This is part one of a review on Crunchyroll’s Manga service. Part Two, coming soon, will cover one of the titles available on the service, A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi).
Last year, the popular anime streaming service Crunchyroll introduced the ability to read translated manga licensed and simultaneously published on both sides of the Pacific. While it isn’t the first site of its ilk to make a splash in the United States, its predecessor, JManga, went out of business early in 2013. Crunchyroll had been a founding partner of JManga, and its own manga service could be seen as a continuation of the old service. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just more of the same; CR Manga is as close to the real deal as we’re going to get in the States unless we speak Japanese.
CR doesn’t roll its manga service into the standard anime subscription, but rather offers it as an add-on called “All Access”; your same login that lets you watch anime on your Xbox 360 or PS Vita will let you read manga. There are dedicated clients for iOS and Android, but unless you’re reading on a tablet or Android e-reader you’re more likely to want to use the browser-based client. Curiously, the browser client requires Adobe Flash, but this is probably due to a need to prevent the pages from being saved and redistributed. Despite the somewhat outdated tech used in the browser, it still works well enough.
If you’ve used Crunchyroll’s anime apps on big-screen devices, you know what to expect with the interface: it’s clunky but gets out of the way when you need it to. You can only save one bookmark per manga title, and there’s no automatic bookmarking of the last-read page; if you forget where you left off, or a new chapter is released, you’d better remember that on your own, because the app and the browser client won’t. There’s only a generic “updated” page presenting the list of titles that have new issues. With new content being added weekly, it can quickly get overwhelming, especially if you’re following long-running series like Fairy Tail.
While there isn’t yet quite the volume of content that the anime side has, the manga side is no slouch. Titles like Ken Akamatsu’s new series UQ Holder! and the ever-popular Attack on Titan headlined the first dozen releases, but the rest of the service is mostly populated with quirky or niche titles like Coppelion, My Wife Is Wagatsuma-san, and Koe no Katachi. Titles that have US print releases are unavailable on the service digitally for the chapters that have books released; the first few books of Attack on Titan, for example, are absent from the online service but the simulpubs are ongoing and available as far back as when the title was added to the service. If you’re thinking about using the service to get caught up on twenty books of Fairy Tail without, y’know, buying twenty books, think again.
Even with the somewhat rocky start, the service is still an excellent value because of the content provided. Translations are clean and familiar, without any stilted phrases or tortured grammar. The text replacement is also neat and precise, and the variety of fonts used help to keep the typographical representations of dialogue stresses and other idiosyncrasies consistent. As always, there’s cultural notes for folks who might not understand some of the more obscure bits being referenced where needed, although these can be almost unreadable on a phone. This is quality you’d see out of a print book, and not a cheapo run, either; I’m genuinely impressed by the care taken in localization.
Over the coming months, I’ll be reviewing manga available on the service. Look forward to the first review, A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi), to hit OTDT in a day or two. UQ Holder! and Silver Nina are also on my list, and as CR adds new titles, we’ll see if they need to be reviewed… or reversed from.