The first day of panels at NYCC/NYAF was certainly full of surprises. And it started right off first thing in the morning for me, at 6:30 am (PST) when news started on Twitter about Viz Media’s big announcement. Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will be a digital manga magazine that will run new chapter of the manga Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, Nura, One Piece, and Toriko two weeks after they run in Japan. The magazine will be available through Vizmanga.com and through the iOS apps. The price is $25.99 for 48 issues, or you can rent single issues for .99 for 4 weeks. I’m a little confused on the .99 rental though. I’ve seen it described as .99 a month, which implies only paying .99 for four issues which is a lot better than 25.99 for a year, unless of course, the year subscription means you can keep the issues permanently. Whether the weekly issues are for keeps or for a limited time as the Nura serialization is now hasn’t been clarified. The digital magazine will start in January 2012, with the print magazine ending with the March issue.
I can’t say I’m thrilled with the new line up. One Piece and Bakuman are the only ones I’m interested in, and the fact that I can only stream the titles, since no one wants to even try to make an android tablet app (hint: if it’s so hard to do an app with all the different flavors of Android, then just do what most pub do now anyway; make just a tablet app on Honeycomb), this severely limits my ability to take the mag and “read anywhere”, something I can currently do with my print mag. I’m going to need more details before I decide to stay with the digital magazine. I’ll also admit that I’ll miss reading Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds. They aren’t titles I want to actively go after, but I enjoyed reading them in the magazine. Now, Shonen Jump is returning to it “only the top sellers can appear” approach, which is a shame, since going digital should be the opportunity to experiment. And I agree with others on Twitter, that a Shojo Beat digital magazine would be awesome.
Next came Yen Press and Seven Seas with new license announcements. Yen Press announced Soul Eater Not, a side story to Soul Eater. I wasn’t impressed with the first series, so I don’t anticipate caring much for this one. They’ve also announced it will appear in the current issue of Yen Plus, but is that going to be permanent, or just a couple of chapters to push the series as High School of the Dead Color was, and a way to pad the scant Japanese side? I like that Yen is continuing to adapt YA novels, the newest editions being Infernal Devices, which sounds interesting, and a Dark Hunters side story Infinity. And I’ll admit to some curiosity to the Japanese licenses Madoka Magica and Until Death Due Us Part. I might check out Alice in the Country of Hearts, a Tokyopop license rescue (that they said they wouldn’t do…) I missed it the first time around.
Then Seven Seas hints at a new license through anagrams again on Twitter, which turns out to be the sequel to Alice in the Country of Hearts, Alice in the Country of Clover. This was a pleasant surprise and a boon for AitCoH fans. Seven Seas also announced the new title from the creator of Dance in the Vampire Bund. Angel Para Bellum takes on christian mythology with a battle between heaven and hell brewing and only a boy named Mitsuru holds the key to preventing it. I think Supernatural has killed my interest in such stories, but I’ll check ou the first volume if given the chance.
Kodansha announced two new licenses, Attack on Titan and Miles Edgeworth. I don’t know how much Attack on Titan will appeal to me, but if I like the Phoenix Wright manga, I might check out the Miles Edgeworth. They also announced omnibuses of former Del Rey titles Genshiken and Kitchen Princess, two good titles to keep in print. And then there was the obligatory iOS app announcement (yawn).
Vertical had the biggest surprises for me. The licenses lately haven’t been my cup of tea, with Princess Knight being the only new title I really wanted to read. But in their announcements at their panel, they had two that really piqued my interest. I”ve heard a lot about Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf (Messages to Adolf), but it’s been out of print for so long, I didn’t hold by breath at ever reading it. Until now. It will be releases in 2 hardback volumes next year. Sakuran really looks intriguing too. It’s a historical title about courtesans in the Edo era. And I can’t resist historical titles.
While all of these announcements sound great, I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic about them. What looks good in a press release might not be so great in reality. So I’ll watch and wait for now. Most of the books announced won’t be out until next summer, so there’s plenty of time for things to change. Only the digital announcements have any immediacy, and only Viz’s really concerns me. But it’s still nice to see things to get excited about again.
With the new release of Sailor Moon by Kodansha coming out this week, my Twitter feed has been full of tweets from people really excited by it. I know Sailor Moon is a big deal to a lot of people. It’s a classic in the magical girl genre, and it was a gateway to anime and manga for many folks. But it wasn’t for me. I never watched the anime, and new nothing about the manga release, as it was before I started reading manga seriously. I knew about it of course. I first heard about it from a friend in the 90s. He was reading the Japanese manga volumes obsessively at SDCC. I didn’t get the appeal for it then, and I still don’t get the appeal for it now.
Anyway, I had the chance recently to pre-order the first volume. Twice, in fact. But, I just couldn’t do it. I will admit to some curiosity about the series. I know basically what it’s about, but I have too much doubt about how I would react to it. I’ve never been impressed by the synopses I’ve read about it. And the last thing I need is to buy a book that I don’t know if I’m going to like. My time and space is already very limited. Adding Sailor Moon, with my mind already fairly set against it isn’t going to help things. Now, I know I can be wrong. I thought I would hate Yu-Gi-Oh!, thanks to the TCG hype and anime, but I actually ended up really liking the manga. I know Sailor Moon could turn out to be like that, but I just couldn’t get myself to take the chance.
Two weeks I posted a status on Twitter expressing my displeasure with the fact that Inuyasha was being made available digitally only for the iPad. I directed my tweet at @Vizmedia, one of Viz’s Twitter accounts. The person manning the account replied back that she would look into it. Usually I don’t get responses from publishers on Twitter, so I was glad that someone heard me, even if I didn’t think I would hear back from them, and if I did, it would just be a generic response on Twitter.
A few weeks ago I gave Viz kudos for finally realizing there was a market for digital manga beyond the iOS platform. Their announcement of Vizmanga.com and tagline of “Buy It Once Read It Anywhere” seemed like a dream come true. Finally, I could start reading and owning digital manga. I thought Viz had really gotten the idea of “manga for all.” But after working with it, and seeing new announcements, I have come to realize the equality I thought I was getting didn’t really exist.
Udon will also publish a two-volume manga for Sengoku Basara.
Viz announced it at the party at San Diego Comic Con and on their twitter feed. Their digital manga is no longer held hostage in the i* world. You can now buy and read Viz’s digital manga online! Yes, you heard me! Everything they’ve been announcing that I’ve been ignoring because it’s only been for iOS users is now free to be enjoyed by everyone with access to a browser, so that includes mobile devices as well as PCs. As long as your device can run Adobe Flash Player, you’ve got manga in your pocket!
This is the equality and freedom that manga needs to be really be successful in the digital realm. And Viz is doing it right. This month, all number 1 volumes are 40% off, which puts them at $2.99 a piece, and newer volumes are $4.99-$5.99. This is about half the price of print manga which puts it in just the right range, especially since it can be accessed from anywhere, making it about as portable as you can get.
What really makes this appealing though is the space issue. It’s one that’s been seriously on my mind for a while now. I NEED to let go of a lot of titles, because I really just don’t have the space anymore. Especially as I catch up on older titles and try to keep up on newer ones. The problem of course is, which titles do I love enough to keep in paper, and which do I let go of to take up digitally? And it’s a problem that will take some thought. But finally having a real option to make those decisions makes it easier to do.
So, where should I start? Beast Master and Backstage Prince are short titles I’ve been thinking about. Children of the Sea is really tempting too. I’ve never read Ouran High School Host Club, but Alex of Manga Widget keeps trying to get me to read Cross Game. Where should I start?
Like a lot of people, I can’t keep up with all the titles I want to read, so some have to fall back and wait to be caught up on. Usually this isn’t a big deal. If it’s a recent series, within the last two years or so, and the publisher hasn’t gone under, or lost the license, catching up is usually as easy as getting online to Amazon or some other online retailer and ordering the missing volumes. In trying to do this though, I’ve run into some stumbling blocks, and it is absolutely perplexing to me as to why.
With Tokyopop’s closing, a lot of attention has been paid to the loss of the Japanese licenses. Of course, this is what most manga fans are concerned with. The loss of such an extensive line, for what will probably be forever really hurts. But Tokyopop had another line of books that were actually doing quite well, that as a parent, I am acutely aware of losing; the HarperCollins YA adaptations.
Manga has had a tough go of it lately. Publishers have been cutting back on titles and people, and now, we’ve seen the first casualty of 2011. Tokyopop, one of the three biggest publishers of manga in the US is closing down its publishing division. I’m not going to go into the details about why this may have happened. I’ve already given some of my thoughts in this post, and other people have dissected Tokyopop’s 14 year history already. No, I’m looking at the final message from Stu Levy, president of Tokyopop. After the announcement was made, he put up a message at Tokyopop.com, now long gone, but other people posted copies on their own sites. He talks about the history of Tokyopop and it’s accomplishments, and then gives himself a pat on the back with this:
Fourteen years later, I’m laying down my guns. Together, our community has fought the good fight, and, as a result, the Manga Revolution has been won –manga has become a ubiquitous part of global pop culture. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished – and the incredible group of passionate fans we’ve served along the way (my fellow revolutionaries!).
“Won” the revolution? Really? And how do you come to that conclusion? Tokyopop can definitely claim starting the “manga revolution”. Comics for girls were practically unheard of in the late 90s and early 2000s. Manga has been responsible for creating more readers of comics, some that even jump over to floppies. But Tokyopop isn’t responsible for that. They had some hits early on with Sailor Moon and Fruits Basket, but if anyone was responsible for bringing manga out of shadows and into light of mainstream, that has to go to Viz Media, and their mega hits with Dragonball, Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto and Bleach. It’s these titles that really sold and made the mainstream really take manga seriously, not Tokyopop’s catalog of mostly ‘B’ and ‘C’ list titles.
Survived the revolution, maybe I could see. But how is it a win when you start-up something only to drop it before it has a chance to go anywhere? Where would the US and Europe be right now if Patton had had the same follow-through as Stu did at Tokyopop? How is it a win when the company had to go into reorganization in 2008, putting several titles on “hiatus” and putting even more on a once-a-year release schedule? With all these lost battles, how can anyone claim to have “won?”
I really hate this excuse to get out of Doge. I’ve heard the same thing from old-time, former anime fans who want to give an excuse for no longer being interested in anime, and need to justify all the time they spent promoting anime through clubs. If Levy was so “proud” of what was done, why was he so anxious to pull the plug, especially when Tokyopop was starting to become relevent again? They had some good titles coming out that was making people (like me) take them serious again.
Please, Stu, just spare us the lip-service and tell us the truth. You weren’t getting the attention you wanted anymore as a publisher and wanted the spotlight again as a “director”, so you’ve left thousands of “fellow revolutionaries” out in the street and killed lots of titles that will probably never see the light of day. Good job Stu.
Viz finally made their big announcement. The new digital platform that they are making their manga available on that will expand their audience is….iOS for iPhone and iPod/iPod Touch. This is a “new” platform….how? The iPad is nothing more than an overgrown iPod Touch. The first apps for the iPad were iPod apps with a new resolution (mostly). So for Viz, porting over their iPad manga just meant a change of resolution, and maybe some touch up here and there. But that doesn’t make it anything new or exciting. They are still courting the same audience. While this will give them a small boost as people with only iPhone/iPods will now have access to their manga (a large number being teens), it’s not really expanding it like an actual platform jump would.
In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Viz vice president Alvin Lu said the reason for going in this direction was:
It’s a natural extension obviously, being as that we’re on iOS with our iPad app. It broadens our reach with mobile devices significantly, also obviously. For the fans who graciously requested the app be made available on a more widespread device—this is a step or two in that direction.
It’s certainly not a step up. This more like a step to the side, something that Viz is very good at and has done before. I hope they don’t try and call this an “evolution”, because going from one device to another on what is essentially the same platform isn’t evolving. It’s treading water at best.
I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. But when Viz spoke last month about going to a new platform I thought (and hoped) that would mean something non-i, non Apple. I should be used to the disappointment I am met with time and again. I had a much rant-ier post I was going to do, but I’ve toned it down a lot. I guess I just had my hopes up way too high. I’ll try to be more jaded with the next announcement.
Is putting out apps for the Android easy? Maybe not, but you know what? The things that aren’t so easy are usually the ones that end up really being worth it.
Viz Media has really embraced digital publishing in the last few months. Ever since they announced their iPad only app, they have been releasing new volumes practically every week. They now have over 100 volumes from their Shonen Jump, Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump Advanced lines available for download, mostly from older well-known titles such as Dragon Ball/Z, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Vampire Knight , Otomen, and Ouran High School Host Club. They have also started dabbling releasing digital content before or in the same month as print releases, with Bakuman and Blue Exorcist.