|Founder||Stuart J. Levy|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Los Angeles, California|
|Distribution||United States; Germany|
|Publication types||Manga, Japanese light novels, graphic novels, original English-language manga|
Tokyopop, styled TOKYOPOP, and formerly known as Mixx Entertainment, 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.
While the company was known as Mixx Entertainment, it sold MixxZine, a manga magazine where popular serials like Sailor Moon were published weekly. Mixxzine later became Tokyopop before it was discontinued. Capitalizing on the popularity of Sailor Moon, Mixx also created the magazine, Smile, a magazine that was half girls’ magazine, and half shōjo manga anthology, and also continued the Sailor Moon story after being discontinued in Mixxzine.
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." Due to Sailor Moon’s immense popularity, Tokyopop discontinued the serial from its magazines, and released it separately as its first manga graphic novel. They engineered prominent book distribution via retail stores, standardized book trim size, created a basic industry-wide rating system, and developed the first-ever retail manga displays and introduced the world of graphic novels to an audience of teenage girls. Also, together with Diamond, Tokyopop offered retailers free spinner rack displays for Tokyopop manga, thereby increasing the visibility of the medium in bookstores.
Tokyopop also licensed and distributed Japanese anime. In 1996, Mixx Entertainment acquired the rights to the anime biopic of Japanese poet Kenji Miyazawa, and Stu Levy produced and directed the English version of the anime film, entitled “Spring and Chaos.” The film was directed and scripted by Shoji Kawamori, who created Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and The Vision of Escaflowne. Taste of Cinema ranked “Spring and Chaos” thirteenth in its list of Top “25 Weird Animated Movies That Are Worth Your Time.” From 2000 to 2004, Tokyopop released multiple film and television projects such as Street Fury, which Stu Levy created, GTO (English version for Showtime TV), Rave Master (English version for Cartoon Network's Toonami), and Reign: The Conqueror (English version for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.) Tokyopop also released English version DVDs for: Initial D, Marmalade Boy, Saint Tail, Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School, Vampire Princess Miyu, Brigadoon, FMW, High School Ghostbusters.
In 2002, Tokyopop launched its line of 100% Authentic Manga, which was printed in the original Japanese right-to-left format and included the original Japanese printed sound effects.
In Japan, all published manga is written to read from right to left, but when an English translation was published in the U.S., however, the common practice was to use computer-reversed or mirror images that allowed the books to read from left to right. Unfortunately, this often compromised the integrity of the title's original artwork.
Tokyopop’s decision to release 100% authentic right-to-left manga not only maintained the integrity of the original artwork, but it also enabled Tokyopop to release most graphic novel series on a frequency three-to-six times faster than the then current industry standard. Tokyopop volumes hit the shelves monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly versus the six months or longer typical of competitors. It also allowed Tokyopop to sell books for an industry-leading price point of $9.99 per book, at a time when most competitors charged $12.99 to $16.99 per book.
Tokyopop was the first U.S. publisher to adopt such a sweeping policy. While some Japanese manga artists had required that the English versions of their manga be published from right to left, Tokyopop was the first American publisher to unilaterally announce that it would maintain the original format for all of its future manga titles.
An "authentic manga" how-to guide was included in each graphic novel to keep readers from accidentally reading the final page first, and the authentic manga also featured special packaging.
Rising Stars of Manga
Tokyopop launched their Global Manga publishing program in 2003 via the introduction of its "Rising Stars of Manga" talent competition. The competition called for American manga artists to submit 15-25 page English-language stories of any genre. The top 10 entries, as judged by Tokyopop editors, received cash prizes (between $500 - $2500) and were published in an anthology of the winning works. The grand prize winners were also given the chance to pitch full-length manga projects to Tokyopop for a chance to become professional manga-ka.
Tokyopop launched its first "Rising Stars of Manga" contest on August 15, 2002 and ended it on December 16, 2002, with more than five hundred American artists submitting their 15–25 page, English-language stories.
The 5th Rising Stars of Manga competition added the People’s Choice award, where the top-20 finalists had their entire entries judged by the fans on the Tokyopop website. “We are really pleased to open up the Rising Stars judging to the fans," commented Tokyopop editor Rob Valois. "Since so many people have been vocal on the message boards and at industry conventions, we’re offering them all a chance to shape the future of manga. I’m personally excited to see how the fans’ favorite will compare to our own."
Several Rising Stars of Manga winners went on to publish full-length graphic novels with Tokyopop, including Josh Elder with Mail Order Ninja, M. Alice LeGrow with Bizenghast, Mike Schwark and Ron Kaulfersch with Van Von Hunter, Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges with Peach Fuzz, Wes Abbot with Dogby Walks Alone, Felipe Smith with MBQ, Nathan Maurer with Atomic King Daidogan,.
Rise of Tokyopop
Tokyopop became one of the biggest manga publishers outside Japan, and as such, was attributed with popularizing manga in the United States. By 2004, it boasted the largest market share of manga sales in the U.S., reaching as high as 50% of manga exports to the United States, according to Nissei Weekly.
Tokyopop was also instrumental in the introduction of manhwa to western audiences. 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.
Tokyopop also helped to pioneer the Cine-Manga format, a blend of cinematic properties and sequential art that uses imagery from movies and television series. Levy secured licenses to publish Cine-Manga with major entertainment brands including Disney, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Paramount, Universal, and the NBA.
In June 2008, Tokyopop 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 were split into two subsidiaries: Tokyopop, Inc., and Tokyopop Media. Tokyopop, Inc. consisted of the company's existing publications business, while Tokyopop Media focused on the company's digital and comics-to-film works. Tokyopop Media managed the Tokyopop website, which continued 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 which resulted in a scale back of publication output from Tokyopop, Inc. 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 competitor 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 by then. 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.
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; Publisher, Mike Kiley; and Vice President of Inventory, Victor Chin.
On March 1, Tokyopop continued to layoff workers, 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, would not be closing. 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 began offering ebooks of various titles for which they retained the rights.
Their company blog article stated:
"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 stated:
"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."
Throughout the publishing closure, Tokyopop Media remained open for business, continuing its efforts to produce film and TV adaptations of Tokyopop’s manga, as well as reinvigorating the Tokyopop YouTube channel, launching several original web series and adding trailers for Japanese film and TV. In 2013, Tokyopop partnered with MondoMedia to release an animated short film based on the Tokyopop manga Riding Shotgun, which was directed by Michael Davis and starred the voices of Yuri Lowenthal and Jessy Schram. The short film garnered over a million views in its first month, and led to an IndieGoGo campaign to finance a full animated series.
In 2015, at Anime Expo and San Diego Comic-Con, Tokyopop announced that it would be relaunching its publishing operations in North America in 2016 and hinted that its first major licensor would be Disney.
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. 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.
In addition to publishing popular manga titles, Tokyopop GmbH also expanded the market by producing new and exciting cross-media content, including licensing popular video game franchises such as Assassin’s Creed and Zelda and bestselling novels such as James Patterson and Warrior Cats. In 2013, the company launched a prestige project called Manga Library, which adapted classic literary novels into manga.
According to GFK Entertainment, as of 2014 in the core segment of manga, Tokyopop GmbH is currently the second largest provider, with a market share of 27%. Additionally, in the last two years, Tokyopop GmbH had the fastest growth rate out of the big three manga suppliers in the German market, with a growth rate of 29% in 2014. This compares with Egmont Ehapa at 6.5% and Carlsen Verlag at 1.8%.
Other overseas markets
In 2004, Tokyopop set up a London, UK, office that mainly imported books from the U.S. and distributed 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 would become defunct, with the only open branch being the German office.
Blu Manga is an imprint under which Tokyopop published 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, Tokyopop confirmed Blu was their own imprint. Blu Manga considered that their "non-girly" branding had enabled the imprint, in a genre stereotypically created by women for women, to reach out to a male and 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. In an interview by Anime News Network, Tokyopop staff stated they also felt that the series would reach a larger audience if it had a broader American appeal.
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)