A new year can mean fresh starts, new beginnings and brand new coats of paint. It’s just such a case with Viz Media and Tokyopop who’ve both revamped their websites in time to kick off 2013 in style.
Viz Media – which can now be reached at the simple and easily remembered viz.com – last did a large revamp of their website in January 2011, where I gave it a thorough and not especially glowing review. This time around the company has really gone for the simplistic route and I think it serves their content well.
The front page has clear images linking to their recent digital, print and animated releases, and more detailed breakdowns of all their new content via the links at the top. What I like the most is how easy it is to find information on manga series, which are now available to view alphabetically, by genre, by popularity, by imprint and by the search feature. Wonderfully the search feature pulls up more results than before and separates the results by format (print, digital, animated, etc.). It’s a layout that works almost entirely on images over text, and being done this way while keeping so tidy, really does a good job showing off the products.
For those, like me, who may find the images a bit too big on smaller screens, you can use your browser’s zoom out feature and the website really nicely accommodates the change with more thumbnails per page at smaller sizes. For my main 1024×768 screen, 75% is the sweet spot!
Then we come to Tokyopop, whose new site launch is notable for more reasons than just a shiny new look. Tokyopop hasn’t had a website of its own since the publishing side of the company was shut down abruptly in 2011. They handed over the .com and their mailing list to another company that used them to promote their own Japanese pop culture material via Facebook. Since then there’s been trickling of news from Tokyopop that they planned to return to publishing; the largest step being their team-up with RightStuf to release Hetalia.
Tokyopop.com now has a pretty attractive (though oversized for screens my size – zoom-outs are a must for reading it all) and easy to navigate website that certainly speaks at least a little more to their intent in returning. In what capacity is still in question, but it remains just as apparent that those expecting some sort of grand return to the abundant Tokyopop manga days of old are looking at the impossible. What the new website does show is that Tokyopop is continuing their publication of Hetalia, and has maintained the rights to their original manga-style graphic novels which they’re now promoting as digital editions. Remaining print editions are being sold via links to RightStuf, and some via print on demand. Tokyopop isn’t at all promoting or showcasing any of the hundreds of manga volumes they’ve published in the past despite remaining availability at retailers. I can only assume this is so they don’t give people the false impression that they’re still in the manga biz, which a fair enough decision on their part.
Interestingly, and unfortunately, from the initial discussions following TP’s site relaunch, the print on demands* are news to some of the books’ creators and the struggle to regain their rights after Tokyopop’s publishing-arm shutdown is an on-going battle. (*Edit: Current freelancer for Tokyopop, Daniella, shares her insight in the comments below)
I’ll be keeping an eye on Tokyopop.com predominantly for their blog section which includes areas for their current staff to speak about the company and its products, as well as a place for the approaching-infamous, Stu Levy. I don’t have any care for Hetalia, and am more interested in following their book creators’ new endeavours than the remains of their TP contracts, but I’m sure Tokyopop will pull off at least a few surprises over the next twelve months.