They helped create the manga format that brought teenage girls into the graphic novel fold. They published Sailor Moon, the first commercially successful shoujo manga in the U.S., as well as Fruits Basket, Beck, Love Hina, and, more recently, Hetalia: Axis Powers. At one time they were the second largest manga publisher in the U.S.
And now, Tokyopop is no more. CEO Stu Levy announced on their forums today that Tokyopop Inc., the publishing arm of the company, is shutting its doors. (Tokyopop Media, LLC, will continue to work on bringing the company’s intellectual property into other media, and Tokyopop Germany will also keep going.) Our own Kate Dacey has a good summary of the story at The Manga Critic, I looked at the possible fate of some of their books at Robot 6, and Heidi MacDonald rounded up reactions from around the blogosphere at The Beat. Michelle Smith lists the releases scheduled for April at Soliloquy in Blue; it’s not clear yet what the fate of those books will be.
This is truly the end of an era. Toyopop helped popularize manga in this country with a simple idea—authentic, unflipped manga (which is, not incidentally, cheaper to produce than flipped manga), sold in a handy paperback format at a reasonable price. Other publishers tried to chop the comics up and colorize them for American audiences, or they published them in a larger format for a higher price. For ten dollars, Tokyopop gave you 200 pages of pure story, and for the first time in decades, someone was making comics for girls. Milton Greipp credits the manga boom for bringing female readers to comics, and while many have left manga behind, the comics world as a whole is much richer for it.