Has Tokyopop jumped the shark?

You know, if I worked for Tokyopop and I read this thread on the Anime on DVD forums, I’d be worried. It seems like a lot of people are saying the same thing: “I used to read a lot of Tokyopop, but the series I liked have ended and the new series don’t do much for me. I’m buying more than ever, but mostly from Viz.” That’s my summary, but here’s a real quote:

If Tokyopop continues this trend, in the next year or two I’ll have finished most of their titles I’m currently collecting and will be spending my money with other companies instead. It’s kind of sad, since I used to buy almost all of my manga from them.

This may reflect a certain anti-OEL manga bias at AoD, but the same commenter makes another point:

(There’s nothing wrong with the concept of MIC [a.k.a. OEL manga] but I don’t have money to spend on titles I know nothing about, when Viz and Del Ray are releasing so many more titles I know about.)

I think that comment speaks volumes. While Viz and Del Rey are releasing manga that have already built up a following in the scanlating and gaming and anime communities (all of which, I admit, are foreign to me), I think Viz has also done a great job of marketing their series via Shoujo Beat and Shonen Jump. In doing so, they basically mimicked what happens in Japan. Tokyopop’s Manga magazine is smaller and less frequent, although their online manga previews are a good marketing tool.

But there’s more to it than marketing; most commenters on the board seemed to see a quality issue, and it went beyond the question of OEL versus licensed manga.

Another complaint: the releases aren’t frequent enough, with lots of folks complaining about Fruits Basket in particular. This seems to hurt OEL manga among those who are willing to read it:

I’ve gotten some of them and liked them, but those series tend to come out at the rate of one per year. Even if I replace some of my ending manga series with those, that’s still fewer books overall.

On the plus side, no one is giving up on Fruits Basket, and the Blu line is generating some enthusiasm. But that’s not enough to put Tokyopop back on the throne.

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