, PANTHEON HIGH, UNDERTOWN, GYAKUSHU, and others.


All in all, it all seems a rather jury-rigged solution for a program that was once — in a very different publishing world — a highly valued part of Tpop’s plans. It’s also one that came in for a lot of criticism for the way it was structured — Tokyopop retained way more of the rights than the creators, with the result that Cloonan, Wight, and Ross have all had to walk away from their creations and move on to other things.

The OEL program saw some bright talents emerge — Svetlana Chmakova, Felipe Smith, Amy Reeder Hadley, Amy Kim Ganter, Josh Elder, Joanna Estep and many more – and as recently noted here, M. Alice LeGrow’s Bizenghast is up to Volume 6. There’s also Princess AI, co-written by company head Stuart Levy and media figure Courtney Love, but that has always been a separate case.

In the positive column, there’s an upcoming PRIEST movie, starring Paul Bettany, Karl Urban and Maggie Q. PRIEST is a Korean manhwa; Tokyopop has the master license for the title in the US, so they should get a nice boost when the film comes out next year.

All of this makes tomorrow’s already scheduled TokyoPop Insider webcast, at 5:00 PST a must listen. More later.

5 Comments on Manga dance: Tokyopop loses Kodansha license, Del Rey gets distro, OEL in limbo, last added: 9/2/2009
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16. TokyoPop update

.hack alcorTokyopop held their scheduled webinar on Wednesday and Deb Aoki has a thorough recap, including some old favorite books coming back, but other not coming back, and more .hack and so on. There was some talk of manhwa and classic manga:

Prospects for reviving dormant Korean manhwa titles look dim now, but possibly the only other category of manga that has even fewer prospects for future publication at TokyoPop is older manga or “classic” manga titles.

“If by older titles you mean classic manga, the answer is no,” said Diaz-Przybyl. “The manga audience seems very heavily driven toward what’s the latest and greatest from Japan. I would love to do some classic series; VIZ Media has, and so has Vertical. It’s great to see it out there, and the more manga you read, the more you want to understand where this medium comes from.”


Kodansha pulling all it’s licenses was also discussed, but editor Lillian Diaz-Przbyl mentioned that they had had a lot of time to prepare.

Indeed. A few people have told us that Kodansha announced they were pulling their licenses almost a year ago, and it has been kind of an open secret since then, so they really have had a long time to brace.

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17. America’s Greatest Otaku

Tokyopop have revealed the teaser trailer for their new show debuting on Hulu in December. You can watch the trailer here on YouTube. The show features Tokyopop’s Stu Levy and his team of interns (the Otaku 6) criss-crossing the USA, visiting anime events and trying to find greatest Otaku. What is an Otaku?

Deb Aoki interviewed Stu Levy about the show a few months ago, and they discussed this very question.

Stu Levy: [...] they can be creating their own cosplay, drawing manga, singing karaoke or writing. We delve into creative activity, as well as just loving the culture and being a huge fan. There have been a couple people out there with amazing collections but these people also tend to be designers. It’s kind of amazing that the more otaku somebody is, the more they actually do things in the field, too.

Q: You’re on this tour looking for America’s greatest otaku… so “greatest” means… what? What kind of qualities are you looking for?

Stu Levy: One of the things we’re doing in the show – we’ve come up with something called “six core qualities.” The essence of otaku. We’re learning lessons along the way as we meet otaku. And so those will be the qualities that determine who the greatest otaku are, but they’re kind of abstract concepts.

Perhaps most interesting is Levy’s statement about the inclusion of Tokyopop in the show itself.

Stu Levy: However, we’re not featuring TokyoPop at all. It’s totally, completely neutral. When you watch the show, it could have been produced by anybody. TokyoPop is not even there.

Q: Oh, so you’re not promoting TokyoPop books or products or anything like that?

Stu Levy: It’s kind of an interesting duality, because the tour itself – the bus is TokyoPop, and we’re doing manga events, so we’ll be at Borders and comic conventions, but the show we’re making about otaku. When it’s broadcast later on Hulu, other than the initial TokyoPop logo showing that the we’re the production company, nothing in the show directly TokyoPop-related.

I initially thought this had “car crash” written all over it, but after reading that interview I’m ready to be proven wrong.

Here’s Tokyopop’s info about the show.

The upcoming 8-episode documentary/reality series from TOKYOPOP travels across America – to 20 cities across 12,000 miles – searching for OTAKU CULTURE and America’s Greatest Otaku.

For 7 weeks in summer 2010, Stu Levy, along with road warrior cameraman Dice Kinouchi, and the “Otaku 6″ (college students) Dre, Diana, Dominique, Meera, Stephan & Sully, visited all kinds of cool “otaku spots” in each city, and of course interview Greatest Otaku candidates. This was all filmed and documented and will now be presented on Hulu, beginning December 2010.

This is a serious but fun look at America’s otaku culture – made by otakus for otakus.

You can check out www.tokyopoptour.com for more info.

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18. Review: Summoner Girl Vol 1 by Hiroshi Kubota

 

Title: Summoner Girl Vol 1

Author: Hiroshi Kubota

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427815682

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A young summoner, Hibiki, wants to become the world’s most powerful summoner. In order to do so, she must travel to Earth and collect a set of powerful jewels. But along the way, she meets a strange young man, Sanjo, and discovers that she has a rival in her pursuit…

Review:

I was pleasantly surprised with this fantasy romp, featuring a very capable young Exorcist and the five elemental spirits she uses to battle dangerous spirits.  Hibiki has been given a formidable task by her stern grandmother to collect the six Rikutou, powerful magical jewels that will determine the next leader of the Exorcist Underground.  When gathered together, they will also cause a terrible calamity to occur if they are ever united.  This doesn’t sound like a very good way to pick your next leader, but I guess they do things differently in the Exorcist  Underground.

Hibiki is a cheerful young girl with immense supernatural powers.  She journeys from chapter to chapter with her new friend Kenta, a boy with some magical abilities, and her elemental spirits.  Everything is fairly episodic, and each chapter has a monster of the week feel to it.  It’s the humor and diverse personalities that kept me turning the pages, because there really isn’t anything new presented in this series.  It takes a tried and true formula, adds fun characters to it, and mixes in a few laughs.  It’s a light, breezy read.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

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19. Tokyopop goes to Diamond for distribution

red tokyopop logo.jpg
Tokyopop has just signed a deal with Diamond Book Distributors for distribution to both comics shops and bookstores. This marks Tokyopop’s return to Diamond after signing a big joint venture with Harper Collins in 2006

for distribution and new products. The deal saw Tpop packaging such bestsellers as The Warriors for HC., but not much seems to have been done of late between the two companies. After weathering the storms of the US manga industry, Tokyopop is still around and the Diamond deal marks another page in its resurgence.

The deal also marks a new interest in manga for Diamond — in a rather unusual development, Tokyopop’s President & COO John Parker is leaving the company to join Diamond as VP of Business Development where, based on the happy comments in the PR, he’ll help make sure Tokyopop products are treated right. PR below:

JParker_headshot_2010.JPG

TOKYOPOP and Diamond announced today a new sales and distribution agreement between the companies, with a focus on consolidating efforts to build out the manga graphic novel segment across both comic book and bookselling retailers. The new endeavor will commence on July 1, 2011, as TOKYOPOP transitions over its current bookselling distribution from Harper Collins to Diamond Book Distributors.

The new arrangement will become Diamond Book Distributor’s most comprehensive effort to date within the manga space, as TOKYOPOP’s 150+ annual new releases and 2000+ backlist titles will become available through the comic book distribution giant. As part of that effort, TOKYOPOP’s President & COO John Parker will join Diamond in the newly-created role of Vice President of Business Development.

“I’m excited about the opportunities for both TOKYOPOP and Diamond in this new arrangement,” Parker said. “A combination of the strengths of both companies will lead to significant new opportunities in the manga business.”

TOKYOPOP Founder & CEO Stu Levy added, “John has been my right-hand partner at TOKYOPOP for nearly twelve years, and I am thrilled to have him be the one helming our critical new business partnership with Diamond Book Distributors.”

Both comic shop and book retailers will be able to purchase the entire range of TOKYOPOP products from one source, Diamond Comic Distributors, and partake in creative marketing efforts to increase their in-store sales of manga.

Diamond’s Vice President of Purchasing Bill Schanes said, “Diamond welcomes John Parker and the premiere innovators and leaders of the manga revolution, TOKYOPOP. We are excited about our future together.”

For book market retailers interested in more information about the upcoming product line, please contact Moria Trent at Diamond 410-560-7100 ext. 862.

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20. Review: AiON Vol 1 by Yuna Kagesaki

 

Title: AiON Vol 1

Author: Yuna Kagesaki

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427831873

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tatsuya Tsugawa loses his wealthy parents in the middle of high school. Trying to fulfill his father’s dying wish of becoming an upstanding man, Tatsuya attempts to save a girl from obsessive bullies only to be consumed with intrigue and slight obsession himself. But what will Tatsuya do when his good will and earnest efforts lead him into a twisted fantasy world infested with mermaids and mind-controlling parasites?

Review:

I wasn’t wowed by this introductory volume of Yuna Kagesaki’s new series.  It has a monster of the week feel, but the adversaries in the opening chapters weren’t very compelling.  Protagonist Tatsuya is bland as well, and I found my attention wandering during the first half of the book.

Tatsuya Tsugawa is one of those mild-mannered, too good to be true characters who is an easy mark for school bullies.  He doesn’t fight back when they rough him up for his lunch money, and it’s his friend Yoshiyuki who comes to his rescue.  He’s a wimp.  Tatsuya’s parents have both recently died in an unfortunate accident, and he is now a millionaire.  On his deathbed, his father beseeches him to be a great man in everything he does.  Taking his father’s last words to heart, Tatsuya tries to overcome his conflict avoidance tendencies by trying to help new girl Seine when she is bullied by a girl at school. 

Tatsuya’s life takes an unexpected, and dangerous turn when he keeps trying to help Seine.  She doesn’t need any help, he soon discovers, because she is immortal.  She is locked in a war with mermaids and their mind-controlling parasites, and she scornfully rejects Tatsuya’s assistance, but the more she tries to brush him off, the more he wants to help and make his father proud.

I like the premise quite a bit, but found the execution dull.  Tatsuya has the personality of a dishrag, but I am hoping that will change as he gets more involved in Seine’s war with the parasites.  I also want to know more about Seine and the mermaids.  I loved Chibi-Vampire, so I have high hopes for AiON.  Hopefully all of the promising elements will come together  for me in the next volume.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

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21. More layoffs at Tokyopop

201103011246.jpgWord is going around that LA manga publisherToykopop has laid off several more people — including editors Lillian Diaz-Przybyl and Troy Lewter. The staff is now reduced to a mere handful of people — including owner Stu Levy and publisher Mike Kiley.

Although a giant and founder of the American manga boom with their authentic right-to-left manga, Tokyopop has been downsizing significantly over the last few years. The moves come just as the company had launched its “America’s Greatest Otaku” tv show on Hullu, and it had recently announced several new manga licenses, as well.

Diaz-Przybyl is particular had been a standout at the company over the years, helping introduce many creators in the amazing wave of talent in the “Original English Language” or OEL manga line. Just a few days ago she blogged about how manga titles get canceled before they are finished.

We contacted Tokyopop for comment, but email for the last PR person we talked to there bounced back.

Developing.

15 Comments on More layoffs at Tokyopop, last added: 3/2/2011
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22. Review: Skyblue Shore Vol 1 by Nanpei Yamada

 

Title: Skyblue Shore Vol 1

Author: Nanpei Yamada

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427820051

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tomo is a high school girl who lives in a town by a beach. One day she gets harassed on a bus, but is rescued by one of her classmates. Afterwards, he drops his keys, and the key ring has the same stone as one given to Tomo by a boy during her childhood. Is he the same person? Tomo believes the sea can bestow treasures on people, and she may about to be proven right in ways she couldn’t imagine.

Review:

Skyblue Shore is a slice of life series, and as events slowly unfold, more of protagonist Tomo’s personality is revealed.  Tomo’s parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother.  Tomo is the more reliable member of her little family, and she is the one who takes care of her mom.  Her mother’s parents are wealthy, and while her mom is more than happy to sponge off of them, Tomo has a bit more pride and wants to be self-reliant.  She is good natured, dependable, and hard-working and everybody loves her because she is so nice.  Though I often find too good to be true characters boring, I liked Tomo and her sunny personality.

When she was a young child, she met a boy on the beach. They both spent the day beachcombing together, and he gave Tomo an agate, which she has kept and treasured since.  The boy mysteriously disappears, and Tomo is left wondering what happened to him.  When Riku saves her from a groper on the bus, he drops a key chain with the same stone. Could he be the boy from her past?  She’s determined to find him, return his key to him, and find out if he’s the same person.

The tone of this story is soft and gentle, like the steady ebb of waves.  It builds on little events that interconnect Tomo’s life with Riku’s, as well as his younger brother, Tento. While Riku is confident and outgoing, Tento is withdrawn and walls himself off from most of his classmates.  He is helplessly drawn to Tomo, and soon there is an interesting triangle in the works.  Tomo is attracted to Riku, while Tento likes Tomo.  I am so curious to see how their relationships play out!  While I like Riku, too, I think that Tento and Tomo make a great couple. They like the same things, and where he hesitates and is content to observe, Tomo is quick to jump into the middle of everything.  Her brashness and his caution compliment each other very well.

I thought the art style worked well with the laid-back tone of the story.  There’s a lot of focus on facial expressions and posture to communicate the characters’ feelings to the reader.  You’re never left wondering what Tomo is thinking or feeling.  I liked the use of white space, too.  There are many scenes where background details aren’t important, and Nanpei Yamada puts all of her efforts into keeping the center of attention firmly placed on her characters.

I enjoyed the leisurely pacing of this first installment of Skyblue Shore, and am eager to see what happens next!

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

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23. End of an era: Tokyopop shutting down US publishing division

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The comics publishing culling of 2011 claimed its most prominent victim as it was announced today that Tokyopop is shutting down its US operations, as of May 31. The German office will stay open to handle publishing rights and the film division will continue.

Founded in 1997, Tokyopop and its founder Stu Levy were at the forefront of the manga revolution in the US, introducing such hits as Sailor Moon, Chobits and Love Hina to the US market in the “unflipped” format for the first time.

Sales surged as the manga bookstore revolution took over in the early part of the last decade. An ambitious program of publishing original manga by creators from around the world — many of them barely out of the teenaged readership years themselves — proved controversial and ultimately saw only a handful of successful franchises but introduced a new generation of creators to the comics scene.

In February, a last round of lay-offs had reduced the company to a mere 6 employees…making the shut down all but inevitable.

Tokyopo’s statement is below, and a personal statement from Levy below that.

For nearly 15 years, TOKYOPOP, led by Stu Levy, its founder, CEO and Chief Creative Officer, has pioneered the English-language manga movement and touched the hearts, minds and souls of enthusiasts worldwide.

Today, we are sad to inform our loyal community of manga fans, our passionate creators of manga content, our business and retail partners, and other stakeholders who have supported us through the years that as of May 31, 2011, TOKYOPOP is closing its Los Angeles-based North American publishing operations.

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TOKYOPOP film and television projects and European operations, including the German publishing program, will not be affected by the Los Angeles office closure. In addition, TOKYOPOP will continue its global rights sales via its office in Hamburg, Germany.


And


A personal message from Stu Levy

Author: Stu Levy

April 15, 2011
 
Dear TOKYOPOP Community:
 
Way back in 1997, we set out to bring a little-known form of Japanese entertainment to American shores. I originally named our little company “Mixx”, meaning a mix of entertainment, mix of media, and mix of cultures.   My dream was to build a bridge between Japan and America, through the incredible stories I discovered as a student in Tokyo.
 
Starting with just four titles — Parasyte, Ice Blade, Magic Knight Rayearth, and, of course, Sailor Moon — we launched MixxZine, aspiring to introduce comics to girls. These four series laid down the cornerstone for what would eventually become TOKYOPOP and the Manga Revolution.
 
Over the years, I’ve explored many variations of manga culture – “OEL” manga, “Cine-Manga”, children’s books we called “Manga Chapters”, the Gothic-Lolita Bible, Korean manwha (which we still called “manga” at the time), video game soundtracks, live-action films and documentaries, anime, and various merchandise. Some of it worked, some o

15 Comments on End of an era: Tokyopop shutting down US publishing division, last added: 4/15/2011
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24. A little Tokyopop follow up

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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.
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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

6 Comments on A little Tokyopop follow up, last added: 4/18/2011
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25. Platinum and Tokyopop drama continues

Oh boy, will the drama never end. Dylan Squires, founder of Drunk Duck — the webportal purchased by Platinum Studios, and a source of some of its thousands and thousands of potential movie franchises — has left Platinum:

I just want to let you all know that a short while ago I left Platinum Studios to pursue new opportunities. DrunkDuck has been great, and I hope under Platinum’s guidance it continues to grow and prosper.

Everyone is free to contact me of course, and I’ll drop in now and then, but I think it’s time I shift focus and really concentrate on my future.


Xaviar Xerexes moves in quickly to ask what and how:

Can you work on other webcomic projects now?

I’m not… sure. I’d probably take the cautious point of view and assume the sale contract includes a provision that prevents me from leaving drunkduck and starting something competing with it. If I, in my non-existant legal knowledge would put something like that in, i’m sure Platinum would as well.


Squires does mention he’s now working on a new start up project.

MEANWHILE, over at TokyoPop, Benjamin Ong Pang Kean shows that Newsarama can do a good job when they try with a huge round up of Tokyopop news including reactions from multiple creators:

Tokyopop, the manga giant and one of the market leaders of the past few years is, depending on who you listen to, going through some reorganization efforts, heaving and bucking as it sheds creators and projects, or circling the drain. The company has been a target of the blogoshphere for quite some time, given creators and would-be creators’ issues with its contracts, but most recently, the company announced a substantial reorganization and reduction in output for the coming year. The move left many creators’ projects homeless.


There is much, much praise for Tokyopop’s editorial staff, but also many many unanswered questions…developing.

6 Comments on Platinum and Tokyopop drama continues, last added: 6/25/2008
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