BREAKING NEWS: Tokyopop and Kodansha End Partnership!

In a move that came to a surprise to all of us this morning, we learned that Japanese manga publisher Kodansha has ended their partnership with North American manga publisher Tokyopop. There are a lot of titles that are being affected (many even mid-run). Earlier this year, Kodansha also ended their partnership with Tokyopop’s German branch. We are all a bit heartbroken this morning because Tokyopop was one of the first companies to publish manga in North America, and Sailor Moon was one of their first titles too. Over the years at conventions they have gotten a lot of questions from Sailor Moon fans about whether they are still trying to get the rights to the manga, and the answer was always yes (and they also said the series was close to their hearts too). If there is any happier news to report from this, it seems some older properties that were once published by Tokyopop are now being published either by Del Rey or Dark Horse. Del Rey appears to have gotten the majority of newer titles too. As of this writing, we don’t know what caused this move. However, Tokyopop has been fighting through their own share of financial troubles and company restructuring, along with never ending complaints by fans for their editing choices. Once again, buzz has resurfaced that Kodansha may be doing this in preparation for their own entrance into the English manga market.

The big question becomes, what does this mean for Sailor Moon? Novelizations that were once published by Tokyopop as companions to the series now may never get published again (or new ones added). We suspected the rights to the manga were in limbo in any case after what we learned from Italy, however if there is a slight chance for the manga to return , it is too early to say who it would go to. While everyone is saying to keep their eyes out on Del Rey and Dark Horse Manga for title licenses, we’re going to watch Kodansha to see if they enter the market on their own or not.

Now, for those of you who are reading any of those series that are in limbo and ending in mid-run (check this list for more detail), you can write to Kodansha! Go here and send sales an e-mail. NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO TALK ABOUT SAILOR MOON. We promise, that will come a little later. Inquire about those series that are in mid-run right now that you are a big fan of, and how much you would like to hear of a license for it pretty soon – and if you were happy with Tokyopop’s translation, vouch for them!

For now though, we will send pertinent results to Tokyopop just to be on the safe side, and a copy will go to Kodansha. As of this writing we don’t know what stance Del Rey or Dark Horse has towards Sailor Moon.

Breaking News: Kodansha Makes A Name For Itself and Geneon is Rescued!

Last week, there were a couple big, breaking, developments in the anime world involving two companies involved with Sailor Moon, Kodansha and Geneon. Kodansha is a manga giant in Japan, and was the publisher of the Sailor Moon manga in both its novels and in their magazine, Nakayoshi (which is almost like Shojo Beat, filled with manga for girls). Geneon was responsible for bringing the movies, S and SuperS seasons to North America. Unfortunately, Geneon shut down North American operations abruptly last winter, leaving many series in limbo. Of course, Sailor Moon has been long gone for a few years now, so it had no releases implicated when this happened.

Kodansha to Directly Publish and Sell Manga in September

Kodansha, has had a few forays in publishing outside of Japan. They have published some reference books, dictionaries, and books about Japanese culture and language translated into English. The books were translated and published in Japan, and then exported around the world. Many years ago, they also tried to publish bilingual manga, which seemed like a good idea – speech bubbles contained both Japanese and English. However, they were very expensive, and they stopped publishing these when Tokyopop licensed the English rights to many of them. Last week, the company took another major foray, and announced that they were going to publish and directly sell manga beginning this September. Traditionally, Kodansha licensed some of their titles to Tokyopop and Del Rey, and to a smaller extent Viz. Kodansha has been watching the Manga market in the United States and has noticed it is on the rise, and that there is some competition between the manga companies with their books and magazines. We have a slight feeling Tokypop’s recent meltdown (**) had a role in accelerating their business strategy. Currently, their holding company Kodansha USA holds ¥210 million (around 2 million USD). They will be based out of New York and Yoshinobu Noma, a senior VP with the company will serve as President of Kodansha USA. We are assuming that the format will be English only. There is no word as of this writing what titles will be included, but Del Rey has confirmed none of their Kodansha licenses have been pulled.

If/when the issues between Naoko Takeuchi’s Princess Naoko Planning and other companies involved with Sailor Moon ever get reconciled, it is likely that Kodansha would probably handle everything with the manga themselves. It is hard to say whether this will be a good decision or not, many fans did not agree with some of the translation from the first time that the manga hit North American shelves. Again, Sailor Moon fans will have to wait and see until the first few titles are published from Kodansha, and how good the quality may be.

Funimation Rescues Some Geneon Titles

The last we heard from Geneon, was that they were pulling out of the anime industry in terms of distribution and releases, and were going to focus more on managing their properties. There is some truth to that, lately we have been noticing a few Geneon movies airing here and there on Teletoon. On the flip side, it looks like Anime Current on G4 has stopped. The block has been replaced with Reviews On The Run (a terrible video game review show which plays too many times on the network in a day). In February, the company donated $138,000 worth of toys, CDs, and DVDs (we assume all overstocks) to the Kids Wish Network. It’s nice that the company was still able to give back despite the circumstances.

When the company announced it’s shutdown, Funimation was very vocal about acquiring certain titles and licenses from them. However, they made the mistake of mentioning Sailor Moon, whose license has been out of international hands for many years now. Funimation announced last week that they had signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Geneon, leaving Funimation with the exclusive rights for marketing, manufacturing, sales and distribution of several Geneon titles. So far, the list includes:

Black Lagoon
Black Lagoon Second Barrage
Elemental Gelade
Ergo Proxy
Fate/stay night
Hellsing Ultimate
Kyo kara Maoh! Season 2
Lyrical Nanoha
Ninja Vixens
Paradise Kiss
Rozen Maiden
Rozen Maiden – Träumend
Shonen Onmyouji
The Familiar of Zero
The Law of Ueki
The Story of Saiunkoku
When They Cry

One of our very devoted readers and biggest fans was very crushed when she could not find any more volumes of Saiunkoku, and has been hanging off the edge of a cliff since the release of Volume 2. When she heard this news, she jumped for joy and gave us this exclusive comment, “That’s Great!” We still want to know what has happened to the classic gems that Geneon held such as Akira, Appleseed, Lain, Fushigi Yugi, and many more. Some store owners we spoke to were a little disappointed that Bandai didn’t get the rights, for they prefer their pricing structures over Funimation’s (and we agree). Funimation plans to begin these releases sometime in late summer, though it is unknown if they will continue where Geneon left off, or start these series over.

**We have neglected to talk about Tokyopop’s current restructuring, however we have spoken to a few comic book store owners. It is their unanimous opinion that the company licensed “too much too fast” and invested a little too much in independent artists which didn’t sell as much as they had hoped. While some of the owners we spoke to encourage independent artists, some of the titles that Tokyopop published barely sold at all. One of them showed us an entire section in which he said over 3 shipments, he only sold two books. In one’s opinion, it’s not entirely the fault of declining manga sales, but more dependant on what titles were licensed and how they were marketed. This is not a problem with Viz, as they are “cleaning hous” in comparison to Tokyopop.

Late Breaking News: Same Song, Different Con.

Tokyopop Is Still Attempting to Negotiate the Rights to the Sailor Moon Manga.

Genvid was one of the first to report of this news story at Baltimore’s Otakon. At Tokyopop’s industry panel, A fan asked Katherine Schilling and Alexis Kirsch if they were interested in re-releasing the Sailor Moon series. Katherine and Alexis are manga editors at Tokyopop and were representing them at Otakon. Here is our transcript of their answer from the video posted at ANN. Fast forward to around 28 minutes to see this part.

Katherine: It was the first one that Tokyopop did years ago, and it totally, yeah… we deserve to do a good version.
Alexis: We wanna do it but unfortunately there’s licensor issues with…umm.. in Japan between the creator and her company, so we’re just kinda stuck in a black hole there where we –
Fan: But you are working on it right?
Katherine: Oh we are pursuing it as much as we can, but sometimes there are some issues that are out of your hands for now.
Fan: Have you considered about releasing any of her other work?
Alexis: Yes we have-
Katherine:To a degree, to a degree… But there’s other stuff to consider first, and Sailor Moon is still in our hearts.

We sent an email to Tokyopop earlier this week to clarify details about the comments that they made at Otakon, but as of this writing we still haven’t heard back from them. These comments that were made really aren’t antyhing new from Tokyopop’s end. Since 2004 we have read many reports that they have been trying to get the rights to re-release the manga. As of this writing it is still unconfirmed whether they are trying to get the rights to the old manga releases (the ones from the early 90’s) or to the new re-releases with the additions and act redistributions – though we suspect it is the latter. But what really surprised us was finding out that they considered to get some of Naoko’s other works over here – of which most if not all are available only through fan translations. Still, it’s nice to know that they still have such positive feelings towards the property, and that they do want to do a better translation. The translation the first time around wasn’t well received by everyone with changes in names and attacks, for starters. Despite this, it was one of the first titles in North America to start the “Manga Boom” over a decade ago. And fans would probably have a better chance to acquire the manga now, as manga used to be carried in short stocks in a bookstore’s small graphic novels section or on a shelf with any of the cartoons, humor, or comics section. Now manga has become so popular it is hard to find a bookstore that doesn’t have its own large section devoted to manga.

This sort of got us wondering what the other two companies involved with the anime were up to. The general trend these days (when a series is brought to other markets), is that both a series’ manga and anime are usually picked up at around the same time – give or take a few months. We wouldn’t be surprised if another company was pursuing the rights to the anime at the same time that Tokyopop is going after the manga. Over the years, it seems that Geneon has definitely been more vocal than ADV (time and again) about re-acquiring the rights to the series should issues between Toei and Naoko be resolved. We even heard of a rumor from one of our readers, Furu, that Bandai Visual was seeking the rights to distribute PGSM to North America. We have been unable to confirm the validity of that rumor. But barely a peep from ADV, and this is the response we got to an email we sent to them earlier this week.

“At this time we have no information regarding an attempt to renegotiate the rights to Sailor Moon.”

Interested fans who want to know how hard ADV tried to get certain pulled episodes to DVD from their releases of the first two seasons should watch the last minute of the third video and the first bit of the fourth video here. The most striking point of the interview with Matt Greenfield (founder of ADV) was when he said “Sailor Moon has not exactly been handled in a logical manner in its release in this country.” We have to agree with them – and in looking at the release of the series in the early 2000’s, it really seems ADV got the short end of the stick in many ways. We’re going to spare you everything that went wrong with the handling of the series in North America, but the major ones that stand out in our minds are distribution (theatrical, home video/DVD and television), marketing, and merchandising.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, we have not heard from Geneon. If we do ever hear from them we will amend this post. But we did hear back from Right Stuf International (they handle Geneon’s customer service inquiries):

“We have not heard anything from Geneon about that. Unfortunately, we can’t comment on rumors; we can only comment on solid fact that the manufacturer provides to us.”

So all in all fans, while this is exciting news, the only really new thing that’s come out of this is that they considered getting Naoko Takeuchi’s other works. We have reason to believe that there are still some efforts by other companies to bring back the anime – but we can’t really say just which companies we know other than Geneon in the past or present has had some interest in the property (playing it safe). But to anyone involved with the property who may be reading this, we think we speak for all fans when we say…

“Bring her back already!”

To all our fans

We’ve heard the big news about Tokyopop’s impromptu announcement – but we’re holding out for something else. We promise we’ll tell you more once we know!

Manga Pioneer Tokyopop Celebrates Ten Years in the Business! (Along with a Surprise?!)

Tokyopop Celebrates Ten Years in the Manga Industry and Announces New Ratings System!

The First Issue of
MixxZine, August 1997

Tokyopop (once known as Mixx) celebrated their ten-year anniversary on February the 20th of this year. Tokyopop is one of the pioneers of the North American Manga industry , beginning with Mixxzine, a bi-monthly manga magazine back in August 1997. And what was the first manga that it featured? Sailor Moon, of course! And it could not have come at a better time. The show had just been resurrected on the USA network after its initial cancellation, and fans were finally able to enjoy the show along with the stories that served as the basis for the show. The magazine also served as one of the spark plugs that has eventually led to the “manga boom” we have seen in the last few years. Manga is now no longer just limited to the comic book stores, but can now be found nearly anywhere you can find a book, making it a lot easier for fans to access the series they love to read! Many bookstores in the beginning used to place these books in a special section amongst the comics or humor novels, but now nearly all of the brick and mortar stores have a special section devoted to manga and/or graphic novels. Tokyopop has since blossomed into a company distributing hundreds of titles in both English and German all through North America and Europe. They are also not just about Japanese manga anymore, having released many manwha titles as well as Cine-Manga, graphic novels based on popular tv shows and movies (that are not always Japanese in nature). Tokyopop is one of the leading publishers of “homegrown” manga, with artists and authors from outside Japan creating entirely new original series!

The Sailor Moon Manga
was published in 1998,
as the first of Mixx’s
three “Pocket Mixx”
novel series.
The other two
were Magic Knight
Rayearth and Parasyte.

Sadly, their translations of the Sailor Moon manga had mixed opinions. Many fans did not agree with the way certain things were translated into English, from small annoyances like Usagi’s name being translated to “Bunny” to large ones such as attacks like Sailor Saturn’s “Death Reborn Revolution” being translated to “Death Ribbon Revolution!” The manga went out of print May 2nd , 2005 . There was talk at Anime Boston 2005 from Tokyopop how they would like to re-release the series (along with other companies that were there with respect to the anime). In North America at least, the manga was probably one of the last (if not the last) of all the Sailor Moon property licences to expire. It is unknown whether they had intended to release a new, revised translation of the old manga, or whether they had intended to release the newer updated versions that came out around the time of PGSM.

With the ten year anniversary of Tokyopop came a surprise! Tokyopop was back then a pioneer also in the ratings of graphic novels, and has announced a new system of ratings for the books, in a bid to create a similar ratings system to that of the ESRB for video games. There are five categories, and here is the short version: A = all ages, Y = youth over the age of ten, T = teens ages 13 and older, OT = “Older Teen” 16 and up, and M = “Mature” – over 18 only! There is a link on their release to a PDF that gives a more comprehensive breakdown; right down to the words that you can expect to see in those categories and what sorts of graphical representations will be in the book.

So now, for the first time on this site, we’re going to try to stir up a discussion! Do you think Manga needs to be rated? Why or why not? Here’s what we think, post your thoughts in the comments!

Sailordees: I think there needs to be a better rating system and this one from what I have read isn’t that bad. Where I am right now there is debate about ratings and a lot of it comes from concerned parents who have young children into manga. Last summer there was an issue with the libraries placing all the graphic novels together (regardless of their intended audience) and younger children were picking up manga that were too mature for their age group. I’ve encountered these same sorts of things in retail with the placement of Anime DVDs, kids thinking that they are all just “cartoons” they would watch on TV that were “kid-safe”. Some stores separate their selection into categories to the best of their abilities while others do not. At that I would say , well the parents have the responsibility to look over the ratings for their kids. In a library though where things are a little more segregated I think that the library should also take the responsibility to split the books between those appropriate for children, and those appropriate for the older crowd, just as they do with everything else. Maybe they could stick up a poster explaining the ratings too so parents could take notice as stores here in Canada do that for movie ratings. While I do understand that in this modern world everyone is going to be exposed to everything sometime , I can understand the views of the parts of society that are concerned. If you don’t agree with ratings, you’re not forced by law to abide by them, but at the same time they are there to satisfy members of society who would like them.

The Me: Just like with movies, there is a wide range of stories and content in both anime and manga. Simply piling them all together under a blanket term because they appeal to a comparatively limited audience is not acceptable in the long run. Any ratings system will be inherently flawed because not all publications will fit between the nice rigid lines separating ratings, but as systems go the one proposed here seems to have a serviceable array of categories and should perform well.

starcat: I believe that ratings are necessary, and I’m thrilled to see them take a cue from the MPAA and state what causes the ratings. Some parents might be okay with violence but not with drugs, for example. As someone who is trying to form an anime club in a high school, I know ratings are very important. It’ll be tricky to get the school to even allow “teen,” but the administration will know what sort of things are in each series. I recently read Tokyopop’s release of Paradise Kiss, rated OT – older teen. In the second or third volume, though, there was “explicit sexual activity” – these volumes would be rated Mature by the new guidelines! Then again, there is the English release of Keroro Gunso as Sgt. Frog, also by Tokyopop – it’s rated T for teen. This is due to the excess of panty shots in an otherwise cute, inoffensive manga. I personally think Sgt. Frog could go lower without repercussions, as the art isn’t particularly detailed. Overall, I think the rating system is a little flawed, but the new guidelines will help quite a lot.

Box: In an ideal world (I call it Awesomeworld), we wouldn’t need content warning labels. Parents would be aware of their child’s entertainment, and make informed decisions based upon their own understanding. In the world we all seem to live in, though, it appears that any media with pictures (see: television, video games, movies, the like) appears to require a label to avoid crossing the spoken and unspoken boundaries; it is perhaps, then, inevitable that manga find itself interested in bearing similar statements. Is this strictly necessary? No. Useful? Quite possibly, yes.