VIZ Manga App for iPad

I’ve been doing the majority of my comic reading on the iPad lately. The iPad’s form factor and crisp backlit screen makes it a natural fit for comics. My favorite general-purpose comic reader is the comiXology reader for iPad. It features a large selection of free and paid comics available for in-app download, including titles from Marvel and DC, but it has a very small selection of manga. That’s where the VIZ Manga App comes in.

This free app lets you download and read a selection of manga from VIZ, including titles like Dragon Ball, Vampire Knight, and Naruto. There are some previews available for free, so you can get a taste of how the app works without spending any money. And through the end of March 2011, all the “Volume 1” books are on sale for 99 cents each, which is a great deal. Right now the full price books are $4.99 each, which is still a good deal considering these are around 150-200 pages each.

The actual content on this app looks great. When I read manga here, I feel like I’m basically seeing the same thing as in the paper version. The text is clear and legible even when it gets down to smaller sizes, and the app shows a whole page at a time, with no need to zoom in to read things (although zooming is supported). Swiping a finger across the screen scrolls to the next page without any noticeable delay.

One somewhat odd feature in this app is that it keeps track of what page you’re on in a book, but if you switch to a different book and then back to the original one, it will lose your place in the original manga unless you had manually set a bookmark. This is not really a problem once you get used to it, but it surprised me because I assumed it would work more like the Kindle app, which keeps track of the current page in all the books separately.

I like some of the quirky manga on the VIZ app, like Toriko, a story about a “gourmet hunter” who travels the world seeking the most delicious and exotic cooking ingredients. And my favorite manga so far on the app is Bakuman, which tells the story of two high school boys who are trying to break into the manga industry, one as an artist and the other as a writer.

Bakuman is written by the creative team behind Death Note and has a similar visual style, but none of the supernatural elements of its predecessor. In fact, it reads more like non-fiction. It could have been subtitled “Behind the scenes at Shonen Jump.” The reader (along with the main characters) learns all about the business side of manga: everything from how stories are chosen for publication, to the intense competition between editors to find and develop hits. There’s a romantic subplot too, but the main appeal comes from the insider’s view of the manga industry.

I recommend both the VIZ Manga App, and Bakuman as must-have content for it.