||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (July 2015)|
|Founder||Stuart J. Levy|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Los Angeles, California|
|Key people||Stuart J. Levy, Founder, CEO, & CCO
John Parker, President & COO
Victor Chin, Vice President of Inventory Control
Bill Josey, General Counsel & Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs
Mike Kiley, Publisher
|Publication types||Manga, Japanese light novels, graphic novels, original English-language manga|
|Revenue||$35 million (2003)|
Tokyopop, styled TOKYOPOP, and formerly known as Mixx, is an American distributor, licensor, and publisher of anime, manga, manhwa, and Western manga-style works. The German publishing division produces German translations of licensed Japanese properties and original English-language manga, as well as original German-language manga. Tokyopop's defunct US publishing division previously published works in English and Japanese. Tokyopop had its US headquarters in the Variety Building in Los Angeles, California, and branches in the United Kingdom and Germany. Its products are no longer available internationally.
On April 15, 2011 the US publishing operations at Tokyopop announced they would be shutting down on May 31, 2011; the German branch of the company would continue to publish for the international market. Company president Stu Levy posted a farewell letter on the American Tokyopop website; however, this site was redirected to the Tokyopop Facebook page beginning in May, 2011.
Tokyopop's official Twitter account stated in October 2011 that its "ultimate goal is to start publishing manga again".
Tokyopop's website relaunched with a letter on December 10, 2012 from management stating that the company was down to a few select employees who were starting a 'new incarnation' of the company. Partnered with 'Right Stuf on Demand', they have started reproducing a few titles that they had previously, offering ebooks of certain titles.
When the company was known as Mixx, it sold MixxZine, a manga magazine. Mixx also sold the shōjo manga anthology Smile. Mixxzine later became Tokyopop before it was discontinued. Cultural anthropologist Matt Thorn praised Stu Levy for opening up an untapped market for cartoons with the publication of Sailor Moon. Before Sailor Moon, the belief among Entertainment executives was that "girls don't watch cartoons."  Tokyopop's first manga graphic novel release was Sailor Moon. They engineered prominent book distribution via retail stores, standardized book trim size, created a basic industry-wide rating system, developed the first-ever retail manga displays and introduced the world of graphic novels to an audience of teenage girls. In 2002, Tokyopop launched its line of 100% Authentic Manga (printed right-to-left).
Tokyopop launched their Global Manga publishing program in 2003 via the introduction of its "Rising Stars of Manga" talent competition. They were one of the biggest manga publishers outside of Japan and as such was attributed with popularizing manga in the United States. Brad Brooks and Tim Pilcher, authors of The Essential Guide to World Comics. London, said that Tokyopop "published many Korean artists' work, possibly without Western fans even realizing the strips don't come from Japan. Series like King of Hell by Kim Jae-hwan and Ra In-soo, and the Gothic vampire tale Model by Lee So-young are both Korean, but could easily be mistaken for manga." In 2005, Tokyopop began a new, free publication called Manga (originally Takuhai) to feature their latest releases.
In March 2006, Tokyopop and HarperCollins Publishers announced a co-publishing agreement in which the sale and distribution rights of some Tokyopop manga and books, under this co-publishing license, would be transferred to HarperCollins in mid-June 2006. The agreement enabled Tokyopop to produce original English-language (OEL) manga adaptations of HarperCollins' books. Meg Cabot's books were the first to be adapted into the manga format, along with the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. The first line of Tokyopop-HarperCollins OEL manga was released in 2007 with the goal of publishing up to 24 titles each year.
Tokyopop has released several series based on American games, films, and characters, such as Warcraft, the Kingdom Hearts video game series, and Jim Henson films. They released the first volume of a series based on the Hellgate: London video game in April 2008.
In June 2008, the company announced that it was being restructured, with its name being changed to Tokyopop Group, a holding group for several new subsidiaries. The Tokyopop operations in the United States would be split into two subsidiaries: Tokyopop, Inc., and Tokyopop Media. Tokyopop, Inc., consists of the company's existing publications business, while Tokyopop Media focuses on the company's digital and comics-to-film works. Tokyopop Media manages the Tokypop website, which will continue to promote its publications. According to representative Mike Kiley, the divisions would allow the company to "set things up in ways that would very clearly and definitively allow those businesses to focus on what they need to do to succeed. The goals in each company are different and the achievement of those goals is more realistic, more possible if everyone working in each of those companies is very clearly focused."
During the restructure, Tokyopop laid off 39 positions, equating to 35%–40% of its American workforce. Most of the positions cut were those involved in the direct publication of its books. The publication output from Tokyopop, Inc., was scaled back. Tokyopop reported that it would be cutting the volumes released per year by approximately 50%, to an average of 20–22 volumes per month.
Tokyopop's Japan division was also to be split, with one unit operating under Tokyopop Media and the other becoming a subsidiary under the overall Tokyopop Group. In response to Tokyopop's restructuring, declining sales, and losing 20% of its manga market share, Tokyopop UK cut its publication release schedule from approximately 25 volumes a month to 20.
In December 2008, citing "dramatically low sales" in the publishing industry as a whole, Tokyopop, Inc., laid off eight more employees, including three editors, and noted that the company would have to rearrange some of its upcoming publication schedules.
Loss of Kodansha licenses
Licenses from the Japanese manga publisher Kodansha historically were a large part of Tokyopop's catalog. In the years leading up to 2009, the number of Kodansha titles licensed by Tokyopop decreased. The final new Kodansha title was Tokko by Tohru Fujisawa, and the final batch of volumes of Kodansha titles appeared around March 2009. Around that time Kodansha began to consistently give licenses to its manga to Del Rey Manga. Deb Aoki of About.com said "Well, more or less. You get the idea. If you're the type who reads the tea leaves of the manga publishing biz, you kinda sensed that things weren't quite the same as they used to be."
On August 31, 2009, Tokyopop announced Kodansha was allowing all of its licensing agreements with the North American and German divisions of Tokyopop to expire for reasons unknown. Due to this loss in licensing, Tokyopop was forced to leave several Kodansha series unfinished, including the popular Rave Master, Initial D, GetBackers, and Life series. It would be unable to reprint any previously published volumes, rendering all Kodansha-owned Tokyopop releases out-of-print.
Several other titles licensed and published by Tokyopop, including best sellers Cardcaptor Sakura, Chobits, Clover, and Magic Knight Rayearth, were reacquired by Dark Horse Comics, though two other titles Kodansha licensed to Dark Horse had since transferred to Random House. Samurai Deeper Kyo was relicensed by competitor Del Rey Manga, a division of Random House, which published the remaining volumes of the series.
Tokyopop said that it expected the loss of the licenses to have minimal impact on the company economically due to its diversification of their holdings over the last few years, though they acknowledged the loss would hurt fans of the ongoing series who face uncertainty about the completion of those titles from other companies. ICv2 reported that Tokyopop would continue to publish light novels from Kodansha and that Kodansha appeared to be planning to publish its own titles through its partnership with Random House.
In an interview with the website Anime Vice, Tokypop marketing manager Kasia Piekarz noted that the company was not entirely surprised by the move, stating, "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 canceled 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."
Resignations and layoffs
In February 2011, the president and chief operating officer, John Parker, resigned from the company and took the position of vice president of business development for Diamond. This came shortly after Diamond became Tokyopop's new distributor, taking the business from Harper Collins. Tokyopop did not name a replacement for Parker. Parker's departure left only three remaining executives: the founder and CEO, Stuart Levy; Mike Kiley, publisher; and Victor Chin, vice president of inventory.
On March 1, Tokyopop continued layoffs, removing many high-profile employees such as long-time manga editors Lilian Diaz-Przyhyl and Troy Lewter. Tokyopop's management also eliminated the position of director of sales operations. In an interview with ICv2, Stuart Levy revealed that the layoffs were due to Borders Group, Tokyopop's largest customer, filing bankruptcy in March 2011, no longer carrying Tokyopop stock, and not paying debts that the company owed to Tokyopop.
North American publishing shutdown
On April 15, 2011, Tokyopop announced that it would close its Los Angeles, CA-based North American publishing operations on May 31, 2011. According to the release, Tokyopop's film and television projects, as well as European publishing operations and global rights sales, will not be closing. However, it was later announced on the Tokyopop Facebook pages that the UK branch would cease to operate after May 31 due to their reliance on the importing of the North American branch's product. Stuart Levy, Tokyopop's founder, released a personal statement reaffirming Tokyopop's role in introducing manga to the mainstream North American audience and thanking fans, creators, and employees for their dedication. On May 24, Tokyopop stated that the manga they licensed would revert to their original owners, who may license the titles to other companies.
On December 10, 2012, Tokyopop's website relaunched with a letter from management stating that the company was down to a few select employees who were starting a 'new incarnation' of the company. Partnered with 'Right Stuf on Demand', they have started reproducing a few titles that they had previously, offering ebooks of certain titles.
Their company blog article states
"Luckily new technologies that have only very recently become practical are enabling us to re-emerge. Conventional publishing has irrevocably changed, and it is impractical for all but the largest and most established companies to pursue publishing as it has gone on for centuries. But by embracing ebook and print-on-demand technologies, we believe we can move forward and continue to produce some amazing manga as well as bring you Asian Pop Culture in many forms."
A letter from Levy on January 6, 2013 states
"Digital technology has transformed many industries including publishing. This hit TOKYOPOP very hard since we didn’t have ebook rights to most of our series (except OEL). Unfortunately our Japanese licensors did not move fast enough to provide a legitimate alternative to piracy, and piracy shows no mercy. As a result, TOKYOPOP had to shut down its LA office and the licenses to Japanese titles expired, reverting to the Japanese licensors. What that means is TOKYOPOP is evolving as a company. I know many fans would prefer us to return to being a manga publisher like we were for most of our history. However, manga will never disappear – we will do what we can to deliver manga. I plan on experimenting with new ways to bring you Asian pop culture. Please keep an open mind – and give feedback (not just negative when you don’t like something but also positive when you like something) so we can tweak our approach."
In the summer of 2004, Tokyopop founded its first foreign branch in Germany, incorporated as Tokyopop GmbH and headquartered in Hamburg. The first manga and manhwa by Tokyopop Germany were published in November 2004, and the first anime in the fall of 2005. In 2006, Tokyopop GmbH entered a "strategic partnership" with the Japanese publisher Shueisha, allowing them to publish popular titles such as Death Note and Bleach. According to then-sales manager Vincent Lampert, Tokyopop GmbH was the second-largest manga publisher in Germany in 2010. The company has also released a number of original German-language manga, including Gothic Sports, winner of a 2007 Sondermann award. Tokyopop GmbH continues to operate as a publisher of German-language manga for the international market after the closure of the US publishing office.
Other overseas markets
In 2004, Tokyopop set up a London, UK, office that mainly imports books from the U.S. and distributes them to bookstores in the United Kingdom. Tokyopop released an anime collection in the United Kingdom market in late 2006, including titles such as Initial D and Great Teacher Onizuka. Vampire Princess Miyu was released on DVD by MVM Entertainment, and the Toonami television channel aired the first half of Rave Master in early 2005. It was announced on the official Tokyopop Facebook page that because the UK branch mainly imported the North American branch's translated titles, the UK branch will become defunct. Levy also mentioned that the only branch left open would be the German office.
Tokyopop distributes some of their titles to Australia and New Zealand through Funtastic, who recently acquired Madman Entertainment. In Greece, Tokyopop-owned properties are licensed by Anubis Comics.
Blu Manga is an imprint under which Tokyopop publishes shōnen-ai and yaoi manga titles. The imprint was launched in 2005. Initially, the company denied that it owned Blu, stating that it was only distributing for another company. The company released no editor names nor company contact info, out of fear there would be backlashes and hate mail from "moral crusaders." In 2006, the company confirmed Blu was their own imprint. Blu Manga consider that they have "non-girly" branding which has enabled the imprint, in a genre stereotypically by women for women, to reach out to a male or gay audience. Early titles published by BLU were Earthian, Love Mode, and Shinobu Kokoro.
Fans critical of possible mishandling of the Initial D property voiced concerns regarding "editorial changes" in the language localization of the manga and anime. The changes included renaming of several characters and the removal of one character's involvement in enjo kōsai, a practice in Japan where younger women are paid to provide older men with companionship. In a letter sent to Anime News Network, Tokyopop responded to the criticisms, noting that they felt the edits were necessary because they were marketing the series to a younger target audience than it was originally designed for in Japan. They also felt that the series would reach a larger audience if it had a broader American appeal.
We also know that we have a responsibility to be true to the spirit of the original Japanese version of Initial D. So, we start having lots of late night sessions about how to present Initial D to the widest possible audience and yet still retain its core essence... We are passionate about anime and manga, and we believe in helping spread the word to as many people as we can.—Tokyopop Staff, Anime News Network
The company alleviated some of the concerns by noting that the anime series would receive an "unedited, subtitled, Japanese language" DVD release. The manga series remained edited except for the first volume, which was accidentally printed before the editing decisions were made.
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- TOKYOPOP at Facebook
- Official website (German)
- Official website (Archive)
- Mixx Entertainment (Archive)
- Blu Manga imprint Official site (Archive)