I knew it! I friggin’ knew it! Fresh influx of manga for 99 cents a week (or 30 bucks a year) delivered straight to your entertainment tablet. Man, I must be psychic.
Howdy y’all, the Inverseman here to tell you about his experiences with the new Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, Viz Media’s newest attempt to break into a digital market with what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s ugly. With the increase of the internet’s prevalence and scanlation groups working at breakneck speeds, how is the “official source” going to keep up when print has become unattractive to most? The solution is to join the race. In a previous article, I mentioned that one of the best ways to stay competitive was to enter in the weekly digital distribution market, but of course it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. And since my parents are visiting, time to break out my family’s iPad.
I previously talked about the user interface and the scan quality. I expect nothing less to be sure. The official site U.I… Not so much. When reading the sample issues on the iPad, you have all the intuitiveness of the touchscreen. The pages, snap, zooming is easy, and the pages turn instantaneously. However, when you sign into your Viz Media account online to read the issue, you have to deal with a very clunky and slow user interface. In fact, it reminds me of reading manga in my younger years (when we had this thing called DSL); I’d tire of it as each page took far too long to load.
*Strangely enough, despite crediting the recent issue to my account, I cannot yet access it on the iPad. Since there has to be a way to synchronize it, I cannot say for sure though. The sample issues work fine though and don’t use the website’s U.I.
In this issue we had the 2000s Big 3 (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece), a recent chapter of Bakuman (a personal favorite of yours truly), Toriko, and Nura of the Youkai Clan. A decent variety around the spectrum, and if one buys an issue for a buck or has a subscription there are extra features on the official website, similar to the old print Monthly Jump, so the content is now in numerous departments and all over. But if you’re only concerned with the manga, you need only break out the iPad. Extra goodies, like Yu-Gi-Oh cards, are sent by mail.
Now we get to a problem, you don’t really get six chapters of six manga series, you really get 3. You are guaranteed to get the Big 3 each week, (makes sense in a way, they top popularity charts) but the other 3 titles will wax and wane in popularity, they will phase out in the weekly run, which is a shame for anyone following those series. Currently, this is probably the biggest issue to face; can Viz produce weekly runs for all weekly series running in Jump? Would there be a viable way to do so?
As far as the gap between the where the print volumes are and where Japan is now, there were summaries provided to catch readers up to speed, not the most elegant, but fulfills the primary focus of catching up to Japan. It is also reassuring that there will still be printed compilations for pack-rats like myself (even if that may be the only way to enjoy some series before going back to scanlations once a series has outlived its welcome). Those who missed past issues can read and reread them if they are yearly subscribers, which is effective, but I do miss having my library of past issues from my teenage years piling up, ready to lend to others.
It’s a great concept, really, and at a very affordable price. Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha is a look towards the future and a look towards competition, but it’s got a way to go before it really takes off. By building a better user interface, the experience can be less bugs and waiting and more reading. And by finding a way to keep up on a regular basis with more weekly series, perhaps subscribers can read other series that have fallen from the weekly rotation. In the meantime, I can enjoy Bakuman being in the spotlight for now, but I would still want the recent chapters in some kind of archive that is still updated weekly. Yes, perhaps Viz should look to modeling more after large manga hub websites. We’ve got a long way to go, but hopefully the company makes some wise decisions to really deliver great manga to our digital doorsteps. For now, I give Alpha a pass (a regular one, not an Asian one, sadly), but I hope to see improvements. Join me next time when I predict the future of school uniform designs.
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