And we’re back in the Tokyo courts as former investment banker Takeshi Matsubara is convicted of insider trading with the details of four Japanese companies, including the anime studio Gonzo, the people who brought you Romeo X Juliet and Hellsing Ultimate. Matsubara was a financier at Aozora (“Blue Sky”) bank in 2007, when Gonzo Digimation Holdings struck a secret deal for extra investment from So-Net Capital holdings. Aware of the coming injection of cash, Matsubara rushed out and bought a ton of GDH shares, which shot up in value when the news became official. He sold them off soon after, netting a personal profit of 14 million yen (that’s £102,000 in your Earth money).
Unfortunately for him, Matsubara was caught, and now faces a four-year suspended sentence and fines to the amount of quadruple his original profits for daring to dabble in the wacky world of anime financing.
Anime and manga companies are an incredible mess of paperwork. They are founded, declare bankruptcy, and coalesce immediately once more around their old staff. Tokyo Movie becomes Tokyo Movie Shinsha (“New Company”), A Productions becomes Shin A (“New A”). Mushi Production collapses in a heap, but reveals that most of its copyrights are owned by Tezuka Productions, which can keep trading… and so on. Gonzo ended up buying itself to streamline its funds. Such brinkmanship is an everyday occurrence in the corporate world, and it’s a fact of life that some companies fail and others succeed, and also that a “dead” company might have staff, machinery or real estate that’s worth recovering from the debt-ridden mess.
Which brings me to the recent demise of Tokyopop, a company that has just shut down in the US, mortally wounded by the collapse of Borders. But Tokyopop has a rack of intellectual property, thanks to draconian rights deals that signed over non-Japanese creators’ work to the publisher. It won’t be long before Tokyopop titles fade from shelves, but many still exist as ideas that belong to Tokyopop or its successors. One wonders, how much is that intellectual property worth? A hundred comics, perhaps, any one of which might become a movie one day? A video game? Or is it all unsellable dross? As a blue-sky investment, how much would you pay for the Tokyopop backlist…?
Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO 86, 2011.