by Patrick King


Before I begin, please let me emphasize that "dear" part. You guys are great. With all due respect to the countless other people who have also helped bring anime, manga, and Japanese culture in general to America, your team really made today's domestic manga industry the continuing success story that it is. We fans know that we can count on you for well-written adaptations of great series, such as Love Hina, Chobits, and MARS, and we're eagerly awaiting what you have in store for us down the line.

Now, the reason I'm writing this letter actually concerns an older license of yours. The first manga I purchased from your brilliant "100% Authentic" lineup was Initial D. I loved it, and while I had appreciated manga before, that single volume helped convince me to buy the 400 other manga I've purchased over the past two years.

However, I never did buy any further volumes of Initial D. When it was announced that the Japanese names were to be changed to match up with the TV version of the series, as to not confuse the wealthy, older network executives who were in a position to broadcast it, I decided to wait and see if a better edition would be published. After all, as the progenitors of the "100% Authentic" line, which boasts unflipped books, unedited artwork and sound effects, a low price point, and quick release schedules, I knew I could count on TOKYOPOP to satisfy both the conservative producers you were trying to please and the fans that buy all of your books.

I remember your wonderfully explanatory open letter to the fan community, published on July 13th, 2002 at the Anime News Network. Hey, I can understand that sometimes we're forced to do things for money. Sadly, money is pretty important to all of us, and as a recent college grad who still hasn't landed a career, I can't begrudge you guys for looking for some extra funds.

Lately, I've been wondering when exactly we can expect to hear more details about all of the merchandise mentioned in the letter?

I assume that the "premium, uncut, subtitled DVD releases" are what we're able to find in stores already, and I do applaud your team for keeping the network-exec friendly version apart from the version fans actually want to see.

I've also noticed people picking up and playing the Initial D trading card game, and it's cool to see people into an anime-related CCG that isn't related to Pokèmon or Yu-Gi-Oh! in some way.

What I'm truly eager to get my hands on are the "limited collector's sets of the uncut manga themselves" that were mentioned as a possibility in the letter. I appreciate the idea of bundling white-out with the edited versions so we could change the names ourselves, but I don't think I could adequately re-illustrate the scenes that were scrapped completely.

Admittedly, I'm slightly concerned that I haven't seen any "exclusive 'bundles' comprising rare merchandise and obscure treasures", and the thought has occurred to me that perhaps Initial D isn't selling as well as other manga titles out there. I can say for a fact that my particular bookstore (a mall chain store whose name will remain super-secret), despite being one of the top 30 manga stores in the nation for our company, has only sold three sets of Initial D. When we're pushing out 200 manga a week, that's not too great.

I can attest from personal experience that the first volume was a blast to read, but here, at least, it hasn't quite become "Speed Racer for the new millennium", despite our hopes for its success.

So, I suppose, there are only a few possibilities. First of all, the series could actually be selling phenomenally well, and those special edition manga that don't have edited sex scenes or the quirky nicknames could be on the way to the publishers as I write.

Simply announce the titles, and I'll preorder them happily and wait for them with my typical fanboyish anticipation. Perhaps I'll paint the kanji from the Hachi-Roku (or the 86, or Mr. Slidey, or whatever people want to call Takumi, Tak, or Takky - your choice) on my old Trans-Am in lieu of the standard Flaming Chicken emblem other generations of my car have displayed. It has an automatic transmission and a large engine, but I could still try to get the front-heavy vehicle to perform like the Toyota featured in the show, power sliding around the curvey...uhm...mountains of St. Louis.

If, however, Initial D isn't faring well sales-wise, then I hope that doesn't discourage TOKYOPOP's investors from supporting the release of a version that we all actually want to buy - one with the original names, a minimum of American slang, and the sex scenes that we've all been waiting for.

In the end, I do agree that Initial D has the potential to be big. It's been two years since it first arrived over here, but just because it isn't selling like Fruits Basket doesn't mean it can't. Maybe it just hasn't been allowed to do well.

All I can say is that we fans have waited patiently for a more authentic version of the manga. Many of us are out there buying the DVDs, and while we can only laugh at the "Tricked Out" version of the series, we still enjoy the "Classic" version on the discs.

I'm worried that we'll never see the special uncut versions of Initial D in manga form, but if we do, my level of respect for TOKYOPOP will go up even more.

Also, while I have your attention, could you perhaps request that SEGA not change the names in the game? I love SEGA more than air, but I don't want to wait for the special unchanged edition of the video game as well. Something tells me they'd make a new console before that would happen.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see more good things from you guys soon!


Pat King

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