- As reported a few weeks ago, manga publisher VIZ Media recently rolled out a new format for its flagship magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump. Namely, the magazine is now exclusive to the digital format, and all new releases are free via the Shonen Jump application for iOS and Android. Now that the app has been rolled out for a couple weeks, let’s take a look and see how the app functions and the experience it provides readers.
The first thing that’s noticeable is the speed in which the app loads. Users are greeted by a bright yellow screen with the Shonen Jump logo before quickly transitioning to the main page. Even on my modest Android smartphone, the load speed is impressive, especially when compared to Comixology – considered by many to be the industry standard. The app layout is very clean. Latest chapters, featured anime, sales, and new volumes make up the home screen. The first thing available for me to click on was the RWBY The Official Manga in the “Latest Free Chapters” section. It brought me immediately to the series’ page and in one click I was reading the first chapter. There’s also an option to download chapters, but the stream worked flawlessly with zero noticeable loading of pages. Just for the sake of experimentation, if flicked my screen as fast as possible, and the app was able to keep pace with no issue. Should you be inclined, download speeds are fast, and they’ll remain on your device for seven days.
If there is a negative to the reading experience, it’s that VIZ doesn’t offer a panel-by-panel reading option which has become prominent across every other comic or manga app. Sure, I wasn’t expecting something as refined as Comixology’s Guided View, but even the buggy Marvel Unlimited app offers a clunky-yet-effective version of this reading style. Hopefully, this is something VIZ is able to incorporate in the future.
The rest of the app is very simple and clean, making for a user-friendly experience. Across the top, readers can select “All Series” to be taken to an alphabetical listing of all Shonen Jump series. A search bar at the top can help users quickly locate a series or author’s works. Once again, clicking into a given series will bring up a listing of chapters and volumes. For most series, three chapters are available to read. For completed series, it is the first three chapters. Current series offer the three most recent chapters for free. To be honest, I found this model to be great, especially when compared to Comixology Unlimited. The best part about this is that I was able to do all of this without signing up for an account or entering my billing information. This is all free and available to anyone.
Hitting the house icon brings users back to the home screen. Where they can access their library via the open book icon. I’ll admit that this is probably the most cumbersome part of the app, as it would have been nice to have the library icon accessible at all times. Once in the library, readers have access to all of their books which they have downloaded and/or purchased within the app.
To make purchases, you do need to have a VIZ Media account. Thankfully, you can sign up for an account directly in the app, as well as fill out the necessary billing information. Purchases are one thing, but the better deal looks to be the subscription model of $1.99 per month, which gives you access to every digital chapter in the library – collected volumes need to be purchased separately. Here’s an example to help clarify. You can buy the two volumes of All You Need is Kill at $6.99 each or spend $1.99 and have access to the 17 individual chapters which comprise the two volumes. While you technically never “own” them through the $1.99 subscription, there’s the argument that you don’t when you purchase digital comics either. So if it’s ultimately a wash, the $1.99 is a no brainer.
Overall, VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump app is a fantastic addition to my smartphone and tablet’s app library. With a tiny footprint (29.07 MB) and impressive responsiveness, I can’t think of a better comic experience in the digital landscape. Yes, the lack of a panel-by-panel option isn’t ideal, especially for smartphone users, it checks every other box in terms of performance and value. This is simply a great product from the manga giant.