Viz has been hyping changes lately. Back in July, at SDCC, they promised big changes for Shonen Jump. Two weeks ago, they started hinting at “big changes” coming “soon”. Those “big changes” have finally been revealed. Shonen Jump will have some exclusive online manga that only subscribers can access, and they will be selling manga through an iPad app.  Whoo. Big changes. Yeah….uh, no. There is nothing really big about these announcements, nor are they any real changes.

Shonen Jump has needed some new manga for a while. It’s been one long stream of shonen fights, and frankly has gotten really monotonous over the last year. There’s been nothing new or different to break it up. Finally, with the new issue that comes out in December, there will be some new manga coming to the magazine. Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh 5D will be added. Finally, they are back to keeping their promise of there always being a Yu-Gi-Oh title in Shonen Jump. While Psyren looks to be another battle manga, it at least doesn’t have ninja or shinigami or pirates. It’s fighting monsters in the future.

In addition, and apparently supposed to be the “big” news, was the addition of 3 titles that will be available online for Shonen Jump subscribers only. Bakuman and Toriko, which have already had volumes released, and were previewed in Shonen Jump will be available as well as the new title Nura: Rise of the Yokai. I’m actually enthused about being able to read Nura. I was hoping for it being in the print mag, but having access online isn’t bad. My only problem is keeping up with the online. I hope Viz follows Yen Press’ model of keeping chapters available for more than one month. A two month lee-way should be enough. Even better would be to keep them available until the print volume comes out, like they do at Shonen Sunday and SigIkki. As a subscriber to Shonen Jump, I like this news. I don’t think it “changes everything” like they touted, but it’s nice to have more titles. After being spoiled with 6-7 titles a month, the drop to 4 has been disappointing. Even if I didn’t care for them all, they still passed the time.

The other half of this “big changes” was the release of an iPad app that allows you to download and read full volumes. I’m sorry, but this is the least exciting of the news they could release. Everyone has an iPad app. Big whup. If they had announced a Android and/or Windows Mobile as well, or instead of, then it would have “changed everything”. Being just another app of millions isn’t ground breaking. It might be argued that because they are offering Japanese manga, unlike Yen Press, which is starting with their OEL and Korean manhwa on their app, this is a big step. Not really. Viz doesn’t have any OEL or korean manhwa. All they have to offer is Japanese manga, so of course their initial offerings will be from Japanese publishers. And they are starting with their most popular titles of course; Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Bakuman, and Death Note, which will you can download the first volume of for free.

Publisher Weekly says:

The long awaited release of an iPad app will allow fans to download and purchase manga legally instead of seeking out scanlations, the English translations of Japanese manga made by fans and illegally posted online to read for free.

That should be rephrased to say “…will allow iPad owning fans…” Not eveyone owns an iPad and not every one ever will. Putting apps on the iPad is not going to slow down scanlation sites in the least bit. Until manga is released on all platforms in an open format, iPad apps will not do anything to stem that tide. It is a first step, but not a good one. Sticking one finger in a dike with many holes doesn’t stop the flood.

I guess I should applaud Viz for taking this steps into the online world. But it’s a slow applause. If they wanted to live up to their hype, the “big changes” needed to be more than just doing what everyone else is doing.  I’ll be more impressed when manga becomes available on a platform other than some “i-” thing. But I am glad to be able to read Nura, and the second volume of Bakuman impressed me more than the first, so there’s hope there. I’ll wait and see for now. I think after the holidays we’ll have a better view of the digital reader market.

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15 Comments for this entry

  • Steve says:

    Valid points!

    But also the reason that this earth shaking… is that they are telling us that, within their industry, it is earth shaking. They work in a space where they are always having to convince others in their trade that computers exist and are relevant. The overall level of media coverage for iPad helped swing the balance for them.

    Otherwise it seems that many want to stay in the comfort zone of a physical print media. And print manga is overtly a beautiful thing. So in context of their own industry, it’s a bigger step than it seems to us, I think.

    Seeing the path of kindle, there is reason to think that they’ll start with iPad, create the infrastructure, and expand to other platforms.

    • I hope so. I just seems like the whole world thinks revolving around Apple is the answer to their woes, when it’s the complete opposite. That’s why I didn’t find the announcement exciting. Just following the crowd isn’t ground breaking. I’m glad they are dipping into the online world, it’s the whole “this changes everything” that seems so hollow.

  • Steve says:

    I hear you. Hopefully, the iPad is the first toe in the water, they’ll get their feet wet with this… and then learn to swim.

  • Andre says:

    If you check out ANN’s thread about the Ipad App, Ed Chavez from Vertical steps in and explains the difficulties involved with getting digital releases on multiple devices- every device has it’s own coding/programming/delivery system [so you can't just plunk in your high-res PDF for your print edition], which can sometimes be time consuming or restrictive depending on their policites [the Playstation Network one was rather icky by the sounds of it- they only want chapters, not full books, and they want the comics cut up into a panel by panel slideshow]. So basically, VIZ is stepping out with the device that lends itself best to reading comics [Kindle=stinky for comics at the moment] with a large number of users who have no qualms about plunking down money for digital books.
    I imagine it it does well, we’ll see it for other devices in time, but I’m surprised by some of the reactions- getting the artists of Naruto, One Piece and Ouran Host Club to all sign onto digital editions must of take a lot of work and negociating with Shonen Jump Japan’s editorial and Hakuensha [who did dip their toes into digital in the past with that english digital manga site that closed that they were involved in, mind you]

    A little step like this sounds momentously time and resource consuming for VIZ, who recently shed a lot of staff members due to the economy and manga sales slump. This seems to be a very big step and a lot of work on their part that fans seem underwhelmed by- maybe it would seem more awesome if piracy sites didn’t make it look so easy?

  • Andre says:

    And again, the fact that they’re stepping out with their top of the line titles shows that their japanese partners must have a lot of faith or interest in making this work. This bodes well for hopes of more digital expansions from VIZ, as it shows that they’re ready to step out with their top-tier stuff.

  • Oliver says:

    I, too, did not find this news amazing in the least bit. I can’t afford an Ipad and I certainly do not prefer to read any manga online. I hate where the future of manga is going. I can, however, afford the $10 print volumes, so there’s absolutely no reason (still) to buy an ipad or kindle.

  • Why all the iPad hate? It’d be smartest for Viz to release their manga for all digital formats, sure, but releasing manga for one format is at least a major step over the olden days when manga publishers were completely freaked out about any online manga. Making it available for iPad is no different than “movie X is available only on Netflix streaming”, or “movie Y is available only on Blockbuster Online, not Netflix” or “movie Z is available on DVD but not Blu-Ray.” Developing these apps takes some money and time (though the Viz app for iPad is strongly derivative of iBooks), and you can’t fault them for starting with the platform that they think will get them the most exposure and money.

    Of course, as someone who owned a Sega Dreamcast, a Nintendo 64 and an old Mac in the ’90s, I’m used to seeing software I want come out for platforms I don’t have. ;)

  • @jason Why? Because I hate Apple and the way they do business. I’ve certainly made no secret of that. Actually it isn’t any different, because I don’t like “exclusives” of any kind like that. I don’t like that Hollywood is holding back movies from sites like Netflix so they can force people to buy DVD and Blu-Ray, so of course I’m not going to like any company go with a format that is so restrictive and run by a tyrant who thinks he can dictate what the world watches and reads.

    I try to support any online inititive manga companies take on, even if I don’t own the hardware to make it work. I currently have a Wii, my phone is Windows Mobile 6.5, and if I get an e-book reader, I’m leaning toward the Nook Color. But bringing manga to the iPad exclusively? Sorry, that is one thing I can not support.

  • @Andre While I can appreciate all the time and effort Viz probably put into this, it was most likely in the works long before the layoffs came. And I’m sorry, but there is nothing revolutionary about putting an app on a device that has over 1 billion already, and they are far from the first to do it.

    I don’t see piracy diminishing this announcement. All piracy did was put manga on the web, which Viz has done quite successfully (I hope). Going for a restrictive, walled-garden platform that wants to tell you want you can and can’t read is not impressive.

    I’m glad to see that steps are going forward to some digital strageties for Japanese titles, but I’d like to see more steps forward than back.

  • John says:

    This reminds me of the time Viz announced big changes to the magazine and called it “SJ Evolution”. Well nothing great came out of that and I don’t see my interest in the magazine raising at all with the addition of those two new series. I don’t own an iPhone either but if I did I’d have no interest in buying volumes of One Piece or Dragon Ball that I already own.

    • I’m totally with you about the “SJ Evolution” . I called it a “De-Evolution” since I didn’t consider changing the magazine’s line up to match Cartoon Network’s Toonami/Adult Swim anime line up evolutionary.

      Depending on how Viz handles the supplimentary material, it might be interesting, and might be evolutionary, but with the conservative nature of Viz and Japanese publishers, I highly doubt it.

  • Oliver says:

    Isn’t anybody on here a traditionalist? Nobody prefers to read print books anymore? Manga artists draw on the paper and that’s where it’s meant to be read: on paper. I can see the supplementing income that digital provides but at least books don’t hurt your eyes after you finish reading them.

    For argument’s sake, I might read manga on the ipad if I had one (presuming I wanted one, which I don’t). There’s just no reason to pay for it if it’s already released in print. If it were online exclusive, then there’s more of a reason to buy it.

    Viz should use the same model for Jump as they do with Shonen Sunday and Sigikki by releasing the chapters for free online, then cutting them when the print volume comes out.

    • I am very much in favor of print books. My preference would be to read/sample titles online and then buy the ones I know I want to keep, instead of having piles of books that I bought and turned out I don’t really want to keep. I think manga makes a good case for renting or leasing of titles. There are plenty of titles I want to read, but not necessarily keep.

      The problem I have with Viz’s model of killing chapters online after the print volumes come is that for people who come late to a series has no way to sample it. I think at least the first volume should be kept online. It takes more than one chapter to figure if a series is good or appeals.

  • Apple’s restrictions on iTunes store products — censorship, really — have been disturbing. Even overseas. Here’s an article on them: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-05-07/developer/30-percent-of-kodansha-manga-rejected-by-itunes

    However, they seem to be less restrictive of stuff purchased through in-app purchases than stuff which is available in the actual body of the app. (Although Viz’s offerings so far are only 16+ and lower, so we’ll see if they ever go 18+) And DRM-protected products with in-app purchases are a very successful business model at the moment. Marvel, Comixology, tons of comic companies are using DRM with in-app purchases because they’re just a more reliable way to make money than putting everything online for free and crossing your fingers that people will buy the book just because. (It may work for 1% of webcomics artists, but it hasn’t really worked for manga so far.)

  • Yes, but how long will that last? Apple has already applied for a patent that will censor your sms messages, what’s to stop them from going after in-app purchases. I just don’t trust them and never will.

    As for DRM, it’s just a false security blanket that publishers think they need to cling to. It doesn’t stop piracy, and in the long run doesn’t appeal to consumers. Look at the music industry. Yes, they did fine with DRM’ed music, but did even better with non-DRM’ed songs. DRM only hurts the honest consumers not the pirates. And no one’s asking for putting everything up for free online, just be reasonable about whatever they do chose to put up.

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