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Wednesday, July 30, 2014         

CEL SHADED


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U.S. manga plans unfold for 2 Japanese publishers

By Jason Yadao

POSTED:



Manga fans have been waiting for several months now to see what moves Square Enix and Kodansha Comics would make in the U.S.

Back in July, Square Enix launched a manga portal at www.square-enix.com/na/manga, from which visitors could read the first chapters of "Fullmetal Alchemist," "Soul Eater," "Black Butler" and "O-Parts Hunter" for free. The offerings were a trial run for a service the publisher said would launch sometime in the fall, offering volumes of digital manga for sale.

Well, winter began on Tuesday, and Square Enix unveiled its first pay offerings last Friday, meaning it just squeaked by with that "fall" time frame. There's no sign of "Black Butler" or "O-Parts Hunter," but there is one volume each of "Fullmetal Alchemist" and "Soul Eater," as well as two volumes each of "The Record of a Fallen Vampire" and "Yumekui Kenbun: Nightmare Inspector."

If you want to access that manga, however, it might cost more than it's worth. The "special launch sale price" is $5.99 per volume, language implying the price could go up in the future. The reader also works only on PC-based Web browsers with the Adobe Flash plug-in -- sorry, Mac and iPad/iPod Touch fans, you'll have to keep buying your manga the old-fashioned way.

Perhaps most important of all, the first line that jumps out when looking at the site's terms of use is "Your limited license to the service and lack of ownership rights." To summarize, you're basically paying for the right to access manga stored on Square Enix's servers, and if those servers go down or your Internet connection gets cut, sorry, no manga for you. You also can't print out any pages and take them with you.

Granted, the online manga reader works as advertised. But the service's value as an alternative to what's already been published in physical books seems dubious at best.

Meanwhile, over at the Kodansha Comics camp, the publisher finally announced it would be printing something other than "Akira" reprints and series in the "Ghost in the Shell" franchise.

OK, so maybe that's a flippant attitude to have. But between when Kodansha began setting up shop in the U.S. in August 2009 and its announcement 14 months later that it would be assuming manga-publishing duties from Del Rey, any news about anything other than the aforementioned titles has been rather hard to come by.

That silence was broken this month as Kodansha rolled out 21 new and returning series, 20 of which actually have nothing to do with "Ghost in the Shell." Highlights include:

» The returns of "Gon" (formerly published by CMX), "Rave Master" (Tokyopop) and "Until the Full Moon" (Broccoli Books).

» The continuation of 10 Del Rey series: "Air Gear," "Arisa," "Fairy Tail," "I Am Here," "Ninja Girls," "Negima!" "Negima?!" "Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei," "Shugo Chara" and "The Wallflower."

» An ongoing "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney" manga series, based on the series of video games that tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Jandoc totally adores. (Understandably, she's somewhat excited about this development as well.)

Watch for those starting sometime next June.

ANIME AROUND TOWN

» MangaBento: This group of anime- and manga-inspired artists meets from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Academy Art Center, 1111 Victoria St., Room 200. Visit www.manga-bento.com.

"Cel Shaded," a weekly look at the world of Japanese anime and manga, appears every Thursday. Follow Jason S. Yadao on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsyadao or e-mail him at jyadao@staradvertiser.com.






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