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Page 4 - Cover Story (cont'd) ANIMEfringe: June 2000 - Page 5 Page 6 - Cover Story (cont'd)

Full Circle: The Unofficial History of MixxZine
By Adam "OMEGA" Arnold
Part Three: "For The Next-Gen Girl"

Smile, Love and Sadness

Smile 1-1A sign of the times, a magazine for the cyber-girl. The initial release of Smile 1-1 (December 1998) at end of October lead to even more flaming of the already war-torn Mixx Entertainment. Filled with girl-related content that Seventeen would laugh at and supplemented with tons of anime ads and the first installment of the Sailor Moon Super S manga storyline, it is not hard to see why the issue meet with such bitterness.

It can be said that Mixx Entertainment put on a good show though. Susan Jaget, Rod Sampson and the rest of the Smile team is to be commended for being able to compile such a radically unique magazine in the first place. By taking a closer look at the contents and sections one can find some beauty in the magazine: Surf Shop and URL's for gURLs both showcase a wide variety of teen related sites to browse and shop, while Ask the Goddess of Advice... is quite hilarious, yet deplorable, due to the nature of the replies the questions get, Girl Gear features a wide array of items in the fashion of Wired's ‘fetish' section, the Smile Profile showcases some up-and-coming teen, Street Scene showcases a series of captioned photos from some undisclosed place, Girl Games features the only positive review The X-Files: Unrestricted Access CD-Rom has ever received as well as a ensemble of Playstation and computer games, Phan Art sports tons of Sailor Moon artwork, and the mailbox section beside the contents page holds the Editor's Letter and reader Shout Out!

What is left in Smile 1-1 is the Surfer Gurl cover feature showcasing pro surfer and model Veronica Kay, and the Naoko Takeuchi at the San Diego Comic Con! article, that was left out of Mixx-Zine 2-2 which features a 180 word summary with some attractive photos of Naoko as well as a shortened transcript of the conventions Q & A panel discussion, the only problem is the article is not even mentioned in the extremely out of order table of contents. The main problem plaguing Smile is Mixx's public relations at the time of the release. If it had of been released at any other time, it just might of been receive with more enthusiasm. Yet, Smile 1-1 is a collectors item none-the-less.

The Universe of the Four Gods

When Mixx-Zine was first released, the closest form of competition came from Viz Communications' Manga Vision, which finished publication with issue 4-8, and Animerica magazine. This soon changed in late 1997 when Viz dropped a bombshell to clinch the mature manga market with Pulp: Manga For Grown Ups. The independent anthology Chibi Pop Manga, which turned web only with issue 2-4, was released at the beginning of the Mixx controversy. Still, Mixx-Zine was the only top notch anthology at the time and was unchallenged in the general reader market when Manga Vision ended.

The catch: Viz Communications had an ace up their sleeves, Animerica Extra, a 120+ page, black and white, manga anthology magazine which used Pulp's layout. Animerica Extra would feature fan favorite series Fushigi Yuugi and Video Girl Ai, as well as the long awaited continuations of X/1999 and Steam Detectives. Viz would use its wide reaching magazine Animerica to get stores to carry the manga anthology and put it right next to Mixx-Zine for the same amount of money. One thing was certain, manga had gone main stream.

Ice Blade Goeth

Mixx Entertainment's Press Release on November 6, 1998 gave full confirmation that "beginning with the February/March issue of MixxZine(r) (2-4), "Sorcerer Hunters" will replace the concluded "Ice Blade" saga. Created by Satoru Akahori and Ray Omishi, "Sorcerer Hunters" (originally known as "Bakuretsu Hunter" in Japan) is a fantasy adventure story set in a world where sorcerers use their powers to oppress the masses. The story centers on a team of four sorcerer hunters who, led by Carrot Glace, must resolve their own interpersonal issues, and still find time to save society from those who use magic for evil. A hugely popular manga in Japan, "Sorcerer Hunters" is a welcome addition to MixxZine's "motionless picture" collection (Mixx Entertainment Announces "Sorcerer Hunters")."

An important announcement from Mike Kiley came on November 11, 1998 in which he announced his resignation from his "position at UCI in order to pursue another opportunity in anime-related e-commerce." The announcement which was released via UCI's mailing list went on to say that "anime at UCI will continue in my absence, but in a different form. UCI's focus will be more local than global, and they will concentrate on selling existing stock to the anime community here on campus." The e-mail gave full details on the plans for UCI and Mike Kiley concluded with "the past 5 years here have been a gas--what we have all created together is something I will continue to treasure always." Mike Kiley would soon come to play an instrumental roll in the future of Mixx Entertainment.

Mixx-Zine 2-3As Mixx-Zine 2-3 (January 1999) was shipped the company was still getting over the devastating public relations fiasco. Yet, the new issue featured an interesting change: the magazine dimensions had changed again. This time the book was the size of Smile, and this meant the 2-on-1-page manga pages would appear larger than they did in the prior issue.

Pushing the Internet mud-slinging aside, the issue features several well-executed stories including the interview with Shoji Kawamori, the convention wrap-ups with the rest of the Comic-Con article, as well as a Smile-esque profile of Candice David, Mixx's Sailor Moon girl at E3. Sadly, Mixx-Zine 2-3 concluded Ice Blade's run with the magazine as the storyline drew to a close. Yet the Next Issue box at the end of the magazine gave full confirmation that Bakuretsu Hunter would take Ice Blade's place in the upcoming issue.

On December 1st, ANN brought word that a relations official at Viz, quoting an anonymous former Mixx employee, sent a warning about Mixx Entertainments fraudulent changing of circulation numbers that are made available to advertisers. The news story goes on to refer to specific examples that have been noted by the Viz official and the possible outcome of an audit if the circulation numbers can not be verified. Likewise, Stuart Levy quickly responded that the "readership numbers are calculated based on industry practice and support the excellent value that all our advertisers receive by participating in our advertising programs." Mr. Levy went on to point out the unprofessional nature of the litigation and the possible legal ramifications (ANN: Mixx defends against accusations).

Tokyo Pop Dot Com

Picking up where UCI left off. That's just what Mike Kiley did when he joined forces with Mixx Entertainment in late 1998 and started e-mailing the old customers of UCI. "I have decided to leave UCI in order to run an e-commerce site dedicated to anime, manga, videogames, and Jpop music & culture. This site is called Tokyo Pop--we open on 12.01.98...and I can't wait to get started! For the past 5 years at UCI, I have been lucky enough to be the anime vendor of choice for thousands of the most discriminating fans in the world...that experience has energized and inspired me to create Tokyo Pop and to take this here thang to the next level."

On November 23, 1998, just eight days before the launch, Mike Kiley did a mass e-mailing and clarified "some of the questions which have arisen regarding my partnership with Mixx Entertainment: Tokyo Pop is the new e-commerce division of Mixx. Here's the nature of the relationship: I select and order the product you will see, manage customer relations, oversee web site content creation, and, in general, do what you all have come to expect from me over the past 5 years…and, Mixx provides me with a dynamic flow of information, interviews, audio, and video from Japan, and also helps me scout out new suppliers in Japan so that we can begin to expand the range of anime, v-game, and J-music that we can offer to you. It's a match that will enhance immeasurably the quality of product and info flowing out of Tokyo Pop."

In the same day, Mike Kiley spoke with the Anime News Network about the new site. In this interview he discussed his departure from UCI and how he joined forces with Mixx Entertainment because he needed "a partner or group to provide a corporate infrastructure. Mixx was the logical choice, since their Japan bureau can instantly start feeding me vital topical information from Japan for the site (ANN: An interview with Mike Kiley)."

On Tuesday, December 01, 1998, the first Tokyo Pop Bulletin entitled ‘1.0: Netsite is Go for Liftoff!' was sent out by Mike Kiley and with the words: "Just a quick note to let y'all know that our webspace is now alive and kickin'...you can check it all out at www.tokyopop.com -- have fun!" the site began its history making journey to the heart of Asian Entertainment.

The Quiet Darkness

Smile 1-2Britney Spears cover feature, Melissa Joan Hart's Sabrina the Teenage Witch products, Kiki's Delivery Service ‘Anime Pix', and Sailor Moon Super S; overall Smile 1-2 (February 1999) has a lot to offer for $3.95. For a fashion magazine, the pictures still lack something, but the articles are worth a look at. And who would of thought Stu Levy had it in him to create a comic book? Sushi Girl is written and drawn by Tavicat (made up of Rosearik Rikki Simons and Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons) and is a psychedelic look into the future staring 18-year-old Kemmy as she is transported to the biggest city in the world, Meganallopolisuika, where she strives to become an Operap star.

Mixx-Zine 2-4Mixx-Zine 2-4 (February/March 1999) truly showed that Mixx had contacts and sure knew how to use them. The years of doing editorial work for Electronic Gaming Monthly and the Official Playstation Magazine from the Tokyo office sure paid off as Mixx got the lowdown on a slew of must-have games ranging from Neon Genesis Evangelion for Nintendo 64 to Rival Schools for PSX directly from the Tokyo Game Show ‘98. The issue also cover features an interview with Capcom's Yoshiki Okamoto and anime screenwriter Kenji Terada while the first installment of the Sorcerer Hunters manga joins the manga team. And the next issue clip on the masthead page reviled the future of the hip sports drama: "Harlem Beat takes a time out and will conclude in issue 2-6. And next issue, our Special Comic Spotlight shins on Zen, The Intergalactic Ninja."

During this time, Previews Vol.VIII, No.12 featured a bolded message in the Mixx Entertainment section stating that "Advanced Solicitation Shipping In March." This message basically meant that Mixx would be taking a short time off on some titles, but the majority of them would be released as scheduled. In the long run, this shifted the releases of all the titles a full month behind the solicitations presented in a given issue of Previews, hence solicitations for February would mean they would see a release in March and so on.

Smile 1-3Smile 1-3 (April 1999) presents more of the same that was seen in the previous issue, but builds on it with the insightful cover feature Celebrity Sightings: Cyber Spectacular. The article featured an array of pictures of famous ladies such as Daniel Fishel, Jenna Von Oy, Lindsay Sloan, Candace Cameron Bure, and tons of others all sitting around computers and enjoying the cyber-experience. All that and Smile Style featuring the cover model, Catherine Ploumoy, in a variety of fashions.

In the issue, crammed between Phan Art and Sailor Moon Super S, comes a hint that would soon make more sense when Mixx-Zine 2-5 saw a release. On one of the pages, appeared a brightly colored full-page ad featuring a canned drink called TokyoPop with a caption of "Your source for Anime-Manga-Videogames-Toys & Music from Japan. www.tokyopop.com"

No Looking Back

Mixx-Zine 2-5There is no turning back. Mixx-Zine 2-5 (April/May 1999) proved just that as a more unified and defined look took effect with the issue. The actual columns literally show a higher degree of development as is clearly evident in the informative RecRoom article about Ehrgeiz which is supplemented with must-use GameShark, not to mention the Dreamcast epic, Shenmue, gets a two-page spotlight in the 4One1 section. Also, in a move towards more specialized content comes a Top of the Charts listing of Japan's ten hottest videos, albums, manga, and singles, now that's hot like Wasabi. And to top it off a whopping number of three interviews with comic legend Jim Lee, Japanese seiyuu Yuko Miyamura (Evangelion's Auska), and Zen's creators Steve Stern and Dan Cote all grace the pages of the evolving magazine. As promised Zen, The Intergalactic Ninja takes center stage for an issue as Mixx-Zine presents the exclusive preview of the fully-painted Zen #1 comic book from Chikara Comics featuring a cutting edge story by Robert V. Conte and gorgeous artwork by Chris Scalf and Robert Scott.

After seeing the changes made with the issue, it was apparent that something big was going to happen. The hint came in the form of the location-changing Next Issue blurb; "MixxZine® 2-6 will be featuring the final episode of Harlem Beat, so don't miss it! Parasyte will be resting for one issue, but will be back in full effect issue 3-1. We'll also have the finest in import video games, anime, J-Pop, manga, and cool street stuff from Tokyo. There's a big announcement in this next issue, so make sure you check it out."

On a different note, during the first week of April 1999 the MixxOnline web site was hacked again, this time a long message was posted but was quickly replaced by the normal Mixx page. Apparently, the hack was the work of a disgruntled fan still frustrated with the changes (ANN: MixxOnline hacked again).

Sailor Moon Novel 1May 1999 saw the release of one of Mixx's most unique products at the time, the first Sailor Moon novel. Stuart Levy shows the he is man of all trades as he takes Naoko Takeuchi's creation and transforms it into a word filled book in the tradition of Mattel's Generation Girl short novel series. The first book, Sailor Moon Novel #1: A Scout is Born, chronicles how Serena/Bunny became Sailor Moon in the first place while giving the characters an in-depth look that no other medium has ever done. And best of all, the Smile Books are exclusive to North America and only cost $4.99 for 126 pages. A new volume would soon follow on a semi-regular basis of every three months. Not bad at all.

Smile 1-4Smile 1-4 (June 1999) features an improved layout, an excellent article on E3, and an amazing ensemble of sections. All this is finally made readable because the table of contents page has been transformed from a disorganized demon into an ordered plate of sushi. Plus the photo spread features the model Natasha Reulet. All these tweaks make Smile into a powerful girls magazine that is a definite contender for any future competition.

I'm Here For You

April 9, 1999: Mixx Entertainment announces the biggest change since Sailor Moon was moved. First and foremost the October 1999 issue will herald the beginning of the monthly issues, yet the magazine will be released 10 times a year. Secondly, with the August 1999 issue, "MixxZine® will be renamed Tokyo PopTM. MixxZine® is the authority of digital pop culture, introducing cutting-edge Japanese video games, comics (manga), cartoons (anime), pop artists, and technology to enthusiastic readers. The new name Tokyo PopTM captures both the true essence of the magazine as well as Tokyo's status as the world capital of digital pop culture, where technology and entertainment truly converge."

Though the name change is used to represent the new direction the magazine will take, it is also used to give web-surfers a solid version of the new e-commerce site to enjoy and the magazine readers will be urged to check out what the web site has to offer. Likewise, as the press release points out, it will attract "the growing Asian-American market demographic (Mixx Entertainment Press Releases April 9, 1999).

Yet, many people on the Internet debated that the move was to put an end to the negative attention that had ensued months prior. ANN summarized the situation best, and gave an interesting bit of info, with the summary; "The new name, according to CEO Stu Levy, better reflects the direction of the magazine, which is no longer considered a manga magazine by any party (including Mixx). The magazine will work together with the web site to provide information. The magazine also might get a new addition soon, as Levy hinted that Card Captor Sakura could very well be on its way (ANN: 6/11/99 Companies make announcements at A-kon)."

On the heels of the Tokyo Pop announcement came word that volume one of the Mobile Suit Gundam Blue Destiny Mixx Manga would be shipping in July. Padded with an exciting history of Gundam and full info on the Blue Destiny series, the press release is probably one of the most informative short info-bytes on Gundam's 20 year history ever released (Mixx Entertainment Press Releases April 12, 1999).

The Final Mixx

Mixx-Zine 2-6Mixx-Zine 2-6 (June/July 1999) featured the first time the magazine had not been bound with a glued spine, instead the issue was fold-stapled. Strangely enough, the cover which features the J-Pop band Every Little Thing seemed to be a deviant from the previous issues, even though 2-5 had featured a unique picture of Yuko Miyamura. When combined with the MixxOnline press release concerning Tokyo Pop, the ‘Special Announcement!!' from Stu Levy is both up-beat and sorrowful. Though the announcement is informative and gives full details of what Tokyo Pop will strive to be, how the subscription price will remain the same, and how the magazine will go monthly, the article does digress. One comment in particular is worth noting: "Things have really changed over the past two years, and some people reminisce about the "old days" of MixxZine® while others are sending us props about the "new" look and content of the mag."

Though Harlem Beat finishes its run in MixxZine, the magazine promises Mixx Entertainment "will continue the Harlem Beat story in the Pocket Mixx format for all you b-ball fans." However, this only leaves Gundam, Parasyte, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Sorcerer Hunters left. That's only four manga series out of the previous five. Along with that comes interviews with the bands: The Great 3 and Every Little Thing as well as Monkey Magic's Susumu Matsuhita and more video game and anime previews. All this serves as an excellent preview for what is to come in the third year as the magazine transforms into Tokyo Pop.

At Otakon ‘99, Stuart Levy discussed the upcoming changes that the magazine will go through in its transition. Yet, most discouraging of all was the fact that the magazine will only feature two manga stories per issue. But, hints came that the rights to Parasyte have been purchased to make it into a live action movie (ANN: Otakon ‘99 Wrap-up).

Smile 1-5Smile 1-5 (August 1999) takes some tips from Mixx-Zine and improves the review sections accordingly. The magazine also features an interview with the Irish band B*Witched and a look at the Hollywood primer of Notting Hill. The active wear photo spread featuring Eliza Hynes is especially worth a look because the photographer Bonnie Holland seems to of diverged from the style used in the previous issues making Eliza's photos incredibly unique.

Serena Times Two

Wizard #98: 'Net GainsWizard #96 (August 1999) gave word in ‘Net Gains, by Lars Pearson, of a very interesting development in the sleeper hit Mixx had been sitting on top of:
Sail away indeed! Until Pokémon, comicdom's awareness of anime-based comics was rather scattershot, and Sailor Moon's publisher, Mixx, is little-known among hardcore superhero fans. So sales of early Sailor Moon issues were light, though a Sailor Moon San Diego ComiCon #1 started the ball rolling. But as the Sailor Moon cartoon succeeded, more people want the comic–and they're rare. Prices have tripled in recent months and will likely keep sailing."

Likewise, Wizard #97's Top 10 Comics chart had an extremely surprising entry. Right behind the number 1 spotted Pokémon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu #1 appeared Sailor Moon #1 sitting high at number 2. And in true Wizard fashion there was an interesting caption; "In Japan, she's Usagi; on U.S. TV, Serena; but if you're a comics reader, we'd like to introduce you to Bunny, the schoolgirl who whomps evil as Sailor Moon. Why Bunny? Because "usagi" means "bunny" in Japanese–just ask Usagi Yojimbo if you don't believe us! Anyway, when a talking cat named Luna shows up to guide Bunny toward her Sailor Moon destiny, she gets a bunch of cool powers and a much shorter hemline. Luna, you're our kind of cat. Last Month: Not Rated (N.R.)"

Unfortunately, with the constant fluctuations of the fast-paced comic market, Sailor Moon #1 slipped to the number 7 spot in Wizard #98 before dropping off the chart the month after. But, Sailor Moon #1 made a surprise return to the number 7 spot in Wizard #102 before being toppled off the charts the next issue by DragonBall Z #1. Not bad for a first issue that isn't even the beginning of the story.

Next Chapter: The Anime Magazine Your Parents Warned You About -->

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Original Material © 1999 / 2000 ANIMEfringe, All Rights Reserved. 
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