Above: “Absolutely not!!” (ironic promo image used for the subject of this post by Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina, and thus the actual holder of the intellectual property thereof.)
（It Really Might Be For Real!)
Ken Akamatsu, the creator of Love Hina, has founded a project that promises to be the YouTube of Manga. I am not making that up; this blog post (it’s in Japanese, FYI!) uses that exact premise. (There’s also a comparison to Nico Video, which is a Japanese, YouTube-style service.)
This is something that the manga industry has desperately needed for years. For serious fans, the sheer physical size and weight of a manga collection is a major burden. This is why, in spite of being a voracious reader of Japanese, I own very few physical manga myself. And I used to translate them for a meager living! (Well, TokyoPop always got the copies back after I was done with them, but that’s another story…)
Manga creators will be able to upload their works in the simplest of manners, .jpg format images in a Zip file, and the site will automatically unpack the data and make it available both in web reader format and in PDF format. Now, I’m not the greatest fan of PDF, but there will be no DRM whatsoever and you can give the stuff to friends at your own discretion. It will also be 100% free, using per-click revenue distribution to reward the authors without thick, thick piles of publisher bureaucracy, red tape and all the massive costs of physical printing and distribution.
Why This Matters:
Manga has been a declining industry for a while. Ken himself has asked the obvious question: what comes after Bleach and Naruto and One Piece? What? These three pillars are holding up the entire industry, and a lot of very good and very creative stuff rests in their shadows. More importantly, the sheer infrastructure of it all is hard pressed to keep up with the modern world… and digital distribution has been a bright light, but has never been implemented in a workable way.
On Nov. 26, we’ll see if this way will work.
Ken is wealthy enough to not need to make one dime on it. His interest is promoting creativity, authors, and getting both as close to the fans as possible. Realistically, this will be covering a lot of out of print works, but that’s OK. There’s a lot of out of print titles people haven’t read.
Ken leads the way with all 14 volumes of Love Hina, which will therefore be available for free download and viewing once the full site is up.
I haven’t actually read the manga, and I only saw a few episodes of the anime (like 3, I think?), so I will be reading.
As a former manga translator (of high skill and great pride in my work), let me tell you my simple and honest opinion: the industry NEEDS this. That includes the U.S. side, though contracts and rights issues may make doing the same thing on U.S. shores more difficult.
If it ever does happen, I would do everything possible to support it myself.
I even have my own dreams of novel writing, for the works of great Japanese artists inspire me deeply and really make me want to create on my own. It’s ideas like this that give me some hope in this world.
This is an idea whose time has come. We’re not all carpenters. We can’t just build shelves to store 100 volumes of manga. Even if you have to pay for it, and believe me, I’m all for supporting creators and artists, the point is having it in a good format that you can have on a hard drive or portable device.
Why can’t you be able to enjoy manga on PC, or iPad, or PS3 image viewer, or PSP, or anything of the sort? Why not? Let’s strip the barriers down, get the support to these artists that they richly deserve, and spread the joy of artistic creativity to the fans and readers who will enjoy and appreciate it.