Just in this morning: TokyoPop Marketing Manager Kasia Piekarz sent a note confirming that the "touchy relations" with Japanese manga publisher Kodansha that was hinted at during last month's TokyoPop Insider webcast has gone from 'touchy' to pretty much cut off. Here's the official statement issued by TokyoPop via Piekarz this morning:
"The Japanese publisher Kodansha, from whom TOKYOPOP has licensed many terrific series over the years -- Chobits, Love Hina, Samurai Deeper Kyo, Rave Master, Initial D, Kindaichi, Life, GetBackers, and Love Attack, to name a few -- has decided to let all existing contracts with TOKYOPOP expire on all manga series that they have licensed to us. As a result, Kodansha will not renew any licenses with TOKYOPOP for any new manga volumes."
"What does this mean? TOKYOPOP will not be allowed to complete the publication of any series that is currently in progress; in addition, TOKYOPOP will not be allowed to reprint titles after the current inventory has been sold out, so once these series are sold out at retail, they will not be available for consumers to purchase. The reasons for Kodansha's decision were not communicated to TOKYOPOP."
"We have received many emails and phone calls about titles related to this announcement, and given the nature of the negotiations, we could not definitely answer any of those questions until now. We love all of these series, and we are disappointed that we will not get to enjoy the outcome of some of our favorite manga. We hope to see these series completed some day.... However, if they are ever published again, they will not be published by TOKYOPOP."
There have been rumblings about changes to this effect for a while, but this is about as concrete a confirmation as anyone could ask for, at least from the TokyoPop side of the story. Several notable events signaled this shift throughout this past year:
- "Del Rey Manga recently announced that they were taking over publishing the final volumes of Samurai Deeper Kyo, a long-running series that has been published by TokyoPop. Del Rey Manga has a long-standing, direct relationship with Kodansha, and the vast majority of their licensed manga titles are from Kodansha, including Fairy Tail, Negima! and their upcoming release, Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture.
- Dark Horse picked up several CLAMP titles previously published by TokyoPop including Chobits, Clover and Card Captor Sakura, and will be reissuing them in deluxe omnibus editions throughout the rest of 2009 and 2010. Dark Horse is currently working closely with CLAMP on the long-awaited "mangettes" project, which will feature new stories by CLAMP that will be concurrently published in the U.S., Japan and Korea.
- Several astute bloggers have also noticed that new editions of Akira and Ghost in the Shell, two iconic manga titles from Kodansha previously published by Dark Horse are showing up in Amazon.com's listings with an October 2009 release date from Kodansha.
- MangaBlog also reported that Kodansha pulled their licenses from TokyoPop Germany earlier this year.
- And of course, the original rumors that started circulating last July after Book Expo America 2008.
Still no official word from Kodansha about their plans for opening a U.S. office or the status of their numerous manga titles that are now in limbo -- but this announcement from TokyoPop has obviously turned up the heat on an issue that has been simmering in the background of the U.S. manga publishing business for some time.
This topic will surely come up at TokyoPop's next scheduled TokyoPop Insider webcast, which is scheduled for Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time (PST) / 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST).
To get the URL and passcode to join the conference, you'll need to subscribe to TokyoPop's RoboBlast newsletter. Here's how you can sign up to receive this weekly email newsletter and get the first scoops on TokyoPop news and reviews.
Besides fielding questions from curious fans and press about this bombshell Kodansha announcement, this edition of the TokyoPop Insider will also feature news about new manga titles on the horizon. The new manga announcements from the August event definitely skewed toward the shojo/josei (girls' / women's) end of the spectrum, so Wednesday's event's teaser "Murder, Mystery and Orcs?" seems to confirm that this batch of manga titles may be more geared toward shonen / seinen (boys' / men's) tastes.
We'll find out for sure on Wednesday! Can't make it? Fret not -- I'll be there and will post a report on what I see and hear soon after this event.
UPDATE: I posted a list of over 80 Kodansha manga titles licensed by Tokyopop and their current status.
UPDATE 2: Here's my report on the September edition of TokyoPop Insider webcast, with more comments about their split with Kodansha and the scheduled return of several other titles that are now on hiatus.
Image credit: © TOKYOPOP, © Akimine Kamijyo, KODANSHA, © CLAMP