Saturday, November 2, 2013

Manga eBook Interlude: JManga and Crunchyroll Manga

When JManga shut down earlier this year, I had half a mind to write a postmortem about it. Their approach was flawed on several fronts: cost, accessibility, library, quality. With the sudden appearance of Crunchyroll Manga, though, I'm pleasantly surprised that the publishers seem to have learned some lessons from that fiasco.

So what did they do wrong the first time around? The a la carte system certainly made things too expensive. They essentially tried to emulate the model of ebookstores in Japan, which sell mostly at price parity with physical books. This is not such a big deal in Japan, since volumes are about five bucks apiece. But when JManga started, they went for price parity with US releases, which is just insane. Discounts gradually rolled in, but even then, their catalog wasn't all that compelling. They also made a mistake with the region restrictions, although they did open it up worldwide later on. The lack of mobile apps was also a big issue. And of course the quality was rather uneven.

Consumers in the U.S., at least, have gotten used to services like Netflix and Spotify, where it's all-you-can-eat at one low price. And you would think that Crunchyroll, given their pricing model and their involvement in the JManga project, would've spoken up about it.

And so we come to Crunchyroll Manga, which we should probably think of as "JManga 2.0", or perhaps even 3.0. The latest chapters are free to read, and a low-cost subscription opens up the back catalog. It's available worldwide (mostly) and there are mobile apps. There are not so many titles at the moment, but most of the ones available are A-listers. It's almost too good to be true, and if you consume enough stuff across all of Crunchyroll's departments, it's a downright steal.

Of course, there are some details. It seems that some of the titles Kodansha already has in print are not going to have their back volumes online, just current chapters. That makes sense from a business standpoint, and it reflects what Kodansha has going over at their Japanese-language moae/ site.

The site lists the translator for each series, and immediately the big names stand out, like William Flanagan. There are a few where no translation credits are listed, though. (I'll probably review some of the translations in more detail later, but so far there's nothing glaringly off about them.) Apparently the goal is 50 titles by the end of the year (there is some background in this article, but the quotations are largely the same corporate boilerplate we've seen before), which seems doable, although I'm betting most of those will be recycled from JManga.

It's interesting to reflect on how Crunchyroll started out as a site that hosted (or 'stole', depending on your view) fansubs, and somehow parlayed that into becoming a legit streaming site. (They say that it's often easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission, but CR seems to have pulled off both at once.) And now, strangely enough, they have enough brand recognition to anchor a legal manga service. Time will tell whether CR Manga is ultimately successful, but given's CR's momentum, it seems likely.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Honto finally added "TO" and "FROM" to its shipping labels!

Why is this a momentous occasion, you might ask? Because this.


I think that one's from December. I guess the change actually happened sometime before August but I didn't notice at the time. (Why yes, I do have a lot of cardboard boxes I need to get rid of.) Now my packages don't need to cross the Pacific three times before they reach the proper destination.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Manga eBook World Tour: eBookJapan

The first stop on our tour is eBookJapan. The good: massive selection, including major publishers' crown jewels. Not so good: volumes generally cost the same as physical manga, with maybe a 20% discount for older releases (like, really old). The bad: the Android app has terrible ratings. Personally I haven't had that much trouble with it, but it's rather bare-bones in functionality compared to competitors' apps.

This is going to be a lazy review because I'm just going to complain. When I try to make a purchase on the tablet, the website just gives up. When I try to purchase on PC instead, it tells me that I need to install the PC app. Maybe I'm being hardheaded, but I think this is really stupid because every other eBook store I've tried is perfectly happy to let me pay on the PC and read elsewhere.

Anyway, I'll probably come back to these guys at some point.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Manga eBook World Tour

I got an Android tablet recently, so I've been exploring the various manga eBook options in a bit more depth. Before that, I did play with the various PC eBook apps, but now I can say for certain that the reading experience on a desktop or laptop is inferior to that on a tablet. Since I've dipped my toes into various eBook systems on both sides of the Pacific, I'm going to get up on my soapbox to say a little about each one.

But first, I'll talk about the general state of things. The biggest problem with eBooks for manga is image quality. Tone moire is a huge downer, and most of the stuff I've bought exhibits moire to some degree. Some are just plain bad scans though, and it's the lack of attention to detail that keeps me from enthusiastically going digital.

The second issue is DRM. The failure of JManga shows that the DRM zealots are absolutely right: you have little control over the content you've purchased. If the store goes belly-up or the licensing server goes down, you're SOL. So you have to ask yourself, is this store/service going to be around in five years? With the bigger players, there's less of a risk (you would hope), but some of the little guys might be questionable in that regard.

A few years ago I wouldn't have even considered eBooks, but after moving house a couple of times, I'm starting to come around. Books are light individually, but heavy in aggregate. And since manga tends to multiply like rabbits, it's a particularly painful situation. While I'm not really sure what I'm going to do in the long run, I'm exploring my options. This eBook tour is part of it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New project: Natsunokumo

My new(-ish) project is Rokurou Shinofusa's Natsunokumo, a joint effort with Second Hand Scans (note NSFW). This will not come as news to those of you who follow scanlations, but here's the blurb anyway.

Natsunokumo is a manga set in an online world. Generally when I hear the words "online world", I reach for my gun, so to speak, but in this case the setup's a little different. So let's start over. Natsunokumo is a manga about psychological counseling in an online world. Now that's a whole different kettle of fish, and one much more to my taste. The MMO aspects serve as a framework for presenting a very much character-driven plot.

Those of you in the know will recognize this as an old MangaScreener project, and indeed I would probably never have read it if that wasn't the case. I wasn't too enamored with it at first, to be honest, but once it got going I was pretty impressed. So I'd like to see it through to the end. I'm no Stephen Paul, alas, but I'll do my best.

We've finished up volume 4 and are starting volume 5. Like always, don't expect rapid releases — as Aesop taught us, slow and steady wins the race, so long as your opponents are sleeping on the job.

P.S. What does the title mean? "Summer Spider" is one interpretation, given that the subtitle is "Spinning Web". A homonym, and perhaps a more prosaic reading, would be "Summer Clouds": I'm thinking the ones that roll in on short notice and unleash thunderstorms.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

YKK Re-scan Project

Readers of this blog (whoever you are) might be interested to hear that a YKK Re-scan Project has just started up. The intent is to use scans of the recent YKK reprint and translations from Neil and the Gnomes. They're looking for people to help out, so go take a look if it sounds interesting to you.

September Update: The effort seems to be dead. To be sure, high-quality scanlation is a lot more effort than it seems from the outside, so I don't blame them one bit. By the way, anyone feel like mortgaging their house to buy the YKK rights?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

KnI chapter 20 and announcement

Isaki makes it to Kouzu, but he (and co.) still have a ways to go before they reach Mt. Fuji. They're about halfway there.

This is the end of volume 3; Kabu no Isaki has ended in Japan at 6 volumes, so this also marks a halfway point in the series as a whole. When I started this project, I had no idea how far I would take it. Progress has been slow at times (okay, all the time) so I'm somewhat surprised that I've made it this far.

But enough navel-gazing. I'd like to announce that I'm dropping the project. With the exception of revisions to volumes 1 and 2, I don't expect to do any more work on this series. But before you despair, let me add that Roselia Scanlations will be taking up the reins. What's more, I expect them to release quite a bit faster than I ever would.

As for the overall status of [dou], various loose ends are being worked on. This year may end up being even more slowbro than ever, but we will see how it goes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kabu no Isaki chapter 19

Welp, here we go again. Almost done with volume 3.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kabu no Isaki chapter 18

View Larger Map

I tried to find a pine forest in modern-day Chigasaki but I was not successful. By the way, zoom out on the Satellite imagery and gawk at how large the Tokyo metro area is.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Kabu no Isaki chapter 17

What's this? Less than a month between releases? I bet it's just a dream, no way that could happen.