This week I look at several news stories that include some new licenses and digital news, regular departments the Weekly Wish List and the Top Ten, and then I look at the new manga app from Japanese publisher Kadokawa, ComicWalker.
Well, I have to say it’s about time Yen Press and Square Enix finally got on the digital bandwagon. Yen Press announced back in October at New York Comic Con that it would be announcing a digital strategy for the company, and nearly six months later, they finally have! I glad to see them moving away from proprietary apps and awful websites. Find out more after the jump.
This week I talk about my weekly wish list, what new at Vizmanga.com, the New York Times Best Seller List and for the main feature I have Alex Hoffman of Manga Widget as my guest, where we talk about the Vizmanga Platform and pricing, and the new Crunchyroll Manga roll out. This is a long episode!
- Weekly Wish List
- Vizmanga.com New Releases
- New York Times Best Seller List
- Manga Widget
- Crunchyroll Manga
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Music courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech
I have some good news and bad news…which do you want first? The good news? Okay! According to ANN, over in Japan, the official Gundam portal site has announced the return of the Gundam Seed Astray manga side stories. Gundam Seed Destiny Astray R and Gundam Seed Destiny Astray B will be returning and will feature the characters Lowe Gear, a member of the Junk Guild, and Gai Murakumo, a mercenary with their respective Astray suits. More details about the titles and their starting dates will be in the new issues of Hobby Japan and Dengeki Hobby Magazine later this month. The Gundam Seed Astray manga were published in the US by Tokyopop back in the mid 2000s. I have all of the Astray side stories and really enjoyed them. They fit very well within the Gundam Seed Universe and the characters are a lot of fun; at least in Frame A and B, with Lowe and Gai. They are definitely worth tracking down if you are a fan of the Gundam Seed Universe. They much better than the Del Rey Gundam Seed Destiny manga. It’s too bad though that Gundam doesn’t have the audience to warrant they being licensed here.
As my next story shows, getting any new niche manga at all will be even harder now. After almost two years, the digital only manga site, Jmanga will be shutting down for good in May. Their sister site Jmanga7 is already gone, and the purchasing of manga by member with existing points will continue until March 26. All access to the site will end by the end of May, so members have until then to read the manga they have purchased. No downloads of purchased manga will be provided, but Amazon gift cards will be given to members with balances.
This news came about suddenly, and was quite frankly a shock to me. I’ve been a big supporter of Jmanga. They not only made available titles that most publishers wouldn’t try to print, but also rescued a lot of titles from defunct publishers Tokyopop and Del Rey, and even translated new volumes that furthered or completed some of these canceled titles. While I wasn’t thrilled with the online-only reading they provided, their promise of apps with offline reading filled me with hope. They are the third publisher to put the manga on a 10″ Android tablet, but the only one that had a lot of titles I wanted to read. They brought over some fun cat manga with Edo Nekoe Jubei Otogizoshi and Poyopoyo’s Observation Diary. They continued tactics, a Tokyopop title I loved but was left incomplete, as well as licensing Mythical Detective Loki by the same creator. They released Takao Saito classics that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day like Japan Sinks, and some great otherwise unknown josei like Urameshiya. I admit I was angry when I heard the news. I didn’t want it to be true, because I didn’t want these wonderful titles, or the promise of more, to go away. I couldn’t wait for Thursdays to see when the next volume in one of my series’ was coming out, or to see what new titles they had. It really brought me down all day.
That isn’t to say Jmanga was perfect. I had my issues with them, such as being able to read their site on my tablet before and after the release of the app. Their price point at the beginning was rather high, especially when they were only giving 5 page previews, sometimes with no dialog at all! I didn’t care for the point system either, and as I said about the no-download option, this situation is exactly the reason I was wary at first. But I took the chance anyway, because I wouldn’t have been able to read any of these titles otherwise. I don’t regret any of the titles I’ve purchased, not even the poorly translated/localized ones. Jmanga has such a diverse line of titles that could really appeal to just about anyone.
One of the things that make me sad about this has been some of the manga community’s reaction. There have been people gloating over the closing, with “I told you so”s and they deserved it. No, they did not deserve to be shut down like this. Not only are their people out of work now, but there is also less manga available to read legally. Whatever you thought about the site and their policies, they had some great service, both through the site and on social media. They were quick and responsive (unlike some publishers **Kodansha**), and they really tried to solve the issues, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not. But just having that feeling that someone is listening can really go a long with people.
So what went wrong? I know this will be discussed for the next few days and weeks. We will probably never know for sure considering how tight-lipped Japanese companies can be about failures. One thing we know for sure from a tweet from the @Jmanga_official account, is that they ran out of money. Some will say scanlations were the cause, I’ll agree with that, up to a point. I don’t think it was the scanlations that killed it, but that a lot of people probably didn’t know about the site in the first place. There have been plenty of examples of people asking publishers to license things that are already licensed, or that they have been publishing themselves! Awareness of ways to obtain legal manga still seems to be low. It’s not too surprising when a search on Google for a manga will result in the first page being almost all scanlation sites, and no sign of the legal publisher until the 2nd or even 3rd page in. Studies show most people won’t go past the first page, so this really hurts discovery of the publishers.
Part of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” is that the site should have either had mobile apps out and/or been a Netflix type of site with all manga available for a low subscription price. I’ve thought about this second option, and while it seems like a good idea, it occurs to me that sites like Netflix and even Viz being able to sell their digital manga at half print price is that, in both cases, the creators of the media have already gotten their initial investment back. The movies have already been made and shown in theaters, DVD/Blurays sold, and the manga has been translated, edited and published before going online digitally. Jmanga was trying to do this from scratch at the price of titles that were already funded. I’ll admit to being one of those who decried Jmanga’s price at the beginning. But with hindsight being 20/20, and more information coming out about how much really goes into releasing manga digitally, Jmanga was probably selling their manga for too little.
Will we see another site like Jmanga again? Not anytime in the near future. The manga market continues to be too unstable for experiments like Jmanga, and publishers too conservative to take that kind of risk. Right now, I would just be glad to have publishers make their titles available for ALL platforms and not just the few niches they have remained in, to give EVERYONE, REGARDLESS OF PLATFORM, the same reading options. Digital Manga Publishing has taken steps in this direction with their e-Manga site that allows you to download the titles in the reader format of your choice. Of course you pay for that privilege, but that may be the only way for DRM-free manga to thrive.
So, goodbye Jmanga. It was fun while it lasted, and know that you will be sorely missed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.