After announcing speeded-up releases for the latest volumes of Naruto last week, VIZ Media announced today that they'll be releasing digital-first editions of three volumes of Bleach by Tite Kubo over the next three weeks, starting with Bleach Volume 49 (available now on VIZManga.com, and via the VIZ Media iPad and iPhone/iPod apps), followed by Bleach Volume 50 on Monday, November 21, and Bleach Volume 51 on Monday, November 28. Each volume will cost $4.99, roughly half-off the usual $9.99 cover price for the print editions.
These digital-first releases will make the latest story arc of Bleach available to readers many months before VIZ's English-language print editions are scheduled to hit the store shelves. The most recent volume of the print editions was Bleach Volume 36, which was just released in early September 2011, so this release of Bleach Volumes 49-51 fast-forwards readers to a brand new story arc that is currently running in Japan. (Bleach Volume 52 was released in Japan in October 2011)
To get you up to speed, here's VIZ's description of what goes down in these volumes:
BLEACH Volume 49 jumps ahead to the latest story arc in Japan for the BLEACH series. After the big battle, Ichigo finds himself without his Soul Reaper powers. Free from the rigors of defeating Hollows, he tries to settle back into a normal and peaceful life as a high school student. But inside Ichigo still burns with the desire to protect his friends, and when new enemies appear, Ichigo is powerless. However, he is soon approached by a mysterious man who offers to help Ichigo regain his lost powers...
Why the big rush to get caught up with Japan? Well, this is part of VIZ Media's big push leading up to the January 31, 2012 debut of Shonen Jump Alpha, the new digital-only, weekly edition of Shonen Jump Magazine. Shonen Jump Alpha will give North American readers the latest chapters of Bleach, Naruto, Bakuman, Toriko, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan and One Piece only two weeks after readers get to enjoy them in Japan. You'll be able to read Shonen Jump Alpha on your computer, or on your iOS device, such as iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, or via your web browser on your Android tablet or phone. (Sorry, no Android app yet, but that's in the works).
One year (48 weekly issues) subscriptions to Shonen Jump Alpha costs $25.99, less than the cost of the usual subscription price for 12 issues of the print edition. If you're already a Shonen Jump subscriber, you can sign up for Shonen Jump Alpha today, and get three digital volumes of VIZ Manga as a special gift to get you started. If you're not a Shonen Jump subscriber yet, you can also get in on the fun too if you sign up before January 31, 2012. Got more questions about Shonen Jump Alpha? Check out this handy frequently-asked questions page.
So what do you think of VIZ's Shonen Jump Digital Warp initiative? Add your comments below!
Image credits: BLEACH © 2001 by Tite Kubo/SHUEISHA Inc.