Tokyopop's last gasp: One more volume of <i>Hetalia</i>?

The manga publisher Tokyopop shut down at the end of May, leaving a number of series unfinished, to the dismay of fans. The company's website now redirects to its Facebook page, where a few of the more optimistic readers are trying to rally people to set up a charity to continue Tokyopop's good works, but most of the comments are from people asking where they can get the next volume of their favorite series.

It's clear from the general lack of responses (as well as the spam) that nobody at Tokyopop is actually looking at the page any more, but CEO Stu Levy made an appearance on Friday and asked "If there is a way to bring you Hetalia V. 3 but it's a bit more limited than back in the old days, would you be interested?" The response was mixed: His post has 530 "likes" so far, but over 100 people added comments, and many of the comments are asking about other books. A number of people said they didn't want Tokyopop to release volume 3 because that would delay transferring the license to a publisher that would commit to publishing the rest of the series.

Levy returned on Sunday with a few clarifications:

First, "limited" does not mean limited copies - all fans will be able to access the title. "Limited" here means channel (i.e. retail). Second, Hetalia #4 would be published as well. Third, other titles are different rights owners - this project is a partnership with the Hetalia rights owner, but titles owned by different rights owners are unrelated. That means even if TOKYOPOP wants to publish other titles, it can't.

Levy did dangle the possibility that if this model works, other publishers might jump on board. Buy those books, kids!

My initial thought was that Levy was thinking of a digital-only release. The first two volumes of Hetalia are still available on comiXology (as single chapters), just as comiXology CEO David Steinberger told me last spring. (Another Tokyopop person showed up in comments to the second post to say it would be both print and digital, but that comment subsequently disappeared so it's not clear that it was genuine.)

Former Tokyopop freelancer Daniella Orihuela-Gruber says that vol. 3 of Hetalia had just finished production when Stu shut the operation down, and other books were ready to go as well:

And there are volumes of Maid Sama, Gakuen Alice, Skyblue Shore and a number of other titles that we had finished production on only a few weeks before Tokyopop’s closure was announced. I was working on scripts for Chibisan Date and Diary of a Crazed Family right before the closure. I had even asked my managing editor to work on Flat after its previous editor had been laid off, but that title was months away from reaching editorial.

As it happens, Maid Sama and Gakuen Alice are two of the titles fans are clamoring for. These are books for which all the work has been done, and the license fee has been paid. There are other series, such as Alice in the Country of Hearts and Saiyuki Reload, that were just one volume away from completion. Tokyopop did say it was letting all its manga licenses revert back to the original owners, but clearly there is at least one exception to that. It's just not the exception a lot of fans want.

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