In news that may not come as too much of a surprise for any seasoned watcher of the manga industry, Tokyopop today announced that it is shutting down its North American publishing division centered in its Los Angeles offices – effectively ending the run of what was once the most powerful player in the expansive manga craze of the 2000s.
The Beat reported the news that the company will retain a Hamburg, Germany-based publishing and licensing division as well as its film and television unit, and Anime News Network confirmed the closure with Tokyopop Senior Vice President Mike Kiley.
One of the pioneer manga publishers of the boom that brought Japanese comics to countless young readers over the past decade and more, Tokyopop started out nearly 15 years ago with some of the earliest and most lasting hits in the bookstore market including "Sailor Moon" and "Fruits Basket." However, the company has not been without its detractors. In its first phase of massive growth, Tokyopop grew criticism for having unfair contracts offered to young creators of OEL manga looking to break in through the publisher's "Rising Stars of Manga" program, and a majority of original titles published by the company were canceled early including works by Becky Cloonan and Brandon Graham.
Since a 2008 restructuring saw staff cuts and a reduction of titles for Tokyopop, the company has seen its attention and resources divided amongst a number of projects including a Hulu reality series featuring company CEO Stu Levy. Since the start of 2011, a wave of news has come out of the company focusing on what have largely been viewed as unfavorable changes to the publishing line including a split from book distribution powerhouse HarperCollins, the laying off of well-known senior editors and a forthcoming web relaunch meant to refocus the company hit hard by Borders bankruptcy to a digital business model.
On Tokyopop's website, Levy released a statement where the CEO characterized the end of his publishing division and the loss of work for many of his employees as a victory. "Fourteen years later, I’m laying down my guns. Together, our community has fought the good fight, and, as a result, the Manga Revolution has been won –manga has become a ubiquitous part of global pop culture. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished – and the incredible group of passionate fans we’ve served along the way (my fellow revolutionaries!)," he wrote.
Levy is expected to continue to try and gain traction in Hollywood for the properties Tokyopop owns while also working on a documentary about the recent earthquakes in Japan. The company's first major film project – "Priest" – opens in the U.S. this month.
Stay tuned to CBR and Robot 6 for more on the Tokyopop closure as it becomes available.