The Anime Almanac takes on the issue of the Tokyopop. Since I almost do not follow the manga at all, the article contained one eye-opener for me. I knew about the Tokyopop’s big OEL push. I knew that something was fishy with it when things like Van Von Hunter began to be manufactured from scratch with an “exit strategy” of getting a Tokyopop release. But I thought that it was brought about not by Del Rey’s success, but by Tokyopop execs observing how the market for localized works is bigger than that for exotics. Consider the success of Afro Samurai: Samuel Jackson sold more than twice over Aya Hirano. It was self-evident that the key to leapfrog the competition was to create a similar hybrid (even if Afro Samurai did not exist when Tokyopop searched for their breakout).
However, many fans of Japanese manga do not like OEL titles because they lack those exotic novelties that made Tokyopop huge in that “100% Authentic” revolution.
Psychoanalyse it however you like, but let me tell you, I am outraged every time I see fake manga. The feeling of betrayal is just burning.
Now let me just say that just because a manga is created by a Westerner for a Western audience does not mean that it is a bad comic. The aforementioned Fred Gallagher and Bryan Lee O’Malley both produce two phenomenal series. I’m even planning on writing a post about Scott Pilgrim in the near future because it’s so good. Even looking at Tokyopop’s OEL titles, you will find a fantastic gem called Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova. These series are light years beyond most Japanese manga, and they should not be overlooked simply because they’re not Japanese.
See the fallacy? Scott takes the best of OEL and compare it with the average of manga. How about comparing the “most” of OEL with the “most” of manga? Or pit Miss Chmakova against Mr. Azuma?
Apropos Fred Gallagher, it’s hard for me to understand just how he became a celebrity cartoonist. I never liked his strip. Still, he may have a few good ideas:
The company first received some flack when it was revealed that the terms of the contract to their potential Original English Language (OEL) manga artists granted the company fall “moral rights” to the artist’s works. The contract was immediately blasted by Fred Gallagher and Bryan Lee O’Malley, two highly successful OEL creators not on Tokyopop label, which generated an outcry from the community.
The two names mentioned above may not have much weight with me, but Scott Kurtz, who is an authentic American cartoonist, wrote about it twice (notice that he gives credit to Bryan Lee O’Malley for raising the rouble).
BTW, Kurtz tried to valtz with anime a few times. The last one was just embarrassing. Unfortunately, I don’t have a link saved.
UPDATE: Sixten e-mailed with the core question — do we judge by content or creator — only framed against himself:
Would you consider mine and Jason’s project, or any of Hinano’s doujins, as an “outrage” or a “betrayal”?
I’ll tell you what… If you use a fake Japanese pen name, if you produce crap in Inkscape just to milk another OEL crash program, why yes, I will!
Starlight does not pretend to be what it’s not.
He also added the following tidbit:
I think, THINK that part of the deal with OEL manga was that it appealed to people that didn’t even consider manga or comics, period. I am fairly certain that Viz got some OEL manga (which they attached the Shojo Beat label to anyway) into Cosmo Girl, for example.
UPDATE NEXT DAY: We woke Omo. Too much to quote, just read it.
UPDATE in 2013: It is anime now!