While anime and manga have never been more popular in the US and other English-speaking nations, it’s only reached that point because of several turning points. The first dubbed anime. Manga. Unflipped manga. Toonami. Streaming.
Of course, on that list would have to be simulcasts. No longer would viewers have to wait weeks, perhaps more, to watch the latest episodes of current anime. And that meant less reason to go turning to an illegal fansubbed version. That’s how platforms like Crunchyroll grew its subscriber base. Over the years, manga chapters also have been released on the same date as Japan, but the selection is smaller due to more work being involved.
In addition, while anime has had several options for free-but-limited or all-you-can-consume subscription models since the explosion of streaming, manga hasn’t, although that has been changing in recent years. For instance, in January 2019, Shueisha launched MANGA Plus which has several current and completed Jump titles available to read for free. Manga that get licensed by VIZ Media have only the first three and last three chapters available while MANGA Plus exclusives have all available. Current MANGA Plus simulpubs include Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, ‘Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess, and Spy x Family.
Another title released the same day as Japan on MANGA Plus is Ayakashi Triangle by Kentaro Yabuki (Black Cat, To Love Ru artist). Ayakashi Triangle is about an exorcist ninja who ends up turning into a girl when trying to protect his childhood friend from an ayakashi. The series is getting an anime adaptation. VIZ Media started releasing the volumes digitally.
Key word there is “started”. Ayakashi Triangle volumes 1 and 2 were suddenly removed from eBook stores and VIZ Media’s own website around the beginning of December.
VIZ Media rates this series for ages 18+ for its ecchi elements. The question, though, is how ecchi is ecchi, and when does that become adult content — adult content that is too risqué and/or risky to release. On January 3rd, when the 74th chapter of Ayakashi Triangle was to be released, MANGA Plus and VIZ Media posted announcements they would be skipping it.
No official reason was given, but Chapter 75 was scheduled on both platforms.
However, on Sunday, January 16th, fans got an unwelcome surprise: a very familiar message.
Yep, another notice that Chapter 75 would be skipped on both MANGA Plus and VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump website.
Ayakashi Triangle is published in Japan in Weekly Shonen Jump. The magazine has been the center of parent company Shueisha for years. Like most manga magazines, Weekly Shonen Jump has styles and genres it’s known for: action-adventure tales like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Naruto, and One Piece; sports titles like Slam Dunk and Haikyu!; and comedy manga like Gin Tama and We Never Learn. But Weekly Shonen Jump has published titles that wouldn’t immediately seem at home alongside My Hero Academia and Hunter x Hunter. Death Note, for instance, is a psychological thriller. Act-Age was about acting. And there are times when cultural differences come into play; Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Spring is a harem manga that, in English, is published under Seven Seas’ Ghost Ship imprint for its mature content rather than joining most other licensed Weekly Shonen Jump titles at VIZ Media.
Another Jump title published at Ghost Ship is To Love Ru and its sequel, To Love Ru Darkness, which were illustrated by Ayakashi Triangle‘s Yabuki. Between the skipped chapters and the removed volumes, upset fans are hoping Seven Seas is getting the license to Ayakashi Triangle.
A combination of the Streisand effect and zealous Ayakashi Triangle fans led to excerpts of chapter 74 to be posted on social media. Some readers argued that nothing there should have led to its exclusion; fans can choose for themselves to continue the series and/or other chapters have the same level — or worse — of objectionable content.
As someone who didn’t bother continuing the series after reading the first chapter when it was first released, I can’t render much of an opinion if it’s the same or worse as the others. I only ended up checking out chapters 1-3 for research purposes for this article. I will say I can see both arguments about the pages from chapter 74 — yeah, it looks very problematic with what looks like sexual assault between young-looking women, but I can’t say it’s the most hardcore or vomit-inducing scene I’ve read. As of this writing, I haven’t seen or heard much about chapter 75 to know why that one is considered objectionable. But considering this is how the second chapter of the manga opens and other highlights include a girl rubbing another’s thighs with her face, Matsuri checking his girl-body’s downstairs, and Suzu massaging her thighs while lying on the back with the panel angle looking straight down, I can only imagine it gets racier and racier from there.
VIZ Media and MANGA Plus aren’t known for carrying mature series, but Ayakashi Triangle having a lot of fanservice wasn’t unexpected based upon the creator’s history. But I sympathize with fans who were looking forward to the digital volumes and who cannot officially read the whole series with a Shonen Jump subscription. Readers also say chapter 74 wasn’t a filler chapter (and 75 probably follows in those footsteps), and so some plot details will be lost among English (and Spanish on MANGA Plus) readers. That’s very irritating even though any revelations will likely be worked into subsequent chapters. A lot can happen in two chapters, and there is bound to be some confusion if there’s ever a flashback to these events.
Fans expressed their displeasure on social media, but most of the rage seemed to be aimed at VIZ Media. However, MANGA Plus also didn’t post the chapter, and it’s run by Shueisha, the Japanese publisher of Ayakashi Triangle and the various Jump magazines. VIZ Media is partially owned by Shueisha along with Shogakukan and Shogakukan-Shueisha (ShoPro), but considering MANGA Plus isn’t publishing the Spanish version of these chapters either, Shueisha themselves had reservations about it and may have prevented VIZ Media from releasing it either.
Apple/Google could have been an issue as well since both services have an app version, but MANGA Plus/VIZ Media could have made these Ayakashi Triangle chapters web-only if that was the problem.
Anger and Hope for an Uncut Version
Now, going back to the wish that Seven Seas will license the manga…it’s unlikely. First of all, both services don’t have any indication they’re putting Ayakashi Triangle on hiatus or are dropping it. Seven Seas is not going to be able to license a Shueisha-published manga from underneath Shueisha-backed services’ noses. Second, Ayakashi Triangle is popular enough to have an anime version in the works. VIZ Media and MANGA Plus aren’t likely to let a popular series slip through their fingers right when its popularity is bound to explode.
“Well, in that case, why pull the volumes?” It is possible that some of the eBook providers were expressing discomfort or threatening to pull volumes, and VIZ Media decided the sales were not worth the hassle of fighting the eBook stores. Amazon has been known to pull eBooks, and Apple is also very strict on adult content that causes other manga to be unavailable in apps.
VIZ Media could also be passing on the license for the collected versions, but I don’t think they’d be immediately up for grabs. Licensing agreements usually last for months or years unless there’s some significant breach of contract or unflattering publicity, and plus there needs to be time to sign a new contract. As a comparison, Interspecies Reviewers was dropped by Funimation in January 2020; Right Stuf revealed they had acquired the license in September of that year.
Plus, there’s always a chance VIZ Media could be reissuing the volumes but are censoring them. Maybe not likely, and that opens up a whole other can of worms about whether manga should be censored, but it’s still a possibility. It’s also very common for the collected versions to feature differences from the serialized magazine version. Maybe Shueisha will request Yabuki do some edits so that English versions can be published.
Some commenters say this incident is the reason why piracy still exists. Again, as a completionist myself, I know the frustration of having a manga series dropped and even the irritation of missing even a small piece of a series. Expressing disappointment is one thing, but some are claiming they’ll never support VIZ Media again. That’s their right, but are these manga fans seriously never going to read My Hero Academia again or watch another Boruto episode? Check out the Sailor Moon anime or The Way of the Househusband manga? I’ve personally banned myself from companies for years due to what I felt was bad treatment or poor product, but fans shouldn’t use this as a way to say, “Well, now I have to go read/watch VIZ Media licenses on <pirate website> because of Ayakashi Triangle.” There are plenty of streaming and reading options for fans who are angry at VIZ Media (and/or MANGA Plus) but still can support the original creators.
It’s definitely frustrating for fans to open their official manga apps, ready to check out Ayakashi Triangle and be greeted with “no chapter today, look next week” with no explanation. Especially since as chapter 75 proved that “next week” is not guaranteed!
However, we’ll never know the official reason why Ayakashi Triangle chapters 74 and 75 were skipped. It may be a case of censorship on the licensors, or there may be a deeper reason. But if fans continue to show support for the series, maybe eventually the manga can be released digitally and/or physically in full.