Krystallina at the MangaPlaza – TheOASG

Krystallina at the MangaPlaza – TheOASG


Krystallina at the MangaPlaza

Manga fans are soon getting another legal manga source, so it’s time to check out its beta version.

NTT Solmare

If you’re a fan of dating sim apps, particularly otome games, you may recognize the name NTT Solmare. They’re behind games like the Shall We Date? series and Moe Ninja Girls. But in Japan, they’re better known for Comic C’moA, a large manga and light novel eBook platform that debuted in 2004. There are several parts to Comic C’moA. You can buy books, check out free serializations, rent chapters, or subscribe to one of their all-you-can-read plans for select titles.

Now, NTT Solmare is creating MangaPlaza, which was announced in December 2021. While not a direct English version of Comic C’moA, being as they’re from the same company, MangaPlaza is a new service that takes several cues from Comic C’moA. MangaPlaza is currently in beta with an official launch on March 1st. Preregistering helps increase the launch bonus for all users, with a goal of 100,000 users so that the first month will be free after rebate. MangaPlaza promises a wide selection of genres and publishers among its 10,000 available chapters. Some content will be exclusive to MangaPlaza while others will be from partnerships with other publishers like Kodansha Comics (Attack on Titan). MangaPlaza will also have some limited free reading, including all chapter 1’s, but registration may be required.

MangaPlaza

This is not NTT Solmare’s first attempt to reach out to English-speaking manga readers. In 2012, they created ComicFriends. ComicFriends was exclusive to Facebook and was to be the English language debut of the Kimagure Orange Road manga. Before that, there was ZQ Books for Apple devices which debuted in 2011, and even earlier than that, NTT Solmare had apps to purchase specific manga like Appleseed and Salaryman Kintaro starting around 2009. Some manga from author Solaruru in conjunction with NTT Solmare are still available to purchase. On Kindle, prices range from $1 for an 18 page story to $5 for a 48 page manga.

MangaPlaza

Okay, but let’s take a look at MangaPlaza. Based upon the press release, it’s only going to be for US audiences. Hopefully that’s just for now. We also know from it that a monthly subscription is going to cost $6.99. That’s above Azuki and Mangamo, but the same price as Manga Planet and Futekiya. However, their $6.99 rates are cheaper if you extend your subscription to a 3- or 6-month plan. The fact MangaPlaza will only accept PayPal at first may also be an issue. That also means there is no app version. The fact PC users can read MangaPlaza titles is good news, but I’m sure many are looking forward to apps optimized for iOS and Android that can provide push notifications and avoid clogging up browser history.

So off to MangaPlaza! Using a PC unless otherwise stated.

The top of the homepage for MangaPlaza advertises the pre-launch campaign. There’s a button at the top that will take you to a little bit of info about MangaPlaza like how it’s an official service, but that page is rather simple and pushes the preregistration offer again.

MangaPlaza homepage

The main page features a mix of manga groups and banners. The manga groups divide series up by publisher or theme/genre. There are only five categories right now, Kodansha, Fantasy & Drama, Love & Comedy, Love Romance, and Boys’ Love. “Love Romance” just seems awkward, and I imagine more groups will be added in the future.

A selection of titles from these categories have direct links to chapters right on the main page. I’m curious if this format is carried over into the final version, whether it will be the first chapters or the latest ones with quick links. I would think latest updates would be a must-have category too.

MangaPlaza Categories

Anyway, banners are mostly at the bottom of the page and either link to a genre or to a feature title. The banners that highlight a manga seem to be the only way to get to an info page about manga. Like, if you click on Attack on Titan‘s cover (because you can’t click on the name), you will jump into the reader. But by clicking on the banner of Attack on Titan, you can scroll down to see a compilation of manga panels interwoven with a summary. It’s like a 2D version of a movie trailer. Otherwise, right now, you’re going to have to jump into a new series only based on the title, the art, and if it’s in a thematic category outside of “Kodansha”.

MangaPlaza Attack on Titan Summary

The initial selection includes a healthy mix, but in case you couldn’t guess from the initial categories, MangaPlaza seems to favor romances or slice-of-life style titles. Not many options if you tend to like the super-popular Jump-style manga. It’s not often where I can say I think female audiences won, but I think us ladies won. Plus most (all?) of the shounen titles are Kodansha titles, and those are available elsewhere in part or whole. I don’t think there are any girls’ love manga yet, but there are a couple of non-BL categorized manga starring non-straight/LGBTQ+ individuals (and perhaps couples).

Kodansha Comics manga have four chapters available for their titles, but others range from 1 to 10. Mostly on the lower end right now, but that’s not an issue since I’m looking at it only a couple days into its beta period. During the beta period, there may be some titles that rotate in/out or get added at a different pace.

MangaPlaza Rom-Coms

To pre-register, all you need to do is enter an email address. Out of curiosity, I could enter multiple email addresses in the same window, and I could enter the same email twice, so it doesn’t block multiple entries. The email confirmation came right away and was just a basic text-only reminder the service launches March 1st and to subscribe by April 7th to get the cashback bonus.

I decided to start my reading with a series I recognized and could do some comparisons with: Or Something Like It (No, You na in Japanese). Note that if you click the cover on the main page, you can start reading. But you can’t click the cover for it or any other manga on category/genre pages. This is definitely something I want corrected in the final version because it’s already driving me crazy! Again, yeah, I expected to be taken to a series summary and chapter list page, but even in this beta version, it makes no sense how it’s programmed differently on the homepage versus other pages.

So anyway, click on chapter 1. Okay, see the cover, so I press my left arrow key to change the page. Nothing happens. After clicking in the middle to pull up the menu, I realized then by default the viewing method was single page vertical advancement. That is one of the two viewing methods for MangaPlaza, the other being two page book format (horizontal). Then I could use my arrow keys, thank goodness. Space bar also works, or, of course, clicking/tapping.

MangaPlaza Instructions

Really interesting since Comic C’moA, which has the same reader, defaulted to horizontal style. Maybe NTT Solmare suspects MangaPlaza will feature more mobile users? Vertical view is better than on some other platforms because all you need to do is tap to get to the next page in full instead of scrolling and trying to align the page in the browser to see it in full.

MangaPlaza 2 Page Viewer

On an iPad, switching to horizontal and then going to landscape mode does show two pages; otherwise, it’s one in portrait mode.

Other options in the menu include a progress bar (which you can choose a point to jump ahead) and zoom. Zoom only has one option besides the default; you can’t make it any larger (or smaller). There is no full screen button, but if you force your browser into full screen mode, the pages will adjust automatically to fill up the screen. The hamburger menu in the upper left hand corner is barebones, with only links to a small image of how to use MangaPlaza and returning to main page.

MangaPlaza Zoom View

The viewer does preload images, but if you go too fast, you’ll see a loading page. This is true even if you are going back to a previous page in the same chapter. Loading for initial pages was mostly super fast (about a second) but a couple of titles (Taking in a Stray, The Boy Out of My Reach) took about 7 seconds to show anything. Probably just random server blips.

Certain titles like Rose Bertin: The Dressmaker That Launched a Thousand Dreams did have color pages.

MangaPlaza Color Page

Most manga do have a credits page, but some don’t. Or Something Like That and The Petals Fall Thrice Over for The Petals Fall Thrice Over for You were two in the latter category. Finishing the chapter leads to a chapter list and a reminder to pre-register. Note that this list includes all the chapters for a series. And since there’s no title/chapter in the reader, if you finish one, it’s up to you to remember what chapter you need to read next. There is also no indication anywhere to show what you’ve read before or how far you’ve gotten. I’m sure that is going to be different in the final version of MangaPlaza, because that could get very annoying in longer series. Each chapter is technically a different webpage, but since the URLs aren’t neatly named or have a title, you won’t easily tell what you’ve read before even if you look up your browser history. Unless you’ve somehow memorized that https://reader-cpn.mangaplaza.com/speedreader/?cid=103030000050001 is Plus-Sized Misadventures in Love! chapter 1.

MangaPlaza End of Chapter

As a comparison, Comic C’moA ends its free serializations (maybe paid chapters too, I don’t know) with a link to click on the next chapter along with options to leave a comment, like the series, and favorite it. You can also access your read history by logging in. Those are all things likely to be brought over to MangaPlaza.

Going back to Or Something Like That, here are some of my personal thoughts on the adaptation. Sound effects were replaced with English equivalents. No honorifics were used. In the story, the protagonist, Kinaho, tells the two boys who come to live at her house to call her Kina-chan. The younger one does no problem, but the older one goes with “Kina-san”, which reflects his awkwardness and politeness. In this localization, it’s just “Kina”. The younger’s onii-chan was also replaced with the older brother’s name.

Their uncle, Akito, also introduces Kinaho as his girlfriend in the English version. That’s not incorrect, but considering Kinaho almost certainly has some hang-up about the idea of marriage and her relationship with Akito is very atypical, a more direct translation like “the woman I’m seeing/dating” would be my personal preference. Kinaho just doesn’t seem to me the type of woman to like a label like girlfriend. That’s just me though. Only thing I didn’t like about the lettering was that although the narration was an all-caps font, capital letters were still bigger. Found that annoying personally; with text, just make up your mind already, font! Either be all caps or not! Also, I didn’t notice any typos or other errors.

Overall First Impressions

The site as a whole is rather barebones right now, and I don’t doubt it will improve once MangaPlaza goes live. A pretty good number of chapters are available to read for free right now, so there is no reason not to go exploring even if some things are annoying, like not easily jumping to the next chapter. However, if you’re the type who prefers the Shonen Jump and MANGA Plus platforms over, say, the Renta! Store or even Kodansha Comics’ Digital First titles, MangaPlaza is probably not that enticing to you right now. Especially if a lot of their action series are already available at least in part on practically every other subscription service. Nice to see slice-of-life or realistic drama titles included when isekai manga are still so abundant. But we’ll have to wait to see what’s included to read in a subscription versus only available to rent or buy.

MangaPlaza Instagram

The price is a little higher than some of the recent manga subscription services, but hopefully the price can be reduced with a longer term plan.

But whether it’s only month-to-month or not, it would be great to get enough people will preregister so that one month will be free after rebate. From the terms, the reward won’t be sent until mid-April for users. So if you want only one month discounted, it seems like you should register in March but not pay for a subscription until April. As long as you pay by April 7th, you should get the $3+ back to reduce the out-of-pocket expenses. Otherwise, I don’t know what will happen if, hypothetically, you subscribe in March but cancel April’s plan. I mean, if you want to keep MangaPlaza, great, but if you’re just trying out the service or want to wait until some initial reviews come in, then make sure you set some reminders on when to sign up.

However, that only applies if 50,000 or more people preregister before the end of February and then sign up in March. So you can help out by heading over to MangaPlaza and entering your email as we wait for the full platform to go live!

Are you subscribed to any manga reading service? Have you checked out MangaPlaza yet? What titles are you interested in?



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