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TOKYOPOP to Shut Down U.S. Operations in May

TOKYOPOP announced Friday via press release that it will be shutting down its U.S.-based operations as of May 31, 2011. Founded by Stu Levy, the publisher was instrumental in introducing Japanese comics to the American marketplace in the form of Sailor Moon, among other titles, consequently contributing to and benefitting from the manga explosion in bookstores seen in the last decade. Sadly, a series of downsizes and the loss of crucial licenses culminated this week in TOKYOPOP confirming the closing of its Los Angeles office. The publisher’s German office will remain to facilitate rights and licensing concerns, and the film division will continue as well.

While the company has suffered a number of setbacks over the last few years — including layoffs; the controversial handling of a line of original English language books; and the loss of the lucrative Kodansha licenses — it would seem that the recent bankruptcy of Borders, a critically important manga reseller in the U.S. market, was the final nail in the TOKYOPOP coffin.As indicated by a tweet from comics writer Warren Ellis, the question on the minds of industry observers is what will become of the creator-owned OEL books like Brandon Graham’s King City and Dan Hipp’s GYAKUSHU!

In addition to the official press release, TOKYOPOP founder Stu Levy posted the following message on the company’s website.

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!!

Stu Levy
Founder, TOKYOPOP

[Via The Beat]

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