Back in December, Japan’s DeNA launched its comic book app Manga Box. Since then it has fared remarkably well on both iOS and Android with over 2 million downloads as of January 7th. In Japan in particular, Manga Box has ranked high in the Books category on iOS (currently third), and is the top Comics app on Google Play. But it still has room to grow beyond its home market, and considering that most of the manga are available in both Japanese and English, it should be a must-have for English-speaking comics fans.
I’ve been using the app for a few weeks and I found that it had a surprising use as a language learning too. For example, I can try reading an issue in Japanese (a language I’m studying), and then I can switch the app to English to clarify any difficult parts that I may not have understood. Similarly, I think Japanese students of English could do the same by first reading in English.
The app takes the form of a weekly digital magazine, with about 20 episodes of various comics included. It’s a pretty simple application to use with granular push notifications that let you select which new issues you want to be notified about. You’ll be told when there are new comics you like, but for those you don’t like, the app won’t bother you.
I confess, I’ve never been a big manga fan but I’ve been enjoying Manga Box so far. I’m especially glad to see DeNA take a global approach to releasing its app, perhaps aware the enthusiastic market for Japanese manga abroad. When Line Manga launched in April of last year, it was for the Japanese market only, and to my knowledge the company hasn’t expanded to other languages since then. But on the other hand, Line Manga is Japan’s top grossing iOS app in the Books category, and the top grossing Comics category app on Google Play. So from a business point of view, maybe Line doesn’t need to expand Line Manga just yet.
So how will DeNA monetize its Manga Box app? I’m told that the company’s model is to sell stand-alone books, both digital and printed. So a user could buy the first volume of a title after all its episodes have been published. For the time being, users can also gain access to new episodes though social sharing via Twitter for example.
It’s good to see more companies involved in the promotion of Japanese culture online. Companies like Tokyo Otaku Mode, for example, have shown that the West has an appetite for anime and manga, so it is encouraging to see a service like Manga Box that helps fans around the world consume it.
If you’d like to download Manga Box, you can get it for free on iOS of Google Play.