We recently spent some time with Tokyopop publisher and editor in chief Mike Kiley to talk about the manga market and Tokyopop's place in it.  In Part 3, we talk about Tokyopop's relationships with Kodansha and its Korean licensors, its mix of products, and the next Fruits Basket.  In Part 1, we talked about Tokyopop's expansion from a publisher of only Japanese titles, to a publisher of American, Korean, and licensed Cine-manga titles as well.  In Part 2, we talked about the definition of manga.  And in Part 4, we'll ask whether American or Korean manga products will ever hit the top of the bestseller lists, frequency and pace of release, whether manga can continue to grow, and the role of retailers in growing the market.

To what degree is Tokyopop continuing its relationship with Kodansha.  I asked this question a year ago when Del Rey announced they would be publishing Kodansha titles, and Tokyopop said  there was an ongoing relationship.  We'd like to update that--are there currently new titles from Tokyopop that are licensed from Kodansha?

Yes.  My answers to some of your questions are also going to be subject to a little bit of a restriction.  I can really only talk about things that have already been announced, through the mid-point of 2006.  Beyond that it's a little premature to discuss. 


On the Kodansha side, later this year we've got Telepathic Wanderers, in January Dragonhead, Ultra Cute, and Flower of Eden start.  In February, Kami-Kaze starts, and in April, Life starts.  I don't know how many series that is...



Those books are all enormously important to us.  The short answer is it continues to be an incredibly important relationship.


A similar question on the Korean material.  Now that ICE Kunion is coming to the States to publish Korean material, will Tokyopop be scaling back its publication of Korean material as your current licenses run out? 

No, and that's an unequivocal no.  The Korean stuff has never been half our line or anything like that.  We've published more Korean titles, of course, than anyone else in the States.  I believe that even including ICE Kunion, that will continue to be the case for the indefinite future.  We're extremely bullish on Korea, and remain committed to it being a huge part of our manga line.


Are you licensing stuff from publishers other than those that are in that consortium?

Yes.  We're also beginning to work with Korean artists ourselves and bring out original properties that we develop.  We look at Korea in two ways: as a great licensing partner and also as a source for original material.


You said you didn't have target percentages in terms of your four main categories.  How do you see your current mix evolving in the future?  There's been a lot of change in that mix over the last couple of years.  Do you see that change continuing, or are you set in terms of where you expect it to be?

We feel that our strengths are as manga ambassadors and as manga story-tellers.  The creation of original properties is going to continue to be incredibly important to us.  It's probably fair to say that's where a significant part of the company's future lies.  But at the same time, we're at heart manga fans and some of the best manga in the world is produced by our partners in Japan, Korea, and Europe.  I don't ever see licensing not being a critical component, whether it's seventy-five per cent now or fifty per cent in three years.  We don't look at it like that.  We look where the best stories are, what material is available to us to either develop or license, and then we build our list.  I'm not sure I can say with a great deal of authority, 'Oh yes, this is the road map to the future and it indicates that by 2009 45% of our releases will be original.'  I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that because I don't think it's reflective of the way we work. 


You've had a great run over the last couple of years with first, Love Hina and Chobits, which were a tag-team pair of hits running at the same time, and now Fruits Basket which has been an incredible hit.  What's in the pipe that has a chance at that kind of success?

If I knew that I'd be making a lot more money.  That's such a tough question.  You always know there are great books in your line and you can do all the homework, try to figure out what the fan base wants, but ultimately things are going to surprise you.  There are three or four of books which have just come out or will be out by the end of '05 we think have the potential to be really big.  Whether they're going to be Fruits Basket big, who knows.  Four that come to mind are Beck and BLAME! on the shonen side, and Girl's Bravo, which is kind of a cross-over title, and Tsukuyomi:  Moon Phase.  We have five or six titles with huge break-out potential for the first half of '06.  We talked earlier about Kami-Kaze and Life.  Loveless is arguably our most anticipated series in the first half of 06.  Rozen Maiden by Peach Pit would be another candidate for that level of success, plus Anima, and the GTO prequel, Shonan Jumai Gumi.  So those are the things that have that potential.  I'm not a good enough soothsayer to know whether any of them would get to that particular level or not.  I think a few of them will.


The only other thing that occurs to me about potential break-out hits--  We have ongoing original series like Princess Ai, Warcraft, Bizenghast and something like Sokora which are all going to have new volumes.  Because they've been proven to be BookScan best-sellers, they would all fall into the category...again hard to say whether they would get to the Fruits Basket, phenomenon level, but they will all be incredibly successful because they have a lot of momentum.  The original debuts for '06 that have that kind of Princess Ai/Warcraft potential would probably be Labyrinth, the first part of the Henson deal that will eventually result in both the Dark Crystal book and the Neil Gaiman MirrorMask book.  Labyrinth will be out in the first half of next year.  East Coast Rising and Blank have that kind of break-out potential.  Amy Kim Ganter's Sorcerers & Secretaries is classic shojo stuff that will be very successful.


If I'd asked you that question a couple years ago would Fruits Basket have been in the list?

Fruits Basket would totally have been on that list.  The level of success surprised some people.  We stay in close touch with what kind of licenses people want.  That license was at the top of everybody's list.
Click here to go to Part 4.