It’s been about a month since Viz Media converted Shonen Jump from a digital magazine to a subscription service, so it seems like a good time to check in and see how the changeover has gone. This is not the first time the Viz has changed the magazine’s format; it began as a monthly print magazine before pivoting to a weekly digital magazine in 2012.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the new Shonen Jump is a little hard to navigate. While the website version has horizontal scrolling and a sortable list, the iOS client puts everything in a single vertical list ordered by release date on the front page. There’s a “browse” tab that lets you see titles alphabetically and is much easier to use, but it isn’t immediately apparent that it’s there, especially for longtime users, as that tab used to link to the web store.
Once you find the title you want to read, it doesn’t get much easier. The tablet version lets you jump to every 100th chapter for longer series, and you can sort chapters by newest or oldest, but there’s absolutely no indicator that any given chapter has been read yet. That’s going to be a problem for someone working their way through an older series like One Piece, which has over 900 chapters.
I can’t help but think that this transition is a little rushed, and not just because I got an e-mail reminder to renew my annual subscription to the magazine version three days before they announced the change and discontinued annual subscriptions. Viz has promised that they’re working on an improved UI experience, but now that the holidays are over and Shonen Jump is going to resume weekly publication we’ve got to judge the client for what it is now.
Even though it’s a little difficult to navigate at the moment, there’s undeniably a lot of content here. I counted 88 different series from Shonen Jump’s publication history, including the full runs of popular titles like Dragon Ball, One Piece, Bleach and Naruto. About 20 of those are ongoing series with new chapters being simultaneously published with the Japanese release. With a subscription price of $1.99/month the older chapters are basically an added value on top of the price of the weekly digital magazine the new Jump is replacing.
That said, there are some notable holes in the collection. One Punch Man and Hunter X Hunter, both of which were in the weekly digital magazine, are currently entirely absent from the service. In addition, the new simulpub titles which weren’t in the weekly magazine (like ACT-AGE, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and Haikyu!!) are missing large numbers of chapters between the current ones and those previously published in collected volumes. The worst offender is Kimetsu no Yaiba, which skips over 100 chapters.
I’d also like to see more diversity in the titles on the platform. Viz has a large catalogue of Shojo Beat titles, but only one is available here: Boys Over Flowers Season 2, a carryover from when it was released for free on the Viz website alongside other titles from the Japanese Shonen Jump+ digital platform. Adding more Shojo Beat titles or even offering a separate subscription for a similar Shojo Beat platform would be a great move. I wouldn’t mind seeing Viz’s Shonen Sunday titles like Detective Conan added here, either.
The bottom line here is that while the Shonen Jump platform needs a lot of work, the value here is undeniable. For a monthly fee that’s half the price of a single issue of a print comic, you get access to about twenty simulpub titles and huge number of backlist titles. Even the usability issues, which really do need to be addressed, probably aren’t enough to make most fans pass up the sheer value the service provides.