Well, Vice seem to think we do.
I most certainly remember when Tokyopop manga filled the tiny tiny sections of my bookstore (and oh, were they tiny…considering how small the manga fanbase had hit the UK) with the likes of Fruits Basket, Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon, Battle Royale, Great Teacher Onizuka, Chobits, Cowboy Bebop…you name it, they most likely had the license for an English translation (make that an American translation, sorry). Not to mention the large number of original English and German-language works published, soundtracks, and licensed dubbed shows for TV.
With the advent and increasing popularity of digital manga (as well as pirated/scanned manga & fan translations), it’s debated on whether we want an actual physical copy to read. This is, of course, a debate that applies with any printed media, from novels to newspapers…but why is the appeal of owning an actual manga volume to hold in your hands and read so large? Why manga in particular? Well manga publishers in the West, like Yen Press, Seven Seas and Kodansha have it nailed; hell it was Yen who introduced the concept of English-language light novels (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that one!), which hit off much to my surprise. But a lot of people are extremely skeptical about Tokyopop’s return when they made their announcement back at both Anime Expo and San Diego Comic Con in 2015.
Tokyopop died a horrible and miserable death back in 2011.
Kodansha played a huge part in their downfall, by taking off all of their licenses around the middle of 2009. What is kind of sad is that noone really knew why they did it; it could have been a major fallout, or just Kodansha’s future plans to operate in the West independently. So because of this, so many licensed manga just ended unfinished. Fast-forward a couple of years later, Tokyopop’s president resigned…weeks later, several members of the Tokyopop staff were fired; it was later discovered that the reason for this was because their largest customer, Borders, went bankrupt. Then even more weeks later, Tokyopop just came crumbling down, shutting offices both in America and in Europe.
However Stuart Levy, founder and CEO, wouldn’t hear any of it, and stated back then that they would return from the dead. And so here we are, with 2016 bringing their return. But what with so many successful publishers firmly in their boots now, do we want Tokyopop back? And more importantly, do they have what it takes to compete?
Me? I don’t think so. With several of the manga that were formerly on Tokyopop now being republished by others, what can they possibly offer us that would make us want to come back to them? I personally thought of Tokyopop as one of those Western otaku companies that you loved to hate. Reddit threads complain that they should never have come back in the first place, after the sudden ending of unfinished manga they loved (amongst other things, such as their SJW hatred of Stuart Levy). Some people even say that it was both American-made manga and their anti-piracy policy that made people want to see the back of Tokyopop (read here). In addition to that, the huge amount of American manga published by them (ranging from material designed for young adults to direct adaptations of stuff like Twilight [ugh!]) was put in question; this Tumblr article interestingly goes into detail on how an American graphic novelist was dealt with when his work was Tokyopop-published.
Now, they mention with their rise from the grave that Disney would be their first big-time licensor; my bet is that they’ll be bringing out adaptations of Star Wars. Or the latest Pixar movie that’ll come out. I’d wretch to see a Frozen manga actually being published, however that’s not really my concern to be honest, as I quite frankly couldn’t care less. With Disney becoming a licensor, it’s pretty clear they want a new target audience imo; older teens and adults are already hooked on the manga that Yen and Seven Seas and Dark Horse and Kodansha USA have out, so if Tokyopop can’t compete with them, they’ll have to look for a much younger audience to get a profit.
This is all pretty old news, I know. Tokyopop’s announcement was back in the summer, the negative Reddit/Tumblr threads are a couple of months old…but I figure that considering that Tokyopop is to make its return next year, it’s something we needed to think about once again. For all we know, Tokyopop might soar into the stratosphere leaving their competition to dust…or publish only American manga (why else were they desperate to scout for writers at SDCC?)…or die once again.
All we can do is wait and see. I’d actually be very interested to see what you think on whether Tokyopop should be back in action or not.
Rather concerning though how whilst I was researching for this, I got this…
Sources: tokyopop.com // VICE // Anime News Network // Reddit // Alex de Campi Tumblr