Starting next spring, fans will be able to read new chapters of Naruto, Bleach, Bakuman, and other Shonen Jump manga digitally just two weeks after their Japanese release!
Via Media announced today at New York Comic Con that it will take its Shonen Jump magazine digital after the April 2012 issue. The new magazine, Shonen Jump Alpha, will be released weekly and will be available at for $25.99 per year; readers can also rent a single issue for 99 cents for four weeks' access. Each weekly issue will feature fresh chapters of Naruto, Bleach, Bakuman, Naruto, One Piece, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, and Toriko and will be available via the Vizmanga.com website and Viz's iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch apps.
Hisahi Sasaki, the editor-in-chief of the Japanese magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, which publishes all six series, was present at the panel along with Viz senior vice president Alvin Lu to make the announcement.
To bring their American releases into sync with the Japanese chapters, Viz is ramping up its digital manga releases, starting with vol. 53 of Naruto, which went live today, two months ahead of its December release date. Viz staffer Brian Pietsch promised that news of a Bleach digital-first release would be coming soon.
"Manga is a live medium in Japan," said Viz senior vice president Alvin Lu. "It comes out in popular form every week and is enjoyed at the same time by millions of readers. Creators feed off that energy, and that is the secret of manga's success. What we have in North America is the finished product, the collective form, and it wasn't until recently with digital technology that we saw the possibility of something that is very current, an official weekly publication, very significantly, to the point where North American fans can enjoy the content as close to live as their Japanese counterparts."
Lu hinted that the U.S. magazine could eventually go to simultaneous release with the Japanese chapters. When asked why there was a two-week delay, he responded, "We wanted to give ourselves some room for improvement. There are various factors that went into this, and if we can get this right, it leaves room to close the time gap."
Hisahi Sasaki and Alvin Lu
"There is a big difference between Japan and the U.S. in terms of how to read manga," said Weekly Shonen Jump editor Hisahi Sasaki. "Obviously in Japan the first time the kids make contact was through Shonen Jump magazine, but in the U.S. it is different. If the first wave of kids to contact content is through the web, then I really would like them to start reading from our content. Once they get used to it and they get used to our content we would like them to buy the physical graphic novel."
Current plans are to make Shonen Jump available in the U.S. and Canada only. Asked if the magazine would be available in other regions, Sasaki said, "At this moment we have no plans. However, this digital technology is always improving, and the devices and applications are always evolving and changing. Therefore we do not necessarily deny the possibility in future."
The Japanese Shonen Jump uses surveys and other reader feedback to shape its content, and Lu said that Viz would be looking to do the same. "One of the key questions we will be putting out for feedback is what titles you would like to see translated," he said.
Current subscribers to the print edition will be offered a variety of options, including a digital subscription, Lu said.