Kadokawa has been trying to penetrate the US manga market on its own for a while now. Back in 2014, they released their Comic Walker app that was supposed to update with chapters of manga to read for free, but never went anywhere after a while. Now, it seems they are set to try again, with their new commerce site, Book Walker. They seem to be making interesting promises. The one that sticks out most to me is epub downloads. Most of the titles in English are already available, mostly from Viz Select. We’ll have to wait and see if they branch out into any new titles.
Viz picks up several more former Tokyopop titles for their Select line, including CLAMP School Detectives, just about the only one I’m really interested in reading. I wonder how far they will go with these rescues? I’m glad they have discovered the value of bundles as they add some older shonen jump titles.
Viz Media makes another move to spread its manga to other platforms as Weekly Shonen Jump finally jumps from the Vizmanga app to get on comiXology and Amazon’s Kindle. The jump to just these two platforms and not Nook, Kobo, iOS, or Googleplay is probably due to Amazon’s ownership of comiXology. Hopefully Viz will be able to announce expanding to those other platforms soon as well.
Crunchyroll, the anime and manga streaming service, continues to add manga titles to their all-you-can-eat manga service. This time, they are pulling titles from the Square-Enix library, and are available world-wide.
Aizawa-san Multiples is a rom-com harem series. The frail beauty of the school Shino Aizawa confesses her feeling for Souta Mizutani. Soon after another Aizawa appears, and another, and another! Each one is slightly different, but they are all Aizawa. Are they twins? Clones? Dopplegangers? This series sounds like it takes the comedy in romantic comedy very serious. It might be interesting to see how this gag manga handles the harem model with the boy being surrounded by several of the same girl. There are currently 2 volumes of the series out so far.
Father and Son is a slice of life shonen comedy. It follows former gangster You-san who has to take care of his wild and unpredictable son Shou and the eventful everyday life of the lively pair. This series sounds like it would not just make a good light comedy, but could also be suitable for younger readers, with slap-stick as part of the otherwise easy-going comedy. It would be a good pick up for Yen Press as an Yotsuba&-esque title, if it does well. There are currently 4 volumes available.
Tales of Wedding Rings is a fantasy series. Sato has been in love with his childhood friend Hime since she and her grandfather became his neighbor 10 years ago. When she suddenly says good-bye, he chases after her and is transported to a fantasy world. He catches her and they marry, leading Sato to become the legendary Ring King. This series is created by the duo Maybe, who also created Dusk Maidens of Amnesia, a manga that got an anime adaptation recently. The title initially caught my eye, but the description didn’t do anything to pull me in. But, I am intrigued by Dusk Maidens, so there might be something more here, that not coming through in translation. The series has two volumes out so far.
Donyatsu is probably one of the strangest titles I’ve ever seen. It is about an animal/snack hybrid, in this case a cat who looks like a donut, living in a post-apocalyptic world where all the humans are gone. He is joined by other animal/snack hybrids such as Bengaru, and feline bagel composite. This titles just sounds completely bizarre. I know cat manga can be weird, but combining them with snack foods is just plain out of this world! Such a quirky cat title is hard to pass up. This title so needs a print edition. There are five volumes available.
It’s interesting that all of these titles are relatively new. This should make catch-up easy. The longest is Donyatsu at five volumes, and I can’t imagine it being dialog heavy. It’s also good to see more publishers get on board with Crunchyroll’s all-you-can-read streaming. There is such a wide variety of titles available, and if streaming the only way we can get some of them, (I’m looking at you Donyatsu), then I’m all for it.
Viz has raided the old Tokyopop vaults to come up with three new titles to debut under their Select digital imprint. Welcome to the N.H.K. was one of the first light novel manga adaptations to come to the states, and arrived shortly after the anime, giving the title a lot of name recognition. Aion is by Yuna Kagesaki, the creator of Chibi Vampire. This follow-up didn’t do as well as Chibi Vampire, a sentiment I agree with. I didn’t find the first volume all that great. Metamo Kiss is by a mangaka not previously published here, and is a gender/body switching shojo, if you’re into that sort of thing.
They’ve got some good bundles this month too. Saint Seiya, Knights of the Zodiac, is an awesome series that didn’t get the love it deserved in print. That can be corrected with one of the two bundles they have available: vol 1-14, or the whole thing, 1-28. Also available is the older teen historical, time travel series Red River, filled with action and romance. A very addictive series. I recommend both!
Viz’s Select line adds 2 former Tokyopop titles that I’m familiar with, but met with two different ends. Grenadier is a five-volume series I picked up because a friend has seen the anime, and told us about the most intriguing element of the story. The lead, a buxom blond, kept her bullets in said bosom and would reload her gun with some jiggling. Not joking. I picked up Red Hot Chili Samurai because it was a historical detective series. In the end, I gave Grenadier to said friend, and chased down the last two volumes of Red Hot Chili Samurai I could find. Tokyopop published 5 of the 8 volumes, but only four were easily found. I guess I’ll be finishing up the series with Viz.
Viz announces lots of new debuts in digital including digital editions of print titles as well as new additions to the Viz Select line, all former Tokyopop titles. They are offering more bundles, mostly starter sets this time featuring classic manga, Signature titles, and mature manga. All have good titles and at $20, they’re a good deal if you looking to sample.
When looking for legal manga to read, the selections in English is pretty slim. Readers are limited to eBooks of titles already available in English, the apps Manga Box and Comic Walker which are online only and/or available for a limited time, or Crunchyroll’s all-you-can-read manga which does have several titles not available legally anywhere else, but skews heavily toward the more shonen/senien crowd. If you want more titles directed at women, you need to look elsewhere. Right now, that best elsewhere is Renta!, a Japanese eBook seller that is pushing its English website.
Renta! isn’t a new site. It’s been around since the early 2000s, and has been making manga available in English since 2011. They have recently redesigned the site to attract more female readers by pushing romance, shojo, and ladies titles. At first glance, this looks like a really good site. Just a cursory glance over the site shows lots of titles that aren’t available in English, or would ever be on any publisher’s radar. The translations look well done and the lettering is clean. They even have a section on the site that shows the full translation process to reassure people who there is quality control.
I don’t have a problem with all that. It’s all great, and there are a few tempting titles I wouldn’t mind trying, but I just can’t get over the feeling of deja vu I get when I look at the site. It’s like Jmanga all over. The site doesn’t sell their manga, they rent viewing rights, either for 48 hours or unlimited. This is essentially what Jmanga did. You “bought” the manga, but could only read it online, or later, you could “download” it with their app for offline reading, but you never truly own the manga. This is all well and good until something like what happened with Jmanga, shutdown, takes away everything you’ve invested in.
The other thing they do, just as Jmanga did, is to use “tickets”, essentially points. One point = $1 US, and you can buy tickets in 1, 3, 10, 30, 50, and 100 packages. Oh, did I mention they are also charging 8% tax on ever dollar? So you aren’t paying $1, you are paying $1.08 for each ticket. They seem to think that buying tickets makes buying manga easier. I don’t see the advantage other than to make things more confusing for renters, but that’s just me. Most of the manga is sold by chapter, though there are some full volumes available. I dislike the “selling-per-chapter”, since that can sometimes make a volume more costly. I guess this works for the impatient types, but I’m not one of them. I can wait for the full volume.
Renta! has been around for a while, so they probably won’t just up and disappear like Jmanga did. They already have an established business in Japan, so moving into the Western market is a growth strategy. Focusing on the still underrepresented female market is a smart move. They’ve even gotten a lot of title that were previously available on Jmanga, such as Crayon Shin-chan, the Saito Production titles, and Hirohita.
But, after being burned by Jmanga’s shutdown, and losing all the time and money I invested, I am really gun-shy about doing it again. Renta! has the titles I’m interested in, but not the platform I can get behind. I want and need to have some control over the titles I buy online. Either let me download and back them up like Kindle, Nook and even eManga does, or give me the all-you-can-eat model Crunchyroll has where I’m not investing in a single title but the platform. You can rent to me, but give me the option to rent-to-own. Renta! is the right idea, but on the wrong platform.
Viz Media gets a huge selection of titles onto Comixology from publisher Shogakukan which includes Shonen Sunday titles as well as some shojo and josei. Comixology readers can now enjoy the likes of Case Closed and Happy Marriage?! as well as the classic Drifting Classroom. Many of these titles are also complete, so there’s no waiting for the next volume to come out.
Viz picks up more of the former publisher Tokyopop’s catalog. Two CLAMP titles join the Viz Select line, including Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders. I’ve been interested in this title, as a lover of tokusatsu shows. Also added is The Third, a series that is based on an anime that was well liked back in the day.
Viz Media ends 2014 for their expected end of the year sale of their digital titles and some unexpected new Viz Select titles. The sale is their typical $2-off-to-bring-pricing-back-down-where-it-should-be promotion and lasts through January. You know what to do with that Christmas money, and even Amazon gift cards as they seem to have extended the promotion to their site. Read on for all the details.
It’s been going on for a while now. Amazon, the mega online book seller, and Hachette, the fifth largest publisher in the US, and parent company of Yen Press, got into a bit of a disagreement last May. The publisher had been in talks to renew contracts the book seller. A sticking point was that Hachette wanted to set their own e-Book prices, while Amazon wanted that power. When an impasse had been reached, Amazon did the only thing a mega book seller with 60% of the online market could do; they crippled sales of Hachette books on their site.
Amazon stopped taking pre-orders, increased shipping times, dropped discounts for all Hachette titles. This included Yen Press. The batter became bitter as both sides pointed fingers at the other being the problem. Authors jumped in as well, feeling the pressure as sales of their books dropped. They didn’t pressure their publisher to back down though, they put the pressure on Amazon for being the bully in all this. They even formed a group, Authors United, to help in the fight. Amazon tried some tactics to turn the authors against their publisher, but it really didn’t work.
Finally, as of last Thursday, Amazon and Hachette came to terms and signed a new agreement. In it, Hachette gets to set their own e-Book prices, though they get an incentive from Amazon to set them lower, and pay Amazon less when they do. A lot of people see this as a win for Hachette, but I have my doubts. If Amazon hadn’t taken a loss the quarter before, and had to show better earning for the holiday season, would they really have given in? I find the timing highly suspicious, but am glad it is over just the same.
Yen Press is probably just as relieved, though, they didn’t just take Amazon’s strong arming sitting down. They did a lot of promotion with Barnes and Noble, offering sales through the retailer’s website, and reminding people Amazon wasn’t the only place to order books. I know I linked to the Barnes and Noble site when I needed a Yen Press purchase link during this. Fans can also breathe a sigh of relief for now. Yen Press titles have returned for purchase in time for the holidays and for the all important pre-orders. Kindle users will also be able to start downloading their favorites again.
But can we really feel relieved? Amazon has shown its true nature. They don’t care who they hurt to get their way. Publishers, writers, and readers are all ripe to be thrown under the bus when Amazon goes scrambling for what it wants. Before they could position themselves as the “champion” of the consumer against the greedy publishers who want to keep e-Books from diminishing print sales, but their suit of armor is tarnished now. You can be sure they will do this again. Simon & Schuster just penned a similar with Amazon, no doubt not wanting to incur the retailer’s ire. If you’ve ever wondered where the saying “throwing one’s weight around” came from, here is a perfect case study. It’s also not too bad a case for the beginnings of a monopoly.
The big question we as readers and fans need to ask, are we willing to sacrifice price for availability? It seems that is just what Amazon is banking on us doing.