CCI EXCLUSIVE: JManga to Launch Unlimited-Access Digital Manga Site

The company behind the digital manga site JManga.com is working on plans to offer readers unlimited access, for a limited time, to individual chapters of a wide variety of new and older manga. The site, which has not yet been named, will launch with 20 titles. Access would be free, but for a subscription fee, users will be able to access material faster and possibly avoid ads.

JManga.com is run by a company known as JManga Co., Ltd., which is backed by the Digital Comics Association, a group of 39 Japanese publishers. The current site allows readers to purchase manga a volume at a time and read it online. At the JManga panel at Comic-Con International in San DIego, business manager Robert Newman announced that JManga will soon offer iOS and Android apps as well. JManga.com currently has 376 volumes of manga available and is adding new titles at a rate of about ten a week. Among the new titles that Newman announced at the panel were "Comic Yuri Hime," "Mythical Detective Loki," and Yuichi Yokoyama's "Garden."

Also during the panel, Newman announced that JManga.com will offer series from the Japanese publisher Kodansha that were previously published in English by Tokyopop and Del Rey. While he did not name the titles, Newman said that several are still being serialized in Japan, meaning that readers will get new volumes of these older series. "We will actually be reworking some of the Tokyopop titles to correct some of the mistakes that have been discovered by readers," he added.

Newman's colleague Yae Sahashi then took the podium to introduce a manga translation competition sponsored by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs. Contestants will choose from a number of manga, including one shoujo (girls') title from Shueisha, one shonen (boys') manga from Kodansha, and a seinen title. The judges include manga blogger Deb Aoki and translators William Flanagan and Jake Tarbox, and readers will be able to vote on the submissions as well.

After the panel, Newman gave CBR News an exclusive interview, discussing JManga's plans for its new site that will allow readers unlimited access to manga in a number of different genres from a number of different publishers.

Some of the series will be new, Newman said, and will be released close to their Japanese release date; others will be older. In either case, they will be released one chapter at a time on the new site and then as collected editions on JManga.com. The mix of titles will include shonen and shoujo manga, with some high-profile series but a range of lesser-known manga as well. "The overall mission of JManga is to get out as wide a variety of manga as possible," Newman said. "Really, the manga that has historically been licensed and released in America is just a very, very small percentage of what is actually available. So as JManga, we want to open up the average reader's eyes to -- you like this minute percentage [of manga], look at the rest of it." The site will also include yuri (love stories between two women), yaoi (love stories between two men) and other manga targeted at adults, but because it is aimed at a general readership, it will not include adults-only content.

Explaining that the idea is to give impatient readers an alternative to illegal scan sites, Newman told CBR, "I think the reason that scanlation sites thrive is because they release content on such a fast schedule. I think the nature of entertainment on the internet is to have something pretty much instantaneous. It has to be there when you want it. So I think it is important for services like JManga and other services, such as Shonen Jump Alpha [Viz's digital magazine], to provide a legal alternative to that.

"I think there are a lot of people that look at scanlation sites who would like to support the publisher, who would like to support the artist, but there is no way to support the publisher or the artist," Newman continued. "It's up to us, as JManga, it's up to the publishers both in America and Japan to create an alternative, to create an outlet, a way for people to actually support the artists that they want to.

The as yet unnamed site site will be free, with a paid subscription option. Series will be updated weekly and the chapters will be rotated off the site once they are collected in a single digital volume on JManga. "It could be compared to the style that Crunchyroll is doing, where if you want the latest material, you pay for the service, but if you don't mind waiting for it, you can access it [for free]," Newman explained, adding that some of the content may remain behind the paywall: "Ideally for JManga, we would like to make all the content free at some point. But it depends on the title, and it depends on publisher as well," he said.

The free service may include ads, but some publishers and creators may prefer not to have them. The subscription service will be ad-free. As for additional platforms such as iOS or Android, Newman said, "The plan is to have it available to read wherever you would like to read it."

Newman also told CBR that the service will be promoted outside the usual manga circles. "It's obviously important for JManga, it's important to the Japanese publishers as well, to get manga out to as many people as possible," he said. "It think in America, manga is really kind of a form of subculture. It may be a sizable subculture, but it's still a subculture, whereas in Japan it's really a full-fledged form of entertainment. You can't escape manga in Japan, similar to how you can't escape games or movies in America. So we definitely want to get it out to as many people as possible. I think there are some titles that can do that really well. I think a great example is Vertical's 'Drops of God,' a title that has actually done better with the non-manga audience than the manga audience. I think by utilizing titles like this, we can get manga into the eyes of more people, so more people can see that manga is really a vast form of art."

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