That's not to say all fans were fussing and cussing. There were a few voices of reason amidst the din.
"For all those who are complaining about the 2 week delay I have this to say when it was in print we were months behind Japan"
Yes! Let's get some perspective here, peeps. After years of incremental changes or false starts, a lot of publishers have been making significant moves toward publishing more manga online than ever before.
In addition to VIZ Media's VIZManga.com site, Dark Horse, Yen Press, SuBLime Manga, JManga, and Kodansha all launched online manga stores for the web, iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch and/or Android platforms in the past year. Digital Manga launched iPad and Android storefronts, and released their first Digital Manga Guild-translated titles, offering fan translators/editors a legit opportunity to use their skills to translate manga and make some money for their efforts too. Gen Manga and ComicLoud offer indie manga compilations for digital download.
We still have a ways to go until the legit options can match the sheer volume of what's available on unauthorized scan sites, but we're seeing a very rapid rate of evolution here. Who knows what the next 6 - 12 months will bring?
Regarding the common complaint that VIZ's translations aren't as good as the scanlators, a fan offered this perspective:
"Guys, stop going on about Viz's "poor translations". As one who reads Japanese, I find nothing wrong with them. Translation is not an exact science, and so just because different translations have different wording, it doesn't mean one of them has to be wrong. The manga stream (sic) release was definitely not devoid of errors, either."
There were also a lot of constructive comments about VIZ needing to tweak their online manga reader so it'd be easier to skip ahead to read different series, and offering more options to zoom into pages. There were also lots of requests for additional series to be added to Shonen Jump Alpha, like Hunter X Hunter, GinTama, Reborn, Psyren, and Yu-Gi-Oh.
There were lots of angry, petulant voices on VIZ Media's Facebook and Shonen Jump Alpha pages, but there were also many fans/subscribers who like what they see so far, and several who were able to voice their opinions and provide useful suggestions without throwing a hissy-fit.
WHY ISN'T SHONEN JUMP ALPHA AVAILABLE OUTSIDE OF N. AMERICA?
Licensing content for publishing in other counties is complicated. I'm not a lawyer and I have limited experience in the worlds of publishing and licensing, so I beg your indulgence as I try to offer a simplified explanation of the how's and why's of a not-so-simple situation.
Once upon a time, Japanese publishers were able to grant licenses to translate and publish manga in different countries and languages to companies in different countries. Sometimes, a publisher was granted the English language publishing rights for all English-speaking countries. Other times, the rights to publish in English were divvied up according to territory. So it was possible that a company in Australia could get the right to publish One Piece in English there, while another company got the rights to publish it in English in Great Britain, while yet another company got the right to publish that same title in English in North America.
If there were people in non-English speaking countries who wanted to read the English edition, well, they could just order and import whatever English edition was most convenient for them to buy. (Which, admittedly, was probably not that inexpensive or convenient).
When manga was mostly only available in print, there wasn't much chance that the Australian edition would compete for shelf space with the North American edition because, well, these places were just too far apart from each other, and the logistics and economics of shipping books across the globe just didn't make sense.
And then came the Internetz and digital publishing and things like licensing based on 'territories' got harder and harder to enforce. On the bright side, the increased availability of manga online introduced many fans to Japanese comics who might never get the opportunity to enjoy it. On the downside, print publishers in Japan and abroad seemed unable to reconcile their print-based, territory-defined licensing business model and the incoming tide of digital publishing.
On top of that, licensors now had to negotiate for digital licensing rights on top of print publishing rights. This also opened up another can of worms: Would British publisher A's sales of a given title be negatively affected if North American publisher B made their English edition of the same title available for sale online? It's these kind of questions that have been giving publishers all over the world migraines as they negotiate for publishing licenses in this ever-shifting business landscape.
THE TIMES, THEY ARE-A CHANGING: MANGA 'JUMPS' INTO THE FUTUREBut things are changing – just look at what SuBLime Manga is doing: by partnering with Libre (Japan's top boys love manga publisher) and Animate (Japan's top anime/manga retail chain), VIZ Media is able to offer SuBLime yaoi titles in English and make them available to fans all over the world, not just North America.
Also, look at what Yen Press is doing with their monthly digital manga magazine, Yen Plus. They're publishing Soul Eater Not!, the brand-spanking new sequel series to Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo, and releasing the latest chapters online at the same time as it's released in Japan – and they're making it available to Yen Plus subscribers anywhere in the world.
These developments and more that are sure to come in the months and years ahead should give manga fans worldwide a reason to hope that eventually, they will get a little more of what they want, when they want it.
The digital publishing world is evolving day by day. Manga readers now have access to more legit online manga than they ever have before, and more titles are being added, for more devices/digital publishing platforms practically every week.
It's not perfect, and it may never, ever be everything that manga readers want, but it's getting there – or at least there are a lot of folks who are trying to get it as close as possible to that ideal state. Maybe it's hard for fans who haven't been around to see how very little Japanese manga was available in English back in the day before the Internetz and the 'manga boom' of the early-to-mid 2000's to appreciate how far things have come and how quickly things are changing now. But trust me on this – things are changing, and they are changing fast.
It boggles the mind that Japan, a nation that is known for its innovations in technology, has a publishing industry that seems to be in the midst of being dragged kicking and screaming into the digital future. Sure, the arrival of the iPad and Kindle and the demise of Borders are factors in these changes in the manga publishing business, but so are the fans, who have made their wishes known by word and deed. Fans (and yes, even the whiney ones) are the force that is driving a lot of the changes we're seeing today.
I'm not saying shut up and just take what VIZ is giving to you – you, as fans, as consumers, and people who are paying your money to read Shonen Jump manga, are entitled to say what you think, what you want, and how you think things can be improved. Your comments, your support (or lack of support) speaks volumes to publishers and comics creators, and your insights are helping to shape what the industry will become in the future. But is it really so hard to appreciate how far things have come, and what VIZ / Shonen Jump / Shueisha and other US and Japanese publishers have done so far to try to meet you more than halfway? A little patience, a little appreciation, and a little perspective isn't too much to ask. Please try.
Now I've had my say –- what do you think? Chime in with your comments on my blog, or on Twitter. I'm always interested in your thoughts, suggestions and maybe take a few lumps from you at @debaoki or at @aboutmanga.