Saturday, July 26, 2014         


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2 more U.S. publishers open Web portals for legal manga

By Jason Yadao


We're deep in the heart of summer convention season, which means just one thing to your friendly neighborhood anime columnist: It's time for me to feel insanely jealous toward anyone who got to attend Anime Expo in Los Angeles earlier this month and/or Comic-Con International in San Diego last weekend and subsequently filled my Twitter feed with squeals of delight over everything going on there.

Wait, did I just say that out loud? I meant to say, "It's time for me to get excited about all the anime and manga news that came out of those two conventions." Umm, yeah. That's it.

While I start gathering up loose change from under my car seats in hopes of eventually saving enough to go to one of those events, here's some of the news that caught my attention over the past few weeks:

Square Enix joins online manga parade: Casual fans might regard Square Enix as a video game publisher known most for its "Final Fantasy," "Kingdom Hearts" and "Dragon Quest" games. But the company also publishes manga, under the Gungan Comics imprint in Japan. If you've ever heard of "Fullmetal Alchemist," "Soul Eater" and "Black Butler" -- and by all indications you have, since those three series regularly populate manga best-seller lists in the U.S. when new volumes come out -- congratulations, you've seen Square Enix manga.

That manga's now going online. Last Wednesday, Square Enix launched a portal at www.square-enix.com/na/manga, from which visitors will be able to purchase and read digital manga in a service scheduled to formally launch sometime this fall. The first chapter of each of the aforementioned manga, as well as "O-Parts Hunter," are now available for free.

Anyone worried that Square Enix will pull the figurative rug out from under its current U.S. publishing partners, Yen Press and Viz, as Kodansha did when it ended its licensing contracts with Tokyopop last year, can rest easy; the material being published online will be the same as what's already been printed. How much it'll cost remains to be seen. Here's hoping it's a reasonable price.

Yen Press unveils online anthology: Speaking of Yen Press, the publisher wasted little time mourning the end of its monthly print manga anthology Yen Plus, its final issue hitting newsstands earlier this month. Available for free through Aug. 8 at www.yenpress.com/yenplus, the August issue of the newly online-exclusive Yen Plus features chapters from five ongoing series, "Maximum Ride," "Nightschool," "Gossip Girl," "Time and Again" and "Jack Frost"; the debuts of "Daniel X" and "Aron's Absurd Armada"; a short comic by Madeleine Rosca, "Haunted House Call"; brief articles and commentaries; and exactly zero series from Japan.

For those you'll have to wait until the September issue, when a series featuring "a certain little green-haired girl" -- read: the superpopular, supercute "Yotsuba&!" -- will be among the new offerings.

Subscriptions will be available for $2.99 per month; subscribers will be able to read the current and previous months' issues.



Last week I talked about Kawaii Kon and its first Summer Beach Day at Magic Island. It's still happening, and you can sign up for the watermelon-smashing, beach quiz and sand-art competitions through Sunday online at www.hsblinks.com/2kf. What has changed, though, is the date: Originally scheduled for Aug. 7, it's since been moved a day later, to Aug. 8. The times remain the same, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"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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