Japan Today

New online manga service features 200 titles, three selectable languages, and no fees

By Casey Baseel

Kadokawa, one of Japan’s largest publishers, is almost ready to roll out its new online manga service, dubbed Comic Walker. There’s so much to like about it that we’re having trouble picking our favorite part.

The voracious media consumer in us is attracted to the large library of titles, some of which can’t be read anywhere else. The ability to instantly translate dialogue into English or Chinese is a plus, too, especially for those time when you’re not up to the challenge of leafing through your Japanese dictionary so you can read the kanji for “particle beam cannon.”

But perhaps best of all is that Kadokawa’s digital manga service is absolutely free.

As we get closer to Comic Walker’s March 22 launch, more and more details are coming to light about the service for smartphone and tablet users. It certainly isn’t hurting for content, as Kadokawa representative executive director Shinichiro Inoue announced 200 titles will be initially available.

The majority of these will be selected from the 23 comic anthologies Kadokawa currently publishes, such as "Shonen Ace" and "Young Ace." 50 series, though, will be original Comic Walker productions that will make their debut through the service.

While the official list of manga that will be available on March 22 has yet to be announced, a peek at Comic Walker’s teaser site shows characters from perennial hits "Evangelion" and "Mobile Suit Gundam," plus cult classics "Suzumiya Haruhi" and "Sergeant Frog." More recent titles include "Haganai/I Have Few Friends" and "Accel World," and even manga with currently airing TV anime adaptations such as "Nobunaga the Fool," "D-Frag!" and "Tonari no Seki-kun."

Unfortunately, translations will be ready for just 40 titles at launch, although Kadokawa plans to expand its translated catalogue in time. The publisher promises that with a single tap the dialogue for supported comics can be cycled through Japanese, English, and Chinese, with sound effects ostensibly left in the original Japanese text, just the way overseas manga purists like them.

Hideaki Furubayashi, the Kadokawa executive in charge of the Comic Walker project, says that in the future he hopes to add French language options to the service’s manga as well, and not just for readers in the pre-established manga stronghold of the French market. “There are a large number of French speakers in Africa, but there isn’t an established network of manga selling bookstores there,” he explained. “With this service, we can supply Japanese comics to readers there as well.”

As we mentioned above, Comic Walker is a free service, but of course this means a bit of a compromise on the part of the reader in terms of availability. For continuing series, the first three chapters can be read at any time, a decision Kadokawa made in order to lower entry barriers for new readers to established franchises. The big draw for fans who are already following a series is that two weeks after a print collection goes on sale, its contents become viewable on Comic Walker, and remain so until the next collected volume is released.

The limited time nature of specific content is to be expected, as Kadokawa’s hope is that readers will find series they enjoy through Comic Walker, then shell out for print or e-book editions from the back catalogue, or decide that paying is worth the privilege of getting to read the newest material two weeks sooner.

Kadokawa is apparently aware of the fact that some older titles don’t feature the trendiest designs, and that for the biggest hits, many people have already read the material being offered through the new digital service. In response, the publisher is planning spruced-up Comic Walker versions of "Mobile Suit Gundam" and "Evangelion" with color pages, something extremely rare in the world of Japanese comics.

The publisher is aiming for one million unique users monthly by the end of Comic Walker’s first year, with a total of one hundred million monthly page views. Although the numbers may be miniscule in comparison to those of pirate sites that post scanned translation of manga sometimes before they’re even available at bookstores in Japan, hitting those figures would make Comic Walker Japan’s largest digital comics site, and go a long way toward satisfying fans worldwide who are looking for a legitimate way to read the latest manga.

Sources: Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Comic Walker

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- The top five manga that should be published in America -- Tokyo luxury hotel offering special Galaxy Express 999 anime guestroom -- Why do Foreigners Like Japanese Manga so Much? We Head to Comiket to Find Out

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And will disappear in 6 months like all the others

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Ah, captain JList... I mean, captain negativity. Who knows, maybe this will be the one that remains.

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