TOKYOPOP is shutting down their US division May 31st. In recent years the publishing company has fallen on tough times, like much of the manga market. Since February, TOKYOPOP has limped along with just 6 employees after a series of layoffs sparked by the Borders bankruptcy.
TOKYOPOP has brought manga to the US since 1997 with hits like Sailor Moon and Chobits. They also introduced the more traditional right-to-left reading style.
So what does this mean for manga readers?
Manga will still be available through Del Rey, Viz and Bandai so it’s not like manga will disappear from the US. Manga lovers should take this shutdown as a warning. Manga publishing is almost as precarious as the newspaper business. With the proliferation of piracy, scanlations, and other means of reading manga, publishers are finding it harder to turn profit. No profit means no new manga.
The best way to reduce the chance of manga disappearing from the US is to purchase manga instead of reading scanlations. Yes, I know this is expensive for those of us who are manga addicts, but money keeps the mangaka fed and books printed.
If we aren’t careful manga may be only available (once again) online. Pleasurable confusion about right-to-left reading could very well become a memory. This isn’t to be a fear monger or anything. There is the same danger with traditional newspapers and other printed works. I, for one, prefer the feel of flipping pages and real ink over clicking and screens.
Besides, manga looks good on the book shelf.