Roughly one week ago, on January 23rd, Crunchyroll announced it was licensing a Shonen Sirius-run manga adaptation of the Persona Q game. Beyond the series itself, this announcement was significant for a pair of reasons. First, it broke what was a near-record dry streak for the company’s service since it announced the Maga-Tsuki license on November 25th of last year. This dry streak is the second longest in the history of the service, short only of the 71-day gap between its launch on October 26, 2013 and the addition of three Futabasha titles on January 6, 2014, a period presumably taken up by serious negotiations on the business side. Since that first additional partnership, the service has expanded to include titles from Shonen Gahosha, Leed Publishing, and Cork, and new licenses had steadily rolled in through the first three-quarters of 2014 as a result (you can check which series were announced when here). However, since then, the service has cooled down a bit; only 3 titles (Maga-Tsuki, Days of the Dam, and PQ) have been added in the past 4 months, and the gaps between those licenses were 56 and 41 days. Without Maga-Tsuki in the middle, it’s CR Manga’s longest dead interval by about 20 days.
The second item of interest that can be found in this announcement is that it comes on the heels of Crunchyroll restructuring how the subscription model for manga would work. Instead of being a separate service costing $40/year or a $40/yr upgrade from a $60 anime membership to a $100 to all-access membership, it became a complimentary feature of the anime membership. This was followed by another announcement that the service would be losing all of its K-dramas, cutting its drama offering down to a third of what it was.* There are a lot of ways to spin these moves, but one definite effect is a sharp decline in the value of a CR all-access membership, one that will likely see the majority of those who have all-access dropping down to less-costly anime subscriptions. That doesn’t necessarily mean less money for CR as a business; theoretically, the added value of manga *could* result in additional subscriptions from people on the fence about subscribing who needed a little extra motivation to make the decision to buy in. The more worrying thing is that this could be something of a desperation/stopgap maneuver, which could be a bad thing both for CR and, more importantly, for the future of simulpub manga.
I’ve had a bunch of stuff I’d like to write about on the back burner for a while now; Yozakura Quartet’s new OAD-bundled volume selling about 17,000 copies when the maximum cost of the OVA would have been covered by 9000, a return to the issue of sales boosts that manga get from anime, and the slow-but-ongoing attempt to accurately set odds for the sequel of any given anime series. All of those are important questions, and I’ll address them in due time.
But right now, manga giant Kodansha and popular legal stream platform crunchyroll rolled out a bombshell: Crunchyroll Manga. Current to Japan digital releases of 12 manga (headlined by Fairy Tail and Attack on Titan, ones I pegged months ago as potential headliners for a Kodansha USA service) that are fairly big in the U.S, for 5 bucks a month.* This isn’t as big of a deal as some of the other things I’ve observed, but it certainly has the potential to make a big impact. I don’t want to be premature, but the combination of the CR brand and the solid rollout slate (similar to how CR packaged big names in anime when they first decided to go legal) has me optimistic about the prospects of the service.
This is very much a first-response column, looking at the statistical profiles of the rollout and comparing it to Jmanga and Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, two other big names in digital manga.** How does this compare with other digital rollouts?
This past year, viz media pulled off a first for the non-Japan manga industry. I’m referring to Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital “magazine” offering same-week release of the chapters of some 11 Weekly Shonen Jump manga. It’s pretty cool, and at 26$/year for 48 issues (and a buck per back issue), it’s not a totally unreasonable subscription fee. But that specific business model, one of same-week releases for official translations, is unfortunately not something that’s likely to be transferable to the majority of manga. Especially seinen and josei series with smaller fanbases. If you’ve ever wondered if the manga translation industry will catch up to where the anime industry is now with simulcasts, this article discusses the depressing reality of the situation and why such an outcome is relatively unlikely.