An updated look at Crunchyroll Manga

When I first looked at Crunchyroll’s new manga lineup back in October, it consisted of about 10 Kodansha titles, and its main purpose was essentially to be the Kodansha equivalent of Viz’s Jump – get the most popular titles out weekly to discourage scanlators. (Which has worked, to a degree – not necessarily for speed but for accuracy. I know a few Attack on Titan readers who wait for CR as it will be coherent.) Now, 10 months later, we have almost fifty different titles on the site. What’s been going on?

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Kodansha still has the largest presence on the site, and are still adding new titles that may interest the North American reader, such as the new Onizuka spinoff/continuation. It’s still predominately Shonen Magazine and its subsidiaries, but there has been an effort to add some seinen as well, notably the Morning title Investor Z. (By the way, not all of the licensing is through Kodansha – a large number of the titles on the site seem to be licensed via ‘Cork’, including the Anno ones. Investor Z is one of those.) Most of their titles are ongoing concerns – updated weekly or monthly as their Japanese fellows are. I do note A Town Where You Live has finished, but Vols. 1-11 still seem to be absent from the site – going backwards is not Kodansha’s priority.

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Moyoco Anno has agreed to let several of her more obscure titles be translated on Crunchyroll, from a variety of genres. Most originally ran in the josei magazine Feel Young in Japan, which her her primary outlet these days, though The Diary of Ochibi is a short one-pages that runs in a newspaper.

Then there’s the former heavy movers and shakers at JManga, all of whom are now involved with Crunchyroll to some degree. LEED Publishing, which is Takao Saito’s company, has put out four of its already finished volumes from JManga onto Crunchyroll, I suspect with the same translation. They’re good series, though. I particularly liked Doll. Shonen Gahosha has both old and new titles – Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru and Sun-Ken Rock are basically “license rescues” from JManga that are now on Crunchyroll – not a surprise given they’re both two of the companies more popular unlicensed in print titles – Sun-Ken Rock for its violent content, most likely, and Soredemo for its oddness. They also have Arpeggio of Blue Steel, which Seven Seas is releasing in print here, and Spirit Circle, which gives the appearance of being a fluffy comedy, but… isn’t.

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And then there’s Futabasha, which now has the 2nd most titles on the site thanks to a big push these past few months. Futabasha was the biggest player in JManga as well, but we’re not seeing any of the content that was on there in the past. These are mostly new, ongoing series that run in their main magazine, Manga Action, which it’s pushing for similar reasons to Kodansha. It’s a very different genre, though – Manga Action is seinen and it shows. Even the one title they have by a shoujo author is that author’s debut in a seinen market. As you can see by the cover image of Inside Mari, which is by the author of Flowers of Evil, there’s a lot more ‘sex and violence’ in Futabasha’s titles – a number of what I’d call ‘sex comedies’ and several violent murder mysteries. Futabasha doesn’t really have much shonen, which may be why they’ve always found it hard to grab a foothold in North America, but it’s good to see them making these titles available for curious readers.

The odd title out on this list is The Tenth Prism, licensed via Cork, which is actually a seinen Shogakukan title, running in Big Comic Spirits. It’s by the author of Firefighter Daigo of Company M, so the author isn’t unknown here. Sometimes with licensing subsidiaries you can see titles in places you’d never expect, which is certainly what I’m seeing here.

What can we see from this list, now that it’s so heavily expanded? Crunchyroll Manga is very much catering to male readers. Almost exclusively, I’d say. There’s only one or two titles on there that might be classed as shoujo, and Kodansha, for all that they’re adding Magazine titles, hasn’t put up any ongoing series from Nakayoshi or Betsufure. Futabasha has a shoujo magazine as well, but we’ve seen nothing from it. And the josei we’re seeing, via Moyoco Anno, is for the adult female reader. I’d like to see a few titles for younger female readers on here. Other than that, the main emphasis for most of these series is simulpub – get them out fast to beat the scanlators. It usually doesn’t beat them, as scanlators work from illegal raws released early, but it’s a better product, so the incentive is to wait.

Will Crunchyroll have expanded even more in 10 months time? And which of their newer titles is your favorite?

SDCC License Roundup

I was surprised at a couple of announcements at this year’s SDCC, enough that it deserves a new License Roundup post! I’ll start with Viz, who had no new titles (this is typical; they usually offload new licenses at AX), but who did note that the final Evangelion manga will be simultaneously published with Japan, just as they did with Vol. 13.

Kodansha had two new titles to announce this year, both of which are worth getting a bit excited about. The unsurprising one is Waltz no Ojikan, the new series by Natsumi Ando, creator of Kitchen Princess and Arisa. It’s a ballroom dancing manga, which I am pleased by, and is currently running in Nakayoshi.

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On the shonen side, we have a title that you can already find on Crunchyroll, but is now getting a print edition: Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo. I was very fond of the author’s previous series, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, but it was a bit too long and had a bit too many delinquents for the NA market. This new series is also edging on the long side, but it has supernatural elements to it, and that’s usually enough in this day and age. it’s also funny, and sweet, and you get caught up in its plot quite a bit. Can’t wait.

Udon surprised a few of us. While they have made some entries in the manga market, primarily their focus has been on large, expensive artbooks, usually tying in with Capcom. This time, though, they have manga. And not just any manga: Kill La Kill, the hot new anime series from last year. the manga adaptation runs in Kadokawa Shoten’s Young Ace, and I have no doubt will be filled with action, yelling, and fanservice. Udon also announced three more of their ‘manga classics’ series, the first two of which debut next month. We’ll see The Scarlet Letter, Great Expectations, and Emma.

Digital Manga Publising unfortunately had to cancel their panel, but it does remind me that I forgot to mention on the AX roundup that they said the first digital Tezuka they’ll be doing is Mr. Cactus, a 1950s cowboy adventure.

Lastly, Drawn & Quarterly continue their excellent partnership with Shigeru Mizuki, as we see the release of Hitler, his biography of the Nazi leader, sometime in spring 2015. The other title is Trash Market, a collection of short stories by Tadao Tsuge, the brother of more famous avant-garde mangaka Yoshiharu Tsuge. If you like Garo-esque titles (or even know what Garo is), you should pick this one up.

Which of these interests you most?

AX License Roundup

There was a lot of stuff going on at Anime Expo 2014, and who better to bring it to you than someone who wasn’t there at all? Probably for the best, as I hear many manga bloggers were trapped in endless lines, unable to get into panels. As is the nature of large cons; I’m sure I’ll have similar issues at NYCC.

Let’s start with the largest set of new announcements, from Viz Media. Amazon had already blown the secret on the re-release of the new JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, but it’s now official. We get the first arc in omnibus format, here in NA for the first time, with color pages and new cover art. The 2nd arc will debut digitally at the same time. The 3rd arc, which was the only one previously released over here, gets a digital release starting this week.

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is probably the one major, heavily influential Shonen Jump series we still hadn’t really seen over here, 3rd arc aside. It’s known for its fights, its ultraviolence, its homoeroticism, but most of all, it’s known for being weird. The Bizarre isn’t just for show. It also has most of its major cast named after rock bands to a greater or lesser degree though, given what happened with Bastard!!, we may see some of those names romanized differently to avoid attention being paid. (What, no one remembers Bastard!!? Just me? Right, moving on…)

Viz also announced Baraou no Souretsu, AKA Requiem for the Rose King. From the creator of Otomen, this does not look like it will be nearly as silly as that title, but should have a bit more depth. It runs in Akita Shoten’s shoujo magazine Princess, and is a retelling of the Richard III story, with Richard being intersex. Which is quite interesting given many of the themes of Richard III. I assume, like most retellings, this will follow Shakespeare’s history rather than genuine history.

There are new omnibuses coming for Yu-Gi-Oh and Gyo. Nothing to add there.

Later in the con, Shojo Beat had its own panel to announce things. The biggest news there was probably that a new, one-off chapter of Vampire Knight will be released by Viz digitally this fall. A lot of series, particularly Hakusensha series, have these one-shot or ‘after the end’ stories, and they aren’t always picked up by the licensor, partly as they may not actually be collected in Japan as they’re only one or two chapters. So this is very nice to see.

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Omukae Desu was a suitably odd shoujo title from the CMX days, and Pearl Pink was put out by Tokyopop. Now we get a 3rd short but sweet title from Meca Tanaka, who may be better known to fans as the creator of Faster Than a Kiss, her most popular series. That was likely never licensed here due to its student/teacher romance. We are getting a cute new series, Otome to Meteo, which will be two volumes. Translating to Meteor Prince, it would appear to feature an eccentric male lead and a heroine who has to keep up with everything, like many shoujo series. It sounds fun.

Lastly, Momochi-san Chi no Ayakashi Ouji (The Demon Prince of Momochi House) is by Aya Shouoto, author of the upcoming Kiss of the Rose Princess. That ran in Kadokawa Shoten’s Asuka magazine, and so does this title. It appears to contain everything that’s hot these days: it has very attractive yokai, it has a reverse harem, it has exorcisms and spirituality. If you enjoyed Demon Love Spell, Kamisama Kiss, or any of the ‘sexy yokai boyfriend’ genre, this seems to be right up your street.

Next up, Dark Horse had a manga panel. The biggest announcement here was not a new acquisition, but more of a reassurance. It’s been a year and a half since we last saw Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and fans with long memories (Translucent, anyone?) were getting worried. We now know that not only will we get a 14th volume soon, but that the first 12 will also come out in omnibuses for those who never saw the series in the first place. It can be squicky and horror filled, but it’s also really terrific, with an oddball sense of humor and a surprisingly political bent. This is news to get excited about.

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The new license of note was Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt, a one-shot manga based on the cult classic anime. It ran in Kadokawa’s Young Ace, and certainly has a core audience who will be excited. I never did get around to seeing the anime, perhaps I should. There will also be a Satoshi Kon artbook (DH licensed two Kon mangas recently), and an omnibuses re-release of Oh My Goddess, which may be the first one that I don’t end up getting, because I’ve now bought this series four times, and I really don’t need a 5th. But for newbies who wonder how this got to 46+ volumes, it’s a great entry point.

Taking a brief break from manga to discuss a visual novel dear to my heart, which is to say Higurashi: When They Cry. Mangagamer had a panel at AX to discuss the upcoming re-release of the game on the Steam platform. The first arc should be available by the end of the year, and will apparently feature all-new sprites making their debut. A comparison between the original sprites drawn by Ryukishi07 (and used by Mangagamer in the initial release), the PS2 sprites, and Mangagamer’s new sprites was quickly done.

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As you can see, the original sprites are a bit crude, but filled with emotion. They also feature the famous “mitten hands”. The PS2 sprites look more polished, but were also thought to be a bit dull compared to the originals. (Also, Mangagamer likely is unable to acquire the rights to use them – they also don’t have the rights to the ‘PS2 Exclusive’ arcs with the alternate, more bittersweet ending.) The new MG sprites look a bit overly cute – ‘big head small neck’ syndrome is at work here – but honestly, all three are designed to look adorable in that moe anime way. No doubt everyone has their favorites, but we shall see how it goes when we get the actual release.

Back to manga. Vertical had a panel on Friday, and had one announcement, but it was a good one. A 400+-page collection of Satoshi Kon’s short stories, Yume no Kaseki (A Fossil of a Dream) is due out in the summer of 2015. Tropic of the Sea was an offbeat, hard to get into, but ultimately rewarding read, and I anticipate this will be equally thrilling.

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Lastly, we have two new titles from Kodansha Comics – though one of them you can already see on Crunchyroll’s manga site. First off, we have Junketsu no Maria, a series by the author of Moyashimon that ran in good!Afternoon, one of Kodansha’s many seinen titles. Titles Maria the Virgin Witch over here, it takes place during the Hundred Years War, and has a girl our to make peace by dint of magic, seductive succubuses, or any other means at her disposal. An archangel, Michael, is sent to stop her and keep history on its proper course. Likely with 100% less bacteria than his other series, hopefully it has as much oddball humor and heart.

And A Silent Voice, which as I said has been running on Crunchyroll’s online site, will get a print release this sprint. Koe no Katachi is about a deaf girl who is bullied in elementary school. Now a little older and a little wiser, the bully wants to apologize to her in high school. The word heartwarming was made for manga like this, and it should be a real treat to see.

So what are you most excited about from these announcements?