The Top 10 Best-selling TokyoPop Manga Series - #10 through #6
Through my years of working in VIZ Media’s Publishing Sales Team I have had to put together various reports listing our best-selling series. What has been interesting to see is the fact that VIZ Media’s best-selling series were best-sellers over a decade ago AND best-sellers today. I’m talking about the Narutos, Death Notes and Fullmetal Alchemists of the world. The bread and butter of VIZ Media’s manga business are iconic series that always seem to find new readers in each generation, a trend which is likely to continue.
In comparison TokyoPop, the famed manga company responsible for bucking the trend of publishing manga in the “flopped” format and formerly VIZ Media’s biggest competitor in North America, has a best-seller list that is very much a reflection of the generation in which it thrived. As someone whose interest in manga developed during TokyoPop’s heyday many of their best-sellers bring about much nostalgia. Some of my earliest manga reading experiences involved me borrowing copies of Chobits and Love Hina from a girl I carpooled with and I remember the girls sitting on the floor of the Manga Section at Borders bookstores reading copies of Fruits Basket (It would seem that my early interactions with girls also involved manga. It seems some things don’t change even after close to two decades…).
I and many of my generation have fond memories of at least one of the series from TokyoPop’s Top 10 Best-seller List, so to honor these manga series that helped bring about the manga boom of the 2000s let’s take a look at each one starting with….
#10 - Samurai Deeper Kyo
Samurai Deeper Kyo tells the story of a medicine peddler named Kyoshiro who shares a body with a feared samurai named Demon Eyes Kyo. Originally published by TokyoPop in June 2003, Samurai Deeper Kyo undoubtedly benefited from the popularity of the Rurouni Kenshin anime which had begun airing on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block in March 2003. With VIZ Media’s edition of the Rurouni Kenshin manga not making its debut until October 2003 there was quite some time for fans looking for a samurai manga to turn to Samurai Deeper Kyo, a series also filled with appealing action and adventure with a lot of badass sword fights in between.
As a long-running 38 volume manga series, Samurai Deeper Kyo saw the best and worst days of TokyoPop. It started off right by the peak of TokyoPop’s heyday and ran to the end of the 2000s when the manga boom was about ready to burst. It was at that point that Kodansha, the original Japanese publisher of Samurai Deeper Kyo, made the decision to allow their contracts with TokyoPop to expire after which they published the remaining volumes of Samurai Deeper Kyo with Del Rey Manga. However at the time in which the Del Rey volumes of Samurai Deeper Kyo were published the popularity of the once best-selling samurai manga had fallen.
I personally never read or watched Samurai Deeper Kyo until writing this article, but the property still holds a special place in my heart. There was a period of time in which I would make regular weekend visits to my local Fry’s Electronics to check out the Video Game and Anime sections. One product which caught my eye was a Samurai Deeper Kyo DVD that came with a copy of the Game Boy Advance game. To me it is one of the most 2000s things I can think of, and it seems that in the 2000s this property will remain...
Unlike many of the manga series that are covered in this article, Samurai Deeper Kyo is not currently available from any of the existing North American manga companies. With that said it looks as though Amazon still has brand new copies available for a few of the volumes if you’re interested in reading the 2000s classic.
#9 - Cardcaptor Sakura
Cardcaptor Sakura, the classic magical girl manga series in which ten-year-old Sakura Kinomoto takes on the magical personifications of the Clow Cards she accidentally released onto Tokyo, was one of TokyoPop’s earliest best-sellers. Prior to their heyday, TokyoPop released volumes of Cardcaptor Sakura in a “flopped” format starting in March 2000. The remaining volumes of the 12 volume manga series were released in the original right-to-left reading orientation under the name Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow. Later on TokyoPop re-released the original six volumes in a right-to-left reading orientation, or as TokyoPop liked to say as “100% Authentic Manga.” Between the original “flopped” release, the “Authentic Manga” release, the art books and the anime books, Cardcaptor Sakura was one of TokyoPop’s best-sellers.
The early 2000s were a time in which works by CLAMP, the manga super team responsible for creating Cardcaptor Sakura, were among the most popular. With a pleasant eye-candy art style, unique character designs and a healthy dose of action CLAMP manga was the shojo gateway drug for many fans during TokyoPop’s heyday. Of the many CLAMP series that gained popularity Cardcaptor Sakura was one of the most well-known.
The heavily censored and edited anime series aired on Kids’ WB from June 2000 to December 2001. It is hard to say whether or not the TV release was largely responsible for the North American success of the manga series due to the fact that the edits made caused the series to make the two seem vastly different (e.g. the anime aired on Kids’ WB was edited in a manner in which the action scenes were emphasized to appeal to a young male audience). It is more likely that the fans who made Cardcaptor Sakura a success in North America were the hardcore anime and manga fans who were part of online communities or subscribers to magazines such as Animerica where the series gained much word of mouth traction.
# 8 - Chibi Vampire
While most of TokyoPop’s best-selling series debuted in the earlier part of the 2000s, Chibi Vampire debuted later in the decade in April 2006. Originally published as Karin in Japan, Chibi Vampire is a cute romantic comedy series about a vampire named Karin Maaka who bites necks not to suck blood but rather to give blood...or else suffer the consequence of exaggerated nose-bleeds. In addition to releasing the best-selling manga series TokyoPop also released the light novel series, one of the earliest examples of an English language release of a light novel.
Like every entry in this best-seller list Chibi Vampire had an anime adaptation, though its release in North America was a bit rocky. The anime adaptation, released by Geneon USA with the original name of Karin, initially had an incomplete release due to the fact that the company went out of business before they could complete the series. Even with an incomplete release it seems that the popularity of Karin was enough to help raise the popularity of Chibi Vampire, but there is an even more interesting reason to why the series performed as well as it did.
When taking a look at the manga boom of the 2000s, the peak for the entire industry came slightly after the middle of the decade. The year 2006, the year in which Chibi Vampire debuted, was one of the best years for manga sales seen in North America. This was a time in which anime on TV was at its most popular, a time in which the coolest cartoons on TV were all Japanese. This was the time in which Borders stores increased their already large store space dedicated exclusively to manga. This was a time in which it felt like almost any manga released was bound to do well, and in this time one of the hottest new releases was Chibi Vampire.
Even with plenty of supernatural romances that have come out in between time there is definitely something unique and special about Chibi Vampire. The charming romantic comedy is not currently available in print from the existing North American manga companies, but digital versions are available through VIZ Media.
#7 - .hack
As a multimedia property, .hack gained fans through different channels. Many fans came into the property through the Playstation 2 JRPG series that debuted in February 2003 with .hack//Infection. Many more fans came into the property through the anime .hack//Sign which aired on Cartoon Network from March 2003 to March 2004. In addition to being a popular video game and anime property, .hack was also very successful as a manga. TokyoPop saw great success with their release of several .hack manga series including .hack//AI buster, .hack//Another Birth and the best-selling .hack//Legend of the Twilight.
For the unacquainted .hack tells the story of a future in which the most popular game of all time is an MMORPG called The World, a game in which many of the users have entered a comatose state for unknown reasons. In addition to elements of science fiction and great action, the appeals of .hack include conspiracy, suspense and mystery. TokyoPop’s release of .hack//Legend of the Twilight was one of the best-selling manga series in the early days of the manga boom with the first volume being one of the best-selling graphic novels of 2003. The property had surprising longevity seeing great success with .hack//AI buster released in 2005, .hack//Another Birth released in 2006 and .hack//G.U. and .hack//XXXX released in 2008. However it seems that the popularity of the franchise died out once the decade ended with releases such as .hack//Link being a relatively low seller.
While nowadays there are several manga, anime and light novel properties that involve MMORPGs, getting stuck in MMORPGs and conspiracies involving getting stuck in MMORPGs such as Sword Art Online for a period of time .hack stood as the prime example. Though it is no longer the most well known of the genre, to this day it has delivered an experience unlike any other property. What is unique about .hack’s multimedia release was the fact that the manga, anime and video games all told separate stories to tell the overall story. They were not mere adaptations of each other, but rather separate individual stories told in different mediums. To this day no other property has delivered an experience quite like .hack, and if any have they have not reached the level of popularity that .hack enjoyed in its prime.
The .hack manga series are not currently available, but it looks as though several brand new volumes of the series are still available through Amazon.
#6 - Kingdom Hearts
The other video game tie-in from TokyoPop’s Top 10 Best-seller List, Kingdom Hearts to this day remains as one of the best-selling manga series related to a video game franchise. TokyoPop released the first of three Kingdom Hearts manga series in October 2005. What is interesting about TokyoPop’s release of the first Kingdom Hearts manga series is the fact that they decided to release it in the “flopped” left-to-right reading orientation. I can only speculate that this was done in order to appeal to a mainstream audience of the popular video game series, an audience that may not necessarily have been savvy manga readers. In my opinion this was not necessary since the passionate following of Kingdom Hearts fans were at the ready to make this manga series a mainstream hit regardless of what reading orientation it was published in.
As stated earlier in the article the middle portion of the 2000s was the time in which manga was at its most successful in North America. Because of that the Kingdom Hearts manga came out at the right time to become a hit. In a way the manga series jumped on a wave of success known as the peak of the manga boom, but it also jumped on a wave of success for the Kingdom Hearts property. Though the first installment of the game was released in North America in September 2002 the peak of the franchise’s popularity seemed to come later after the release of Kingdom Hearts II in March 2006. I have not found data to confirm whether or not Kingdom Hearts II was the more successful game in terms of units sold, but in terms of cultural impact it is undeniable that it is the most significant game of the franchise. It is the game that introduced more story elements and character designs that resonated with anime and manga fans. Put bluntly it is the installment that added more angst and bishounen characters into the franchise. With the timing of TokyoPop’s manga release close to the release of Kingdom Hearts II it was as though the manga series was riding on a wave of Kingdom Hearts hype in addition to the wave of the manga boom’s peak.
Though the Kingdom Hearts manga are more or less direct adaptations of the video game installments they are tied to the manga manages to deliver a unique experience for those who have already played the games. One reason why this is the case pertains to Shiro Amano’s cute and quirky art style, one that is vastly different from the aesthetic of the video games. Additionally there are many original side stories that place characters into fun and funny situations.
The three Kingdom Hearts manga series originally released by TokyoPop (Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II) have been re-released by Yen Press.
That’s it for now. Check back later when the Manga Jerk finishes off TokyoPop’s Top 10 Best-selling Manga List with #5 through #1.