March 4, 2012

Bento Bako Bonus: Viz Media: Shonen Jump Alpha

Shonen Jump Alpha
Publisher: Viz Media

Starting a few weeks back, the future arrived, as Shonen Jump Alpha was unleashed on our digital shores. How is it? Simply fantastic.

In a world of comics quickly becoming digital, Viz Media answered the call with something of a dream for anime and manga fans – a weekly manga anthology, at last. We’ve had monthly, we’ve had bi-weekly even, heck, Viz back in the late-80s started out by releasing Area-88 bi-weekly to comic shops. However, the weekly has always eluded us, but no longer.

The anthology features six titles: One Piece, Toriko, Bleach, Naruto, Bakuman, and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. It’s a good variety, from pirates to ghosts to slice-of-life, all the top crop of what Shonen Jump is offering today in Japan. Speaking of today, that’s another great point to be made: the chapters in Shonen Jump Alpha are released here only two weeks after they go into print in Japan. Weekly, only two weeks later, Shonen Jump Alpha is really as close to the real experience as we can get. Upon early launch, they featured an interview with Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto as the magazine extra, but that’s it, so you don’t get all the articles and the like, but Viz is very receptive to turning this into something amazing, so if you want more filler to the killer, let them know.

Price wise you can get a year subscription for $25.99, in which each issue lasts one year after download, or you can get each issue individually for $0.99, which will last for four weeks. This is the only down point, as it feels like you are paying for some sort of long term rental, however, the subscription comes with bonuses, like a One Piece/Toriko cross-over story last week, making it seem more attractive. Again, will this change? It is still the early days of the digital age and Viz has been getting customer feedback. It is available to read online through their website, or you can download the Viz-app on your tablet and read it there (I personally read mine on my iPad, which makes me feel like I have the magazine right in front of me, and I highly recommend going that route for digital reading).

Art wise the magazine translates stunningly to electronic form. The black and white on my iPad looks crisp, and it’s easy to jump back and forth from the single page to full page spreads. A cool bonus is that a handful of Shonen Jump pages are in color, and while we lose those usually in collected editions here, we get those color pages back and they look amazing.

Yeah, this sounds like an advertisement almost for Shonen Jump Alpha, but really that’s because the fact is there is nothing bad to say about this revolutionary move for manga in America. I’ve mentioned before on the site before Shonen Jump was Americanized, I used to import it and sit there with a dictionary trying to read and translate Survi-Bee (Viz, hint, release this digital only, see how it does, it’s a great title) and Zombie Powder, and there was nothing like getting it every week. So just the experience of having it weekly, and with the new chapters they are reading in Japan, is wonderful. Also, to be frank, it helps combat issues with scanlators. Not lighting torches for scanlators, many folks who work in the industry started out as that or fan-subbers, it’s in our blood, we love it, but we can’t encourage a culture of pure piracy. That just leads to less money for the artists who create the things we love, and eventually those things not being made anymore. Plus I’ll say it a third time, Viz has been really receptive to feed back about this project, so if there’s something you don’t like about it, let them know, it may actually make a difference.

The future of this title will be interesting to see. Bleach ends in a few weeks in Japan, so it’ll end here. Also Naruto creator Kishimoto hinted in an interview that his manga is reaching its climax, so who knows how long that title will be around. What will they replace them with? What other kinds of bonuses lay in store for us? It’s all pretty exciting. Shonen Jump Alpha is a great step in the right direction, highly recommended to download and enjoy.

Drew McCabe

Access to Shonen Jump Alpha was provided by Viz Media.