VIZ Media has launched a new service that will make English versions of the latest chapters of select manga titles available to subscribers as soon as they’re released in Japan. The service, called VIZ Manga, features manga published by Shogakugan and Shueisha and costs $2 a month. Its current “simulpub” or simultaneous publication catalogue has 15 titles that include Inuyasha sequel Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon and Mao by Rumiko Takahashi. Fans can even read their three most recent chapters for free. The subscription service also gives fans access to a library with over 10,000 chapters, including Junji Ito’s GYO and Uzumaki, Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yuugi, Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2 and Ai Yazawa’s Nana.
“Due to the explosive success of the Shonen Jump digital service, this new development will exponentially expand VIZ Media’s digital offering,” the company said in its announcement. The Shonen Jump subscription service came out in 2018 and offered fans the chance to read its latest releases as soon as they come out in Japan. VIZ Media said this is the first time English-speaking fans can get titles from the publishers — legally, that is — at the same time Japan does. The hope is likely to steer fans away from unauthorized translations, which could come out as soon as a few hours after a chapter is published in Japan, and to ultimately address the industry’s piracy problem.
According to the Tokyo-based Content Overseas Distribution Association, the Japanese manga industry lost 395.2 billion (US$2.9 billion) to 831.1 billion Yen (US$6.2 billion) in 2021 due to online piracy. Korean webtoons have also been steadily rising in popularity over the past few years while the Japanese manga industry has been shrinking. Webtoons are digital comics optimized for smartphones, and their publishing format makes them much easier to consume in this day and age. Manga has always been a print-first industry, but publishers have been looking for ways to expand their digital presence.
At the moment, VIZ Manga is only available in the US and Canada, accessible through the company’s Android or iOS app and its website. (Subscriptions, however, can only be purchased through the app.) VIZ Media plans to expand the service’s availability to other regions, though, so fans outside those two countries may want to keep an eye out for future announcements.
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