This week marked a major landmark in the digital revolution, as the famous Shounen Jump weekly manga anthology magazine finally started publishing chapters in English, completely legally, on the same day as they go out in Japan. Given the colossal popularity of series such as Naruto, Bleach and One Piece in the US as well as in their country of origin, this is one of the biggest developments in the western digital manga industry to date.
Manga columnist Deb Aoki has published an article which covers the fan reaction so far as well as some comments from the magazine's side. The ignorant remarks from a few fans have been depressing to read, but overall a lot of people seem to be willing to get behind this. If it's a successful venture it bodes well for English manga distribution in future. The one fly in the ointment so far is that the English-language version, Shonen Jump, is limited to readers in the US and Canada. Region locking once again rears its ugly head!
If, like me, you're not from the US, I cannot stress enough how important it is to let the people behind Shounen Jump know that we're out there and waiting for our chance to enjoy simultaneous manga releases. They've produced a handy little form you can complete asking where you're from and whether you want to read Shounen Jump in English. I implore everyone from overseas who reads this to take a moment to participate if possible and let their voices be heard; the more feedback that the decision-makers get, the faster they will realise that something needs to be done.
If you can't think of three manga titles you want to request on the form, may I suggest that Kuroko No Basuke and Gintama could always use more votes..? I've noticed a fair number of visitors to this blog come here searching for more information about Gintama, and there's no better way to expand its fanbase than to give the official English manga release a second chance in the marketplace.
In any case, congratulations to the lucky fans in the US and Canada; I'll keep my fingers crossed that we'll be joining you soon to reap the benefits of digital distribution.