Since about the ’90s the manga industry in Japan has been on a decline. One could blame any number of factors from the advent of the Internet and smartphones to an over-saturation of the market, but the result is clear: Japanese manga is in jeopardy.
Cynics, such as the person or people behind the copyright-infringing manga website Manga Town, believe the publishers have be resting on their laurels and not putting enough innovation into the art to keep it healthy. As if to answer such complaints, along comes the Jump Rookie app.
Released by Shueisha, the publisher of the biggest manga magazine Shonen Jump, this app essentially is like a YouTube for manga. Anyone can upload their own manga and have be read by anyone willing to give it a click. All of the typical features are there as well such as “like” and “follow” buttons and comment sections.
Naturally manga which receives the most likes get ranked highly and become more visible to more readers, much like a YouTuber might be. However, one major difference between a Jump Rookie and a YouTuber is that Jump Rookies get 100 percent of the ad revenue from having their titles read.
While that might seem like a hugely generous move by Shueisha, rest assured that they get something out of the arrangement too. If the app is as successful as hoped then they’ll have a sea of aspiring talent to choose from and the in-house market research to know which artists to back.
Various Jump talents have shown their enthusiasm for this new venture.
“Manga is evolving it seems. I look forward to this new era.” (Eiichiro Oda, "One Piece")
“This kind of system where your work is instantly evaluated by readers is like a dream.” (Akira Toriyama, "Dragon Ball")
“It’s easy to understand, but there’s more to it than that. I want to read something that lingers with me. Please try your best!” (Yoko Kamio, "Hana Yori Dango")
“I wish I had this when I was starting out… It’s the shortest route to going pro!” (Kyosuke Usuta, "Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo!! Masaru-san")
“Try out your talents. You might just be a genius.” (Koyoharu Gotoge, "Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba")
It does really seem like a great idea, but how does the app itself fare? To find out I downloaded it for a test read. The interface is really easy to get into and start reading right away. Although Jump is most well known for its shonen (young boys) magazine, the app also has seinen (young adult men), shojo (young girls), and josei (women) sections to choose from.
The pages scroll downwards to be more comfortably read on a smartphone. It was a system that worked really well and made scrolling through the different series pretty smooth. I found myself effortlessly skimming through different series and losing track of time in the process, just the way it should be.
It’s a solid app and a really great idea in theory, but its success will ultimately depend on people using it to provide both content and feedback. The only way I can really see it fail is if people in general are so jaded against the manga industry and its ability to nurture talent at this point that they simply wouldn’t trust such a system run by one of the biggest companies around.
Sources: Jump Rookie (iTunes, Google Play), Sponichi Annex, Otakkomu
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