Beginning Wednesday, the streaming anime website Crunchyroll will offer digital manga from Japan's biggest publisher, Kodansha — some of them on the same day they're released in Japan.
The service will kick off with 12 series, including Attack on Titan, which is one of the top-selling manga in the United States right now, Fairy Tail, and Ken Akamatsu's new series UQ Holder. And they will be available in 170 countries, including the United States (where many of the same titles are published in print by Kodansha Comics, which also releases them digitally on Kindle and other e-book platforms). Readers will be able to access the manga via a web browser and can read them on Android or iOS devices as well as desktop or laptop computers.
Details are sketchy, but this sounds like an all-you-can-eat service, along the lines of Marvel Unlimited but with a significant free component: Readers can access the most recent manga chapters, with ads, while subscribers can read the entire catalog. Anime News Network reports the subscription fee will be $4.99 per month and that there are plans to expand the offerings to 50 titles by next summer. The website also reports the service won't be available in Japan, China, France, Germany or Italy.
The new service will offer readers basically what a scanlation site offers — new releases they can read for free — but with the important difference that it is sanctioned by the creators and publishers, who presumably will get a cut of whatever profits ensue. The downside to a site like this is that it's not one-stop shopping for readers, as it will only offer manga published by Kodansha, at least for now. On the other hand, the lineup includes several extremely popular series, and that may be enough to draw readers away from the pirate sites.