Three Reasons Tokopop’s Closure was Inevitable: Observations from a Non-fan


Three Reasons Tokopop's Closure was Inevitable: Observations from a Non-fan

I was never a fan of Tokyopop, so when news came out that their US arm was folding, my initial reaction was closer to “Fantastic!” than “Oh no!”.

It’s not like I didn’t give the then fledgling publisher a chance to prove itself — I did purchase the odd volume or two from them. However, too many things about the way they produced manga in English irked me, which was why I never evolved from curious passerby to hardcore fan.

Tokyopop translations were subpar.

My first experience with Tokyopop’s horrific translation work was with their much-maligned release of Shigeno Shuuchi’s Initial D. Instead of a moving coming-of-age story set to the beat of fast cars and midnight mountain races, what I got instead was a Southern California street mods scene filled with ghetto blasters and bitches in short skirts. This is Initial D gentlemen, not The Fast and the Furious — I AM DISAPPOINT.

I can’t be bothered to outline every single thing that annoyed me with Tokyopop’s Initial D, as the list would be long and peppered with swear words. I did manage however — after some creative Googling, to find a post on The Reader Eclectic that outlined nearly every single grammatical and translation error in a volume of Tokyopop’s Petshop of Horrors.

It was embarrassing to see how many errors were found — it felt like Tokyopop didn’t even care if they put out a quality translation or not. If the company didn’t do a proper job before releasing a product out into the wild, then why bother doing it at all? Closing shop was probably the best thing they did for their target market — the nearly penniless manga fan.

They flooded the market with mediocre titles.

Tokyopop was all about quantity, not quality; they held a whole slew of licenses for such forgettable series as Cherry Juice, Happy Cafe, and Shrine of the Morning Mist. And although Tokyopop also held the licenses for such watershed titles as Sailormoon and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles, the fact that the English versions of these manga paled in comparison to their Chinese or even French counterparts, meant that even with a sure bet Tokyopop was bound to eff it up.

And don’t get me started on the OEMs (original English manga). Granted, there were a couple of titles that deserved to be published — but they were so few and far between that no one could be bothered fishing them out of an ocean of mediocre art and immature storytelling. Many of the titles from their OEM catalog were simply works by authors who were willing to play ball with Tokyopop, never mind that they still needed a lot of mentoring in both writing and drawing.

Tokyopop also became the international manga industry’s version of self-publishing hell. Anyone — as long as they had clout with Stu Levy and his choir of sycophants, or had money to burn, could get Tokyopop to publish their “manga” and sell them to unsuspecting fans. The most sterling example of this would be Courtney Love’s “Princess Ai” — which in my opinion was a complete waste of paper and Yazawa Ai’s talent.

America’s Greatest Otaku whut?!

When Tokyopop came up with the hare-brained scheme to find America’s Greatest Otaku, I was convinced that the company had hit an all-time low — even for Tokyopop.

Suffering from a lack of sales, the steady defection of its Japanese manga licensees to other publishers (or setting up shop in America on their own), and the omnipresence of torrent and manga-share sites on the internet, it seemed ludicrous for Tokyopop to spend massive amounts of money at AGO instead of using the funds to rehabilitate the floundering company.

The show also reeked of Stu Levy’s thinly disguised plans to market himself as the Messiah of Manga in the English-speaking world (it looks like Manga Therapy thought so too). Instead of the show being about “finding America’s biggest anime fan”, it became “The Stu Levy Show on How to be Otaku LIEK OMG ME”. Uh — no thanks :/

In conclusion — yes, Tokyopop changed the way manga was viewed in America (and by extension other English-speaking countries all over the world), but not necessarily for the better.

We may have more titles, better distribution, and more affordable books today than we did ten years ago — but those strides were nearly overshadowed by the dodgy translation, lazy editing, and bad marketing moves that had become synonymous with Tokyopop. So sayounara, Tokyopop. I’d like to say I’m sorry to see you go — but let’s face it, I’m not.

16 Comments Add yours

  1. kaoko says:

    I’m no big Tokyopop fan either. The few English titles I buy are mostly Del Rey, but gaddermit, I NEED MY Your and My Secret and Love Attack! Another two unfinished series on my book shelf after My Heavenly Hockey Club (Del Rey). Gah. So pissy off, I am.


  2. Zane says:

    I don’t buy TokyoPop titles – fan scanlations are sometimes way better and stick to the manga author’s thoughts when they translate.

    @kaoko, ah – Heavenly Hockey Club. Now I need to find me some scanlations. XD


  3. @kaoko i don’t feed bad about TP closing, but i do feel wretched for all the fans whose favorite series are left hanging in mid-air :/ hopefully, a newer (better?) publisher will pick up where TP left off~

    @zane not gonna deny it — yes, some fan translations are better than TP’s “professional” translation work :/


  4. This reminds me. This past weekend, I was at a comic book store in the manga section with some friends. One of the employees talked about Tokyopop and their mediocre & not well-known titles. He was happy they are gone.

    Honestly, I think VIZ Media made manga more relevant than Tokyopop did. Tokyopop is lucky they have Hetalia (their only saving grace).

    I spoke to a former editor of Tokyopop & she said that she wished Stu Levy found someone who had lots of publishing experience to take care of the publishing part of the company. But, I think that person will probably be laid off in the future, just like many of their smart, sane former staff.


    1. i won’t deny that TOKYOPOP was a key ingredient in the mainstreaming of manga in the international English-speaking publishing industry. however — like you, i also consider VIZ’s contribution to be a lot bigger, since they helped create the market that TOKYOPOP simply expanded (is exploited a good word?).

      VIZ has also been known for their translations — not perfect, but consistently well-done across all their titles; nobody would be caught dead saying the same thing about TOKYOPOP.


  5. Tiffany says:

    Ugh. I still remember how Tokyopop tried to Americanize Battle Royale by adding a reality show angle (which only caused plot holes) and making the characters sound more gritty and mature than they should be. As far as I know, the dialogue in Pet Shop of Horrors is also Americanized, often unnecessarily. As a fan of the series, it’s a shame that the Pet Shop of Horrors sequel will be left hanging now that Tokyopop is closed, but, like you said, here’s hoping that Pet Shop of Horrors and other titles that were left hanging will be picked up by better publishers.


    1. ditto in the “rewrites” :/ why can’t TP just accept that the manga was set in japan (and a fictionalized japan at that) and work with it, instead of trying to “americanize” everything :/


  6. Ricah says:

    “Granted, there were a couple of titles that deserved to be published — but they were so few and far between that no one could be bothered fishing them out of an ocean of mediocre art and immature storytelling”


    Srsly let down by their Return to the Labyrinth series, what a waste of license. I kept hoping they’d man up and try to make the comic artwork at par with Kyoku Shurei’s covers, which were stunningly beautiful. Too bad, they had an interesting premise, but the story telling and art was just sloppy.


    1. Srsly let down by their Return to the Labyrinth series, what a waste of license. I kept hoping they’d man up and try to make the comic artwork at par with Kyoku Shurei’s covers, which were stunningly beautiful.

      omg same here!!! i actually spent good money on those books based on the covers, and the fact that i loved the original film. yuck yuck yuck — i resold them for nearly 1/3 the original price :/


  7. Angelica says:

    Wow, I used to buy a lot of Tokyopop titles in high school (around 4 years ago)! I have complete KareKano, Fruits Basket, Gravitation and every Saiyuki volume published by Tokyopop. O_o’ The English grammar seems fine to me. Is it that the translations aren’t faithful to the original Japanese text?

    Grrr, should I go and find scanlations of the abovementioned series? O_o’ Since they’re all kind of old and licensed by Viz it might be difficult though. T_T I feel so bewildered!


    1. sorry to have to break it to you — but no, TP translations were often times very loose and not in keeping with the original japanese 😦


  8. Angelica says:

    Okay, I just followed your link to “The Reader Eclectic.” That IS appalling. I’m glad to say I’ve rarely seen those kinds of errors in my Tokyopop manga, but like I said I bought my manga in the early 2000s. If they’ve really allowed their publishing standards to fall as low as in The Reader’s Eclectic’s post, then I’m not sorry to see them go either.


  9. carmina b. guibao says:

    may tanung po ako ? paano kung gusto ko mag visit visa kase punta ako sa aking kaibigan sa japan? paano gagawin ko? pano maka kuwa ng visit visa ? ano po ang dapat unang gawin ko? liban sa may passport na po ako, yung taga japan mismo na kaibigan ko gagastos sa akin po?.. sana matulungan nyo po ako ..salmat..


    1. Sorry, I can’t help you — your question is out of topic 😐


  10. gelie says:

    hi good day magnetic rose 🙂 Magkakaroon po ba ng conflicts sa tourist visa ko if sa birth certificate ko may middle initial at sa passport is walang m.i?


    1. Sorry but your comment is off-topic so we can’t help you. Thanks.


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