Digital Reads: Crunchyroll’s Manga Experience
I think there’s some of us who felt that a part of us died when Jmanga announced that they’re closing shop. I really liked Jmanga and I enjoyed the convenience of their service. But as with things digital, the idea that what I own disappears with their sites just sucks a lot.
Other manga apps (like Viz’s manga app) is available only to US and Canada. I tried purchasing digital editions here in Australia with little luck. Vertical digital editions can be bought in Australia via Amazon’s Kindle service so I’m thinking it’s okay elsewhere. You can also purchase DMG and Sublime books via Amazon.
That leaves a lot of manga left untranslated. I’m a little fortunate since I can check ebookjapan for Japanese titles. But that leaves a lot of English readers who have little access to manga. So when Crunchyroll announced that they’re working with Kodansha in publishing some fan favorites in English via their website, I was excited. Totally excited!
The Crunchyroll Manga Access
Access to Crunchyroll’s manga goes two ways. First is the free option: you get to read only the latest manga via the browser online and after a couple of ‘what the manga app does for you’ screens, even in in the free crunchyroll manga app. This is good for fans who really just need the updates for specific titles. Second is the paid option, which costs $4.00++ on top of your regular Crunchyroll Anime subscription. This is referred to as the All Access subscription (AU$11.99). This allows you to access the manga without having to see Crunchyroll ads and other nonsense stuff that can get quite annoying after some time.
Is the All Access subscription worth it? If you’re following a lot of anime and manga that Crunchyroll has, then yes. It’s a good thing. If not, then it’s probably not worth your money.
I don’t exactly know what business scheme Crunchyroll has with its All Access Subscription and how much of it goes to Kodansha. But here’s hoping that their new system becomes successful so that more manga becomes available for fans out there.
The Crunchyroll Experience
There’s also two ways where you can experience Kodansha’s manga via crunchyroll. For free users, they can only access the web interface via Crunchyroll’s website. For paid users, they can access both the web interface and the app interface for their mobile devices (e.g. IOS devices and Android).
So first, let’s look at the web interface.
The interface on Crunchyroll’s website is rather straightforward. The manga is listed down by popularity when you open which is kinda nice if you’re curious about other titles. Perhaps of interest to folks is the simulpub section.
[image type="frame" align="center" width="500" caption="Crunchyroll's Series Simulpub Interface"][/image]
For fans who like to be up to date with their favorite series, this is the place to go. For free users, you can read only the latest chapter of that manga. Anything prior to that, you’ll have to get through their annoying 14 day free trial bit. It’s perfect for users who don’t mind just reading the latest chapter, are diligent in checking their manga every week or month.
[image type="frame" align="center" width="500" caption="Crunchyroll's Full Screen Web Manga Interface"][/image]
As for the reading experience, it’s flash based. I think they do this mostly to protect their works but compared to Jmanga and Kodansha’s old online manga interface, this is less intuitive. Zoom merely zooms in a bit. It doesn’t have zoom enough to focus on at least one page and such. So it’s kinda good that it forces you to read how a manga should be read but kinda sad that zooming in can be a bit of a pain.
I am using a 1280×720 screen and it’s quite an uncomfortable read. I had to switch to full screen to feel more comfortable with it which is all right, but not exactly the best reading experience. For the mac, the scroll up movement on your pad changes the page layout, sometimes quite quickly even.
The Android app is a little different. It’s currently available in Google Play for free and both free and paid users can use it. For free users, you can only access the manga if you go through their “tour” of the app. Once you reach the last section, you can view their sample manga and they’re actually nice enough to give at least the latest chapters. You can’t login with your free account though and you need the all access service to access the manga.
The Android app has two views: portrait and landscape. Portrait lets you view it by the page and landscape is a zoomed up version of the page. It also has a guided view which lets you view things by panel. Now, I did some fancy bit and showed you guys how the guided app works.
Here’s a view of the paid app.
Now if you choose to get a paid app, it’s actually quite nice since you’re not paying much to access quite a good number of titles. For example, Space Brothers is available entirely in the app. On the other hand, Kodansha USA has published Fairy Tail and only has a select number of chapters available online. If you want the rest, you’d have to purchase the manga itself. And that’s not a bad thing unless you’re like me who’s hesitantly switching to digital to increase shelf space. Alternately, maybe you have a good public library where things might just be a whole load cheaper.
For me, this is fine. It gives me what I want and what I need without a bit of a hassle. If this service gets cut and I lose access to all these manga again, I… I dunno. But I hope it works well enough for it to stay and for Kodansha to consider bringing in more titles. And maybe, this’ll also convince Viz and Shueisha to also open their manga to other countries.