Tag Archives: Digital distribution

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Over at Good E-Reader, Brigid Alverson recently conducted an interview with Kevin Hamric, the director of publishing, marketing and sales about Viz Media’s digital strategy. We learn that Viz’s digital titles are selling strong on all the platforms it is available on, that digital rights are now just as important as print rights, and that recent WSJ title Nisekoi was digital only, but Viz is now going back for print rights. It was good to see that Viz recognizes that DRM is only harmful to consumers and that just making titles available in the format people want will fight piracy better than just trying to stamp out scanlation site. On the whole is a good informative article, and I was with it all the way until this quote from Kevin:

The more you make it easy for everybody, the more you are going to sell stuff. We want to make our product available in any format [readers] want. Whatever way they want it, we are going to give it to them.

Okay Kevin, I and a lot of other people judging from the comments on the Google Play site for the Viz Manga app, want it available on 10″ Android tablets. When is that going to happen? Why would you make it available first on Android devices with screens 7″ and smaller first when you did the exact opposite for iOS devices? You talk in the Good E-Reader article about getting manga on black and white devices. How about finishing the job for color Android devices? Put your money where your mouth is.Viz Manga

Angel Heart

Peace Pet Rental’s Lag is a robotic dog. He can be pretty slow at times and can’t perform tasks aside from those written in his program, but despite all this, he’s everyone’s favorite dog. Soon, however, he is tackling people’s problems in ways not included in his program, and it seems almost miraculous… Something mysterious has awakened within his heart even though he’s supposed to be a machine with no emotions. What is Lag’s true nature? For those lost in despair and sorrow and those with wounded hearts comes this healing tale of love, kindness, and sacrifice.

By Udou Shinohara
Publisher: Digital Manga Guild
Localized: Cynical Pink
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Shojo/Slice of Life
Price: $6.95 eManga/$7.95 Kindle/Nook/Wowio
Rating: ★★★★½

While I am a big cat lover (crazy cat lady in training), I’m really a sucker for all animals, including dogs. So it should come as no surprise that when given the chance, I would read a manga featuring a dog, even if it is a robot dog. While the basic premise is far from original, Shinohara still creates an entertaining story with some quirky characters, an interesting world for them to live in, and a charming pooch to bring them all together.

Angel Heart takes place in an unspecified future, where phone calls are made with holographs, and robots can be made and programmed to act like animals. The Peace Pet Rentals creates dogs, and Shiki is in charge of gathering data and programming Lag, a medium-sized dog that looks like a Sheltie. He does this by taking the dog to a hospital (whose director is also the Chief’s sister) and letting Lag interact with the patients, which has the added benefit of helping the patients. Over the course of the volume, Shiki gets to know many of the patients and watches Lag as he seems to grow beyond his programming, and like Pinocchio become thought of as a “real” dog.

I really enjoyed this title. Shiki is the reluctant programmer, who isn’t very good with people, but through working with Lag, starts to learn how to better interact with them. His big rival is Rena, the youngest sister of the Chief Rin and Director Kira. She also has a robot dog that she brings, a small Pomeranian named Nikita, whose programming is simpler, and therefore is more energetic, but not as authentic as Lag. She is always calling Lag dumb, because of his slow reactions, and comparing Shiki to his creation. The Rin, Shiki’s boss, is very stoic, but believes in his work, while Kira is more friendly, always smiling and encouraging Shiki, even if she is a little blunt about Lag’s lagging.

And then’s the star of the book, Lag. He is often shown with a blank stare, one I often associate with dogs anyway. When ever he does a dog action, like wag his tail, or lick someone’s face, the programming why he’s doing it is explained off to the side. This might seem annoying after a while, but I think it’s actually cute. It makes the times Lag isn’t following his programming stand out more. Throughout the story, it’s Lag’s unexplained actions that show how he’s changing and growing into something more than his programming. Doing a handstand and wagging his tail for a girl scared of her upcoming operation, or going to comfort a former soccer player depressed after an accident that affected his legs, show how he is becoming more empathetic toward people. I really liked it when his “brain” was put into a larger, scarier-looking dog, Lag’s personality still shone through. It was so cute seeing his stubby tail wag!

Angel Heart is a fun, light one-shot, though I wouldn’t object to reading more about Shiki and Lag,  or another robot animal in this universe. Shinohara has created a cast of characters I enjoyed with stories that warm the heart. The localizer, Cynical Pink, did a really good job with this title as well. The writing was fluid and read very naturally. It’s great that DMP/DMG has made this title available on several different platforms, though it’s obvious by the price which one they want you to buy from. Definitely check out Angel Heart if you enjoy titles about dogs or just want a light, quick read. It’s worth it.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Shonen Jump April 2012: The Final Issue

There is no Manga Wrap Up this week, as I didn’t read any manga. I’m still working on my prose book, so maybe next week. Instead I thought I would finally give my thoughts on the final print issue of Shonen Jump and the way Viz Media handled the move to digital from the perspective of a long time subscriber. The final issue is a 392 pages, and harkens back to the good old days.

The issue is mostly just like any other issue of Shonen Jump with the same monthly chapters of Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, as well as the prerequisite Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card, this time from the new series, Zexel. What makes this issue so much bigger, is the inclusion of the three new titles that will be in Alpha; Toriko, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan and Bakuman. Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds will not be moving to the magazine, but Viz did announce that they would be available on Vizmanga.com. The chapters for the new manga, as well as for those moving the Alpha are part of the “Warp into SJ Alpha”. Basically, these are the chapters that precede the starting digital chapters in the first SJ Alpha issue and are accompanied by a short paragraph explaining that chapter.

Okay, I had mixed feelings about this particular move to digital. On the whole, I approve of most of Viz’s digital strategy so far. If they would just bring out an Android app and stop pushing all the iCrap, it would be great. I know a lot of people have been calling for Viz to catch up the Japanese releases, which we’ve seen with Naruto and One Piece. SJ Alpha is another jump, taking the Shonen Jump titles to within 2 weeks of Japan. And here’s where I have the problem. Shonen Jump was ahead of the volume releases in the US, but WAAAAYYYYY behind the Japanese. So, going from Shonen Jump to SJ Alpha means BIG jumps for loyal readers. Naruto and One Piece aren’t so bad. They are only a 38 chapter jump. But when you get the other titles, it’s not so pretty. Bleach is a 147 chapter jump; Bakuman is 83 chapters from the last digital volume; 129 chapters from Nura‘s last digital volume, and 92 chapters from Toriko‘s last digital volume. Some of these jumps in story are outrageous!

Yes, I’ve been through these jumps before, with Naruto twice and once with One Piece. But when Viz did these, they at least had the courtesy to include features in the magazine that gave the subscribers an idea of what was going on in the jump, so when the chapters resumed in the magazine, they wouldn’t be totally lost. Not this time. Now, we are dealing with enormous jumps in story, between 7-13 volumes worth, and several story arcs worth and what do we get in the last issue? One paragraph? Really??! This is how subscribers, many of whom have been with the magazine since the beginning and who DON’T read scans (like me), are rewarded for our loyalty? Viz can’t even be bothered to thow us a bone and just give us a list of volumes, what story are they fall in, and a brief synopsis of the arc? They managed it with 30 volumes of One Piece. The second Naruto wave had features for 2 or 3 issues giving the low down to subscribers about what was going on. Are readers of scans, who are still gonna complain about the lag (OMG! Two weeks?! I want it the same day!!), MORE important that the paying fans? It sure seems like it since the way this jump has been handled only rewards those who have been reading scans all this time, and punishes the legal readers.

And talk about missed opportunities! Viz did a special “Preview” issue before the first Alpha issue came out, and what did they put in that preview issue? The first chapter of each of the SJ titles! How completely useless is that? First, all of those chapters have been available on the Shonen Jump website, some for years! And reading the first chapters does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for someone starting with SJ Alpha. All of the titles are so far ahead of what happened in their first chapters, that it’s practically misleading to present them as representative of the titles now. Naruto and Bleach are nothing like how they started, and not in a good way. One Piece has changed greatly too, but it’s been for the better. This preview issue could have been better used to prepare readers for the jump instead of just rehashing old material.

I’m really disappointed in the way Viz handled this jump. It feels like there was little to no planning for it. It was announced publicly in October, and by being generous, we can say the next two issues were probably already set, but that still gave Viz 4 more issues to tell subscribers about what was coming up and prepare them. The online issue could have been done at any time. This is a fail on so many levels. And I’m not the only person to feel this way. The comments section of the first issue was filled with people just as surprised as I was by the jump. I don’t know if I’m going to keep my subscription beyond the 6 month committment I made after this. Apparently, I’m not a valued customer anymore. It would have taken so little make this right, and yet I’ve seen nothing from Viz to rectify it. The way it looks to me is that Viz threw their subscribers under the bus in favor of a phantom demographic. And in business, perception is everything.

Yen Plus September 2011

It’s been a year since Yen Plus went digital and things don’t seem to have changed much, at least not for the Japanese side of the magazine. It’s still meager at best, and is losing another title this month with the final chapter of The Innocent appearing. We can hope Yen Press will be able to announce something soon, otherwise having the two sides of the magazine is going to be pretty pointless.

Continue reading Yen Plus September 2011

Yen Plus August 2011

It was always my intention that my reviews of the chapters from the magazines were to be short, but I haven’t done a very good job of that, so starting this month, I’m going to try to be much more brief about my impressions of the chapters. There’s no Daniel X again this month, the final Gossip Girl, a side story, appears. But you don’t want to hear about that, right?

Continue reading Yen Plus August 2011

Tech Friday: Second Class Citizen

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.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Second Class Citizen

Yen Plus July 2011

This month’s Yen Plus features a lot of changes. The most obvious, as it’s features on the cover is the debut of Soulless, another novel adaptation, but not by James Patterson. This one is by Gail Carriger with art by Rem. But with this addition, two other titles are saying farewell. Gossip Girl ends this issue as does the color edition of High School of the Dead. I’m not going to miss Gossip Girl, as I wasn’t even reading it. But High School of the Dead…well, I’ll give my feelings about that later. And you might notice  something missing from this issue. No Daniel X. And no word why. Strange…

Soulless – This first chapter starts with some very nice color pages, as we are introduced to Alexia Tarabotti. She is at a party when she is attacked by a vampire, that doesn’t appear to be part of a coven, and has a run in with Lord Maccon, the head of Bureau of Unnatural Registry as well as Alpha of the local werewolf pack, and Professor Lyall. Her encounter seems to have attracted the attention of Countess Nadasdy, the leader of a vampire coven, so she goes to see Lord Akeldama, another vampire that she is on good terms with, for advice. I really enjoyed this first chapter, and absolutely love Alexia. I’m coming to appreciate stories set in Victoria London, and Rem’s art is a sight to behold. I think I have found my new favorite series!

Milkyway Hitchhiking – This chapter switches gears again, as Milkyway tells the tale of another “master” of hers. A cruel king is sending hunters out to bring back a creature with white fur. If they fail, they are killed. A new hunter is dispatched, a woman named Robin. But the creature turns out to be something Robin didn’t expect. Her perceived failure as seen by the King’s sorcerers makes the King decide to do the job himself. One again, Milkyway is ancillary to the story, acting more as narrator than wish-granter. This story is at least a two parter, so we’ll have to wait until next month to see where it goes.

Witch and Wizard – Whit gets the gang out of the jam the chapter ended on last month, and Wisty frees all the children in detention. A traitor is revealed in the resistance, but Whit and Wisty join their powers to defeat the warden and guards. The One Who Is The One then appears and taunts Whit with six prophecies supposedly about them before disappearing. I liked the action scenes with Whit and Wisty working together, and realizing it’s the adults who are scared of the children, and more importantly, of change. I still don’t like TOWITO. Not capturing or killing them now doesn’t make him a little good or grey. He’s still the villain.

Aron’s Absurd Armada – Aron and his crew return to port to exact revenge on Luthor and instead decide to go after the Crown of the Ant Queen. It was taken by Luthor as a gift for the King’s birthday, so they decide to the backway through some difficult mountains. Meanwhile we learn more about Aron’s parents and their relation to the Nelson family. While Aron and Luthor might have been friends, it obvious that his mother and Nelson is not. And like the rest of the cast, the King is just as odd.

Maximum Ride – The Flock is heading west, away from Itex, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone following them. An eerie sense of foreboding starts to settle over Max as rumors of a disaster coming starts to seem more real. Fang receives a message that one of the Flock is a traitor. They decide to go to a public place, a football game to see if they can draw their enemies out. They get spotted by members in the crowd, but still no Erasers. It really feels like we’re reading the climax of the story, as the impending doom seems to come ever closer. I am looking forward to see what that is.

Jack Frost – No-Ah is confronted by the new Iyel about emotion, and Siegfred is preparing to move out. Camilla has a plan as well, sending off her “pieces” to the Pillar of Solomon. Meanwhile, inside the Pillar, we are introduced to Beelzebub, another busty woman, and her master Solomon himself. Still not much going on, and really, I’m not feeling any anticipation for what’s probably supposed to be a big fit. I really wasn’t impressed with Beelzebub stripping and prostrating herself in front of Solomon either.

Highschool of the Dead – This final preview chapter starts at the airport where unaffected people are trying to escape, and sniper Rika Minami is clearing a path for the planes to take off. Meanwhile, Saeko, Saya, Kouta, and Shizuka decide to leave the school van and meet up with Takashi and Rei, who are trying to reach one of the bridges to cross into town, but the military has them all blocked off. They meet up with their friends, and Shizuka tells them she knows a place nearby where they can stay, as it’s getting close to nightfall. While all of the fanservice is really annoying, I can’t help but be interested in Takashi’s narration, as he talks about how this zombie apocalypse is changing him and his friends. And while the color is nice, if I continue to follow this series, it’ll be in the black and white.

The Innocent – Johnny is helping Joshua find his sister, and takes him to where women are trafficked. They don’t find her, but Johnny’s powers continue to grow, and he is able to speak to the man responsible for his sister’s injuries, Frame. Johnny continues to skirt the rules, making his point without actually hurting anyone. He finally figures out where Joshua’s sister is, but Frame has sent to Whirl to the lawyer Rain, and he gets there first. I’m still finding this series to be interesting, but not engaging. It seems to be devolving into a typical action title, but the mysteries of Whirl and Angel, and why Johnny can keep doing things he’s not supposed to keeps me reading.

K-On! – The chapter of K-on! isn’t the usual 4-koma, but typical manga chapter. The girls take a break from practice, and Ritsu and Mio’s past is revealed. It’s not a bad story, and if K-On! had been more like this, I might have liked it more. I’m finding I’m not fond of the 4-koma format.

Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba tags along with Ena to Miura’s house, which is in a tall apartment building. In the elevator Yotsuba tries to press all the buttons, but Ena warns her off. At Miura’s home, they see Miura’s picks from her trip to Hawaii, and trade souvenirs, but then Yotsuba makes a most surprising discovery in Miura’s room. The scene in the elevator was cute.

Next month, the mag stays down one story, but Gossip Girl keeps going with a bonus chapter. Hopefully that really will be the last! And there’s no Daniel X scheduled next issue either. Hopefully, there will be some word on it next issue. It is the Patterson book I like the most, though I think I’m in the minority. But, what else is new?

Tech Friday: Beating the Competition

This week Digital Manga Publishing announced that their manga, starting with Vampire Hunter D, would be available on the digital comics site, Comixology. At first this sounded like good news, until I saw the pricing. Each volume on Comixology will cost $9.99.  This is only about $3, or 23%, off the print pricing. That didn’t seem like a very good deal to me, so I went looking around at other sites DMP has put VHD up on and checked the pricing.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Beating the Competition

Another Step to the Side

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.

Tech Friday: Time to Step Up

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.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Time to Step Up

Yen Plus January 2011

It’s a new year, and that means another new series in Yen Plus! Yeah! And it’s about a cat! Double yeah!! More on that later. But first, we’re six months in with Yen Plus being on-line. For the most part, things have been running smoothly. This issue was the first time I ran into any problems, and they were minor. First, it took a week after payment for the issue to go up, so it wasn’t available until the middle of January, but the holidays could be blamed for the delay. And I did have some trouble reading the issue, but those technical issues were taken care of quickly, and I could read the issue just fine the next day. Kudos to Yen Press for their quick response!

MilkyWay Hitchhiking is not only on the cover, but also starts the magazine this month. It’s in full color, with a nice water-colored look to it. It starts by introducing Milky Way, a special cat with a coat pattern on her back that looks like the Milky Way galaxy. She is able to make wishes come true. Her first wisher is a male cat named Sarah. He wants to be human for one day, or at least a few hours. Milky Way grants his wish, to which Sarah the proceeds to paint her black, and leaves her with his owners, a rich boy who doesn’t even recognize that Milky Way isn’t Sarah. Over the rest of the chapter, we learn how Sarah came to the boy’s home and why he wanted to be human for the day. Sarah’s past is kind of sad, but the whole story ends happily, for Sarah anyway. Milky Way still needs to get that black paint off.

Witch and Wizard continues Wisty’s and Whit’s ordeal as they are interrogated by a self-righteous classmate, a weasely type of boy who gladly joins the new regime for the power it gives him. They have the typical trial for a totalitarian society, with verdict already decided, but being a “humane” totalitarian regime, they will be held in prison until they are 18 before they are executed. The chapter ends with the revelation that Wisty and Whit’s parents escaped, so there might still be hope for them to get out. My jury is still out on this one. I’m probably going to need at least a volume to decide on this one. I know giving the villains so much power just gives the heroes more incentive to overcome them, but when they get too much it seems unrealistic, and I just don’t care for that.

In Aron’s Absurd Armada, the ship needs supplies, so Aron and Robin are sent out to get them, since Robin isn’t on the poster, and without his wisp of a mustache (forcibly taken) Aron is unrecognizable. Of course, it turns out to be a disaster. Then we get to meet Aron’s parents, who each have very different impressions of their son, with Victor’s being the more realistic. One of the things I love about this title is MiSun Kim’s ability to set up a serious looking scene and then turn it on its ear into something ridiculous and funny. What makes a lot of those scenes funny is because they are true to the characters.

Jack Frost finishes the fight between Hansen and Kay as well as Jack and the regenerator. Kay threatens to kill all of Hansen’s new friends, and Hansen responses with a new power that turns his gun into something closer to a canon. He gets Kay, and in his final moments, Kay tells Hansen he just wanted him to get over his grief, and now that he has, Kay can rest in peace. With the drama over, Jack makes short work of the regenerator. During it though, another part of No-Ah’s mirror image power awakens which seems to sync with the Pillar of Solomon. And it seems we will finally be seeing someone from the East District. It was nice to see Hansen finally get some closure, though the whole thing with Jack pretending to be dead was just too obvious. I’m still waiting for this title to make sense other a showcase for violence and fan service. I guess I’ll be waiting a little longer.

In Daniel X, Daniel gets an intergalactic email with one heck of an attachment; a whole bunch of gadgets to help make Daniel’s alien hunting easier. Now with a van full of electronics that can analyze an object’s component parts and where those parts come from to cloaking the van so they aren’t seen, Daniel goes after Number 6 and Number 21, who is working as a director for Number 6. Daniel tracks Number 21 to a small TV station transmission tower. Daniel X is still a lot more fun than Witch and Wizard. I can’t say anything about Maximum Ride, since I haven’t read it for ages, but I don’t miss it either. I wonder what the demographics for each series is, and if that is what makes the difference? At any rate, it’s nice to have a sci-fi series amid all the fantasy and cute girls.

Yotsuba&! has some playtime in this month’s chapter. She pretends to make dinner and breakfast, and then she and her father go to the park where they swing on the swings, kick off a shoe to see who’s can go the farthest, and then have a race to see who can get their shoe back first. Yeah. Can someone please explain the appeal of this title? I am really not seeing it. Is it a kid thing? Do you have to like kids to appreciate it? Or is it a living vicarious thing? I’ve only been reading for the last 6 months, and I still don’t see anything appealing. There’s no way I could do 9+ volumes of this.

K-on continues on its merry-go-round as it’s summer break again, and the girls do the exact same thing as they did last time. Tsumugi has a summer-house near the beach which is bigger than the last one, but not really the “big one”. The new responsible girl, Asuza, gets sucked into playing around more than practicing, so nothing gets done. There’s more struggling to get through mid terms for Ritsu and Yui, and study sessions end up with manga reading instead of studying and Mio giving Ritsu a study guide so she really doesn’t have to do anything. If you’ve read one volume of this title, you’ve pretty read the whole thing. Unless you like to look at pictures of cute moe girls, there’s nothing here.

Milky Way Hitchhiking is a great title for the magazine, and Yen got a real win in getting it. It’s got the potential to be an all ages title and being a cat title only makes the win more epic! Let’s hope for the win for the Japanese side. It needs it badly now.