Viz’s “War on Manga”

Think the title is a little silly? Unfortunately, it’s an accurate portrayal on the exaggerations some fans are going as far as to make over on Viz’s Facebook page. Why is that? On February 11, 2012, manga scanlating group, Manga Stream, published a statement on their website that said they would be no longer doing fan scans of Weekly Shounen Jump manga due to demands from Viz. The following series’ were affected:

  • Bleach
  • Claymore
  • D.Gray-man
  • Hunter × Hunter
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
  • Naruto
  • One Piece

Needless to say, as soon as fans read this, the internet seemed to explode.Now let me first start things off explaining my own thoughts on the situation. I’ve been pirating virtually everything since back when Napster was the big thing everyone was using before it became a big hot issue to download music over the internet. Even to this day I still do it; games, anime, manga. Whether it be streaming or download. I am very much the definition of a pirate.

However, I can rightfully say that I still support the industries I seem to “steal, plunder and rape” from with my hijinks. I have lord knows how many boxes full of manga volumes, anime VHS tapes, DVDs and a couple of Blu-rays, as well as an obscene amount of games purchased physically and digitally. If you’ve seen my posts on Twitter, chances are you’ve stumbled upon my photos of my collections and random purchases.

I may not be able to buy anime and manga right away as they come out, but I still find my ways to chip in when I can to not only support the industry but to get the things I like when they’re released here. With that, I also understand that it costs companies like Viz money to obtain a license from the original company so they can then translate their product, mass produce them and then ship them out. Some series’ are major hits whereas some aren’t. Sometimes there’s not enough money to be made because the series doesn’t have a big enough fanbase, while sometimes it can be the fault of the company for not backing it properly to raise awareness. It’s never easy to pinpoint which is the exact cause.

With the loss of the WSJ manga being brought to the internet by Manga Stream, it’s both a hit to the fans as well as the pirates. Viz’s hopes were clearly meant to force pirates to look to legal methods for reading manga digitally, which they offer with Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha. Unfortunately, the fired attack also managed to hit some loyal fans in the same process. Fans of Claymore, D.Gray-man, Katekyo Hitman Reborn! and Hunter × Hunter were equally angered by the removal of their series’, as only three of removed series’ are even being shown and promoted in WSJA. The KHR! fans are a little more upset as this is a series that has spanned for 37 volumes in Japan, with only 16 released by Viz, as they have no plans to continue translating the series, having placed it into indefinite hiatus status.

It’s also understandable for some other fans who pirate for other reasons to be upset – neither the manga nor WSJA is available in their regions/territories. As of this writing, WSJA is only available in the US and Canada. This leaves a majority of the world locked out, especially those that are native-English speakers. With no way of being able to officially obtain their manga, what other alternative did they have? One could suggest they import manga from the US, but that becomes rather pricey and (honestly) inconvenient. This is a problem that’s been affecting them with anime streams and with Viz hitting Manga Stream, this only doubles the punishment for those who couldn’t pay for these, even if they wanted to.

Viz has a LOT to do if they want to make WSJA something to turn to as an alternative to pirating manga. They need to make their service available offline for those not using smart devices. As it stands, you’re only given temporary ownership over your volumes of WSJA for a fixed amount of weeks. Why can’t subscribers keep them if they bought them with their subscription? Why do they have to be online in order to read them on their computers? A program similar to Steam would benefit Viz greatly, as it doesn’t hinder those who purchase the manga greatly, allows them to access these things while offline and still prevents them from sharing them online with those who didn’t pay for them. As it stands, Viz’s methods are more closer to Origin.

Not only this, but this should be more accessible to other platforms. The iOS shouldn’t come first at all times; especially when reading manga on a cell phone is an extraordinary pain. That’s the 1st page of Bakuman Vol. 1 as through my iPhone 3GS. No modification was done to the image. It’s exactly as it appears on my phone and requires all sorts of zooming and swiping in order to properly read any manga on Viz’s app. If anything, it would be more ideal to work a way to get manga apps onto the 3DS and PSVita. The PSP originally attempted something like this with various western superhero comic books. Their screens seem like much better alternatives than the smaller smart phones.

Finally, the big issue being they need to focus more on other series’ to promote what they have and raise awareness, rather than focusing on the small group of manga they’re boasting about in WSJA. With the additional pages they mention having, it would be more ideal to rotate around certain series’ or at least do spotlights. Heck, best option would be to turn to fans and get an idea of what they want to see. On top of that, attempt to reach outside of the North American market. One of the big problems the anime industry (and sometimes gaming) suffers from is when certain parts of the world won’t ever see a stream or release because no one will license a property for their area. One of WSJA’s main drawbacks is that several people are left out because they’re not able to access it.

Now with all that said and done, don’t mistake this as me bashing Viz or anything of the sort. If anything, my suggestions are merely constructive criticism pointing out what’s wrong with their methods and services, along with a few ideas of how they can be fixed. The fanbase, however…there’s no fixing that. After browsing Viz’s Facebook page, I’m left utterly baffled some of these people can even form a coherent sentence, as their anger towards Viz is the equivalent of a child. Some fans are being very civil and expressing their concern calmly. Some just outright bashed their heads on their keyboard and hit “Send.” I think it’s only fair I now look at what they have to say and point out what exactly is wrong with some of the fanbase.

This is going to be the part where I pick some Facebook comments and give my two cents on them (aka tear them apart). Obviously I won’t be including any full names, because I’m not a jerk and don’t exactly want anyone getting the idea it’s cool to harass people on their Facebook page. Remember, this is for education and entertainment; not bullying.

Kris: money whores!
Joshua: Thanks a lot you jerks, MangaStream is 10x better than you. You’re just upset that it was popular unlike you.
Davey: Jealous that a group does a better job than you – and for free?
Francesco: You are evil. EVIL SATAN WORSHIPPERS!
Daria: That moment when a business is anal because a free provider does pretty much everything better.
Francesco (Again): Now that’s where you were hiding, ADOLF HITLER!

Nothing but “u jelly” and senseless name calling. Didn’t think running a business to ensure your product made a profit and wasn’t being stolen equated to being a money whore and being worshippers of the Devil. News to me.

Bilal: I used to buy your issues whenever they were out in my country. Since you guys put an end to Mangastream, I am never ever going to buy anything from Viz again.

Now this one makes no sense. If you bought issues when they were available, why would you forcibly limit yourself by not buying anything at all?

Robby: Oh, and if you wanted…make viewing of manga online free. Going digital means you can do that.

No. No that doesn’t. You know nothing of how that works. Shueisha would kill Viz if they offered these things for free online. Not to mention, they’re the ones who give the final okay to what Viz does.

Trevor: You guys are WAY behind on Bleach (Which is at Chapter 480 in Japan, You’re at Chapter 424 from what I saw, Which is the beginning of the previous arc…its going to be over a year until you catch up!)

Actually, Bleach is at Chapter 477 in WSJA. So it’s only 3 chapters off. Might help if you keep up with current events, rather than randomly complain.

Rin: I hope your company bankrupts and burns. LONG LIVE MANGASTREAM!
Abdiasis: I’ll be happy to watch your sales go plummeting down!
Alex: Let s boycott them so they ll go bankrupt…… hopefully!!!

Yeah! I hope hundreds of people lose their jobs and have to struggle with money! I also hope for the only major company that helped shaped this industry to crash and burn, preventing us from ever seeing official releases again! That’ll teach those MONSTERS for taking away my illegal goods!

David: your fate will be the same as Tokyopop.

Being owed tons of money after being cheated out of it by Borders and because people like you refuse to buy manga?

Tom: Congratulations Viz, I don’t buy your products often but I always buy naruto games when it’s coming out and now I won’t

Congratulations! You’re taking your anger out on Namco Bandai, the ones responsible for publishing those games. Nice job!

Estevan: I will spread the word NOT to subscribe to the poorly received Shonen Jump Alpha, it won’t. If you think I’ll buy the manga and B&N, think again. It’s practically a library.

So in other words, you never used Alpha, otherwise you wouldn’t word it as if you’re going to explain based on the experiences of others. You also never buy manga, considering you see bookstores as libraries. So really, what exact right DO you have to complain for?

Torres: You will not stop internet freedom!

…The freedom to steal manga? I’m not sure I follow.

Terresa: I will learn Japanese and buy straight from Japan. The result? Faster, more accurate manga and I am supporting the artist directly and not having to give money to companies like this one.

To bad part of the money is still given to the publishing company. Oh, did I forget to mention that Viz is a part of Shueisha? So your goal accomplishes nothing. If you have the time and money to spend on getting lessons to learn another language for the sake of reading manga, then you have the time and money to pay for official releases.

Luis: trying to monopolize those series, uh? so are you guys gonna stop the other groups as well?

Well…they kinda do have the license to them, after all.

I’ll stop here. Now take a good look at the comments above. Is this really what our fanbase looks like? Shallow, petty, self-entitled whiners who feel they DESERVE to be given free things? As I’ve mentioned earlier on, there are definitely a lot of problems Viz has that needs to be worked out as they effectively hurt people outside of their range that couldn’t even contribute if they wanted. Said folks have been calm and explained carefully why they don’t like the situation. Meanwhile, the outspoken vocal individuals have clearly shown their true colors and how, for a good majority of them, they have absolutely no idea what it is they’re talking about or how things work.

Look, Viz is a business. They have Shueisha breathing down their necks on making sure they don’t screw this up and to make sure they try killing off as much rampant piracy as possible. They kinda have to keep your money in their interest. It’s not like they don’t take an interest in the fans, either. After all, we did get an entire Shonen Jump dedicated to the fans. Yeah, they still need some kinks to work out with everything. But to outright compare them to Adolf Hitler? Because they took down your illegal manga? Are you kidding me? This is partly why I don’t actively take part in any fanbases; the people surrounding it tend to outnumber the ordinary, sane fans.

By Tsukento Posted in Anime

18 comments on “Viz’s “War on Manga”

  1. Personally, I can’t invest in Shonen Jump Alpha until it does something about the 3 chapter gap between Alpha and the Japanese Jump chapters. An alpha user would need to actively limit the amount of places they go online just to simply not get spoiled.

    If Alpha shifted it’s releases so that their chapters come out, say a day or two, after the initial Japanese release, it would make the service much more appealing to former Mangastream or “pirate” readers.

  2. The unfortunate truth is that many manga fans think they have the fundamental right to get everything for free. Sure, there are some fans who have no access to these titles except to import from abroad. But I suspect a lot of the big complainers don’t.

    That being said, I wish more manga companies would be on top of what fans/readers/potential readers want. I really like that Funimation has regular surveys to get feedback about what people are interested in, whether it’s titles, formats, special features, etc. I think manga publishers could tempt me to part with more of my money if they actually asked me what titles/services I’d consider buying.

  3. Well ive never bought a single manga in my life, always read it online. I live in sweden and the day when I would like to read Naruto in swedish have yet to dawn. I think my language sucks when it comes to comics and manga. Tried once with a free copy manga in swedish, never again. And buying manga from the states? As you said it would become quite pricey, especially for an unemployed dude like me.

    If they made a service where you logged on a website and payed a small monthly fee and could read the series of youre choosing (and pricing), pay for what you read more or less. I would be there in a heartbeat!

  4. Pingback: The Unofficial One Piece Podcast – The War on Manga

  5. @Kurt Just for the record, its not 3 chapters behind, only 2. Scanlators get scans of Shonen Jump well before it is in store. This is something people should keep in mind, as it makes the whole scanlation process even shadier. as we get to read translations before most paying Japenese people.

    • I realized my error a little too late. I completely agree that this is a privilege that scanlation readers take for granted.

      But aside from my blunder there, Alpha is still 2 Chapters too late. I frequent a lot of anime/manga communities and it seems stupid to have to shield myself at all times from spoilers. I don’t see why Alpha can’t release the newest chapters maybe a day or 2 after they come out in Japan.

      I have no problem paying for alpha, hell I can even get over my issue of the name changes. But I am not going to spend my hard earned money, having just graduated from college, on a service that provides 2 week old content.

      • The delay of Alpha is definitely one of its biggest faults, however, I believe the blame should fall on Shueisha’s part with this, not on VIZ. I’m not an expert on the subject, of course, but from my experience the Japanese are very protective of their own works, hence the reason why many popular games take so long to come over to North America or Europe (many popular Square-Enix games for example). This is not as much of a problem vice versa.

        There is no real answer to this problem, the only logical way is to support the series you care for when they come over, and try not to support the illegal ways of viewing the content no matter how tempting it is. Spoilers are always a problem, but obviously the only way to be shielded completely is to read them before anyone else, which is why scanlations ARE so tempting, until Alpha catches on and the gap decreases fans can only put up with it, unfortunately. Obviously money is tight for a lot of people, but Alpha is less then $30/year, if you’re a fan of one of the series Alpha has(or more then one!) then Alpha is worth it, in my opinion.

        So by telling VIZ what you want, with the extra money they get from the support, I’m sure they can convince Shueisha to decrease the gap between releases, as well as releasing it to more and more territories. It’s all up to the fans on how long it will take. I’m not trying to convince people one way or the other but hopefully anyone who reads this keeps it in mind, and doesn’t blame a company that’s just trying to make a profit as well as promote manga legally.

  6. Well, to be fair, mangastream wasn’t “exactly” piracy, at least I think so. They even claimed that they are just spoilers, never had an archive with old releases and encouraged people to buy the actual manga. But on the other hand, how many people actually followed the advice and bought the manga?

    I would. But it’s nearly impossible in my country, being from Central Europe, I’d have to ship it from U.S. I don’t think I have to explain why I’m not happy about that.

    • It actually is piracy, as they were getting access to Jump several days before the general public did in a very shady manner, scanning the pages and then leaking them online for translating.

    • There’s also the fact that just because they take it down doesn’t mean it disappears from the internet. The scans always show up somewhere else. I understand international peoples frustration over this, but the fact is it only hurts the series, no matter where you come from. Just as you said, how many people ACTUALLY care about what Mangastream has to say, call me pessimistic but I think the majority just see Mangastream as a free way to read manga. Whatever good intentions they had, it’s ultimately hurting the series we love.

  7. To be honest I have no objection with Viz trying to protect their license but Mangastream were the wrong target which is what angers me. They explictiy made a point of not archiving manga and actively encouraged people to buy the volumes when they were released – all to support Viz. Had they gone after the sites that archive huge collections then I would have no issue but Mangastream does not do that; it provided a service for non Japanese fans to keep up to date with the latest events in their favourite manga.

    Furthemore they’ve basically denied the rest of the world from reading manga now, as there is no legal alternative to them. What they fail to realise is that at least half of the non Japanese manga fans reside outside of North America, in places like Europe, Oceania, Asia and South America. Before jumping the gun they could have negoitiated with Japan to secure the rights to publish WSA in all non Japan locations thus providing a legal tool (which I would be glad to use) for us to follow our favourite manga. Currently Viz has just stranded millions of fans around the world.

  8. “Vizs War on Manga | Tsukento’s Ramblings” actually makes myself ponder a somewhat more. I admired every particular component of it. Thank you ,Janell

  9. A very good point. Sometimes fans really disgust me. Ever since I discovered English translated manga on Amazon, I’ve been on a manga buying spree. I’m most upset about Katekyo Hitman Reborn. If they don’t ever plan on picking it back up, where/how are we ever supposed to read it? That’s one of my favorite series…

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