Manga publisher Kodansha revealed the latest entry in the U.S. digital manga app-scape, K Manga today. Well, not exactly today… the news leaked last week when another site posted (and later pulled down) the embargoed press release. But the fan enthusiasm and curiosity about this service could not be contained, as many speculated about what K Manga will be like when the apps for iOS mobile and iPad, plus Android launch on May 10, 2023, with a website to follow at a later date.
What manga reader wouldn’t be excited about a mobile app/website from one of the top, hit-generating manga publishers in Japan, offering the latest chapters of popular series like Blue Lock, Rent-a-Girlfriend, and Eden’s Zero released in English at the same time as Japan? K Manga is also promising to “deliver official translations by industry professionals familiar with each manga.”
All that, plus Kodansha’s large catalog of action, thriller, isekai, romance, sports, and fantasy favorites like Attack on Titan, Tokyo Revengers and Chihayafuru? With an enviable roster of current A-list titles plus a deep catalog of new, under-the-radar and classic series, K Manga is one of the most ambitious and anticipated manga app launches since VIZ debuted the online / app version of Shonen Jump in 2012.
While the press release was vague in some key areas (like pricing and subscription model, if any) the details revealed so far for this US-only service described as “Kodansha’s official serialization platform,” are tantalizing. Here’s what we know so far from the press release, plus some additional information received from Yuta Hiraoka, K Manga Project leader and Deputy Editor of Weekly Shonen Magazine.
400 MANGA SERIES WITH 70 SIMULPUB TITLES AT LAUNCH
At launch, K Manga will offer 400 manga titles to readers, including 70 current series “from weekly and monthly magazines of Kodansha” (including, presumably their flagship shonen manga offerings, Weekly and Monthly Shonen Magazine, shojo magazines like Nakayoshi and Dessert, along with eclectic magazines that cater to grown-up readers, including Morning, Afternoon, online magazine Comic Plus, and (hopefully) Kiss and Be Love too.
Besides series that are already available in English (in print and digital formats) from Kodansha, K Manga’s launch line-up will also include manga series that will be “K Manga original titles.” In other words, new manga series that will debut on the K Manga app.
UPDATE: The K Manga teaser website provided more information about what “K Manga Original titles” might mean, as it refers to simulpub chapters of series currently featured on Kodansha’s Magazine Pocket app / website, including Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro and I Was Reincarnated as the 7th Prince so I can Take My Time Perfecting My Magical Ability.
The list of manga series that will be included on the K Manga roster will be released via social media in the weeks leading up to the May launch date, via K Manga’s Twitter account, at @KMANGA_KODANSHA.
Described as “A Manga Service by the Editors and for the Fans,” K Manga is managed by Kodansha’s editorial team – “the same team that has been present through the creation of new manga every day, continuously editing and producing numerous worldwide mega-hits.” What exactly this means, as far as how manga series are selected for K Manga, and how the editorial team will communicate with/receive feedback from N. American fans, via email, social media, or even “reader surveys” to determine the fate of manga series is another question that may be answered in news releases from Kodansha as the launch date approaches and as the site gets up to speed.
However, while Kodansha’s roster of Japanese manga magazines each have distinct, editorial identities, the various manga series won’t be organized or presented by the magazine where they are originated (Weekly Shonen, Kiss, Morning, etc.) but will “be integrated and exist as ‘Kodansha.'” After all, the “K” in K Manga stands for “Kodansha,” and is not meant to be confused with “K” for “Korea,” ala K-Pop or K-Dramas.
Fun fact: the Japanese version of the Shonen Magazine app is called Maga Poké, short for “Magazine Pocket,” and has a similar logo featuring a rabbit drawn by Fairy Tail / Eden’s Zero manga creator Hiro Mashima.
The latest chapters of the 70 currently serialized series included in K Manga’s launch will be released simultaneously to readers in the U.S and Japan. Kodansha’s big promise to readers with K Manga? “To make the latest stories available earlier than any other competing US services.”
What does this mean for N. American readers eager to read the latest chapters of their favorite manga series? Hiraoka shared that new chapters of simulpub series will be “published in each magazine, updated at midnight (0:00 am) Japan Time on the day of release in Japan, and new chapters will be updated at the same time in the US. For Weekly Shonen Magazine works, it is every Wednesday at midnight. (EDT is 13 hours behind Japan, so new content will be added at 11 am EDT the day before its release in Japan). Manga series that are K Manga original titles will also be updated at midnight Japan time on the day when new chapters are added in Japan. For example, Weekly Shonen Magazine is updated every Wednesday at midnight JT, which is Tuesday at 11 am EDT.”
But what about readers in other parts of the world, especially countries with large English-reading populations, including Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand? That too is a question that won’t be answered yet. When asked about plans for expansion, the reply from Kodansha, (at least for now) is “distribution is exclusively in the United States.”
UPDATE: After the K Manga teaser website went live, the U.S.-only restriction became clear to fans outside of the States, as they were presented with this message:
Hiraoka added, “We are planning to open a website as well.” However, “we are still discussing the timing of the launch.” See a preview of what’s in store by visiting the K Manga teaser website.
Since K Manga is an iOS / Android app, content for readers age 18+ are not allowed to be displayed, same as most other comics mobile apps. However, mature-rated comics content is allowed on websites, provided that readers create an account/password, sign in and verify that they’re over 18. An example of this is Golden Kamuy, which is included in the Shonen Jump subscription, but is only available to read via VIZ Media’s website after sign-in.
So will K Manga offer mature-rated manga content via their website? On that front, Hiraoka replied, “We do not currently have any titles that we plan to distribute only on the web.”
LOTS OF QUESTIONS AND A FEW ANSWERS… FOR NOW
The big question that remains unanswered is, how much will this cost? Will it be a flat-rate monthly subscription with all-you-can-read (for the most part) chapters like VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump, Mangamo and Azuki? Or pay-by-chapter, like Tapas, Webtoon and Square Enix’s Manga Up app? Pay-by-volume, as on eBook comics storefronts like ComiXology and BookWalker? Or some mix of subscription and pay-by-chapter, like Manga Plaza? At this point, no one (other than the K Manga team at Kodansha) knows for sure.
Kodansha’s press release says, “Users will have access to K Manga’s library and will be able to read limited chapters of manga for free,” with a disclaimer: “The amount of free manga that can be read per day is limited and varies from manga to manga.” What that means, as far as how much it will cost to read manga on K Manga is unclear at this point.
Also left undefined is how payment will be handled on K Manga. I asked about payment-related issues, such as: What currency can be used for payment (Japanese yen, like BookWalker, or US dollars, or in-app currency, like “coins” or a “wait until free” model (waiting days or hours to read free chapters, as in Tapas or Webtoon). However, I didn’t get any answers that might provide clarity on that front. While this initial announcement didn’t answer questions about K Manga subscriptions or pricing, Hiraoka promised that Kodansha will “announce the details in our next press release,” sometime in May.
UPDATE: The screenshot provided with the K Manga announcement shows a treasure chest with ‘points,’ indicating some kind of in-app currency model, but that may change by the time the app debuts in May.
Follow K Manga’s Twitter account, at @KMANGA_KODANSHA and bookmark their placeholder website, as more information gets revealed in the weeks leading up to K Manga’s debut on May 10, 2023.
“North America” is a strong word to use when it’s clearly only available in the US.
Sorry, that’s a habit after years of writing about manga publishing here, where new releases generally apply to all of N. America (Canada + US). I corrected the “N. America” reference in the article to better reflect the US-only status of this offering.
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