All the buzz around TOKYOPOP recently really saddens me. I’ve always been a fan of the company and would tend to agree with its claim that it was indeed “leading the manga revolution.” More than anything else, I think all of the apocalyptic news lately can be blamed on our floundering economy. Yes, DVD sales are down across the board — both in Japan and Stateside. Yes, Bandai Visual is gone. Geneon USA is gone. Yes, manga sales are also down and an over saturated market wasn’t helping it. Yes, tons of companies are downsizing and their employees facing waves of layoffs. But if you think that none of this is happening to hundreds of other companies across corporate America, then you need to pull your ignorant weeaboo head out of the hole for a while and watch the news.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t factors contributing to these issues from within the anime and manga industries, but with gas averaging more than $4/gal, there are people desperate enough to border hop to Mexico, despite prevailant gang violence, so they can save a few hundred dollars — it shouldn’t be surprising that sales of these entertainment items are falling. Parents are paying double what they used to every month for gas; most likely, their kids’ allowances are shrinking as a result. College students are also struggling with higher gas prices, and that part-time job is getting harder and harder to find. Even though our general age group might like to think we’re still a little isolated from the “real world,” this just isn’t the case anymore.
Back to TOKYOPOP though. As much as I respect them, I suppose I can still be counted amongst the number who are just shaking their heads and saying, “I knew this would happen.” In the last two years or so, every time I walked into a bookstore, the manga section seems to have grown again, and a vast majority of the titles will belong to TP. Viz stayed a powerhouse by licensing the big titles (Naruto, Bleach, Death Note), but TP has always been the forerunner in variety. They licensed fucking everything. Kind of. Despite the undesputably broader range, shoujo still seemed to be their main ticket. Walking by the shelves and skimming the hundreds of titles, I always wondered how much of a fanbase each one had. I knew the anime/manga fandom had been growing almost exponentially for years now, but it still seemed unlikely that these dozens of obscure titles were taking in amazing profits.
Now it seems painfully obvious that TP had outstretched themselves. It should have never come to that; it was just poor decision making.
Their objective with the cutting back on titles and massive layoffs is obvious, but I’m less certain about the rest of their restructuring plans. What exactly are they trying to achieve? New Media? Please, no. Why on earth would you want to venture into a new industry your core industry is in so much trouble? If stretching yourself too thin was the problem in the past, WHY ARE YOU DOING IT AGAIN? I’m shaking my head at you, TOKYOPOP, and if that venture falls through in a few years, I’ll still be with the group saying “I told you so.”
I really feel like TOKYOPOP and all the other floundering businesses in our industry need to re-examine their priorities. Just concentrate on what they know they’re good at for now. There is a time to try out new things and take risks, but with things the way they are now, I think it would be better to hold those off until after the storm — or at least until we know more about what to expect from our economy. Gas isn’t expected to go much higher, but it isn’t expected to go back down any time soon either. Eventually, consumer habits will probably return to more healthy levels, but for now, let’s just ride out the storm without doing anything incredibly… stupid.