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Tokyopop to End Publishing for North America

Tokyopop has announced the end of its publishing operations in North America and the closing of its headquarters in Los Angeles, California effective May 31st, 2011. The company’s European operations and film production division will remain active. The status of ongoing manga releases published by Tokyopop are currently unknown. A public relations representative has issued a statement that “Tokyopop will announce the future of specific titles and other releases in the coming weeks.”

Originally founded as “Mixx” in 1997, Tokyopop introduced Sailor Moon and Magic Knight Rayearth to the English-speaking market along with Parasythe and Ice Blade and eventually went on to become a major publisher of Japanese manga and Korean manhwa. Manga titles published by Tokyopop over the years included Aria, Battle Royale, Cardcaptor Sakura, Fruits Basket, GTO, Hetalia: Axis Powers, Kare Kano: HIs and Her Circumstances, Love Hina, Sgt. Frog, Peach Girl, PlanetES, and more. The company also pioneered the publishing of manga in its traditional right-to-left format, switching over to that approach completely in 2002.

Prior to this announcement, Tokyopop underwent significant restructuring and cutbacks in 2008 and suffered the loss of all licensing agreements with the Japanese publisher Kodansha in 2009. A new round of layoffs occurred in March 2011, which CEO Stu Levy attributed to the impact that the bankruptcy of the Borders bookstore chain had on the company.

On Tokyopop’s offical website, Levy posted a personal statement about the closure.

Dear TOKYOPOP Community:

Way back in 1997, we set out to bring a little-known form of Japanese entertainment to American shores. I originally named our little company “Mixx”, meaning a mix of entertainment, mix of media, and mix of cultures. My dream was to build a bridge between Japan and America, through the incredible stories I discovered as a student in Tokyo.

Starting with just four titles — Parasyte, Ice Blade, Magic Knight Rayearth, and, of course, Sailor Moon — we launched MixxZine, aspiring to introduce comics to girls. These four series laid down the cornerstone for what would eventually become TOKYOPOP and the Manga Revolution.

Over the years, I’ve explored many variations of manga culture – “OEL” manga, “Cine-Manga”, children’s books we called “Manga Chapters”, the Gothic-Lolita Bible, Korean manwha (which we still called “manga” at the time), video game soundtracks, live-action films and documentaries, anime, and various merchandise. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t – but the most enjoyable part of this journey has been the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever met.

Many of you also allowed me the indulgence to not only produce works but also to take a swing at creating some of my own. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to criticize others than it is to create from scratch – but in doing so, I’ve also in the process learned how to better communicate with creators.

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!).

For many years Japan has been my second home, and I have devoted much of my career to bringing my love for Japan to the world – and hopefully in my own way, I can give back to the culture that has given me so much joy.

In closing, I simply want to thank all of you – our incredibly talented creators from all over the world, our patient and supportive business partners and customers, our amazingly dedicated TOKYOPOP team – full-timers, part-timers, freelancers and interns, and of course the greatest fans in the entire world. Together, we’ve succeeded in bringing manga to North America and beyond.

Arigatougozaimasu!!

[sources: Comics Beat, Anime News Network, ICv2]

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