Otaku USA Magazine
Manga Industry Pioneer Toren Smith dies

On March 4, the American anime and manga communities lost a legend with the passing of Toren Smith. He was 52 years old.

Even if you don’t recognize his name, Smith’s influence is still felt by anyone who reads manga in the United States. He was one of the first to recognize the potential of the American market as a place to sell manga, and more importantly, he actually did something about it – selling all of his possessions, moving to Japan and starving half to death in order to make deals with Japanese publishers.

At one point, Smith lived with the young and ambitious members of future Evangelion creators Studio Gainax, a partnership that would lead to him co-founding AnimeCon – or, as it is known today, Anime Expo. A character based on him was also featured in Gainax’s early hit, Gunbuster.

Smith’s translation company, Studio Proteus, made a name for itself with exceptionally well-produced English-language adaptations of lauded manga titles like Ghost in the Shell, Blade of the Immortal and Oh! My Goddess, until Dark Horse Comics bought the publishing rights to Studio Proteus’ translations in 2004.

That was only a short time before the bottom fell out of the American manga market, a turn of events Smith had correctly predicted, noting the glut of badly translated, poorly-edited books lining the shelves of Barnes & Noble stores across America.

This story originally ran in the 3/19/13 issue of the Otaku USA e-News newsletter. If you’re not on the mailing list, then you’re reading it late! Click here to join.