Farewell Tokyopop!

I heard yesterday that Tokyopop was closing its doors for good. No word on what will happen to most of its licenses, but the majority of its cash cows were taken away by Kodansha a while ago anyway. Pretty much all they had that people cared about was Hetalia, Alice in the Country of Hearts, Future Diary and maybe Aria. None of these are series I’ve ever cared much for, anyway. The only Tokyopop manga I have in my collection is a few volumes of Sgt. Frog, which I always thought they did a smashing job with. So in that respect I’ll be a little sad to see them go.

These are the signs of the times, though. The great anime/manga boom of the early 2000s is long over, now it’s sink or swim. Viz has canceled future releases of series like Gintama and Katekyo Hitman Reborn that weren’t selling too well, and I think they’re on the right track with that. It’s time to slim down and pare away the chaff.

The surviving companies have to approach manga from a business perspective instead of a fan one: what sells? Get that, license it and sell it. If Tokyopop had done that instead of licensing hundreds of unprofitable series, wasting time developing Original English Manga that few people cared about and recently, insulting the fans with that horrible America’s Greatest Otaku series, maybe they’d have had a better chance of surviving. Maybe.

Of course, the fans might cry foul if only stuff like Naruto and Bleach gets licensed. Those people can count on Vertical to release niche titles that sell, I suppose. Or they can suck it up and realize that ‘artistic merit’ means nothing if it leads to bankruptcy. Face it, manga costs a lot to produce, license, translate, typeset, market and sell. If you go through all that trouble only to sell 200 copies of that manga, you might as well not bother at all.

Quite frankly, I don’t think the average anime/manga fan who has gotten used to watching or reading his/her favorite manga for free is going to change his/her behavior any time soon. They might say “OMG, I love series X, it should be licensed!” but when it is, they just come up with some flimsy excuse (I don’t have money, I don’t like the translation, I don’t like the cover, I don’t like the company, It’s too expensive, It’s not coming out fast enough) to ignore it and keep reading their illegal scans.

So instead of trying to get those lost fans back, it’s up to manga companies to study who DOES buy manga, what they do buy and how they make their buying decisions, and then sell manga to them. I think they’re beginning to do that.

I also think they should go after the surviving aggregate sites. They did well taking down Mangahelpers and OneManga, but they didn’t go far enough and others have sprung up to take their place, most notably MangaFox. They might not succeed in taking them all down, but they have to make a public and well-publicized effort to show the world that reading manga for free is not the way it’s supposed to go. I swear, there are fans now who think manga naturally comes in free, low-quality, online packages and that anyone who tries to charge for it is ripping them off. Even if you can’t stop them pirating, they should at least know that what they’re doing is wrong. (Plus it pisses me off to hear them thanking the aggregators like they did anything except upload scans downloaded from somewhere, but that’s another matter for another time.)

So, farewell Tokyopop. All things must come to an end someday, and yours was a long time coming.

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