According to news coming down the wire, Kodansha seems to have refused to “refresh” any of their licenses currently held by Tokypop in Germany. The news was apparently made in a mailing sent out by Tokyopop to their fans, and is effective as of December 31st, 2008. It will affect the German publication of series Beck, Cromartie High School, School Rumble, Perfect Girl, and Hell Girl, only one of which (Beck) is published by Tokyopop in North America.
I can’t find anything official on the story, but here’s what I’ve found online so far:
An admittedly bad translation notes that “Reasons for this sudden decision are unknown, but it says that it is not related to the cooperation between Kodansha and Tokyopop Germany has to do,” which implies to me that it has nothing to do with Tokyopop Germany, and everything to do with the parent company and their relationship to Kodansha.
Tokyopop and Kodansha have had a rocky relationship for years, reportedly being exacerbated by the launch of Del Rey’s manga imprint and Kodansha awarding top manga properties XXXholic, Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicle, and Negima to the new pub instead of to TP, leading to statements that Kodansha refused to license to TP any further. In recent years, Kodansha licenses had been showing up at TP again (including BECK), but many of Tokyopop’s biggest back-catalog titles are Kodansha licenses, and losing them would substantially reduce their catalog.
This is also interesting news for industry watchers like myself who have been wondering what was going to shake out from all of the rumours of Kodansha setting up their own manga publishing arm here in North America. I had been assured that it was going to happen, but 2008 came to a close and no official movement was made. Maybe it was just a licensing waiting game? Tokyopop has been playing their cards very, very close to their respective chests in the last few months since the company’s very public difficulties, I’m wondering if we’ll get any word on the status of Kodansha’s english licenses any time soon. At last public statement, and pardon me for being too lazy to find the link, TP did say that they still had the BECK license (amongst others) but that was many months ago now.
Maybe someone with a better relationship with TP’s Marco Pavia can find out something I can’t.