In a move long envisioned by English speaking fans of Japanese comics, Viz Media is going to synchronize the publication of Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, its weekly English-language digital manga anthology, with the Japanese-language manga series it publishes. The much-anticipated move to simultaneous Japanese and English language publication will begin with the January 21, 2013 issue.
Beginning in January in the North American market, Weekly SJ Alpha will publish new English-language episodes of such bestselling weekly manga series as Bleach, One Piece, and Toriko on the same day as their general release in Japan. Weekly SJ Alpha will also pickup such monthly series as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Rurouni Kenshin, which will be published the closest Monday after their Japanese release. Viz will also debut Nisekoi, a romantic comedy series for teens by Naoshi Komi, in the same issue and plans to add additional series to its list of simultaneous international releases. Viz digital comics are available via the Viz apps for Apple iOS mobile devices, Android OS devices, including the Kindle Fire tablet, and via Vizmanga.com.
The move marks the one-year anniversary of Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, a weekly digital manga anthology that was launched to replace Shonen Jump, Viz’s popular print monthly anthology, and begin the publisher’s transition to simultaneous Japanese and English publication. Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha originally launched with a two-week window between Japanese publication and English. While the latest move will satisfy North American English speaking fans—manga fans have always been driven by a desire to read the same hits that Japanese fans are reading, at the same time—simultaneous publication has also been offered as a remedy to digital piracy. The move allows Viz Media to offer its most popular properties in both languages at the same time in digital formats at reasonable prices.
“North American fans have been waiting for a long time for real-time publishing to synchronize with Japan, and it’s about to happen in Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha,” said Alvin Lu, Viz Media executive v-p, publishing. In a phone interview, Lu said synchronizing its manga publishing was, “a long held dream,” explaining that “there has always been the potential for a global audience to gravitate to manga,” but blamed translating Japanese, “the language hurdle,” for the problems. Lu said “fans have been clamoring” for the switch to simultaneous publication. Lu said the move—which involves working closely with Japanese manga publishers Shogakukan and Shueisha, its parent companies—will also raise the significance of the North American manga market, which has been in decline in recent years, to Japanese licensors.
Manga in Japan is generally released on a weekly basis in giant print anthologies with huge circulations, well before they are collected in book form. However, in the U.S., Lu said, manga publishing has focused primarily on releasing complete books—usually a year or more after their initial release in Japan. Lu believes that weekly digital publication will make manga releases “more of an event; the live concert, so to speak, rather than just the album.”
“One thing that is unique about manga in Japan, is that it’s a mass event,” Lu explained, “people tune in every week to read the new episode in the weekly anthologies. In North America you mostly just get the graphic novel. Weekly [Simultaneous publication] brings the event level to manga in North America. Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha is more than just a digital version of a paper magazine, it’s a weekly event and social media and conventions and the live shows we attend are all tied to it. We try to get people really involved with manga on a literal level.”