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3 Things Thursday: TOKYOPOP

It’s been a rough week in the blogosphere for TOKYOPOP, whose latest round of layoffs has inspired quite a bit of talk about the company’s less positive history, including this frank commentary from Brigid Alverson at Robot 6 and this ongoing round-up from Johanna Draper Carlson at Manga Worth Reading. My own history as a reader has been sketchy at times. Though TOKYOPOP’s titles have inspired some of my most passionate fangirling over the years, they’ve occasionally left me baffled, and some of their unfinished business has rendered me truly heartbroken.

For today’s 3 Things, let’s examine that a bit more closely.

3 faces of TOKYOPOP:

1. The Fangirling – From Paradise Kiss to Fruits Basket, from Tokyo Babylon to Wild Adapter, TOKYOPOP has offered up to me some of the most beloved series in my manga library. Read any of those linked reviews, and you’ll understand what I love about manga–that’s how well these series represent my personal feelings about the best of the medium, particularly when it comes to manga written and published for women and girls. Some of their newer shoujo acquisitions (like Demon Sacred and The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko) look to be joining their ranks someday as well.

What can we expect now from a company whose owner has seemingly given up on books? It’s hard to say.

2. The Bafflement – Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m baffled why a series like KimiKiss (pictured to the right) was published, or even why it might be popular. A buxom teen removing her blouse on the cover is, I expect, money in the bank! What was baffling to me in particular about this release, was that it was apparently being marketed as shoujo, according to a little pamphlet I received along with one of the later volumes of Fruits Basket.

From my review summary at the time: “Kouchi and Mao have been friends since childhood, but now that they are in high school, Kouchi is depressed that he hasn’t managed to attract a girlfriend. Mao offers to help him become a “real stud” by teaching him how to be attractive to girls, beginning with lessons in kissing. The lessons start to get a bit steamy, especially after Mao is invited to sleep over with Kouchi’s little sister, resulting in a late-night tryst in Kouchi’s bed.” Sound like shoujo to you?

3. The Heartbreak – Everyone’s got their own tale of woe over a series that TOKYOPOP has canceled, but my broken heart belongs to Off*Beat, an almost finished series by OEL creator Jen Lee Quick. With just one volume remaining of its original 3-volume commission, fans like me were left to weep and weep, never knowing what finally happens to sweet Tory and his revealing obsession.

From my review: “Everything about this comic is a winner–the intriguing plot line, the wonderfully rich characters, the unique, expressive artwork, the subtle treatment of a gay teen’s sexual awakening that is refreshingly not played up or made “sexy” to please its female audience–and the fact that it languishes in cancellation limbo is honestly heartbreaking. This is a comic I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone. It truly deserves to be read.” *snif*

So readers, what are your 3 faces of TOKYOPOP?

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  1. Hmm
    1) The Fangirl’ing
    Well they introduced me to CLAMP (CCS! Clover! MKR!), Sailor Moon, Miracle Girls, Paradise Kiss, Planet Ladder, Mars…for a very long time I only bought TokyoPop because they consistently produced titles I was salivating over. Including DramaCon, which was my first OEL (before even MegaTokyo). Heck I was in love with the House since it was called Mixx and produced a magazine called Mixxzine (of which I have all my issues and all my issues of Smile). Half of my manga from my early days are reading are in that small digest ‘Pocket’ format. Heck they put out the volumes for a number of Light Novel series I love as well (12 Kingdoms, Full Metal Panic!, Scrapped Princess, Trinity Blood…).

    2) The Bafflement
    They were also the first company to introduce me to manhwa with Saver. I loved that series, still love it (even though I have to buy it in Korean and then wait with bated breathe for someone to translate it) and was very upset when I realized they had ceased production on it and future series by the creator Eun-Young Lee. Then they stopped printing the Kingdom Hearts manga—one volume short of finishing the second story arc (KH2). And the long delays between volumes for the light novels, the whole missing sections of what they did produce (12 Kingdoms 4 looking at you), the weird up and down pricing…

    3) The Heartbreak
    Every single series they’ve yet to finish. Plus the drop in the quality of what they are producing. Some of their stuff has been interesting, but overall I don’t think I’ve picked up a new TP series since…I can’t remember, that’s how long its been. At one time my entire manga budget was spent on TP, now I’ll only buy 12Kingdoms and Full Metal Panic really.

    • Man, do I want to read Saver. *sigh*

      • Let me tell you how happy I am that I bought it as it was coming out and didn’t wait like I did for other series (Tokyo Babylon. gah I regret not buying that series. and Wish. and CCS in the larger format. Actually any CLAMP titles I didn’t buy). I’d rather have the six volumes I do have then nothing at all.

        • If it makes you feel any better, I believe Dark Horse is planning to reissue Tokyo Babylon!

          • Dark Horse is my love right now because they still publish my current manhwa love of life Bride of the Water God. With the addition of the CLAMP titles they’ve been re-releasing they’ve gone up in my esteem!

  2. 1) The fangirling
    They’ve released some fine shojo, my personal fav is Kodocha, but my current obsession that they’re publishing is Future Diary! I’m really hoping they won’t suddenly drop it with only 3 volumes to go. Also wondering if they’ll print the two side stories somewhere (they might be full volumes too, I’m not sure)

    2) The Bafflement
    That giant red fish logo, what possessed them to put that on the spines of everything for years on end? Who thought that was a good idea? Also the prolonged making of Princess Ai stuff, I’m assuming that’s Levy/DJ Milky stroking his ego, but still.

    3) The heartbreak
    Hmm, I don’t have anything incomplete from Tokyopop personally, so I’ll go with all the stuff they’ve lost rights to that have gone OOP, Kodocha, GTO, Planetes, the list goes on. It’s harder for future generations of new fans to enjoy these!

    • Heh, I am right there with you on Princess Ai. Truly baffling.

      • I went to the bookstore today to get Dragon Girl 2 (with a nice juicy 40% off coupon) and I think I saw a new Princess Ai thing, when will it stop? My friend and I have speculated that Stu Levy gives a free copy to everyone that comes into his office then they toss it outside where the pile is collected and brought back in to be given to everyone yet again, creating a hilarious never ending cycle.

        • Anna Frohling says:

          They did change the spine design finally for new series. Check out Lady Kanoko for example

  3. Well, clearly if a series is focused on relationships it must be for girls, right? *eyeroll*

    Mistaking Emma for shoujo is a little more understandable. KimiKiss both looks and sounds quite male-gaze fan-servicey, though, so idek what people were thinking there.

    • It seems like it must have been some kind of big mistake… can anyone have actually read KimiKiss and thought it was appropriate for girls? It’s really hard to imagine.

  4. Oh, Off*Beat! That truly broke my heart as well. For a while I tried to convince myself I would be able to get the third and final volume through Tokyopop’s new print-on-demand service, but alas. Maybe I’ll just continue to pretend in order to keep from wailing in despair.

  5. Tokyopop, over the past few months, has added several good titles to their lineup, so I was interested in buying more of their releases than I have been in years, which makes recent events particularly poignant. My most heart-breaking loss, though, will be Aria, followed by Suppli.

    • I’ve been feeling that way about recent releases, too!

      • David Welsh says:

        The thing that I’ve liked about their recent releases is that they remind me of the kind of books CMX would publish, which led me to conclude (probably wrongly, given the lead time on these things) that Asako Suzuki was having some influence on their choices. Which makes me all the more disappointed with recent events.

  6. David Welsh says:

    No company has quite developed the irritating facility for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory like Tokyopop, has it? Here’s my triad:

    1. I think Dragon Head is a terrific thriller from beginning to end, and it contains some spectacular set pieces. While my fandom for Tokyopop has never been entirely secure, as they had started proving themselves untrustworthy by the time I was really invested in manga, I was glad to see that they printed this series in its entirety, when there was considerable risk that they wouldn’t. They listened to the relatively small audience and supportive retailers, and they stuck it out, which impressed me.

    2. I have to go with KimiKiss too, at least partly because they included it in a sampler that came out with the final volume of Fruits Basket. It’s like, “Thank you for reading this beautiful and sensitive series all the way to the end! Perhaps you’d like to try something horrible and pandering for a change of pace!” As a runner-up, I would have to single out Honey Mustard as perhaps the worst Korean comic I have ever read, ugly in almost every regard.

    3. Oh, Suppli… will we ever see more of you? Has Tokyopop’s slapdash, start-and-stop approach to marketing josei left the category in a hopeless dither of bafflement? Can salarywoman manga be saved?

  7. Right, Tokyopop has always been pretty bad. I’m always a little confused when I hear people complain about series being left unfinished, but then I remember I stay away from Tokyopop books. The series I have picked up are either out of print or put on hiatus.

    The Fan’um’girl’err’ing – Wow, Paradise Kiss is pretty good.

    The Bafflement – Wha? Why is it out of print? I can’t find the second volume for a decent price! Why are they printing at least five new series that we all know they’ll never finish and leaving solid sellers to languish?

    Ok, no forget that, I read Lexie’s comments and seriously, what kind of fool can’t sell a Kingdom Hearts series to completion?? You say, ‘Hey, do you like Kingdom Hearts? Then you’ll prolly like this Kingdom Hearts manga!’ If you can’t sell a festival of Squaresoft and Disney Trademarks what are you doing in publishing? That’s about as fail as it gets.

    The Heartbreak – I could swear off Tokyopop and miss maybe one series that has even a vague chance of actually being completed.

    • I do own quite a number of completed TOKYOPOP series, so they do know how to follow through, or they did, and I don’t want to blame them solely for the implosion of the manga market. But I do they they suffer from lack of focus, that’s for sure.

  8. I’m basically in the same boat. They have a small collection if titles I go nuts for, like Fruits Basket. Then there’s the only manga I’ve ever gotten my husband to read through, Love Hina. And, of course, the Twelve Kingdoms novels. They’ve got some older Fumi Yoshinaga and CLAMP books, and, of course, Paradise Kiss. But they also baffle me with the large amount of complete garbage they tend to publish. Their drop in quality (like the printing paper debacle).
    I rarely buy from Tokyopop anymore. If it’s not Natsuki Takaya or 12 Kingdoms, I’m not interested. In fact, the last few Tokyopop books I’ve bought over the last year were the fourth 12 Kingdoms novel and the slew of Takaya books they published after Fruits Basket. I find it hard to even bother recommending titles when I do my monthly Previews posts. I probably wouldn’t have a TP section at all if I hadn’t recently decided to make an effort to point out debut titles and final volumes.

  9. Fanboying: Snapping up every last CLAMP title they released and Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko

    Bafflement: A bunch of wtf series lost in a large puddle of wtf. Also Qwaser of Stigmata (Avacadoes of Doom)

    Heartbreak: None, really. My heartbreak is mostly with Del Rey/Kodansha USA. I was about to start some of their manhwa series, but never did since they cancelled ALL of them (also pushing my opinion of manhwa towards “don’t need it”)

  10. The Fangirling – I loved many series published by TOKYOPOP such as Fruits Basket, Wild Adapter, Saiyuki, Paradise Kiss, Me & My Brothers and some more. They used to have such great titles in their catalog and the quality was much better. I am still collecting some of the titles I like such as V.B.Rose, Gakuen Alice and I am anticipating the first volume of the newly licensed flat.

    2. The Bafflement – Not that I remember any but KimiKiss definitely comes to mind. I was never a fan of such titles with lots of shallow fanservice but I can understand why it would sell well. Also, I am stunned by the number of new titles they keep on licensing and leaving the ones they already started on hold.

    3. The Heartbreak – Not many people might remember this but I was disappointed when no more volumes of Hiromu Mutou’s Never Give Up! have been published beyond volume 8. It might not have been doing good at the time but I truly enjoyed it. One of the few shoujo titles by TOKYOPOP I liked at the time.
    It might not fit in here but I hope the last volume of Saiyuki Reload will not join the list as well as more volumes of Loveless.

    • Tokyopop is still trying to work with the publisher of Loveless and Saiyuki Reload to get those volumes out. This was answered on their facebook page. The publisher, Ichijinsha, is just slow to deal with. Dazzle is also in the same situation.

  11. The one thng that bugged me is we never got any more volumes of Strawberry Marshmallow other than the five that came out that’s always kind of bugged me. that and looseing the lisnce to Marmalade Boy.

  12. Chargone says:

    only series from Tokyopop i ever bought into was iD_entity.

    surprise surprise: canceled.

    i’m sure someone can make a joke about surrendering out of the fact that, last i looked, it was still quite happily being published in french and there were at least another 20 volumes to go after the point where the english version stopped.

    oh, and the point where they stopped? the NEXT VOLUME would have been the end of the first arc, at least if i’m remembering rightly. they stopped one before the end of the arc. one! i mean, come on. would it have killed them to at least have published that last one and ended at a point that made Sense? … perhaps so <_<

  13. Ahhhhhhhh, Off*Beat! I did a huge review of the series back in my days at Pop Culture Shock ( I really, REALLY want to see a conclusion!


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