Robot 6

Tokyopop gives up on manga, but will it give back the rights?

The revolution is over

Today’s news that Tokyopop is shutting down its publishing division, is shocking but not surprising: shocking because Tokyopop was once the second largest manga publisher in the U.S., but not entirely unexpected after they laid off all but a handful of employees last month. The closure raises the question of whether Tokyopop will return the rights to its global manga properties to the creators or keep them in their current limbo. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Tokyopop Media LLC, the non-book side of the company, is not shutting down.

Tokyopop CEO Stu Levy, who is currently in Japan, posted a farewell message on the Tokyopop website today, and Anime News Network confirmed the news with senior vice president Mike Kiley.

Tokyopop pioneered the format that caused manga to catch on among teen readers: Unflipped, 200-page, black-and-white trade paperbacks selling for ten dollars each. They published Sailor Moon, the first commercially successful shoujo manga in the U.S., and kept the momentum going with popular series such as Fruits Basket (which ran neck and neck with Naruto in the sales rankings for a while) and their manga adaptations of Erin Hunter’s Warriors prose novels. Unfortunately, when Fruits Basket ended, Tokyopop was left without a flagship series, and they lost rights to many of their other popular series when Kodansha pulled their licenses in preparation for starting its own U.S. publishing arm.

Tokyopop also pioneered the notion of “global” (non-Japanese) manga, not only in the U.S. but also in Germany. (Tokyopop Germany is not closing down.) The global manga program gave many young U.S. creators an intial boost, but the books did not sell well and Tokyopop ended up shutting the program down—but kept the rights to the manga, including some completed projects that never saw print. This has caused some bitterness among creators, who would like to continue or republish their stories but can’t because they don’t own the rights (which, to be fair, they knowingly signed away).

Back in June 2008, when Tokyopop had its first major shakeout, the company split in two, with COO John Parker taking over the publishing end, Tokyopop Inc., and Levy and Kiley heading up Tokyopop Media LLC. It’s my understanding that the latter company holds the rights to their global manga, and it is not closing up shop.

What does this mean for creators? It could end up being a good news/bad news situation. With no publishing division, Tokyopop has zero incentive to hold on to print rights to the global manga. The story I keep hearing is that what Stu and his crew really want to do is develop the comics into media properties, with Stu at the helm. Obviously, this is what Toyopop Media is all about, but with the publishing division gone, it may make sense to allow the creators to get their print rights back, because then they would have an incentive to promote the properties. On the other hand, Levy and Kiley clearly still intend to continue their efforts to turn these stories into something other than print comics, so they are likely to hold on to the other rights. (The sole Tokyopop movie so far is Priest, which is due out this summer after a series of delays.)

Only a handful of global manga properties have stayed in print, most notably Brandon Graham’s King City, which was picked up by Image. The word on the street was that a lot of the global manga creators were talking to Image when the line was discontinued, but most of them couldn’t get their rights back so the books just disappeared.

As for Levy, he doesn’t seem to be interested in staying in the publishing biz. He posted at his Greatest American Otaku blog that he will be staying in Japan for a year to make a documentary about the earthquake and how the Japanese have all pulled together to recover from it. (Levy was in Japan at the time of the earthquake and volunteered to drive supplies to orphans in stricken areas; the experience seems to have made a big impact on him.)

The question is, will he let the people who are interested in publishing (and promoting) their comics have the freedom to do so?

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Comments

59 Comments

I was babbling about this on Twitter earlier, but I see very little reason why Tokyopop’s remaining folks from Stu on down would even consider relinquishing rights to print on their manga. To me, dividing the rights on any property only muddies the waters of their claim to the rights for media adaptation, and while the idea that having something in print to promote the bigger media moves makes sense when you write it as a sentence, Tpop has NEVER seemed to care about that kind of exposure in the past. Was “Priest” even receiving any kind of new print releases before today’s news?

Long story short, I think all this chatter about rights reversion is just the general “What can I get out of this horrible news?” kind of talk that fans always start up when these things happen. I won’t be holding my breath.

Sigh. Thankfully I don’t read many Tokyopop series. I got out of collecting their titles when they started canceling and delaying series.

Is this going to count for Blu as well, though? Volume 13 of Junjou Romantica is supposed to be out in July and if there’s no point in waiting anymore I’m going to go find some scans…

If Tokyopop’s German publishing division will still be open, does that mean they’ll pick things up where their flagship left off and continue publishing series (like Aria and Alice In The Country of Hearts) (with the possibility that a third-party distributor would distribute the books here)? Or am I simply waiting for Tokyopop’s last publishing domino to fall?

And yeah, barring any sort of legal debacle, I have a feeling Stu and crew will hold on to the rights of every other OEL series and milk them for every dime, nickle and penny. (Unless, of course, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami has given him a change of heart, but seeing as how he plans to film a documentary there, and this being Stu Levy, I smell exploitation.)

Sad stuff. Tokyopop was a big part of my middle-school years.

I was following a couple of their translations (gave up on their own titles when 3 years between a couple issues occurred). Unfortunately everything I follow gets tanked no matter the publisher… several from Viz… Every title from the smaller publishers…

Best suggestion is above. Give up on the damn official “publishers” and start looking for scanlations. This’ll do better for my SO, as well, as he’s losing his sight, and electronic versions are so much easier to just display on his giant monitor.

NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, IF YOU TAKE UP A PROJECT, HAVE THE INTEGRITY TO COMPLETE IT! AND STOP OVER-REACHING!

Bad news, any series you are in the middle of (not caught up with) or haven’t started, yet, is going to cost a fortune now. It happens with manga, just as it does with anime DVDs. Still miffed that people are trying to sell the last discs of Maison Ikkoku for over $300! Thank god for a few old fansub collectors!

“Priest” isn’t the sole TokyoPop movie; there was a “Van Von Hunter” thing making the festival rounds last year. It didn’t look good, so I passed on seeing it at Montreal’s Fantasia Festival.

Brigid Alverson

April 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Oh, yeah, I had forgotten about that. But I don’t think it had a theatrical release, which is what I meant up there.

Regarding the copyrights, it’s an incredibly complicated issue that I can’t do justice–but it isn’t accurate to say TokyoPop owns these properties. The creators retain all their ownership (although sometimes–but not always–TokyoPop was considered a co-creator). Then the creators assigned to the publisher the right to exploit the property. That’s a lot of semantics, but it’s an important distinction–it’s very different from a copyright reversion. So if creators want to re-publish their TP work, they must have a legal or contractual reason to negate the assignment OR they would need to license from TP that right to publish.

Brigid Alverson

April 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Brandon!

Isn’t TokyoPop shutting down its publishing arm a legal enough reason to go publish your works somewhere else?

I think in the end, Tokyopop failed because of the changing stance by the Japanese publishers. The signs are already there: VIZ Media publishes most of the English translations of Shogakukan and Shueisha titles (a natural since VIZ Media, Shogakukan and Shueisha are all part of the Hitotsubashi Group publishing conglomerate), and Kodansha recently took over much of what Del Rey did in terms of manga translation and publishing. As such, they are less inclined to deal with a third party for translation work.

Brigid Alverson

April 16, 2011 at 4:02 am

Michael: No, not if the contracts aren’t written that way.

I have to say, I’m utterly disgusted with Stu Levy’s behavior. I mean, I have been for years, but even more so now. All he’s doing is hogging up the rights.

And think about it logically: how attractive are the movie or video game rights to a property that 1) came out years ago, 2) isn’t currently being published or in print and 3) did not sell well in the first place?

I know it’s supposedly poor form to psychoanalyze people from afar, but Levy seems legitimately out of his mind. He needs to renegotiate those contracts with all of the creators. He’s seriously not doing anything for his own goal.

Even if these series end up continued at other publishers and he held onto media rights of some kind, he’d be able to capitalize on that for his own ends. He’s sitting there with worthless holdings because he’s not allowing anybody to develop them.

Madness.

“And think about it logically: how attractive are the movie or video game rights to a property that 1) came out years ago, 2) isn’t currently being published or in print and 3) did not sell well in the first place?”

You mean like “American Splendor”? $7,986,084 plus one Oscar nomination
You mean like “Road to Perdition”? $181,001,478 plus six Oscar nominations and one win.
You mean like “30 Days of Night”, “Timecop”, “Josie and the Pussycats”, “Caspar”, “Blade”, “Annie”, and “Richie Rich”? (Okay, Caspar, Annie, and Richie Rich sold VERY well, but were dormant when the movies were released.)

On television: Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Tales From The Crypt.

And the CHAMPEEN of the Box Office Blockbuster, the Big Kahuna itself, the “Blair Witch” of creator-owned comics: MEN IN BLACK. (1+2 = $1.03 Billion, plus the cartoon series which ran for four seasons on the WB.)
SIX ISSUES were published by Aircel (now a footnote in comics history) before the movie was released.

So, to answer your question, darrylayo, pretty darn lucrative.

Yes, I’d like to see the contracts cleared up. But I don’t think there’s much financial incentive for a company like Dark Horse (see: Nexus) to spend the money for the publishing rights to marginal titles, especially titles which don’t carry licensing rights. (This is why Vertigo changed their contract last year. Too much money was going to other people, and TW/WB/DC was only making money on book sales.)

This makes sense of why Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 6 didn’t come out yet, or maybe just wasn’t translated to english yet. *sigh* I read alot of Tokyopop books so this will have a big affect for me. Oh well, I’ll just make sure that when I become a manga artist I won’t sign my books over to Tokyopop, maybe I’ll sign them to Shojo Jump Manga instead…

Okay please send mail to german tokyopop they can keep it going without moving to US but getting a US translater please send it im not giving up.

@Takara: Shojo Jump Magazine? Do you perhaps mean Shojo Beat Magazine? You mean that Viz published magazine that ceased production, what, two years ago now? Yeah…even if it was still in production, it only published Japanese works.
Back on topic. It’s sad to see TokyoPop close down. I really only read a couple of their series, but I know it affects a lot of people. And they were one of the largest publishers here in America. Just hope they release those licenses and won’t take them with them to the grave.

i think they mean shonen jump and that sucks they shut down just as i was gonna buy code 2 of Devil May Cry 3

most of my manga is Tokyopop so this really sucks for me because now i will probably never own the last volumes to my manga… i will have to read the scans on line..

Sad manga fan

May 18, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Why oh why???? Who will publish the finishing volumes of my favorite manga??? It happened with ADV, Brocoli Books, CMX, Del Rey and now Tokyopop???? Seriously, the biggest and bestest goes under? I guess I’ll have to start my own publishing house :(

This sounds like a selfish “if i cant have it no one can” ordeal Levy isnt going to give up the rights becasue hes delusional and he flushed the company down the toilet. Now if I have my information correct theres a Company in London is there not are all the english tokyopops shutting down or just the one in LA?

Also i believe that if they actually ot on the ebook train they might have been able to stick around.But i guess they didnt think of it. I honestly blame boreders bankruptcy and ebooks for this along with Levy’s stupidity. Becasue even if your CEO is a pea brain if the employees are makeing good translations and are doing the translations and the story justice its going to sell. But unfortunatly thats not getting me the rest of the available Gravitation EX after so long of waiting

this pisses me off cause now tons of great manga series probably won’t ever be resolved. i just caught up on my current favorite series “rebirth” and was pissed when i went fishing for why it there hasn’t been a new release in years. i think if a publisher has no intention of printing a series it should lose all rights to it so that at least the fans of the series can get some f-ing closure. and if they whine about losing money they should be whacked in the back of the head with a 2×4 with “common decency” scrawled across it until they get the frigging point.

tpop ha good manga hopefully the german branch pciks up the pices and makes even better manga than before if not theres always fans that will make the dojinshii i look forward to tpops comeback given they pray hard and invest wisely

Good riddance. Tokyopop did a foul job on localization on some of my favorite titles and I hope the publishing rights of their series fall into the hands of a more competent distributor.

They better give Nana back to Ai Yazawa or else I will be so pissed off. I love that series and really want to see the end of it.

Brigid Alverson

June 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Hi Leah,

Viz, not Tokyopop, has the rights to Nana, and Ai Yazawa has put the series on hiatus for health reasons.

what going on here!!!! all my dream of becoming one of them is over what the hell my dream was to work with this company and this is what i get it over! i even been doing a manga myself and once i finished i wanted it to published BY tokyopop but i gust not.
good luck tokyopop this company was the only company i look up to an wish to be one of them.

Kaichou wa maid-sama!?
Usuii???
:'(

I couldn’t find the Tokyopop website that used to show tons of online beginner mangas. Some of them are really good. It’s too bad…

I really hope they if they wont publish thoses series anymore, they’ll relinquish the rights. Two of my most favorite mangas are from Tokyopop, and there isn’t much scans of those in net (I’ve checked, when I’ve been waiting about two years for the new volumes). The only scans I’ve found are from the first few volumes, or can someone here tell me where I can find Genju no Seiza scans of volume 9? The serie has 14 volumes in Japan.

hey i am very upset that this website has changed sooo much i got bakk on the next month like and it didnt even exist only this facebook app poped op :( i wish it wud go back to being the same that it used to be……….

NOOOOO!!!!
tokyopop was my favorite publishing company!
does that mean no more sgt frog?
nooooo, i love sgt frog!
T_T

why!!!!!!!! don’t shut tokyopop down not when i just heard about it

I LOVE READING

August 3, 2011 at 3:54 pm

you want to make a difference but you cant, or can you?
i am wishing that tokyopop owners would look at what we all have 2 say

i started reading manga and manhwa about 3 years back and it was fun
i became really good a language arts and it didn’t take me away from my school or studies. it was something that i really enjoyed to do with my spear time and i had a lot of spear time. i did not hear about how tokyopop was not giving books to their rightful owners until today and now i feel extremely sad because i have so many favorite authors from tokyopop (my most favorite is SANG EUN LEE) and now i think that tokyopop should give back books to their rightful owners so they can share it with us again.

that’s all i really wanted to say and THANK YOU LEVY FOR HELPING ALL THE ORPHANS IN JAPAN!
AND PLEASE DO CONSIDER GIVING BOOKS TO THEIR RIGHTFUL OWNER

With Love And Care,
Sakura J.

GoNnAmAkEmYoWnBuIsNeSs!

August 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Viz media could pick of where they left the manga series (all of them)

Well, some companies have already picked up the rights to a number of series, not just from tokyopop. Yen Press picked up the only 2 manga titles ADV seemed to publish (Azumanga and Yotsuba) while most of the Del Ray titles appear to have been picked up by Kodansha.

Dark Horse/Titan Books have already grabbed hold of a number of older Tokyopop series, releasing omnibus editions of Chobits, Cardcaptors, and most recently, Rayearth. Plus there is word that the Sailormoon manga is getting re-released.

With any luck, we will see some of the bigger series and such come out again. Suppose its not so bad for me, as there are/were only 2 series i was in the process of collecting (Battle Vixens, and Sgt Frog)

Hey, I’m sorry to bother and ask this question in case this series was already mentioned, but I had to stop reading all the comments since my eyes hurt a bit, and I figured it would be better for me to just write my quesiton.

Does anyone know the exact situation with the series Maria Holic? I really like that series and it’s the one of the only series I really want to finish (online scanlations for this series were cut off for a while and they’re slowly picking it up again on some sites, but it’s kinda sketchy with that issue right now and it’s way behind on where I am). I found out it’s been dropped, but did the rights get selled back to Minari Endou? Or is Tokyopop Germany going to maybe take it up? Or is Tokyopop gonna be stingy and lock it up (If they do that last one, I will seriously be pissed as hell)

I’ve been trying to find out the correct information on what’s going on for this series, but I’m coming up with nothing. If anyone knows anything, I would greatly appreciate it very much.

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

DON’T SHUT DOWN!

THERE ARE SO MUCH MANGAS THAT ARE NOT EVEN COMPLETE YET!

AKA KAICHOU WA MAID SAMA!

If no more coming to North America then I will have to find a way to get all of the set when it’s finished!

This is outrage!

Madness!

I hope they do. and still leave their books on the shelf. TT__TT I’m gonna miss them!!!!!!!

I cannot believe they are deciding to do this and honestly I hope that they allow other companies to go on publishing the books if they are going to half-ass things and stop in the middle of several great series because I don’t read Japanese and I can’t just order them online because I would have no idea what they say. And I have attempted to find scans of certain books, but they are just not out there at the moment, if they will ever be out. I’m just so annoyed by this development because I bought several series with the expectation of being able to finish reading the series, but now that’s not going to be happening.

And I work at a bookstore so I know the current books in these series are not going to be available for order when they run out and at this moment they are actually putting these series on clearance to sell them off while they can. =(

Does anyone know about the status of chronicles of the cursed sword?

Ive been following this series for a long time, id hate for this formidable series to be dicked around with!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This sucks! I was wondering why one of my favorite series, Alice in the Country of Hearts, hasn’t released its lasted book back in July. It was is one of my favorites and things were really getting good. Not to mention I already fell in love with ALL the characters. Its so disappointing to know that I wont ever know whats going to happen. I wish there was a way they could be finish :(

UGH!!!! I decided to check how many series I have from tokyopop. I have eight, EIGHT!!!
Kyo Kara MAOH! (7 books incomplete)
Alice and the Country of Hearts (5 books incomplete)
Hibiki’s Magic (2 books incomplete)
Happy Cafe (7 books incomplete)
Witch of Artemis (New Series, 1 book, incomplete)
Silver Diamond (8 books incomplete)
+Anima (10 books complete…..THANK GOD)
Chibi Vampire (Read online not sure how many books)
This just ruined my day. :'(

I have been an anime fan for my whole life, starting wth DBZ. I started reading manga about 6 years ago. The only series i every felt going all manga nerdy for was trinity blood. First the pretty awesome anime, then the incomplete manga and finally the 2 novel series. When i found that they wouldn’t continue i abouthad a heart attack. I pray that they cut their losses and release ownership because if this novel isn’t translated, then I’ll be pissed. I really hope other publishers can take both my and all the favorites mentioned above off TP hands and finish them all.

why aren’t you going to publish in america :,(,,,,,,,,,

What’s going to happen to the manga currently on the shelves now? And what happens once they’ve run out of manga in the stores? Will TP re-print them or sell their printing lisences to someone else?

Damit the same thing happened when ADV Films went under too, a lot of stuff went in limbo for years and some anime even got cut off or completely canceled not to mention the copies of anime that just sat in storage until everything was done.

I hope TP gets it together and does whats right for their readers along with allowing the creators to get their printing rights back or at the very least hand everything over to a more competent & capable company.

I wondered why so many of my favorite series stopped comming out with new issues.noooo!honey mustard vol.5!!!why?!!!!!I feel like a crackhead who just got told crack no longer existed.*sniff,whimper,much distress,sniff* anyone else feel like they could just pass out?

Does anyone know what happened to the manga Shinobi Life? I’m trying to find out whether it is going to be re-released or not, because I have been wanting to buy the series for a long time, and would like to see and end to it. :(

Damn. That’s a real shame. I’d been wondering why i hadn’t been able to find the last books in some of the series i’d been collecting. It would have been nice if they could have at least finished them of or maybe given them to someone else to finish. Hopefully someone else will pick them up in the near future

There are 12 volumes of Kyo Kara Maoh out in japan but only seven in america/england. i don’t read it online because its my favourite manga and i want to support the author but that’s a bit hard when tokyopop are hogging the rights. Give them back so i can finnish my manga collection!

I personally love the feeling of reading a published manga in my hands. NOTHING beats the feeling of turning a page and the smell of the paper!!! I really wish they would let the rights go and let someone print the Manga’s they refuse to print… what’s with the shut down… I think it’s outrageous that they disregard all the people that collect and appreciate the ink on paper!!!

nooooo! i cant believe this i read so much tokyopop, this just cant be.

NOOO! They can’t ( well, they can, just not fair )!!!!!!! My WHOLE bookshelf is TOKYOPOP!!!!!!
Thank god Pixie Pop is finished!! But, Kamichama Karin (Gerald :D)!!!! WHYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!! TT_TT :*(

im reading fruits basket! :)~

Noooooooo!!!!!!!! Kyo Kara Maoh needs to be picked up…..NOW!!!!!

it came as a shocker to me as this happens

I have been reading manga for a long time and most of my manga are from (sad but true – TOKYOPOP)
even the first manga hayate the combat butler is FROM this publisher and i thank god for that

(This company change my life, for the better)

i really am heart-broken that this happens

Now not just the manga i love have been suspended, but other fans as well

Because before, if i missed a manga that came out a few years back (I am not joking here, or talking crazy)
that is from TOKYOPOP, i can just simply order it from Kinokuniya KLCC

But now, i cannot (Yes, you stil can place and order from private Collectors or E Bay, BUT the condition of the book is not worth the price.
For Example, In America, manga just cost around 10 dollars. But if you converted it into Malaysia Currency, it will be around 40 ringgit (Think of how i feel, having to give some collectors a large amount of money for a book that is not top quality)

This happens AFTER the problem occurred

So Stu, if you happens to read this, please consider this

Think Wisely, because manga is a very profitable business and from what i have read, it is like there is something that you are holding back from us (the readers)

I will say confidently that EVERY MANGA THAT HAVE BEEN PUBLISH HAVE THEIR OWN LOYAL FOLLOWER

So please, do not do this.

If you do not have the will, the passion or the resources to continue this legacy, please PASS THE TORCH TO OTHER COMPANY
(think of the readers Stu)

Last words: I PERSONALLY APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE IF THE CONTENTS HIS MESSAGE IS UNAPPROPRIATED in any way (this is just how i feel inside)

Wish me luck OK GUYS in my endeavor for searching Vol 13 of Chibi Vampire

I can’t believe this. Why? I own so many series that are published under TokyoPop and are incomplete. Will they never be finished in English? I don’t know what to do. Every month I’ve been getting a new manga, praying that I could one day complete the series. This month, I wondered why it wasn’t there and now I know.

Sure, I can read it online…But with the uncompleted series sitting on my shelf glaring at me, it makes me feel incomplete.

I really hate how there not going to even finish faerie landings by you hyun some of the best mangas are the older one and that one only had four more volumes (20-23) to be translated how am I going to know what happens in the end of this series I have looked everywhere and it’s driving me insane I need to know its really frustrating as a fan that even though I have contacted them via Facebook I still get no answers

WHAT?!?!?!?! Now I’ll never get to finish Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition!!! Does anybody think some other company will finish the ultimate edition series because I really want it.

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