A few weeks ago, I finally did what a rational manga consumer and someone who attempts to write about manga would do: consume everything that MangaBox has to offer and try and talk to people behind MangaBox. Let’s just say the last part was mostly a pipe dream. But I worked with what I got. In the end though, you probably want to know one thing: is MangaBox worth your time?
Initial Experience of Trying MangaBox
Intimidating. The first intimidating part was me attempting to read manga on my iPhone. I never read manga on my iPhone. In defense of myself, I did just get one in January, but the point is, it was a new experience for me, so it was unusual to try and read on the phone.
The second intimidating part was the amount of manga that was available to be read — I didn’t really know where to start, and thus, I had to figure out what to try out first. But I did get to read it. I’ve read 10 weeks worth of MangaBox manga. So I’ll believe I can get away with talking about some things I liked and did not like:
Three Things I Like About MangaBox
3) The Manga. Needless to say, after I stopped worrying about what to read and dove in, I found that there’s a lot to like here, as the manga selection has more of a Seinen feel with its content and manages to get away with some stuff that you might not expect. I’ll give you my Top 10 manga that I like, along with some I’m
easilyextremely amused by, later on in this piece.
2) The accessibility. You have a strict selection of content every week. That’s it. You can get to them with ease. Generally the biggest worry with these types of places to read manga is that at the start the content is inaccessible, and hard to get to. Not the case with MangaBox, as it’s ready right out of the box. I had no problems with it.
1) It’s free! I mean, there’s a reason why it’s been downloaded so often right? If you have an iPhone or Android, then it’s hard to really turn that down.
Four Things I Did Not Like About MangaBox
4) Manga Box Volumes have expiration dates. I didn’t even notice it, but MangaBox Volumes have expiration dates. So I guess I’ll update this later to see what happens (although I think you’ll have the first chapters available for a while), but for now, I’ll wonder how people can catch up to certain chapters of manga if they download the MangaBox app a week, two weeks, two months down the road. Maybe this is just the limits of being a free service?
3) Reading it as a two page spread sucks. Well, for me since I’m using an iPhone 4 most likely, but it’s definitely not fun trying to read it as two pages. Best to read it as one. (Update: Informed you can only read it as a single pg on an Android phone. No worries then for you peeps!)
@Kami_nomi For some reason their mobile apps can’t be downloaded outside NA, but the website works.
— Petteri Uusitalo (@ptjtsubasa) February 16, 2014
@Kami_nomi On the website you can read only the first and the latest chapter, though. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a feature.
— Petteri Uusitalo (@ptjtsubasa) February 16, 2014
That’s kind of weird. Now, I guess the website’s intended to advertise the manga it has and offer it as a preview, but why can’t it be downloaded outside of North America? What type of politics is going on behind the scenes? Well, whatever the case, that’s disappointing, and hopefully that’ll be fixed in due time. (Note also the first and last chapters thing, since that’s my 4th thing I didn’t like.)
1) The Android Market removing manga. I had talked to Abby Lehrke, who’s the translator on Hideki’s Can’t Ride a Bicycle and Kazuhiro Urata’s My Grandpa’s Stories Can’t Be This Weird! (to name a few), and she let me know how much work she’s had to do (though it was fine after the initial start), how she was surprised that people were reading MangaBox in the US, and how she’s had to redo some manga. “The Android market is apparently more strict about stuff like raunchy jokes (and later on added, “d*** jokes) and stuff,” she told me over email. That made me ask her about some tweets I saw about Google Play removing some stuff a few weeks ago, and she essentially confirmed that; they even took out a couple of comics from Yoko Sanri’s Milk on The Farm 4-panel comic. So yeah, good job humans who don’t understand what manga is, good job. (Ok, so maybe I’m being too harsh, especially since I doubt I read the raunchy content, might have been removed already.)
Update: Ok, it looks like I gave the humans running the account too much credit: Peephole is banned on Android. It almost makes me wonder if there are any other differences between that and the iPhone. But I don’t have an Android. Whatever the case, this isn’t good.
The Ten Best Manga on MangaBox
Well, for me at least. If you’ve tried out the service, your Top 10 is probably better than mine.
10. In a Heartbeat
By Neruko Sugu; Translated by Jennifer J. Ward; Adapted by Alexandra E. Swanson
I rarely read any Yaoi works, but I have aimed to try and read them at some point. But of course, knowing what material I can handle is mixed, but I do know I want to start off slow. Neruko Sugu’s In a Heartbeat will work. This tells the story of Hide, who had been suffering from loneliness from moving to a new town, and his developing feelings for Haru, the man who saved him from his depression. It’s pretty heartbreaking what happens to the two, or specifically Hide, who has to deal with never sharing his feelings to Haru. The art is ok and there’s no noticeable character design flaws. Just a sweet, hard to hate type of manga. And exactly at the level for someone who doesn’t read Yaoi that often.
9. Spoof on Titan
By hounori (Story based off Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan); Translated by Steven LeCroy
I have an extreme weakness to 4th wall, out of character, behind the scenes stuff involving a lot of works, so it would make sense that I would instantly like Spoof on Titan, even if the jokes are more miss than hits. Though the past couple weeks have been more hits though. I’m mostly just amused at how it treats all the characters, the comedic art style (still better than the actual manga!), and Eren counting titans instead of sheep in his sleep and ok yeah I think that’s all I have to say before I spoil everything.
8. The Knight in The Area: Side Story
By Hiroaki Igano, Art by Kaya Tsukiyama; Translated by Xepetto
I actually have some experience with Knight of The Area. I watched 9 episodes of the anime series on Crunchyroll. Then I watched a better Fútbol anime in Ginga e Kickoff, and all of a sudden, all of its flaws that I already had issues with came to light in the worst way, and I gave up on it. I didn’t touch the manga series to find out if it was better. When I saw it was on MangaBox though, I was like, “Hmm, I guess I’ll get to see if it’s better than the manga.” But I read the description and learned this is actually a side story that focuses on Teppei Iwaka, who is the coach of Enoshima FC in the main Knight in The Area series, and how he was in his high school days. It’s pretty interesting to read it, since it goes deep into team issues, and I’m interested to see how it plays out.
By Yusuke Hashimoto; Translated by David Rhie; Adaptation by Alexandra Swanson
This is probably the manga work of my dreams. Have a main character who’s about as critical of his abilities as Kazu and just give him cleaning powers. That’s Kazu in a nutshell. It just however so happens that he’s a Yokai though, and that means he needs to meet his end by the angel Miharu. Well, that was the plan, but he “cleaned” his way into her temporary good graces, and from then on it’s been him trying to survive not getting killed by her. The comedy is ok and the art, while fairly simplistic in parts, works because of the off-beat humor Hashimoto has incorporated into the manga. It’s also hilarious how useless Kazu is as a fighter, and his attempts at not fighting are great. Or maybe just him having the most random ability to clean (he even cleans the entire school, and does it so well that no one else can actually clean it) is what amuses me the most. Whatever the case, I look forward to reading this when the chapters are available each week.
6. High-Rise Invasion
By Tsuina Miura, Art by Takahiro Ohba; Translated by Mariko Nakagawa, Shoko Holes; Adaptation by Jessi Nuss
Yuri is a normal high school girl who…mysteriously finds herself in a world where people with masks wield axes and kill things. Needless to say, she’s in a world of trouble, and before she can figure out a way to get out, she needs to figure out how to survive!
This is a pretty interesting series, filled with some violence, misguided suicides (and you get to see it too), and just a general is-this-girl-gonna-see-her-brother feeling, which means I have to keep reading to find out. I don’t know if this would be an appropriate preview for Ajin, or what will be known as Demi-Human in the US, but if you want to get a taste of Tsuina Miura’s style, High-Rise Invasion is worth a try.
5. Billion Dogs
By Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Art by Naoki Serizawa
Billion Dogs, when I read it initially, for some reason reminded me of Death Note. I’m not even sure why, it just did. I guess the art style was a factor, even if they’re nowhere near the same. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Well, maybe it’s because we have Ichiru, who wants to change things in society, or expose his father (who’s the mayor) for the crimes he’s committing. Oh, and he wants to find 3 Billion Yen. With the intrigue for me being there, along with Ichiru’s plan, I like to see where this is going.
4. GREEN WORLDZ
by Yusuke Osawa; Translated by Aaron Dodson; Adaptation by Jessi Nuss
Attack on Titan, eat your heart out! You may have titans, but GREEN WORLDZ has plants! Plants I tell ya! Oh, and a killer plant baby. Well, maybe. Whatever the case, add this work to the list of survival story manga that exist, though I like it so far. After all, it’s hard to hate on something where plants take over the planet. The only question is of course, who’s going to die, and will Akira actually get to see Yui again. Aside from that, it’s a fairly thrilling read so far, and I contend the chapters are too short.
3. First Love Suicide Pact
By Yosuke Suzaki; Translated by Emiko Matsuda; Adapted by Takako Iwaki
The only real issue I have with this work is the art is not quite so sharp and sometimes downright forgettable at times. Get over that, and all of a sudden, the story about two people who wanted to commit suicide — one’s a student, the other’s a teacher — becomes pretty interesting. It becomes especially interesting when they both agree to kill themselves a year from now. Whether that happens or not, we’ll have to see. But I’m just mostly interested in finding out if they’ll have more conversations while someone dead is in their presence. Yes, that seriously happens. This manga is kinda twisted.
2. Kindachi Case Files: Takato’s Side
By Seimaru Amagi, Art by Fumiya Sato; Translated by Abby Lehrke
I’m generally someone that goes with the obvious about 90% of the time. What I mean by that is the Top 2 manga were decided upon once I read past their first (for Kindachi, it’s second) chapters and caught up to the latest one. That’s significant since I intended to read each manga one volume at a time. But these two works made me catch up immediately.
Though, really, the REAL reason I caught up to Takato’s Side is because I HATE it. I HATE how it had that innocent first chapter (though it ended kinda coyly), then had that threatening page at the end of the second chapter, and then forced me to read it until I hoped this case would be solved. IT’S STILL NOT SOLVED! I HATE that I have to wonder if these people in the magic club are dead, or if it’s one big trick. I HATE that the story is executed in a such a manner that makes Detective Conan look minuscule in comparison. Look, I just HATE this work. I hope this entire mystery gets solved so I can stop reading this work!
Oh, one more thing: this is obviously a side story based off of the real series serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine. Well, I can guess this: I’ll HATE that too! Urgh.
By Rahson; Translated by Jennifer J. Ward; Adaptation by Mika Anami
After the first few pages of Chapter 1 where we had our main protagonist Kurosu peep on a girl who happened to be masturbating, I wasn’t entirely sure how long I’d last in the work. Then I got to the end and…and…before I knew it I caught up to the latest chapter. It honestly took me by surprise. And what happens after that literally just made me shake my head at how great it was. Like, there are things I have to know, and I have no idea if they’ll get answered as quickly as I want them to.
All I know is that just when you think you’ve met the worst people of society, or the do-nothings like Kurosu (he’s a shut-in), you then realize there are people that manage to be worse than shut-ins. Or just plain crazy. And how these two people interact with each other and the people around them make this a work that’s fresh and very interesting. Just a heads up: the content has a warning for mature content/sexual violence, so it’s not for everyone. But if you can handle it, you might be surprised that you want to find out what happens next…
Manga That I’m Amused By Because I’M EASILY AMUSED, OK???
Schoolgirl Landlord Honoka, by Toshihiko Kobayashi
The only reason I’m probably reading this is because of Honoka, and, as how the characters describe her, is “just too cute.” Everything else where she happens to have her clothes taken off by girls, or having girls in nothing but their underwear while drawing hentai manga, or Honoka actually being a landlord, is just extras, I swear.
NadeNadeShikoShiko, by Tarako Umeyama
A cute 4-panel series where Totoki ends up meeting a girl who’s actually a caveman. So that means she has…primitive tendencies. I’m pretty sure I’m only reading this because of the hot mom. (Again wonders why moms are hot in manga series).
Man’s Bestest Friend, by Hiroyuki Tamakoshi
This is a story about a dude who literally had the sweetest romance ever…then because he couldn’t commit to marrying his girl friend, she dumped him. He then ends up having the dog he brought for his girlfriend turn into a high school girl…in a school uniform.
…I don’t know why I like this either.
Logick, by Takuma Nishimaki
Masa’s about to go drop out of his art school, with the case that it’s boring him…until a random first year student makes him her teacher. Exactly why is this girl doing this? What’s her real game aside from stealing diaries (and reading them) without permission? Well, whatever the case, it’s fairly interesting and worth a read every once in a while. Or maybe just seeing the two of them interact is cute.
Your turn to check out Manga Box!
So ok, I’ve checked out the service. Now it’s your turn! You can give the first chapters of all the works a spin online; otherwise, you can download it to your phone and Android and read it there. Let me know your thoughts on the service, some of your manga favorites (and guilty pleasures, don’t leave me hanging!!!), or anything else you want to mention. Everything’s fair game!
Justin is the Editor-in-Chief of Organization Anti-Social Geniuses, a Japanese Pop Culture blog. When he’s not trying to catch up to all his backlogged anime series, he’s trying to read his backlog of manga series. You can follow him on Twitter @Kami_nomi