With the growing popularity of Amazon's Kindle and the arrival of Apple's iPad, it seems like 2010 is the year when manga for portable digital devices has really gained momentum in the North American market. Where in years past there was once only a few timid attempts to publish manga online and on cell phones, lately it seems like I get a new press release every week from another company offering online and digitally-delivered manga.
But one company recently caught my eye because they're doing something slightly different. ComicLoud magazine is a new manga anthology that's offering new and original comics in a bilingual Japanese/English, digital-only edition. Each issue of ComicLoud is available for $4.99 from Amazon.com for the Kindle, via the Kindle portable eBook readers and Kindle applications for reading eBook content on the PC, Mac, iPhone and/or iPad.
The first issue of ComicLoud arrived earlier this summer. The second issue of ComicLoud hit Amazon.com in late September 2010, featuring a mix of stories by known and emerging manga artists including:
Detective SumoKING by Shintaro Kago
An absurd parody of detective procedurals, with a sumo wrestler as the overweight but not over-his-head sleuth in charge.
Quadrigolio 2 by Takeshi Okamoto
A car-savvy co-ed and her college auto racing club run into some trouble when a headstrong foreign female racer comes looking for action.
Nobuna Girl by Taro Matsumoto
Legendary general Nobunaga Oda taps into the power of Kiryoku, "the power of the oni" to win battles against seemingly impossible odds. After a battle traps him in a demon's limbo for several hundred years, Nobunaga communicates with a modern-day high school girl named Ran who controls a "bio-loader" - a demon-powered mecha.
Diary of a Manga Artist by Bang Ippongi
Manga artist and cosplayer Bang Ippongi shares stories from her days as an instructor at a school for manga artists. Get insights into the world of professional manga artists as Ippongi teaches and answers questions from her foreign students.
I purchased and read both issues of ComicLoud, and read it on my laptop via Amazon's free Kindle for PC application. I found this new anthology to be a promising concept, but with its uneven art and stories, I thought it was still a work in progress. Nevertheless, I wanted to know more about who were the people behind ComicLoud, and find out more about their plans for future issues of their culture-crossing digital anthology.
ComicLoud Publisher Jiro Nemoto kindly responded to my request for more information and filled in a few of the blanks I had in my mind about his new digital manga anthology magazine. Here's our online conversation about his goals and future plans for ComicLoud, the challenges of publishing a bi-lingual manga magazine, and possibly most exciting for North American comics creators, an opportunity to publish their stories for an worldwide manga-reading audience.
Q: So tell me - what is BookLoud and ComicLoud - are you an independent company, or are you a division of a larger publishing company?
Jiro Nemoto: Bookloud is neither a company nor a division of other company. We are still just a group of people who are preparing to launch as a company at the beginning of 2011. ComicLoud, our magazine, is now published bimonthly. We'll officially be a company in January and will start publishing ComicLoud monthly then.
Q: Who are the staff members behind ComicLoud? What is your prior experience in the manga publishing industry?
Jiro Nemoto: One of our staff is from a school for manga artists -- he was a teacher and a designer there. One person in our group came from a video game company. Another came from a trading company, and has a wide variety of experience, including stints as mobile phone contents planner, groupware engineer, video game producer, TV station experience and so on.
We would very much welcome people from the publishing business (to be a part of ComicLoud), however, people in the Japanese publishing company often (not always) prefer to stay at in the paper book business, not e-book business. They also tend to stay at domestic (Japanese) businesses. Bookloud sees a different future than (these sorts of people) do.
Q: So why publish on the Kindle platform instead of on the web? What are the advantages to publishing a manga magazine on the Kindle?
Jiro Nemoto: The Kindle has huge amount of users, payment system, and copy protection. We are also planning on publishing ComicLoud on Apple's iPad platform in near future.
Q: Is manga publishing on the Kindle platform an up-and-coming trend in the publishing industry in Japan? Are more manga readers turning to reading manga on cell phones, computers and portable devices like Kindles and iPads, and if so, how will that change the manga publishing business in Japan?
Jiro Nemoto: A few publishers have announced plans to publish manga magazines on the iPad platform, but not many manga fans want to buy iPads for reading manga because of the price, its weight, and the poor lineup of Japanese manga (available on the iPad). But readers in Japan are quite familiar with reading manga (usually, R18 - content for readers ages 18+) with cell phones. So, I think that the situation will change in one or two years.
Q: Are there other manga magazines on the Kindle available in Japan?
Jiro Nemoto: No other manga magazines are available on Kindle platform except for ComicLoud. On iPad, Jump SQ is available as an iPad application.
Q: For your first two issues, you have an interesting mix of stories, although it seems mostly like a seinen (men's) manga-style magazine. Who is your target reader?
Jiro Nemoto: Since the readers need to buy the devices (e.g. Kindles or PCs) to read ComicLoud, we're assuming that they have a regular job. That means most of the readers are businessmen or businesswomen. The current lineup of the ComicLoud is mostly for men, but (in future issues), we are going to have female manga artists and they will make some manga for ladies, too.