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Tokyopop Open Letter regarding Initial D

posted on by Christopher Macdonald
Responding to the Anime community's uneasiness regarding "editorial changes" being made to Initial D, Tokyopop has sent out a very lengthy letter explaining their choices.

The following letter was sent to us by Tokyopop last night, give it a read and let us know what you think in the forum; our own impressions will be posted in there and may be posted as an editorial on ANN.


TOKYOPOP & Initial D
During the past few days, there's been a lot of discussion about TOKYOPOP's plans for Initial D. We've taken notice, and thought we would chime in some insight from within the walls of TPOP headquarters…

First, we score Initial D, this kick-ass franchise property from Japan. We get the anime, the manga, the merchandising -- and we are thrilled! Then, we start making our plans. This is gonna be Speed Racer for the new millennium -- we're thinking lunch pails, videogames, t-shirts… you name it!

We also know that we have a responsibility to be true to the spirit of the original Japanese version of Initial D. So, we start having lots of late night sessions about how to present Initial D to the widest possible audience and yet still retain its core essence. Some of us insist on calling the car the 'Hachi-Roku,' others call that insane and say that the only way to present the car to an American audience is as the 'Eight-Six.' We talk to bigwig network execs who want all the kanji removed from the logo and the car, who want to change tofu delivery to pizza delivery, who are utterly mystified at our insistence on retaining the original Japanese sound effects and printing the manga right-to-left, and who want us to refer to Takumi as Jeffrey “because it would be easier to pronounce”!

Most of the time, amidst this onslaught, we stick to our guns. Tofu stays tofu - place names like Mount Akina, Myogi, Akagi, the names of the racing teams, the name of the very prefecture wherein the story unfolds, the Fujiwara Tofu Shop kanji on the side of the Eight-Six -- we keep them all. But, bless our pointy little heads, we decide to create nicknames for some of the character names in the books because we know that they will have to be changed when the show gets on television, anyway – and at least we can keep the nicknames close.

So, Takumi becomes Tak, and Itsuki becomes Iggy, and Bunta & Kenji become Bunta & Kenji (wait, those aren't good examples - gomen!), and Wataru Akiyama becomes Aki, and Keisuke Takahashi becomes K.T. It could've been worse – we could've been forced to go with Dirk, Patsy, Buffy, Andrea, Chelsea, Geoffrey, and Chandler … and, just FYI, the hot Sega Initial D arcade game due in a neighborhood near you soon will also feature the same names currently running in our manga.

So, why did we release the first volume of the manga with the original names? We simply screwed up – d'oh! – and went to press before our strategy was finalized. Those of you who bought the original print run of Volume 1 now find yourselves with a true collectible. Just so you know, our next printing of Volume 1 will have the altered names. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure: there are a few sex scenes in the manga that we'll be altering -- one in the 1st volume, another later on in Vol. 8 or 9. These edits are necessary because we are positioning Initial D in the U.S. for a younger audience than it serves in Japan.

And thus, the saga has unfolded. We're still wildly excited and overwhelmed by the initial fan and industry response to Initial D -- future plans for the property include all the things fans have asked for over the years -- and only occasionally received for such a mainstream property: premium, uncut, subtitled DVD releases, limited collector's sets of the uncut manga themselves, exclusive ‘bundles’ comprising rare merchandise and obscure treasures… Rest assured, we are committed to making Initial D available in as many fan-friendly formats as possible.

So, if the broadcast TV version of Initial D is not to your liking, we completely understand. There'll be an unedited, subtitled, Japanese language DVD release coming that we think you'll enjoy. If the manga with the altered names isn't your thing, that's cool, and we certainly respect your right to disagree with us. (We're thinking of shrink-wrapping the ‘nicknames’ version of the manga with a bottle of White-Out and a felt-tip pen so that fans can make their own name-changes as they see fit - whaddya think?)

We are passionate about anime and manga, and we believe in helping spread the word to as many people as we can. Many of us remember the joy of discovering Gigantor, or Robotech, or Yamato, or Dragonball, or Pokémon for the first time, and then rushing home from school every day so we would not miss a single episode. And we recall the further element of mystery when we learned that these shows came from Japan! At first, they were just great shows with weird, fascinating, complex story lines and an incredible approach to graphic design and camera work. Only later did we begin to obsess about where they came from, and then take the further step of comparing our initial innocent appreciations with the original Japanese source material – the birth of the otaku, ne?

This will all happen again with Initial D -- an entire generation of kids is gonna get hooked on anime and manga… without ever really thinking of it in those terms -- they'll just really like the show, and will want to see more things like it. And some of those kids WILL go on to become true fans and go through all the evolutions of appreciation that we all know and love so well… eventually seeking out subtitled DVDs, collector's editions of the manga, cosplaying Tak at AX, and learning to speak and read Japanese themselves so that they don't even have to deal with our choices.

At TOKYOPOP we will always remain committed to both audiences: we will be there to ‘break’ new shows and to expose anime and manga to the widest possible audience, and we will also never renege on our commitment to serve the fan market, as well -- because that's where we came from, and that's where all the real fun lies, anyway, ne?


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