Like many other readers who first discovered manga in the mid-2000s, TOKYOPOP played a major role in introducing me to to the medium. Tokyo Babylon was the first TOKYOPOP title I ever read, followed soon after by Legal Drug, The Legend of Chun-Hyang, and — God help me — Model, a manhwa about a Korean art student who lives in a crumbling mansion with two European vampires. (I should add that the vampires are male and the student is female, and both vampires appear to have bought their wardrobes at Hot Topic.) Though I’d be the first to admit that some of the manga I read were terrible, what I remember most about them was their romanticism: these were big, bold stories featuring impossibly beautiful characters in ridiculous situations, and I couldn’t get enough of them.
Over the years, my tastes have changed considerably, but I still feel a special allegiance to TOKYOPOP: its catalog is so large and diverse that I found plenty of other series to read when I outgrew my initial infatuation with overripe shojo. I had a hard time confining myself to just ten titles; I agonized about whether to include Mitsuhazu Mihara’s Doll, and Erica Sakakurazawa’s Between the Sheets, and Kenji Sonishi’s Neko Ramen, and Minetaro Mochizuki’s Dragon Head, all excellent series that still have pride of place in my manga library. In the end, however, I decided I had to put a cap on the number of titles to prevent my list from swelling to unmanageable proportions. Below are my ten favorite TOKYOPOP manga.
10. JYU-OH-SEI (Natsumi Itsuki)
After their parents are assassinated, twin brothers Rai and Thor are exiled to the penal colony of Kimaera, where they discover extreme weather, man-eating plants, and an elaborate tribal system in which women call the shots. Their only hope of escaping the planet’s inhospitable surface is for one of them to fight his way up the social ladder to become The Beast King, or supreme ruler of Kimaera. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and District 9, Jyu-Oh-Sei addresses social taboos and scientific issues while serving up generous portions of what audiences crave most: action, romance, monsters, and explosions. Best of all, Jyu-Oh-Sei comes in a neat, three-volume package that’s long enough to allow for world-building and character development but short enough to stay fresh and surprising until the end. –Reviewed at The Manga Critic on 8/14/09
9. PETSHOP OF HORRORS (Matsuri Akino)
You won’t mistake Count D’s emporium for PETCO—the animals he sells are, in fact, demons, demi-gods, and shape-shifters who assume various guises. (One of the series’ running jokes is that some pets take human form, arousing the landlord’s suspicions that Count D actually runs a brothel.) Count D selects a pet for each customer that will help its owner realize a long-repressed dream. Of course, Count D’s services don’t come cheap; each character suffers an unexpected and often terrible consequence for seeking a magical solution to her problems. What sets Petshop apart from other examples of comeuppance theater is the writing. The characters’ plights elicit genuine sympathy from the reader; though we want these mothers and writers and lovesick twenty-something to find happiness, we can see that their own wishes are sometimes selfish, unwise, or genuinely harmful. –Reviewed at PopCultureShock on 2/13/08
8. SHIRAHIME-SYO: SNOW GODDESS TALES (Clamp)
This lovely anthology is a radical departure for CLAMP. Gone are the super-detailed costumes and fussy character designs of their early, post-doujinshi work; in their place are spare, simply-drawn figures that seem consciously modeled on examples from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scroll paintings. The stories themselves are told directly without embellishment, though CLAMP infuses each tale with genuine pathos, showing us how the characters’ anger and doubt lead to profound despair. As a result, the prevailing tone and spirit are reminiscent of Masaki Kobayashi’s 1964 film Kwaidan, both in the stories’ fidelity to the conventions of Japanese folklore and in their lyrical restraint. My favorite work by CLAMP.
7. SUPPLI (Mari Okazaki)
After being dumped by a long-term boyfriend, twenty-seven-year-old ad executive Minami carves a new identity for herself, accepting more challenging work assignments, forging friendships with her office mates, and exploring her feelings for two very different men: Ishida, a blunt co-worker with bad-boy sex appeal, and Ogiwara, a Tokyo University grad who looks great on paper, but has some nasty romantic baggage of his own. Suppli vividly and humorously evokes office life, from the unproductive meetings and grueling all-nighters to the horseplay and flirtatious banter between co-workers. The denizens of Minami’s office are colorful, if one-dimensional, characters: a salty old maid, two flamboyant karaoke fiends, and a tart-tongued temp who offers sound relationship advice to her officemates while sleeping with a married man. Anyone who’s watched Ally McBeal, The Office, or Ugly Betty has encountered these types before, but Mari Okazaki breathes fresh life into her scenario with stylish artwork, sharp dialogue, and a heroine who occasionally doubts herself, but isn’t neurotic . —Reviewed at PopCultureShock on 12/5/07
6. CYBORG 009 (Shotaro Ishimontori)
Cyborg 009 was one of TOKYOPOP’s few forays into classic manga — a pity, because TOKYOPOP did a solid job translating and packaging Shotaro Ishimonori’s best-known work. For readers unfamiliar with this iconic series, the plot revolves around a group of people who have been kidnapped and brought to the lair of the Black Ghost organization, where surgeons transform them into robot-human fighting machines. The cyborgs soon turn on their creators and escape, intent on preventing armaggedon. I’d be the first to admit that Cyborg 009 is dated: the Black Ghost’s world-domination schemes have the same quaintly outdated ring as Dr. Evil’s, and several characters embody unfortunate gender and racial stereotypes. (As Shaenon Garrity dryly observes, “Cyborg 003 is a French girl with enhanced senses. Her duties are to hold the baby and occasionally hear things.”) Yet Ishimonori’s crisp cartooning, imaginatively staged battle scenes, and fundamental — if fumbling — humanism remain as arresting now as they did when the series first debuted in 1964.
5. QWAN (Aki Shimizu)
Meet Qwan, a child-like figure who possesses super-human strength and speed. Though Qwan realizes he isn’t human, he’s never questioned his origins or abilities — that is, until he meets Shaga, a courtesan who urges him to seek the Essential Arts of Peace, a sutra that will reveal where Qwan came from and why he was sent to live among humans. Questing boys and magical scrolls are de rigeur in fantasy-adventure stories, but Qwan distinguishes itself in two crucial areas: terrific characters and gorgeous artwork. Aki Shimizu’s hero is far more quirky and interesting than the typical shonen lead — Qwan never promises to do his best, or to put friends before himself — while Shimizu’s fight scenes are among the most beautifully choreographed in any licensed manga. TOKYOPOP never finished this one-of-a-kind series, but it’s still worth seeking out, if only to get acquainted with a criminally under-appreciated artist. –Reviewed at The Manga Critic on 3/3/11
4. PARADISE KISS (Ai Yazawa)
Ai Yazawa knows how to have her cake and eat it, too: though she loves to write stories about such fantasy professions as runway model and rock star, she populates those stories with characters whose relationships and values are firmly rooted in everyday life. Consider Yukari (a.k.a. “Caroline”), the heroine of Paradise Kiss: Yukari becomes the muse for a group of aspiring fashion designers, modeling their clothing at a big design-school show and inspiring their most talented member, George, to new creative heights. In most manga, Yukari and George would bicker like teenage versions of Beatrice and Benedict until they finally admitted their mutual feelings of attraction; in Paradise Kiss, however, Yukari and George’s relationship unfolds in a more haphazard, organic way that reflects the fact that George is far more worldly and romantically experienced than Yukari. For my money, Paradise Kiss is Yazawa’s best work to date.
3. YOUR & MY SECRET (Ai Morinaga)
Your & My Secret focuses on Nanako, a swaggering tomboy who lives with her mad scientist grandfather, and Akira, an effeminate boy who adores her. With the flick of a switch, Akira becomes the unwitting test subject for the grandfather’s latest invention, a gizmo designed to transfer personalities from one body to another. Nanako revels in her new-found freedom as a boy, enjoying sudden popularity among classmates, earning the respect of Akira’s contemptuous little sister, and discovering the physical strength to dunk a basketball. Akira, on the other hand, finds his situation a mixed bag: for the first time in his life, his sensitive personality endears him to both male and female peers, but many of the things his maleness had previously exempted him from turn out to be much worse than he’d imagined. There are plenty of gender-bending hijinks — and the inevitable blackmail scene in which someone threatens to reveal Akira’s secret — but Morinaga still allows her characters moments of vulnerability and decency, preventing the humor from curdling into pure meanness. –Reviewed at The Manga Critic on 4/25/10
2. TRAMPS LIKE US (Yayoi Ogawa)
Twenty-eight-year-old Sumire Iwaya is frustrated: though she’s a successful journalist with degrees from Tokyo U. and Harvard, she’s hit the glass ceiling at her job and has just been dumped by her fiance. When she discovers a cute but dissheveled young man sleeping in a box outside her apartment, Sumire “adopts” him, allowing Takeshi to stay in her apartment as her “pet.” You don’t need a PhD in manga to guess the outcome of their unusual arrangement, but romantic triangles and workplace intrigue prevent Tramps Like Us from spinning into complete silliness or offensive gender stereotyping. But what really stayed with me was the depiction of Sumire’s romance with her handsome senpai Hasumi; almost every woman I know has had a relationship like theirs — perfect on paper, but stressful and unhappy in practice — and Yayoi Ogawa captures Sumire and Hasumi’s awkward dynamic in pitch-perfect detail. Now that’s good writing.
1. PLANETES (Makoto Yukimura)
Planetes is that rarest of manga: a human interest story that just happens to have some sci-fi trappings.Planetes focuses on a motley crew of junk collectors that includes Hachimaki, a young astronaut who aspires to join a pioneering mission to Jupiter; Yuri, a Russian astronaut with a Tragic Past; Tanabe, a sensitive but emotionally resilient trainee; and Fee, the ship’s balls-to-the-wall captain. Makoto Yukimura skillfully uses of each of his principal characters’ personal histories to explore meaty issues such as eco-terrorism, space pollution, and good old-fashioned racism. I know, I know — I’m making Planetes sound like Star Trek: Deep Space Waste Removal Station, but Yukimura is a more graceful storyteller than Gene Rodenberry every was, allowing the characters’ actions to speak louder than their words. Vivid, detailed artwork brings the terrestrial and extra-terrestrial settings to life.
* * * * *
So I turn the floor over to you: which titles were your favorites? Which ones deserve to be rescued and finished by another publisher? Inquiring minds want to know!
POSTSCRIPT, 4/20/11: Readers seeking a list of titles published by TOKYOPOP may wish to consult the ANN database entry on TOKYOPOP, the Comic Book DB entry on TOKYOPOP, or Wikipedia’s list of titles published by TOKYOPOP. I can’t vouch for their accuracy, but a quick glance at all three website suggests that these lists are comprehensive. Special thanks to all the folks on Twitter who pointed me towards these resources: @skleefeld, @yuriboke, @Funkgun, and @andrecomics.
julie saysApril 19, 2011 at 11:08 am
Gah! I am bummed about Qwan – it was an awesome series! I’m also going to miss Silver Diamond! I am getting very discouraged with my favorite series constantly getting canceled! Demon Sacred is another title that I waited and waited to get licensed. Boohoo!
Immortal Rain is one of my favorite TP titles, too
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 11:28 am
You know, I never got around to reading Immortal Rain, but after reading Jason Thompson’s recent House of 1000 Manga column about it, I’m thinking I ought to rectify that before the series completely vanishes from existence. Thanks for the suggestion!
invalidname saysApril 19, 2011 at 11:52 am
Bringing up the idea of the Tokyopop series “vanishing from existence”, that’s a question I’ve been asking, and nobody bites on. Tokyopop likely sent some of their old series out for reprints, based on demand for new copies (right?). They won’t be around to do that anymore. Existing copies will be available through the used book market, but what happens when demand for some old title exceeds the willingness of current owners to part with their copies? Do we now have a collectors market for “Fruits Basket”? Or is there any chance that potential sales of new copies will lead to license rescues, as with anime?
Even if it’s not worth a full print run, I’d hope that Tokyopop could sell off its old translations to some form of digital manga that I can read on the iPad… though I suspect what’ll actually happen is that all that stuff will end up on scanlation sites.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm
That’s a great question!
Some of the series on this list are Kodansha properties; the rights reverted to Kodansha back in 2009, when Kodansha ended its licensing agreements with TOKYOPOP. (TOKYOPOP lost the right to go back and re-print any of the Kodansha titles in its catalog when this happened.) Kodansha has already announced new editions of three former TOKYOPOP titles — Sailor Moon, Tokyo Mew Mew, and Love Hina — and may well do more, especially if these first three reprints are commercially successful. Dark Horse has also acquired the rights to several old Tpop properties including Chobits, Cardcaptor Sakura, Magic Knight Rayearth, Tokyo Babylon, and Clover. Given DH’s recent financial woes, I’m doubtful that they’ll be licensing any more — at least in the forseeable future — but again, they’re making some of Tpop’s biggest hits available again.
As for iPad editions, TOKYOPOP would have had to negotiate a separate license for any property they wished to distribute in digital form. I know TOKYOPOP did a digital version of Hetalia, but I’m not certain how many other Japanese titles were slated for similar treatment.
One final note: the licenses will most likely revert back to the original Japanese copyright holders when TOKYOPOP’s North American publishing division shuts down. If that’s the case, TOKYOPOP won’t have the legal authority to sell those licenses to someone else, or to continue distributing those properties. That won’t affect stock that’s currently in circulation, but it would prevent TOKYOPOP from doing what you suggest: selling digital versions of their existing translations.
anon saysApril 19, 2011 at 11:21 am
Since when does constant screaming about LOVE!!! count as ‘allowing the characters’ actions to speak louder than their words’? Ai was just too obnoxious to exist, she ruined the entire series for me. :/
bbpp saysApril 19, 2011 at 11:46 am
just by the by, but Yukimura is a dude
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm
Thanks. The last time I posted something about Planetes, I had a reader tell me just the opposite. You’d think after all these years I’d have greater facility with Japanese names!
bbpp saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Makoto is alas a name that works for both genders, but I follow Yukimura on twitter and it’s pretty easy to deduct he’s a guy.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm
I don’t read Japanese, so I’d probably miss all those important Twitter cues! Thanks again for the correction — I’ve already updated the article.
LG saysApril 19, 2011 at 11:49 am
Augh! Every time I turn around, there are more Tokyopop titles I think I should get. However, I promised myself yesterday that, shopping-wise, I was moving on. Anything else will have to be gotten from the library, and anything new-to-me that I fall in love with I’ll just have to accept might not ever be part of my personal collection. It’s too bad I don’t have a used bookstore within 60 miles of me that carries manga, or I’d go haunt them occasionally and pick up what I could – I hate OOP shopping online.
I haven’t read all of these, or all the volumes of the ones I actually have read some of. I’ve read parts of Tramps Like Us (I like what I’ve read so far and would love to fill in the holes in my collection – I’m missing 7 volumes), Paradise Kiss (this series did nothing for me), and Petshop of Horrors (I’m fairly certain I read all of this – I enjoyed it, but it’s not something I feel like I have to own, thank goodness).
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:22 pm
I know the feeling; if there was a Book-Off within 60 miles of me, I’d be haunting the manga aisle every weekend. It’s probably better for my financial health and home decor that a trip to Book-Off involves an expensive Accela ticket to NYC!
LG saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:28 pm
And, all that said, I might end up caving and getting myself Jyu-Oh-Sei if I can (only 3 volumes?). Oh, my poor April budget.
Some of my favorites:
– Loveless: It’s always a bit embarrassing to admit this, especially when I have to explain to certain parts of it to people who have never heard of it before. I was always kind of surprised this got licensed. Anyway, I have a special fondness for series with lots of really damaged characters, and this one fits the bill. I just wish I could read how it all ends.
– Fruits Basket – Maybe not the series as a whole, but this series will always have a special place in my heart. My first exposure to it was via the anime, which got me through thesis-writing woes and the occasional bout of homesickness. It’s the longest-running series I’ve ever completely collected.
– Tramps Like Us – The first josei title I’ve ever read. I haven’t gotten to read all of it, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm
It’s always a bit embarrassing to admit this, especially when I have to explain to certain parts of it to people who have never heard of it before
That pretty much sums up all of the first TOKYOPOP titles I read and loved.
Aaron saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:28 pm
I have to put in a plug for Strawberry Marshmallow I really liked the first five volumes and ti was the first “hard” Moe title I ever read. Also if Dark Horse is lisnce rescueing old Clamp titles could they do a Suki: A Like Story omnibus? That was such an underated title just striaght up girl’s romance it was nice to see that from Clamp also I hope some one keeps Wish in print it’s such a good “gate way drug” to Shojo.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:45 pm
I’m not sure if Dark Horse has plans for Wish and Suki, though I agree, it would be nice to see both of those titles back in print. Copies of Suki have become ridiculously expensive online.
Aaron saysApril 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm
I know I paid $35 for a copy of Suki volume 3 money well spent I swere I think some peopel think they have a right to gouge you $200 for a copy of Man of Many Faces?! I mean come on
CJ saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm
I need to place an order on TRSI asap, especially since a lot of these titles are in the bargain bin. I do want Jyu Oh Sei, even though I found the anime to be average, but 5 volumes into 11 eps? I think the manga is likely to be better (and it came first). And I wanna get MBQ (since Peepo Choo was so awesome) and the Yoshinaga titles published under Blu.
Mmmm, Planetes! Always a good choice!
Shame both Demon Sacred and Future Diary move to my shelf of sorrow for creator (aka permanent hiatus, like Beet the Vandel Buster) or publisher abandoned (either due to actually abandoning them or the publisher shutting down) series :(Always a sad day when a series has to move there (it can move off if it’s license rescued, but that has yet to happen). I think Moyashimon needs to go there too until further notice.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Were you the person who coined the awesome “Shelf of Sorrow” phrase? If so, I promise to pay you a small royalty every time I use that phrase, especially in reference to canceled TOKYOPOP titles like Demon Sacred.
LG saysApril 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm
I know, “Shelf of Sorrow” is such an awesome phrase! While I was putting my orders together, it also became “Shopping of Sorrow,” as I realized some of the titles I was buying were unfinished and I would have the bittersweet experience of enjoying what I could but knowing I would probably never get to read the ending.
CJ saysApril 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm
Yep! When I was reorganizing my shelves, since I found it was annoying to move stuff over for ongoing series (those went to their own shelf), I was trying to figure out ways to group things together. Osamu Tezuka shelf is obvious (I’m actually almost out of room on it and if I were keeping up with buying Black Jack, I would’ve run out of room long ago), but then I noticed all the unfinished stuff that will probably never be finish and determined it was depressing and yeah, I think it’s a depressing name but it fits. And it is kinda themed. It also abbreviates to S.O.S., which seems appropriate. If it is anywhere else out there, I’ve never seen it personally.
Such classics as Beet the Vandel Buster, Cromartie High School, Museum of Terror, Scary Book, Song of the Hanging Sky, and Cyborg 009 are on that shelf.
Noura saysApril 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm
10. Alice in the Country of Hearts by QuinRose and Soumei Hoshino
9. FAKE by Sanami Matoh
8. V.B. Rose by Banri Hidaka
7. Love Mode by Yuki Shimizu
6. Jyunjyo Romantica by Shungiku Nakamura
5. Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa
4. Your & My Secret by Ai Morinaga
3. Me & My Brothers by Hari Tokeino
2. Gakuen Alice by Tachibana Higuchi
1. Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya
These are my favorite TOKYOPOP titles.
Gakuen Alice, Jyunjyo Romantica, Your & My Secret, Alice in the Country of Hearts and V.B. Rose definitely need to be rescued. The last two are almost over, so I am not sure how things will pan out but I hope something is done as it is really infuriating when series get canceled and there is only one or two volumes left.
Gakuen Alice was doing good and I think it could be considered one of TOKYOPOP’s bestselling titles and so I am hoping some company license rescue it.
BLUMANGA titles is another issue. I am so disappointed that we won’t be seeing more of Shungiku Nakamura’s Jyunjyo Romantica. The mangaka’s other series Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi was also to debut in July but that got canceled too. I was so looking forward to it. Hopefully DMP decide to rescue both, though I find it a bit hard to imagine them getting Jyunjyo Romantica given that 12 volumes have already been published. They could either bring it out as omnibus or start publishing from volume 13. I would be happy either way.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 1:47 pm
Thanks for sharing your list!
Alice in the Country of Hearts seems like a strong candidate for a license rescue; it’s sold well enough to appear on the NY Times Manga Bestseller list on many occasions, though I’m not sure which of the remaining companies would want to step in and finish it. And I’d be shocked — shocked, I tell you! — if some enterprising company didn’t put out a new edition of Fruits Basket, given its reputation as the best-selling shojo title in the American market.
lovelyduckie saysApril 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm
I like this post! I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to do a similar post myself (I’ll link back here). To be honest the only ones I’ve never heard of on this are JYU-OH-SEI and Qwan, the rest are some of my favorites too. I can tell you without a single doubt what my #1 favorite Tokyopop series is, The Kindaichi Case Files! My only concern about putting together the rest of the top 10 list is do I compare Tokyopop’s original release of series like Sailor Moon, Parasyte, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Chobits to their re-released counterparts from Viz, Dark Horse, and (in the future) Kodansha? Because I absolutely love those series and Tokyopop was the one that got them to me first…but do I take them off my favorites list for Tokyopop if I prefer the way another company translated and released them more? What do you think? And did this have any impact on how you made your list?
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm
I don’t mind at all — I’d love to see your list when it’s posted! Please send me the link so I can direct other people to your site.
Good questions about methodology. I left Parasyte off my list because TOKYOPOP never finished it; the Del Rey version remains the definitive one in my mind, not least because it’s complete. I debated whether to include Clover, another favorite, but also decided to omit it because the Dark Horse version is much easier to find than the original TOKYOPOP release. (I’m kind of partial to those original ones; the packaging was beautiful, even if the font choices were borderline egregious!) Don’t know if that’s helpful to you or not…
lovelyduckie saysApril 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm
Oh right Parasyte was Del Rey, not Viz. For Clover I missed my chance to purchase that series at a reasonable price and never got to experience the Tokyopop version. To be honest I’m also missing a few volumes of Sailor Moon that I missed the chance to buy at retail too. I remember standing in the WaldenBooks with my $30 (buy 3 get the 4th free) and tried to decide between all the CLAMP series I was collecting at that time. I think I’ll do an honorable mentions section for situations where I feel another company released it better.
lovelyduckie saysApril 20, 2011 at 1:24 pm
Sorry to double post but I got up my top ten post!
#10 The Queen’s Knight
#9 Fruits Basket
#8 V.B. Rose
#7 Pet Shop of Horrors
#6 Planet Ladder
#5 Great Teacher Onizuka
#4 Paradise Kiss
#2 Cardcaptor Sakura
#1 The Kindaichi Case Files
Katherine Dacey saysApril 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm
Thanks for the link! I’ll go post this on Twitter right now…
Rij saysApril 19, 2011 at 2:17 pm
My favourite Tokyopop titles, not in order of preference:
Tramps Like Us
That’s nine, I’ll leave the tenth place open for all the titles that I’m eitehr forgetting or haven’t read yet. There’s lots of those.
David Welsh saysApril 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm
Here are mine:
1. Paradise Kiss: So gorgeous, so re-readable.
2. Planetes: It’s got its imperfections, but so much of it is just so excellent that it makes the clunky bits easier to overlook.
3. Wild Adapter: Perhaps the best sustained tease available in graphic novel form. Like, ever.
4. Suppli: Aside from this being a welcome dose of josei, it’s just really smart, character-driven storytelling.
5. Fruits Basket: I know it’s probably petty to whine that a series as commercially successful as this one never (in my opinion) really got its critical due, but I’ll whine all the same.
6. Shout Out Loud!: Awesome multi-generational boys’ love about voice actors. It just hit all the right notes for me.
7. 12 Days: The best thing to come out of the global manga initiative, even with its perfectly terrible lettering issues. A sad tale of mourning and recovery.
8. V.B. Rose: Awesome, sparkly fluff that never fails to cheer me up.
9. Dragon Head: Looking back, it’s quite impressive how solid this relatively long disaster series is from beginning to end, and there are some truly breathtaking moments.
10. Sgt. Frog: This one gets in mostly based on nostalgia — it was one of the first manga series I’d collected with regularity. Very funny, especially in the early going, with loads of cute satire, funny little touches, and jokes about such classics as synchronized swimming and afros.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 8:50 pm
A catholic list! I can’t argue with any of your choices.
Rebecca saysApril 19, 2011 at 4:42 pm
Back when I first started reading manga, Tokyopop was my favorite company, but with time it switched over to VIZ, Yen Press and Del Rey. For me, my favorite series were Chibi Vampire, Fruits Basket, X-Day, Immortal Rain (will/was it ever completed?), Your and My Secret, and Anima.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 20, 2011 at 8:34 am
I had a similar experience, too: my first titles were TOKYOPOP titles (aside from all the Rumiko Takahashi manga I was reading), but over time I started gravitating towards other companies’ work. These days, I’m often most excited by what’s happening at smaller publishers like Vertical, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, and Fantagraphics.
Jake saysApril 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm
Does anyone know if there is someplace online with a list of every series that Tokyopop has completed? I might have to pick up any I missed before I no longer have the opportunity.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 20, 2011 at 8:32 am
Hi, Jake! I crowdsourced your inquiry on Twitter, and here’s what other manga readers recommended:
Anime News Network’s entry on TOKYOPOP
Comic Book DB’s entry on TOKYOPOP
Wikipedia list of TOKYOPOP publications
Hope this is helpful!
Jake saysApril 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm
Thanks for the effort. Those are pretty comprehensive lists of Tokyopop releases. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have info on whether series have been completed or not. I might pick up some incomplete series anyway, but for the most part I’d rather not set myself up for that inevitable disappointment.
The closest I have found to a list of completed titles is Mania.com’s Manga Comparison list, but that is out-of-date. If anyone has any other ideas please feel free to post them. Thanks.
Ian S saysApril 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm
“To the best of my knowledge, Cyborg 009 was TOKYOPOP’s one and only foray into classic manga”
There was also their rather muddily printed release of Lupin III.
Talking of their less than stellar production values, I keep seeing Planetes listed at (or near) the top of people’s “best of Tokyopop” lists and I mostly agree – it’s a really great comic – but, man, was that ever horribly produced. I would love for somebody – Kodansha, I guess, since it’s one of theirs – to re-release it: I’d be happy to buy it again in an edition that does it justice.
It’s sad really. Tokyopop didn’t put out very much that interested me (mostly josei stuff like Tramps Like Us, Suppli and the prematurely abandoned Passion Fruit line along with the odd seinen title that they seemingly weren’t too sure what to do with) but even when they did, I tended to prioritise their stuff quite low on my wants list precisely because they were the only company for whom typos and printing errors were the norm rather than the exception.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm
How could I have forgotten Lupin III?! Thanks for the correction.
And I agree whole-heartedly about TOKYOPOP’s editorial standards. Once upon a time, their books were meticulously copy edited, but in the last year or two, their standards really slipped. This blog post at The Reader Eclectic contains some particularly egregious examples from the eighth volume of Petshop of Horrors: http://www.thereadereclectic.com/?p=1322.
judi(togainunochi) saysApril 19, 2011 at 9:10 pm
I have more than ten, but many have been listed by you and others. So, I’ll just add Trinity Blood(manga and novels), to the list that includes Immortal Rain, The Demon Ororon, Jyu oh Sei, Vassalord, Wild Adapter, Fake, Saiyuki, Demon Sacred(which I just got v 4), and many more. I have so many on my shelves by those no longer among us. GoComi, CMX, Broccoli, I’ll just go to a corner and cry now.
Angela saysApril 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm
As much as I remember enjoying Shirahime, Cardcaptor Sakura will always be my favorite CLAMP manga, and Tokyopop release. It was the first manga I owned, and I still reread it today. I’m thinking of rebuying the Dark Horse edition, and cripes, I own a frickin’ foot tall statue of Sakura that sits above my desk.
It’s hard to think of a full top ten; I’ve bought and sold so many of my books over the years, and lot of manga I loved where actually titles I swapped with friends since we were all broke high school students.
Safetygirl saysApril 19, 2011 at 9:30 pm
1) Peacemaker Kurogane: An ADV license rescue, but they did BETTER than ADV – they did the first series (Peacemaker) first, then onto PMK. Sadly, though, they only got one more volume into that series than ADV did, but I’m glad to have a nearly-complete set. It’s not the best Shinsengumi series (that would be Kaze Hikaru), but I really did love it.
2) Kindaichi Case Files: One of my first manga, along with Karo Kano. I am not a mystery person. Never have been. But this one – I liked the regular characters, and the mysteries were good, just a touch silly yet serious enough that it made for good reading. Unlike Kare Kano, I finished reading it and still liked it.
3) The Embalmer: Beautiful. I think it’s hard to write about death, because while it’s universal its also so very, very personal. I am a rather stoic person, but I cried at this manga – EVERY VOLUME, something would set me off. I think Tokyopop licensed so much of Mitsukazu Mihara’s work because of her “Goth” style, but what she brought to most of her titles was much more than style.
4) Karakuri Odette: Offbeat, heartfelt, sweet shojo. Also funny. This is the sort of title that CMX once did, and with Tokyopop’s demise, I hope that the other publishers don’t forget this sort of quirky but delightful manga. Thankfully the last volume came out before the end.
5) V.B. Rose: Again, sweet. Beautiful art, you can see that the mangaka had fun with drawing fashion. Sweet, and oh-so-Hana to Yume – fluffy as hell but reading it is such a pick-me-up after a bad day. It’s a shame we won’t see the last two volumes.
6) Kodocha: Sweet, but in a brash, vibrant way. Not as frenetic as the anime, but that’s a good thing. Sarah Dyer’s adaptation was wonderful.
7) Fruits Basket: I was a little burnt out by the end, and one day I’m going to sit down and re-read it all, and remember why I fell in love with this series in the first place. The anime was better for being better told, but I’m glad she took the full space of 23 volumes to tell the full story.
8) Hetalia: If anything of Tokyopop’s is rescued, it’ll be this one. But I loved it! So very faithful, but it managed to keep the jokes and personalities alive.
9) The Erica Sakurazawa one-shots: An early introduction to josei. While uneven, I’m thankful to Tokyopop for continuing to try to bring josei and keep with that “I came for Sailor Moon” crowd as they grew up.
10) Clamp no Keseki: If anything symbolizes how strong the market once was, it’s that Tokyopop was able to put out this series, which could have only appealed to the hardest of the hardcore. My full set of Clamp chess sets is something I’m always going to treasure.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 20, 2011 at 8:36 am
So nice to see love for The Embalmer and CLAMP no Kiseki; both titles are proof that TOKYOPOP took some amazing risks as a manga publisher. They didn’t always pan out, but who else was crazy enough to license josei or distribute what amounted to a CLAMP fan magazine with chess pieces?
dmunder7 saysApril 19, 2011 at 9:33 pm
I’ve never been good at prioritizing lists like this, but here are the TokyoPop titles that stick out to me:
Aria. I was delighted when TokyoPop license-rescued Aria after ADV Manga died. Now I guess I have to hope that some other company licenses it (or, more likely, get good enough at reading Japanese to just import the series).
Lament of the Lambs. This series introduced me to Kei Toume’s lovely art. I’ve since bought everything she’s published, which mostly means importing volumes from Japan. She’s a fantastic artist and a wonderful story-teller. Someone should bring over her Luno and Acony series.
Fate/stay night. I’m unlikely to ever play the visual-novel (game), so this is as close as I’m likely to come to much of the story.
Future Diary. A bizarre story of twisted love. I’ll miss being able to follow this story to its end (though the most recent volume was a mess —- I think the author has lost control of the story).
King of Thorn. Yuji Iwahara has a marvellous talent at blending creepy and cute.
King of Bandit Jing. Visually inventive.
Kare Kano. A dazzling series about young love in its many forms. The justifiably-famous anime only covers about half the story.
PitaTen. Koge Donbo was one of the originators of moe, and no one does it better.
Samurai Champloo. An adaptation of the animated series that manages to capture a good deal of its visual style. I think Dark Horse has this now.
I agree with the assessments of Planetes, Suppli, Legend of Chung Huang, and Shirahime-syo. I’m also going to miss the continuation of the Twelve Kingdoms novels (TokyoPop also brought out the first volume of the Kino’s Journey story-collections, but never followed it up with subsequent volumes).
Katherine Dacey saysApril 20, 2011 at 8:38 am
Lament of the Lambs and King of Thorn — another two titles that could have made my list! (I included Lambs on my list of favorite spooky manga back in October.) It’s a shame Yuji Iwahara’s stuff hasn’t really caught on here in the US; I think he’s a terrific artist who writes really imaginative stories. I kind of think his work needs a fancier presentation — maybe larger trim size? — to really shine.
Kate Cwynar saysApril 19, 2011 at 11:28 pm
So I started to answer this question, and 2 hours later I have almost 3 pages, lol. In the interest of not cluttering up the comments with my inability to stop talking once I’ve begun, I’m only going to post the basic list here, but I stuck up the entirety of what I wrote on my tumblr (http://fushiginakunino.tumblr.com/) if anyone’s interested.
My list probably won’t match up with those produced by many other manga readers. The sad fact of the matter is that I read the greatest volume of Tokyopop titles when I was much younger, and the intervening years have caused me to forget a lot of the ones that I didn’t have access to in the meantime. Perhaps that’s a good thing, though, because even coming up with this list was agonizing. D:
#10 Tsubasa: Those With Wings
#9 Comic Party
#8 Karakuri Odette
#7 Love Hina
#6 Cardcaptor Sakura
#5 Sailor Moon
#4 Demon Diary
#3 The Dreaming
#2 Fruits Basket
#1 Vampire Game
Also, it’s not manga, but I’d like to give mention to a light novel that Tokyopop released as well: it’s called Goth, and it’s “a series of six short stories about two high school students: a boy who remains unnamed until late in the story, and a girl named Yoru Morino. Both share a similar interest in gruesome murders” (from Wikipedia). This light novel was engrossing, clever, and again kept me guessing right until the end of each short story. TP released the manga as well, but the light novel deserves at least equal attention. Tokyopop did a great job with the difficult task of preserving the ambiguity that’s so vital to each story.
In fact, let’s all remember the light novels that Tokyopop released, even if they went out of print or were discontinued – light novels such as Goth, .Hack//A.I.Buster, Kino’s Journey, Gosick, and the Slayers series. Light novels are something I would really, really like to see more of, though I realize we haven’t found the perfect way to successfully integrate them into the English-language market as of yet.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 20, 2011 at 8:40 am
Thanks for reminding us about TOKYOPOP’s light novel imprint; I will certainly miss Kino Journey, which was my favorite of the bunch. I also loved the Welcome to the NHK novel: it was hilarious, rude, and surprisingly insightful, and a lot better than the manga adaptation.
Izandra saysApril 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm
Thank you so much for posting this list. Doing some shopping on Amazon and Right Stuf to see what I can grab before it disappears forever. I did this exact same thing last year with CMX and it cost me a fortune. Fortunately, I’m not as behind with TP as I was with CMX.
Katherine Dacey saysApril 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm
You’re welcome! If you’re having trouble finding copies on Amazon and Right Stuf, you might also try Robert’s Anime Corner (they carry a lot of older and OOP titles at list price) and bookcloseouts.com. (One caveat about bookcloseouts: it can be like searching for a needle in a haystack unless you know exactly what series and volumes you want to buy.)
If you’re patient and not fussy about the condition of the books, another great resource is Paperback Swap, where you can trade books with other readers. I’ve assembled a good chunk of Marmalade Boy, Planet Ladder, and Harlem Beat/Rebound using PBS.
hamster428 saysJuly 18, 2011 at 9:08 am
Ebay can also be your best friend :D especially when they sell the mangas as a set so you don’t have to hunt for random volumes. I thought myself lucky when I found the complete set of Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne and Moon Child (of CMX) earlier this year for $6 per volume. A couple of months later there were listings on Ebay for like half the price I paid >_<
Katherine Dacey saysJuly 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm
I’ve spent waaaaaay too much time on eBay hunting for complete sets of older series. I just recently scored most of Sanctuary for $35, an OOP title that sometimes sells for as much as $70 per volume, as well as the full English run of The Legend of Kamui for $10 — Scout’s honor!
aurynmajere saysAugust 30, 2011 at 2:05 am
My list of TP titles that need to be rescued…like asap…
1. Alice in the Country of Hearts
2. V.B. Rose
3. Immortal Rain.