Looking to tap into continuing demand for English-language Japanese comics, a group of American and Japanese investors are launching Mangamo, a mobile manga subscription service that will offer access to hundreds of translated manga titles for $4.99 per month.
The service starts today under the editorial direction of Mangamo executive editor and cofounder Dallas Middaugh, a pioneering manga publisher, editor, and manga writer, with a long career of publishing Japanese comics for the North American market.
Mangamo will launch with more than 300 titles from about 11 Japanese publishers including such bestsellers as Attack on Titan and Fire Force as well many series (among them Dropkick my Devil, Akatsuki Babies, and Reset Game) that have never been legally available in English. The new service is designed to be read on iOS mobile devices (iPhone and iPad) and the interface allows the reader to scroll vertically or horizontally. And there’s a simple fee structure: all you can read for $4.99 per month with no ads and no upcharges. Mangamo is strictly a subscription service and with no option to purchase single volumes.
Middaugh credited the launch of the new service to the popularity of the subscription access model with young fans and to the continuing threat of digital piracy. Indeed, the relentless availability of bootleg manga indicates the commercial strength of the category. “Rampant piracy shows unmet demand,” Middaugh said.
Other manga subscription services, Middaugh said, offer titles from a limited range of publishers or just aren’t user friendly. “Many subscription services are unclear on how much manga is actually available to read or what you really end up paying to access titles available on their service.” Some services, he said, offer the first three chapters as part of the subscription while charging $10 to read additional chapters. “Paying per book (at about $10-15 per book) adds up quickly and is not sustainable for the average reader, as popular titles can average out to about 15 to 20 books and it’s fairly quick to read though a book,” he explained
Mangamo, he said, makes use of professional translators and offers a straightforward price structure. Among the participating Japanese publishers are Kodansha, the largest publisher in Japan, Coamix, Flex Comics, and Comicsmart. Mangamo titles are chosen by an editorial board that looks for manga that are likely to be successful in English.
“There’s so much manga in Japan,” Middaugh said, “over 200 publishers at last count, and a lot of the latest and greatest series are coming not just from the heavy-hitters like Kodansha, but also from the digital-only publishers.”
In Japan, he explained, over 50% of manga sales are digital, which has opened up the market even more. With so much Japanese content available, for now, Mangamo will focus on bringing popular Japanese manga into the North American market. But Middaugh said the service is open to publishing titles from other countries, including South Korea, China, and even original manga-style content from the U.S.
Middaugh sees a large potential audience for the service: “Besides existing manga fans, we are hoping to attract new fans of any age who love geek entertainment,” he said. “Most notably anime fans who love anime but want to dig deeper into the stories and characters by reading manga.”
Middaugh described Mangamo as “an independently operated startup backed by angel investors and strategic corporations in Japan.” He also said the service plans to make “some exciting partnership announcements in the coming months.”
Mangamo cofounders include the Mangamo CEO Buddy Marini, formerly the general manager of the Japanese game developer Supercell and CEO of Hulu Japan, and Mangamo business manager Yusuke Sasano. For his part, Middaugh was the head of events and manga at the Asian-pop digital streaming service Crunchyroll and before that he was senior director of publishing services at Penguin Random House, where he oversaw the publishing and distribution of Kodansha Comics.
Middaugh is bullish on the future of the mobile subscription model for manga fans. “There are a lot of great opportunities to buy physical and digital manga out there, and we’re trying to create something new here that has already been proven to work for anime. We believe strongly in the streaming model, and it’s clear that fans do as well.”