Tokyopop vs. Viz

David Taylor puts into words something I’ve been wondering myself: does American manga have a “Big Two”? (link no longer available) When it comes to the superhero-oriented direct market (often erroneously referred to as the “mainstream”), the big two publishers are DC and Marvel. It used to be, when it came to manga, the big two were Viz and Tokyopop.

Now jump forward to the beginning of 2006, and for me I think it is a bit of a stretch to put Tokyopop on the same level as Viz Media. Whilst I’m typing this I’m just trying to work out why Tokyopop have fallen so in my estimation, and truthfully I’m not entirely sure that’s exactly true. I love Tokyopop and I love their OEL scene and there are plenty of titles throughout 2005 that got me very excited and off the top of my head I can definitely pick a handful which will do the same in 2006. So really I don’t think it is a case of Tokyopop moving downwards but rather a case of Viz Media just shooting upwards at a scarily dizzying speed. So much happened in 2005 which had Viz Media’s mark over it that it was really their year and it really felt in the last quarter that the whole Manga publishing was a bit of a one-horse race.

I’d agree with this, especially if you’re interested in “true” manga and not graphic novels formatted and published as OEL manga for marketing purposes. Don’t get me wrong, those are the majority of my purchases from Tokyopop these days, but I think that’s a significant indicator. There are a few Tokyopop titles I absolutely adore — Tramps Like Us, Fruits Basket, Kindaichi Case Files — but only a few. Most of their translated works these days don’t look like anything I’d be interested in.

That’s somewhat surprising if you look at their history. They started by bringing shôjo titles over, developing a previously unexpected market among teen girls. Now, the titles in their catalog tend to be promoted with terms like “fan service”, targeting teenage boys. Are they ceding the female market to Viz, who in contrast has developed both an entire anthology magazine and a manga line for that group?

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