JManga Launches, Almost (But Not Completely) Yuri Free

August 17th, 2011

Today was the big launch date for new manga platform JManga, the digital solution to manga fans’ desires. Of course it’s not perfect, no one expected it to be. But for Yuri fans, the lack of…almost anything…is notable and regrettable.

The initial launch for JManga is North America only. And while they said NA includes Canada, some Canadian readers have not been able to get on the system. Others have, so maybe it was an initial glitch that was rectified.

There are a number of ways to slice and dice manga, the most common is by demographic audience. Categories for shounen, seinen, shoujo and josei are very visible on the site. Of course that leaves Yuri folks wondering where will Yuri be listed…if it ever makes it on the platform. Is Comic Yuri Hime seinen or josei?  (JRB tells us that there are Yuri category labels under both seinen and josei, and sensibly concludes that Yuri will be categorized by the audience for that magazine. Which still makes me wonder where Yuri Hime will be listed. ^_^)  So, setting that aside, I jumped over to…

The Publisher Page. This was a little more useful for me, because I know what publishers I care about. And while a number of the most popular Yuri-friendly publishers are listed, Ichijinsha, Hobunsha and Media Factory are all “Coming Soon.” Which means that all of the titles from those publishers and their magazines are not on the system, yet. That left Hakusensha, and my vague hope that Rakuen Le Paradis would be listed…. Unfortunately, it was not. The only Hakusensha titles listed are titles already quite familiar to US readers, Natsume’s Book of Friends, Ouran Host Club, etc. This left Futabasha, our one bright spot of hope.

Sadly, Enterbrain has yet to join. Boo-hoo, no Romae Thermae or other interesting Comic Beam titles for you. And vexingly, the only title available from Monthly IKKI is *not* GUNJO. Grr.

Okay, so there is good news out there. As I mentioned Futabasha is a beacon for us.

Click on the Magazine Pages and you’ll see our old friend, Comic High. Click the Comic High Page and lo and behold! Morinaga Miruku’s GIRLFRIENDS is one of the choices.

(Along with Towa Oshima’s Joshi Kousei and Hitohira for some other amusing, yet questionable Yuri-service.)

GIRLFRIENDS does have a free preview, so once you sign up, you can see what it looks like. It’s got a not terribly sophisticated translation, right from the get-go. But the reader is browser-based, simple and easy to navigate. I approve of not having to download anything to read the manga.

The purchase of things is on the “points” system, something I find annoying on top of the subscription. It appears that the $10/month subscription plan gives you 1000 points. An average volume of manga is priced about 899 points, so for your subscription, you can buy 5 chapters or one full volume per month. Once you have bought a manga, it stays in your account, even if you change back to the free account, so you you still “own” that copy as long as the site is in existence. If you want to buy something, but don’t have enough points you can pay for the extra points, according to the User Guide. But you can’t pay for points without having a subscription first. so you can’t just buy what you want when you want it.

As depressing as all this seems, check out the Signup Page. “Yuri” is a checkable box under Interests. I haven’t yet attempted to buy the paid subscription, but when I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

So, while it’s a slow starter for Yuri fans, there is hope. If we all put pressure on them (i,e, check that Yuri box) to get Ichijinsha and Hobunsha (and the Hakusensha titles that are relevant to us)  into the fold, it could well be worth that monthly fee. Here’s hoping!

Addendum: Some previews are relatively short, i.e., 7 pages for GIRLFRIENDS. So, you’re going to be making decisions rather quickly.  At 7 pages, you’re making a decision based solely on art and tone. A major boost would be the chance to purchase (or read for free) the whole first chapter, so we could get an idea of the art, tone and story. Some manga do have the whole first chapter. I think that ought to be standard.

Also of note, Ultra Jump magazine isn’t on the system, so no Hayate x Blade for us, either. That would be a MAJOR draw for me.

So right now, it’s cool to read some off-beat unknown manga, but no good for getting any of the manga I already read and would like to get digitally.

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15 Responses

  1. Senbei says:

    The option to switch instantly to Japanese is phenomenal and awesome… but I really need an option to read with inverted colors. Am I alone in that?

  2. JRB says:

    “Of course that leaves Yuri folks wondering where will Yuri be listed…if it ever makes it on the platform.”

    There’s currently tabs for Yuri under seinen (listing Girlfriends) and josei (empty), so I’m assuming more is in the pipeline, or at least contemplated. Looking at the way yaoi is distributed (works from teen-oriented magazines under shoujo, and from adult-oriented magazines under josei, regardless of the former US publisher’s rating), I suppose Yuri, when more shows up, will be categorized by magazine.

    I find it kinda interesting that josei, like seinen, has “ecchi” and “hentai” tabs (both currently empty). Presumably that means hetero girl-smut is coming too, eventually.

  3. @Senbei – I don’t know if you’re alone, but I certainly have never needed or wanted (or considered) that option. Out of sheer curiosity, why do you want that?

    @JRB – Thanks. I didn’t take the time to look at the tabs, but I very much appreciate you doing so! I agree with your assessment, too. It seems the most sensible tagging system at least to start with.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Awww! I got all excited about the possibility of throwing my money at someone for Girl Friends only to be greeted with (and my hopes and dreams crushed by): “Unfortunately JManga is currently only open for users in North America”.

  5. @Anonymous – Yes, the initial launch for JManga is North America only. And while they said NA includes Canada, some Canadian readers have not been able to get on the system.

  6. Justin says:

    Do you have a problem with the previews section of most of the manga? I’m thinking that there should be a bit more pages for me to determine whether or not I should buy it or not, because some are so short I can hardly tell if it would be worth my points…

    Anyways, I do worry about this points system thing. I wonder if this type of business model is sustainable…

  7. BruceMcF says:

    Deb Aoki interviews some of the JManga people, who give nibbles of information but lots of the answers to many of our questions seem like “still to be determined”.

    They do seem to be hoping to expand regional coverage, and indeed the site infrastructure is set up to support expanded regional coverage as soon as the publishers put up material for wider regions.

    I’d hope that if they have 10,000 titles by year three, that means that they have some Yuri!

  8. Rynnec says:

    I wish they had some sort of guide or something, because I had no idea on why I couldn’t purchase anything until I read about the points system here.

    So you can only purchase manga if you have a paid subscription? Then what’s the point of the free subscription if you can’t even do anything with it?

  9. @Rynnec – The free account allows you to see the previews.

    There is no ad hoc purchase available, you have to subscribe to purchase and then you can purchase extra points if you need for more manga.

  10. C. Banana says:

    Just successfully dumped a bunch of my points onto Girl Friends (I’m Canadian FWIW).

    One thing that’s disappointing is there doesn’t seem to be any smartphone/tablet support. I tried the site out with my Android phone but the Flash on the site needs a mouse to work.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If Hayate X Blade were on there I would sign up right then and there. I love Seven Seas, but they’re really leaving me hanging on this title

  12. Felix says:

    Just to point out hopefully what everyone here already realizes, you “own” the manga you buy as long as JManga or the publisher decides you do. What if in a year say Comic High decides to pull all their manga in favor of another service? What if they go out of business? What if JManga itself closes up shop? What will happen to all the manga you have bought? It will all disappear into the aether of the internet most likely. Reading though the Terms of Service, there is no guarantee anything you buy today will still be there tomorrow.

    The English licensed manga on my shelves, about a third of was released by companies that no longer exist. Just because TokyoPop went under in the US, does not mean I can no longer read my copy Kannazuki no Miko. Same with anime DVDs I own. Hell, I own all five volumes of Girl Friends in Japanese. If Comic High goes under next week, I still have them.

    If I am going to buy something, I want to actually own it. I want to be able to in ten years reread it, or 25 years, or 100. If it is in a digital format, I want to be able to transfer it between any device I own, or have a copy on all of them at once. If I don’t actually own it, I would rather it be a rental service, like Crunchyroll, or Netflix. I pay X number of dollars a month, and I can access an entire library of works, with no limits on how many different volumes or series view in that month’s time.

    I believe that an official, licensed online manga reader will be successful, but I feel that JManga’s model will not be. Either let me actually own the individual work or have access to a rental library at a reasonable monthly price. Not this sort of you own it, but not really own it, model.

  13. @Felix – I think your pre-emptive bitterness is needless.

    It’s far more likely that obsolescence is our true enemy here. There’s no reason to assume that JManga is a permanent, successful solution for all time.

    This is a genuine problem with all proprietary digital solutions now – they are not transferable or universal. I agree, when I buy a book its mine and I like that.

    Presuming that the company will suddenly pull out of this venture is like complaining that you don’t want to eat gerbils for dinner because gerbils don’t have enough meat. It’s focusing on the wrong thing. ^_^

  14. Felix says:

    I don’t know, I guess I would rather be preemptively bitter and proved completely wrong later, then be ecstatic at first and then later feel screwed over.

    Right now there is really is nothing that makes me think “I want to give them money.” It’s not the content, having one Yuri launch title was way more than I expected, it their model. I think I will wait a while to see how it shakes out. I think I would wait a while anyway if they actual sold you the manga just to see if trustworthy.

    I am not presuming anything. All I know a year from now, JManga might turn into the model of what we would all hope is the future of new media and manga is, or it could be dead.

    What I think will happen is JManga will clank along, maybe get more titles, hopefully it will get better. Lots of people will continue to turn to scanlations. I don’t see this website convincing people to exchange their fingers for a knighthood.

  15. @Felix – There’s nothing to be proud of when you’re part of the problem, but not the solution.

    I sent my review to JManga, and they replied, very nicely and asked me for a list of Yuri manga and publishers, so they can add more. They are just out of the gate, they clearly want to get more comprehensive and better and I’m glad I had a chance to help them.

    I look forward to JManga giving is more Yuri options.

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