New York Comic Con Tokyopop Entertainment
by Mikhail Koulikov,
For much of her presentation, the final one of this year's New York Comic Con, Tokyopop's Lillian Diaz-Przybyl answered questions from the audience and talked about the ways in which her company is moving beyond being simply a manga publisher. One of the projects that is currently in the works is a movie-length live-action feature based on the Van Von Hunter comic that Tokyopop publishes. It is being filmed in-house, and stars voice actor Yuri Lowenthal.
Fairly frequently, the titles that Tokyopop chooses for their manga are not the direct translations of the original Japanese. There is no set pattern for this, however. The decision to stay with an untranslated Japanese title may be based on prior fan recognition. On the other hand, feedback or recommendations from retailers may force an English title. At other times, the exact name a manga series will be marketed under is specified by its Japanese licensors. Or a decision on a particular name may simply have come down from the company's upper echelons. At the same time, however, since manga licensing fees comprise only small portions of the revenues of Japanese publishing companies, they tend to not interfere much in the business decisions of their American distibutors. In addition, in general, Tokyopop has found that except for certain very major creators, author names in of themselves are not enough to guarantee the popularity of any given manga. This was demonstrated particularly well by how well D.N.Angel has done for them, and how comparatively poorly Lagoon Engine sold.
Two items on Tokyopop's 2008 release calendar are related to Fruits Basket, arguably their most popular and successful manga. Starting in July, Barnes & Noble will begin carrying an exclusive Furuba 18-month day planner, which will also include a sticker collection. This will expand to other stores in October. Two months later, in December, Tokyopop will publish Gene Musou, This was Fruits Basket creator Natsuki Takaya's first multi-volume work, running for five volumes between 1994 and 1997 while being serialized in the magazines Hana to Yume Planet Zokan and Hana to Yume Step Zokan. Previously, Takaya also authored several one-shot manga, and those are in the pipeline for eventual publication as well.
Other manga Tokyopop staff are now working on include Vassalord, Silver Diamond (from Shiho Sugiura, better-known for the 24-volume The Ice-Cold Demon's Tale), and Jyu Oh Sei. This will be published in August in an oversized, three-volumes-in-one bind-up which will clock in at more than 400 pages. The two-volume Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, based on the popular supernatural/action videogame series, is set for September, as is the manga adaptation of Otsu-ichi's Goth novel. The book itself, along with Fate/stay night, are expected in October. At the New York Anime Festival last year, Tokyopop confirmed their plans to release the Kyo Kara Maoh! manga. To this, they are now adding the thirteen original novels the manga - and long-running anime series - are all based on.
Recently, Tokyopop has achieved significant success creating manga-style comics set in various videogame, television and book universes. To their Warcraft - The Sunwell Trilogy, they will add several anthologies and a comic series based on the Starcraft real-time strategy game. Between August and December, one Warcraft or Starcraft book will be published each month. Their manga-style Star Trek stories have also been fairly well received, and a collection based on Star Trek: The Next Generation is now in development. Tokyopop is actively working with several TNG script writers to create the stories that will appear in this collection.
Bizenghast has been one of Tokyopop's most successful original titles. The fifth volume in what will eventually be a seven-book series is due out in July, while a novel, which adds significant background to the story, is set for August. Tokyopop's other major original work, Princess Ai, is expanding with two anthology volumes, entitled Princess Ai: Rumors and Princess Ai: Encounters, and a new three-volume series, Princess Ai: Prison of the Midnight Dawn. Rumors presents alternate takes on the events of the original Princess Ai series, while Encounters features cross-overs with other original Tokyopop comics. The Warriors is also receiving more books, with the Rise of Scourge one-shot and the Tiger Star & Sasha Trilogy, coming in September. Another new Tokyopop original is Daemonium, from the Spanish creative team Kosen.
Two more Tokyopop originals are being brought back in deluxe versions. I Luv Halloween's three volumes will be colorized and collected into an ultimate edition that is due out in September. Dramacon will receive the same treatment in October, and that collection will also include an all-new 15-page comic.
The second volume of the Gothic & Lolita Bible magazine is set to publish in June. Content in its first volume was predominantly drawn from the Japanese editions, but Tokyopop's plan for the future is to increase the percentage of American content in it to about half.
Up until this point, Tokyopop has signed contracts with its non-Japanese creators for full-length books and series. This will now change, and the company plans to commission shorter, chapter-length works that will be distributed online. Decisions to go ahead with contracts will be based on how those are received by readers.
The short Q&A section of the panel again revealed several interesting items. There are still no plans to bring Kodocha back into print. In the near future, Tokyopop plans to return to more works by Mugen Spiral's Mizuho Kusanaga. And Otomen, from Soul Rescue's Aya Kanno, has been acquired by an American company that is not Tokyopop.
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