Fans of anime and manga have been very aware of how powerful digital distribution can be, but that power traditionally stemmed from the hands of thieves. Some of them, like Crunchyroll, have become legitimate online distributors, but others like Onemanga.com fell by the wayside. Although many manga fans mourned the loss of that behemoth den of pirates, the industry has finally caught up; however, the original publishers are circumventing oversees licenses. Where oh where does this rabbit hole end.
Jmanga.com is a joint venture between the largest Japanese manga publishers to create an all-encompassing digital database of manga for your downloading pleasure. When T-Ono first heard about Jmanga.com, we assumed that the website would be utilizing established publishing companies like Viz Media and Tokyopop to digitally distribute manga. We were very surprised to learn that Jmanga completely ignores these companies and outsources translation and lettering to unknown third parties. Although to be fair, the website reportedly will include links with each title to the given print publishers e-store.
Perhaps even more strangely, the announcement was backed by Funimation's CEO, Gen Fukunaga. When asked why North America's largest anime distributor was making an appearance at the Jmanga.com announcement, he said it was due to Funimation's clout -- his presence was intended to lend credence to this new venture.
Fans have known for a long time that the key to curbing piracy, and perhaps the key to saving the overseas manga industry, is digital distribution. The proof, as always, will be in the pudding. It's fortunate that the biggest names in manga are backing the project, but whether or not their distribution methods and pricing models well succeed in attracting fans away from major pirating sites remains to be seen.
Jmanga.com is not yet up and running, but you can keep an eye on the beta website for the official launch. According to the website, they're supposed to hit the on switch in 2011. Keep an eye out during the next five months!