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When Viz Media first rolled out their iPad app, I was rather critical because they launched with their most popular properties, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece, and early volumes of both are as common as dirt—why would anyone pay $4.99 for something they can get for free from their local library, Paperback Swap, or their best friend’s older brother?
I should have held my fire, because since then, Viz has been aggressive in rolling out new series and volumes on the app. They are launching two more series on the iPad this month, Merupuri and Natsume’s Book of Friends, which brings the total number of series to 15, and they have posted the first seven volumes of those launch series, which is great—volume 7 of Naruto is a lot harder to find than volume 1.
The app still focuses on series with a lot of teen appeal, mostly if not entirely from their Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat lines. That part still seems questionable—how many teenagers have iPads? On the other hand, plenty of parents have iPads, and mine gets passed around quite a bit in my house, so maybe it doesn’t matter.
Given their propensity for branding, it’s possible that Viz will release manga for older readers as a separate app—they are currently publishing manga online at their Shonen Sunday and SigIKKI sites, so apps tied to those imprints would be logical extensions of the brand. What I would really like to see, though, is a Viz Signature app gathering works by Naoki Urasawa (Pluto, 20th Century Boys), Fumi Yoshinaga (Ooku: The Inner Chamber, All My Darling Daughters), Natsume Ono (Gente, Ristorante Paradiso), and other more literary manga for grownups. It seems to me that the overlap between iPad owners and potential readers of those comics would be pretty large, so it could help them find a new audience—if the grownups can get the iPads away from the teenagers.