Hoping to join such fellow publishers as Shueisha and Kadokawa in the war against manga piracy, Kodansha has officially launched their new English-language ‘K MANGA’ distribution platform – but unfortunately for fans, the publisher’s final product has revealed itself to be less than customer-friendly.
As previously announced, K MANGA’s full library grants its users access to approximately 400 of the publisher’s series, including 70 currently-runnng simulpubs.
Coompleted works available for perusal include Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan and Ken Wakui’s Tokyo Revengers, while simulpubs on offer feature such series as Kaneshiro Muneyuki and Nomura Yuusuke’s Blue Lock and Nakaba Suzuki’s Four Knights of the Apocalypse.
Per a Kodansha rep who spoke directly to Bounding Into Comics, not only are more simulpubs planned to join the service in the future – including Negi Haruba’s Ranger Reject – but the publisher is also developing a creator partnership program akin to Shueisha’s ‘Manga Plus’ in order to facilitate development of even more new serializations.
Alongside the platform’s launch, K MANGA project leader Yuta Hiraoka revealed that this new platform represents Kodansha’s commitment to combating piracy.
“We [Kodansha] are a publisher that serves as a link between manga artists and readers,” Hiroaka proclaimed. “We will continue to strengthen our efforts to protect manga artists from piracy and other forms of copyright infringement, including traceability of translations.”
The publisher also confirmed to Bounding Into Comics that in order to prevent mistranslations in their localizations, they are currently working on a new system which will improve the accuracy of their own releases. This will include a quality check team dedicated to double-checking translations and eliminating errors, as well as an overall strengthening of their quality control system..
Unfortunately for readers, it seems K MANGA doesn’t make accessing these titles easy.
While users will have free unlimited access to most of the first few chapters of K MANGA’s 400 titles – as well as daily access to a rotating selection of promotional chapters – the service features a dual-tiered ticket system for renting or purchasing respective releases.
Modeled after its Japanese counterpart, rather than a monthly subscription service, once a day users are granted a free ‘Normal Ticket’, which can then be used to unlock a three-day reading window for a single chapter of any series labeled a ‘K MANGA Original’.
Meanwhile, through login bonuses and viewing ads users can also earn a daily allotment of three-to-four ‘Premium Tickets’, which can be used to temporarily unlock a single chapter of any of the platform’s titles. Unlike their ‘Normal’ variants, these ‘Premium Tickets’ have an expiration date.
This mechanic ultimately allows readers to check out a total of four-to-five chapters of manga per day free of charge.
Readers can also access chapters by purchasing ‘Points’.
Exchanged at a rate of 100 points for every $1 USD, these points can be obtained through either a direct cash exchange, watching advertisements – up to three a day for a total of 150 Points – and completing specific tasks such as reading a designated manga or checking out one of K MANGA’s affiliated partners.
From there, these Points can be spent to unlock further manga chapters, though prices vary depending on the series and individual chapter’s length, as well as the amount of time that has passed since it was first released. For example, an ongoing manga released in 20-page installments could require 69 Points for older chapters, and 99 Points for its latest release.
Users can also purchase a number of chapters en masse for a discount.
However, as opposed the chapters unlocked by via Tickets, those obtained by points will remain indefinitely accessible in the purchasing user’s account. Once a Reader has redeemed their Points to unlock a chapter, they can access it indefinitely through their account.
Unlike Shueisha or Viz’s services, users will not have free access to the latest chapters – not even for the first 24-hours after its release à la Japanese competitor services Comikey and Comicwalker of K MANGA’s simulpub series – but will instead be required to spend points to read them.
Further, K MANGA has also been discovered to feature censorship of some of its offerings. A notable example of these edits can be seen applied to a love scene present in Kei Sasuga’s Domestic Girlfriend, as shared by Twitter user @MangaAlerts, wherein a solid black bar is used to cover-up a woman’s bare breast.
Asked about this censorship, Kodansha explained to Bounding Into Comics that in order to comply with the Android and IOS Terms of Services, they will have to make “unavoidable modifications” to content on the K MANGA mobile app.
Kodansha did promise that the desktop version of K MANGA would remain uncensored, but as of writing, this alternative remains in development.
Presently, K MANGA is only available exclusively on iOS and Android in the United States, but Hiroaka has assured readers that the dev team is working to make the platform accessible worldwide as soon as possible.
“We [Kodansha] are starting with US only for now,” explained the project lead. “However, we know that there are Kodansha manga readers all over the world who want to try K MANGA and read the latest simulpub chapters. We hear you and we are doing our best to make K Manga available in your countries as soon as we can.”
To commemorate the launch of K-MANGA, Kodansha will be live streaming a premiere party on Thursday, June 22. Themed around “The Stories Behind the Stories,” the event will consist of appearances by famous manga artists, behind-the-scenes stories from Kodansha’s editorial department, and exclusive giveaways for viewers.
As a further ‘gift’ to fans, K MANGA users will have unlimited access to the entirety of Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, and Tokyo Revengers until 11/9 (presumably November 9th, as per the Japanese date format) – though some chapters will require tickets to unlock.
Editor’s Note May 25th, 2023: Following publication of this piece, a Kodansha rep reached out to Bounding Into Comics to offer the following response to the above criticism of their pricing plan.
“We have always wanted to maximize payment to authors who put in a great deal of effort to produce their works. This has been our corporate philosophy for over 100 years. It is our minimum obligation to create an environment where authors can use their creative talents to concentrate on their work, as well as lead a fulfilling life. At the same time, it is our role to create an ecosystem that will produce many star authors who will become the object of admiration for many people.
The current system, in which users pay for works they wish to support, is a system in which authors of great works are rewarded more and in a more equitable manner. In Japan, we use a system that is exactly the same as K MANGA, and we have been able to share the fruits of its success with our authors.
Based on this philosophy, we compensate authors for the purchase of their works with free points distributed within the service in the same way that we compensate authors for the purchase of their works with paid points. Even if the user does not spend any money, if he or she spends a little time and effort, we will be able to reward authors for their work.
In addition, with tickets that allow limited access for 72 hours, which can be obtained daily, it is possible to try out at least half of all the works. We believe that in this way, by allowing readers to experience as many works as possible without having to pay for them, we can ultimately maximize the rewards to
authors. We hope you will understand the K MANGA system for supporting authors, which cannot be achieved through a subscription model.”
“Point subscriptions are scheduled on the web. Please refer to the details of the point subscriptions on the browser version once it has been launched. Since the prerequisite is that all works published in Weekly Shonen Magazine will be able to be simulcast, we would like to aim for this eventually, but currently there is no clear end goal.”