Sunday, April 01, 2007

Manga Pioneer Tokyopop Celebrates Ten Years in the Business! (Along with a Surprise?!)

Tokyopop Celebrates Ten Years in the Manga Industry and Announces New Ratings System!

The First Issue of
MixxZine, August 1997
Tokyopop (once known as Mixx) celebrated their ten-year anniversary on February the 20th of this year. Tokyopop is one of the pioneers of the North American Manga industry , beginning with Mixxzine, a bi-monthly manga magazine back in August 1997. And what was the first manga that it featured? Sailor Moon, of course! And it could not have come at a better time. The show had just been resurrected on the USA network after its initial cancellation, and fans were finally able to enjoy the show along with the stories that served as the basis for the show. The magazine also served as one of the spark plugs that has eventually led to the “manga boom” we have seen in the last few years. Manga is now no longer just limited to the comic book stores, but can now be found nearly anywhere you can find a book, making it a lot easier for fans to access the series they love to read! Many bookstores in the beginning used to place these books in a special section amongst the comics or humor novels, but now nearly all of the brick and mortar stores have a special section devoted to manga and/or graphic novels. Tokyopop has since blossomed into a company distributing hundreds of titles in both English and German all through North America and Europe. They are also not just about Japanese manga anymore, having released many manwha titles as well as Cine-Manga, graphic novels based on popular tv shows and movies (that are not always Japanese in nature). Tokyopop is one of the leading publishers of "homegrown" manga, with artists and authors from outside Japan creating entirely new original series!

The Sailor Moon Manga
was published in 1998,
as the first of Mixx’s
three “Pocket Mixx”
novel series.
The other two
were Magic Knight
Rayearth and Parasyte.

Sadly, their translations of the Sailor Moon manga had mixed opinions. Many fans did not agree with the way certain things were translated into English, from small annoyances like Usagi’s name being translated to "Bunny" to large ones such as attacks like Sailor Saturn’s "Death Reborn Revolution" being translated to "Death Ribbon Revolution!" The manga went out of print May 2nd , 2005 . There was talk at Anime Boston 2005 from Tokyopop how they would like to re-release the series (along with other companies that were there with respect to the anime). In North America at least, the manga was probably one of the last (if not the last) of all the Sailor Moon property licences to expire. It is unknown whether they had intended to release a new, revised translation of the old manga, or whether they had intended to release the newer updated versions that came out around the time of PGSM.

With the ten year anniversary of Tokyopop came a surprise! Tokyopop was back then a pioneer also in the ratings of graphic novels, and has announced a new system of ratings for the books, in a bid to create a similar ratings system to that of the ESRB for video games. There are five categories, and here is the short version: A = all ages, Y = youth over the age of ten, T = teens ages 13 and older, OT = "Older Teen" 16 and up, and M = "Mature" - over 18 only! There is a link on their release to a PDF that gives a more comprehensive breakdown; right down to the words that you can expect to see in those categories and what sorts of graphical representations will be in the book.

So now, for the first time on this site, we’re going to try to stir up a discussion! Do you think Manga needs to be rated? Why or why not? Here’s what we think, post your thoughts in the comments!

Sailordees: I think there needs to be a better rating system and this one from what I have read isn’t that bad. Where I am right now there is debate about ratings and a lot of it comes from concerned parents who have young children into manga. Last summer there was an issue with the libraries placing all the graphic novels together (regardless of their intended audience) and younger children were picking up manga that were too mature for their age group. I’ve encountered these same sorts of things in retail with the placement of Anime DVDs, kids thinking that they are all just "cartoons" they would watch on TV that were "kid-safe". Some stores separate their selection into categories to the best of their abilities while others do not. At that I would say , well the parents have the responsibility to look over the ratings for their kids. In a library though where things are a little more segregated I think that the library should also take the responsibility to split the books between those appropriate for children, and those appropriate for the older crowd, just as they do with everything else. Maybe they could stick up a poster explaining the ratings too so parents could take notice as stores here in Canada do that for movie ratings. While I do understand that in this modern world everyone is going to be exposed to everything sometime , I can understand the views of the parts of society that are concerned. If you don’t agree with ratings, you’re not forced by law to abide by them, but at the same time they are there to satisfy members of society who would like them.

The Me: Just like with movies, there is a wide range of stories and content in both anime and manga. Simply piling them all together under a blanket term because they appeal to a comparatively limited audience is not acceptable in the long run. Any ratings system will be inherently flawed because not all publications will fit between the nice rigid lines separating ratings, but as systems go the one proposed here seems to have a serviceable array of categories and should perform well.

starcat: I believe that ratings are necessary, and I'm thrilled to see them take a cue from the MPAA and state what causes the ratings. Some parents might be okay with violence but not with drugs, for example. As someone who is trying to form an anime club in a high school, I know ratings are very important. It'll be tricky to get the school to even allow "teen," but the administration will know what sort of things are in each series. I recently read Tokyopop's release of Paradise Kiss, rated OT - older teen. In the second or third volume, though, there was "explicit sexual activity" - these volumes would be rated Mature by the new guidelines! Then again, there is the English release of Keroro Gunso as Sgt. Frog, also by Tokyopop - it's rated T for teen. This is due to the excess of panty shots in an otherwise cute, inoffensive manga. I personally think Sgt. Frog could go lower without repercussions, as the art isn't particularly detailed. Overall, I think the rating system is a little flawed, but the new guidelines will help quite a lot.

Box: In an ideal world (I call it Awesomeworld), we wouldn't need content warning labels. Parents would be aware of their child's entertainment, and make informed decisions based upon their own understanding. In the world we all seem to live in, though, it appears that any media with pictures (see: television, video games, movies, the like) appears to require a label to avoid crossing the spoken and unspoken boundaries; it is perhaps, then, inevitable that manga find itself interested in bearing similar statements. Is this strictly necessary? No. Useful? Quite possibly, yes.

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