A lot has been going on at Viz Media recently. First, back in April, Viz started running Rumiko Takahashi’s new manga, Rin-Ne, concurrent with it’s Japanese release online for American fans to read. A first for legal simultaneous manga releases. Next, Viz quietly announced that they would be releasing up-to-date One Piece chapters in Shonen Jump. Then they confirmed that they were discontinuing it’s manga magazine for girls, Shojo Beat. This was a major disappointment to many people (myself included). But, right on the heels of that, as if to try to make amends, Viz then announces the start of a new manga magazine. Online. Ikki is a Japanese manga magazine that specializes in seinen, or young men’s manga.
In conjunction with Viz’s Signature line, this new website will feature serializations of new manga, with the most popular getting published. It is soft launching with the manga Children of the Sea, a title already solicited in Previews, so it will be coming out. Other titles, starting with Bokurano and Ore wa mada Honki Dashitenai Dake (I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow), will be published in book form based on popularity.
Finally, a manga company is embracing the new media! Putting manga online should not be seen a threat to print sales. There are actually two different audiences, and starting an online venture like this reaches out to both. And, believe it or not, there are people (like me) who will buy the print books even after reading them online. I’ve found several Tokyopop OEL titles that way, mostly because they are the only ones who would put anything online. And, not so ironically, they are also the ones that have been touting online posting increases print sales, not decrease.
So, finally we’ve got somebody who is willing to take this change and is putting new licenses up and letting the audience decide which will succeed. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? Right now, with magazines being threatened to go the way of the newspaper/dodo, seeing a move like this does inspire some hope. If Viz is willing to take a chance on such a small market, like manga for adult audiences, maybe us girls can get our Shojo Beat back in online form. Just like seinen manga, shojo titles would do better with a promotional vehicle like Ikki. I certainly wouldn’t have started reading half the shojo I do now without Shojo Beat.
Viz should be applauded for this first step and encouraged to take more. Not just for bringing more manga online legally, but also for bringing more adult manga out. And then we can hope, in the “monkey see, monkey do” model of business, maybe some other companies will get their feet wet too.