In the December 2010 issue of Shonen Jump USA, VIZ makes a major announcement with a splash page in the opening pages, and a small blurb in the next issue previews indicating-
“Subscribe NOW and next month you’ll get to read:
- Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan
Available exclusively for subscribers online @shonenjump.com“
VIZ already operates a digital preview of monthly issues of the print magazine at on the Shonen Jump website along with sample of chapters of its ongoing graphic novel series. It appears this feature will launch next month, as there’s no news on VIZ’s Shonen Jump homepage as of yet.
Shueisha themselves also have many sample chapters at their official English Shonen Jump homepage with sample chapters of their most popular series, and revolving samples of series unlicensed in the US like the currently showcased Light Wing. I’m assuming that VIZ’s site address in the magazine was a typo, though it would be interesting if they took over or merged with Shueisha’s shonenjump.com.
Whether the chapters of the three titles will simply be the usual 2-3 chapters of manga we see each month in Shonen Jump USA, chapters running simultaneously with the Japanese edition similar to Shonen Sunday’s Rin-Ne , or simply the usual 3-chapter preview we normally get for new manga in Shonen Jump is also unclear. At the moment, VIZ simply advertises it as an “online preview for subscribers only”. As such, it might be that these previews will be rotating series, though Toriko, Nura and Bakuman would make excellent ongoing additions if VIZ is planning longer runs. As both Toriko and Bakuman have already had short runs in the magazine, one would assume these online chapters will be from later in the series.
Nonetheless, this sounds like a major step forward for VIZ, adding a number of popular series that expand their offerings to their subscibers, and finding a way to potentially capitalize on digital manga by giving subscribers both a print and digital edition of the magazine with different sets of content. Given how lowpriced VIZ’s subscriptions are, around the same as 3-4 issues of the print magazine, this looks to be an excellent value for potential subscribers, and a different take from other initiatives not just by charging a subscription fee, but also by teaming it up directly with the print edition.
As a digital edition won’t be limited by page numbers, it also gives VIZ lots of room to grow in terms of adding further content. Personally, I hope fans support this iniative and encourage VIZ to build upon it. It’s a different approach with a more tangible value, a smart move to convince readers into boosting their magazine’s circulation, an inventive way to build on their existing digital anthologies, and a definite treat for those already subscribing to the magazine.
This is a small, but bold step for VIZ, considering the popularity of Bakuman, with Nura‘s anime being simulcast by their anime division, and Toriko also having a sizeable cult following. When one considers that there are only four regular ongoing series in the print edition currently, having three additional chapters online is a considerable boost, and the range of themes adds some diversity. Toriko‘s strange combination of First of the North Star style heroes and the cooking manga genre, Bakuman‘s manga about making manga aspect and Yura‘s anime tie-in make for an excellent range of titles. This will apparently be further augmented by the addition of print chapters of YuGiOh 5D‘s and Psyren, which appear to be ongoing additions rather than previews. It’s been awhile since VIZ added an ongoing series to the book, and these two should help break up the Naruto/OnePiece dominance the magazine has had lately.
I imagine some might quibble over the subscription aspect, but this is a move that serves their artists and subscribers well – rewarding their existing readership, and setting up a system that will potentially allow more content and profitability than an advertisement focused website like Shonen Sunday and SigIkki.
It remains unclear if this is the big news VIZ was touting as arriving this week, though the timing would indicate it just might be. This is a move with lots of potential, and a major step forward considering up until now, the majority of VIZ’s digital content came from Shogakukan. Having access to Shueisha’s titles for digital editions opens a lot of opportunities, and I hope fandom will move forward with VIZ on their new venture, and help stabilize manga in what have been uncertain times for the industry.