U.S. manga and anime distributor Viz Media LLC will synchronize manga titles published on its Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha digital manga anthology with their Japanese releases.
The long-awaited move for real-time publishing will start with the Jan. 21, 2013, release, the company said.
Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha is a subscription based, digital English version of Shueisha Inc.'s Weekly Shonen Jump manga anthology. Initially, it published new episodes two weeks after their Japanese releases.
The latest episodes from Shonen Jump, including "Bleach," "Cross Manage," "Naruto," "Nisekoi," "One Piece" and "Toriko" will be simultaneously published online on Alpha. In addition, new episodes of "Blue Exorcist," "Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration" and "Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal," which are running in monthly comic magazines also from Shueisha, will be published the closest Monday after their Japanese debut.
Viz Media said it will add more titles to its lineup.
The company decided to meet the needs of North American fans by closing "the gap in release schedules," it added.
The move is also intended to expand the number of subscribers and to fight bootlegs running rampant over the Internet.
Simultaneous international streaming of Japanese anime, which has won a sizable fan base in North America, has already been available online. It is believed to be playing a role in preventing pirated copies and gaining more subscribers.
Alpha was introduced in January 2012, replacing its original paper-based edition. Readers can sign up for 52 weeks of digital access to 48 weekly issues for an annual subscription of $25.99.
The rare move to completely replace an existing leading comic magazine with the digital edition appears to stem from the fact that children have less access to bookstores in their neighborhood compared with those in Japan. The company also seems likely to cut down on costs for distribution and sales and to middlemen that charge more commission fees than in Japan.
But with paper-based publications disappearing from bookstores in North America, it will likely be hard for manga publishers to gain a new fan base.
Visit Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha's website at (http://www.sjalpha.com/).
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