Reflections on endings, or something of that sort.
I went a-plundering the other night, sallying forth to one of my local Borders (there are six of them within ten miles of me) in search of good deals on books. And while I had visited another one, one closer to my workplace, a while back for the same purpose, I was surprised at the degree of emotion that the whole endeavor elicited from me.
Well, but perhaps it was silly to be surprised; the other Borders I’d been to is one I had only been in once before, and then only to find a copy of The Haunting and scoff at the absurdity of paying $14 for a slim paperback that held pages of low quality. If I was going to drop any money at all on a copy of that book, I wanted a nice copy, thank you very much. So I left empty-handed, and only ventured back as a vulture. Ah well.
But this Borders, let’s just call it my Borders and get it over with, because that is exactly the best way to explain how I conceive of it in my mind vis-a-vis other Borders locations. This was the Borders I’ve always gone to. This was the Borders which steadily fed my manga habit all through the years (the local Barnes and Noble could never hold a candle to the selection at Borders). This is where I went from obnoxious in-store-reading urchin to adult understander of the economics of manga. Right there. Right by those shelves… although they used to be over there, and then were over there, and then…
There were none at all.
Although I suppose it hasn’t quite hit that point yet, although the signs advertising the sale of the store fixtures makes it clear that that is hardly a distant thing.
But what deepened that quiet sadness I felt settle in as I walked through the doors after seeing the parking lot fuller of cars than I’d seen it in years, I felt a furthering of a sensation of “all things must pass” as I gazed at the shelves of manga and saw many Tokyopop titles sitting there.
I snagged every copy of Chibi Vampire/Karin that they had in stock, having in the past year decided that, actually, I would really enjoy reading that series. I lingered over the Future Diary, but turned away, knowing that the final volume will never be. And although there were none there, I thought back to the slightly worn copy of Angel Nest I picked up from the bargain bin there years ago.
It isn’t a death knell for the market, although the market is shrinking. It isn’t necessarily a sadness for the Tokyopop which now exists, which honestly had become a shade of its former self. Its just that usual larger feeling of the transience of all things, albeit filtered down into something quite small – a manga publisher.
But is it fair to just call it that, I wonder? Maybe not for all, although their pioneering of the non-flipped manga release was certainly a massive deal, and there were other things which they were cutting-edge on. For me, though, Tokyopop was my entry-drug for manga, my ancient Sailor Moon Mixx editions buried somewhere in a suitcase, the default place for storage in my life, not boxes. Those out-of-print Marmalade Boy volumes my first experience with non-flipped manga, when that was such a delightful novelty. And old, old single, serialized chapters of Miracle Girls, back when U.S. companies actually released such things, trying to ape (with reason!) the habit of DC and Marvel and the like.
Those Sailor Moon volumes, though… those are the ones I remember best, will always remember most. Their compact sizes, their stiff pages and binding, their varying adherence to the original manga itself (Bunny and Hotaru, etc.). And the high prices they could fetch on the open market after they went out of print and before Kodansha announced its new intent with the series (and with Codename Sailor V, too!).
And those volumes of Sailor Moon were mostly obtained at Borders, with a couple from a local independent store. Borders and Tokyopop. Tokyopop and Borders. Fates, apparently, at least partially tied together, although Borders’ problems hardly had anything to do with all those Kodansha titles or the ventures into OEL (some of which I feel I need to point out were actually quite good, even if it was mostly crap… but so are most things, you know). Tokyopop did enough for its own gravedigging, and surely would’ve gone under in the not-too-distant future even without Borders ushering it along. But, even so, it is hard to separate them on an emotional plane; the passing of an era?
And we all walked away.