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Tokyopop and Kodansha end partnership


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POSTED: Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Within a matter of hours yesterday, the world of comics in the U.S. shifted rather dramatically with two announcements.

The news that's certainly been getting more traction in the comics community at large was Disney's buyout of Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. I've posted some satirical thoughts on that online at “;Otaku Ohana”; (the link is at the end of this column), since that deal has more of a connection to the video game world than anime and manga per se.

But the news that's more relevant to us here in “;Cel Shaded”; land was Tokyopop's acknowledgment yesterday, first posted by Brigid Alverson on http://www.mangablog.com, that Japanese publisher Kodansha would not be renewing any of its licensing rights with the company.

What this means is that any manga series in progress will never see their endings published, and past series will never be reprinted, unless a publisher other than Tokyopop ends up picking up the rights.

The announcement brings to an end what was one of the most successful partnerships of the early boom of manga in the U.S. The manga anthology that put Tokyopop on the map in 1997, MixxZine, launched with four Kodansha series: “;Sailor Moon,”; “;Parasyte”; and “;Ice Blade.”; Tokyopop's big push that ultimately landed more manga in bookstores, the “;100 Percent Authentic Manga”; initiative of 2002, also was driven heavily by Kodansha series; most noteworthy from that era were Ken Akamatsu's “;Love Hina”;; several series by the popular artist collective CLAMP, including “;Chobits”; and “;Cardcaptor Sakura”;; and two favorites of tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Jandoc, “;Kindaichi Case Files”; and “;Initial D.”;

Over at the Precocious Curmudgeon blog (http://www.hsblinks.com/o3), David Welsh listed 66 series covered under the partnership.

In recent years, though, Kodansha's allegiances clearly had shifted elsewhere. Del Rey was getting the lion's share of new series, and former Tokyopop/Kodansha properties were soon landing at other publishers: “;Parasyte”; and “;Samurai Deeper Kyo”; to Del Rey; “;Clover,”; “;Cardcaptor Sakura,”; “;Chobits”; and “;Magic Knight Rayearth”; to Dark Horse. Series like “;Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad,”; “;Kindaichi”; and “;Initial D”; also went on indefinite hiatus (the latter two much to Wilma's chagrin).

The end of this partnership certainly deals a blow to Tokyopop, but I doubt it will be fatal. Tokyopop has agreements with other Japanese publishers, and its global/original English manga program likely will remain a central part of the company's strategy. Where the question lies, though, is what this means for the future of Kodansha series in America.

Buzz has already started to resurface on the oft-reported rumor that Kodansha plans to go into business for itself, a rumor that I'd have to say looks less likely given the current state of the global economy. Del Rey and Dark Horse would appear to be the publishers to watch for the short term.

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Jason S. Yadao is the author of Rough Guides' “;The Rough Guide to Manga,”; available in October. For more anime and manga news and commentary, check out “;Otaku Ohana”; at blogs.starbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jsyadao or e-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).