My Start with Alpha Manga

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Another week, another new manga service! You know what that means — a dive into the world of Alpha Manga!

Alpha Manga

Alpha Manga is a new app available for iOS and Android devices. There is a website, but it only includes information about Alpha Manga. Alpha Manga is run by AlphaPolis, a Japanese manga/light novel publisher whose website includes titles to read, business news, games, and more.

Again, the website provides little information outside of the usual legal stuff, but one key point is that the app is listed as being for Japanese and English-speaking users, but not for Europe.

However, on the website is a full list of Alpha Manga titles.

Right away, two stick out. First is Gate: Where the JSDF Fought. This manga was licensed by Sekai Project, who are known for their visual novel releases, but only two volumes were put out before the company dropped their license. I’m sure there are fans glad to see this series be given another chance in English, but for those who bought physical copies and wanted to complete the series, the fact a digital manga reading service picked this up is probably disappointing over a publisher that does print releases.

Another series to note is The New Gate, which is being published physically by One Peace Books. And while I am jumping ahead a bit, I did check out a few pages of Alpha Manga’s release, and it does look to be the same as One Peace Books’. So perhaps it is possible for someone to partner with Alpha Manga for physical versions, or at least full eBook volumes.

The App

But let’s back up. I downloaded the Alpha Books app onto my iPad Air 3. Starting up, the main page features a top carousel of highlighted titles, but all of these header images have the title in Japanese. For some, like New Saga, the English title is a part of the Japanese logo, but otherwise, readers are going to have to try to match the image to a title’s series art unless they can read Japanese and can guess the English title.

Right now, there are three categories: Recently Updated, Shonen, and Shojo. Manga that has had a recent chapter gets a banner on its image, and all manga has the date of its last update on the main art. Fans who prefer seinen and josei manga may be disappointed, but all may not be lost. Manga like The New Gate and Gate: Where the JSDF Fought are usually categorized as seinen. I didn’t find any manga that would be classified as josei, but it is possible there are some. I’m guessing though that Alpha Manga is just categorizing all male works as shonen and female manga as shojo. Either way, manga on here appears to be isekai or otherworld/non-isekai fantasy. So this isn’t an app for those who prefer slice-of-life stories or realistic psychological dramas.

Besides Home, the other main sections of the app are Smart Lists, My Page, and Settings. Smart Lists includes three parts: Browsed, Favorites, and Rented. The latter two are only available if you have an Alpha Manga account and is self-explanatory. My Page is also restricted to those who are signed in. (More on that in a bit.) Finally, settings includes controls for notifications, a list of messages from Alpha Manga, help, and other info.

You can choose “see all” on the main page for an easier look at all the titles, but I still wish there was a main button to access the full catalog. There is a search feature available, with options for some of the tags available and a manga’s current status. When entering a key word though, I don’t know exactly what it checks against. Below you’ll see my results for “gate”.

The first two are obvious, but the only reason I think Goodbye, Dragon Life popped up was because the summary includes the word “investigate”. So even if you can’t remember a title, some key words from a summary will do, but I imagine some combinations may bring up unrelated titles. Like here, I was only expecting Gate: Where the JSDF Fought and The New Gate.

So to start, I chose May I Ask for One Final Thing? to check out. It’s one of the titles highlighted at the top, the one with the girl putting on gloves. Clicking on a title will bring up a series info and chapter page, similar to most apps. The page shows when the last update was and when the next update will be, and it looks like most titles will be updated once a week — for now, at least, perhaps until the English versions catch up to the Japanese release.

I do wonder once a manga is up-to-date with its Japanese counterpart how long it will take for the English version to debut. Perhaps there will be simulpubs? All the press release says is that manga will be updated weekly or monthly.

You can click on a manga’s tags and find similar-themed series. Tags including usual genres like action and comedy, the aforementioned shonen/shojo, and themes like isekai and villainess. The “See More” button will finish the manga’s summary as well as provide info on the creator(s) and localization staff names.

Back on the chapter list, there’s an ad at the bottom of the page. I did choose the don’t track option for ads upon downloading Alpha Manga, but still there were some…interesting choices in ads I received, like this first one:

Clicking on a chapter, you don’t go straight to the chapter. You get a mini-menu. And what kept tripping me up is that I need to press the Read button. That may seem like a “Duh!!” moment, but I see Chapter 1 and free in a box, my eyes go straight to it! To me, it’s like when you see a website logo in the corner and you can’t click on it to go to the homepage. Drives me crazy.

Anyway, if it says free, there must be paid chapters, right? According to the press release, the first three chapters of a manga will be free. Beyond that, “after the expiry of the free content period, further chapters will no longer be available for free”, and readers can use one of their limited free tickets or purchase new ones to read those chapters.

Upon Alpha Manga’s release, ten chapters of each manga were available, and ones who appear to update on Thursdays had an eleventh available. All chapters so far were free, but those four manga (A Journey Through Another World ~Raising Kids While Adventuring~, Offense and Defense in Daites, Multi-mind Mayhem, and New Saga) had notices on their fourth and fifth chapters that they would soon be locked. So perhaps it’s the latest six chapters that will be free along with the first three?

But if you show up on July 15th or afterward and want to read chapters four and five, be aware: if you chose to unlock them, they are not available for you permanently; they are available for 7 days before needing to be repurchased. I’m not sure how they count 7 days — is it a full 168 hours? The first day counts as day 1 no matter if you rent it at 12 AM or 11:59 PM? Does it reset on Japanese time or when the app updates with any new content for the day? Lots of ways you can count 7 days.

I wanted to read a bit before signing up to experiment again, but since I’m on the subject of the unlocking chapters, I’ll talk about that first. Signing up requires a username (which can be changed), an email address, and a password. (FYI, for anyone with an AlphaPolis account, you can’t use that login; you must create a new one.)

So I entered my info, and the next screen says I need to click on an email to confirm my account within 24 hours or I will need to re-register. I had my laptop with my email opened next to me, so I checked it for the message. I got the registration confirmation email right away, clicked on it, and…

I disabled my adblocker and tried in Google Chrome, but no go. So I thought maybe I needed Alpha Manga to send another email. But there was no option. Out of curiosity, since I didn’t want to switch emails, I tried signing up with the exact same info — same username, email, and password. Sure enough, a second email came through. It was quite unsettling to me; my info wasn’t stored in a temporary account database saying this email/username was unavailable?? Doesn’t seem secure to me.

I tried logging in, and all I got was “check your email”. Then I realized maybe I needed to open the email on my iPad, but that didn’t work either. Although there was an email to reach out to contact Alpha Manga, I was going to wait for a day or two, see if it was new app glitches. Then I read this Tweet:

The account verification link is region locked which is, weird? Since the rest of the site isn’t (had to use a proxy)

— Shiroi Hane (@shiroihane) July 8, 2021

So even though I’m clearly in the US, I turned on my VPN.

I…I don’t even…What??? Google in a new tab and in incognito mode knows where I am, and Alpha Manga can’t even figure out which country I’m in? On two different devices??? I’m kind of glad I didn’t use my good email and such, because I can’t help feeling uneasy about their security.

Finally signing in brings up the terms regarding tickets. There are three types:

Bonus Tickets: Automatically awarded daily after 5 AM. You can have up to 12 at a time and hold them for up to 1 year.
Purchased Tickets: Tickets users pay for and have no restrictions.
Premium Tickets: Awarded after watching ads or completing goals. Ads are limited to three per half day. 10 points (PP) equal one ticket.

Goals are the usual gacha/freemium app things of downloading other apps and signing up for things. Ticket prices start at 12 for $.99. Packages top out at $79.99, but any bundles over $7.99 include extra. The $3.99 for 49 tickets is an oddity in that it doesn’t reduce the per-ticket price from the previous tier. Users would be better off paying $1.99 twice ($3.98 total) for 50 tickets — so saving a penny plus getting an extra one.

Until this introductory period ends, it is unknown how many tickets an average chapter requires or if/how it varies.

After logging in, the app slightly changes in parts to reflect your tickets. These are always shown in the bottom corner, and when you go to start a free chapter, it assures you a ticket won’t be used.

The My Page section includes your current number of tickets, redemption history, and options to change your login info (or close your account completely).

Starting a chapter, like with Manga Flip, the date and time show up over the manga pages. Clicking in the middle brings up options including going to the next or previous chapter, favoriting a title, leaving a comment, and sharing it.

The actual menu button brings up the chapter list. Here and also on the series page, chapters you start are grayed with a little red arrow showing your last one. But the app does not remember your progress. Anytime you go back to one you’ve started/read in full, you go back to the beginning.

A progress bar is normally super handy for things like this, but well, it’s super small and hard to see and find. The thin bar is practically invisible unless it’s a blank loading page (and especially so if there’s whitespace right where the bar is), and it disappears after two seconds. Maybe there’s a sweet spot to trigger it at the very bottom of a device, but basically, it’s so hard to use you’re better off saying there isn’t one.

Yes, it’s there. It’s right at the bottom near the edge of her bottom ruffle.

In portrait mode, pages are aligned to the left or right. Alpha Manga does switch to landscape mode, and the black area moves to the top and bottom. That looks better, especially since now the time and other info are not covering up the actual visuals.

Loading was a little slow, often taking 5-10 seconds to get the first page ready to start, with similar speeds before and after logging in. Pages after that were usually ready though at my normal reading speed, but if you want to, say, get back to the part where you already left off, you’re probably going to have to wait. Unless you manage to get the aforementioned chapter progress bar before it disappears.

Interestingly enough, if you zoom in, you can continue to read like that right on to the next page. Reading like this gives a manga a vomic-like atmosphere. While I wouldn’t read a manga myself this way, for those with vision problems or just like things big, it’s nice you aren’t forced to reset every time you move on to a new page or that there’s difficultly in moving on. It flows very smoothly. Only downside is those dark black bars, which balloon too in zoom, look even more out-of-place, like pages have been uploaded incorrectly even though they are not. But on the actual pages, it’s pretty neat.

Quality was good. I did notice some typos and other such things in May I Ask One Last Thing? chapter 1 and beyond, including “stuyding” and “Even if defeat the proctor” (supposed to be an “I” in there). I also noticed other things that probably needed to be edited, like the heroine calling her fiancée both “Master Kyle” and “Prince Kyle”. This and other manga I later tried didn’t use honorifics. Considering a lot of these manga are fantasy stories taking place in other worlds, that’s not too surprising.

At the end of a chapter, there’s a page urging readers to leave a like. Some of these are generic Alpha Manga pages, and some have a special picture related to the series. (Although the English translation may be hard to see with the menu!) After that, there’s a page for comments.

The numbers are a bit misleading though. Finishing the chapter, it showed 0 likes, but that’s just the number of your (or in this case, my) likes. And you can Like the same chapter multiple times. So finishing May I Ask for One Final Thing? again, I added a like to boost the series’ total number to 134. But I could also add more likes to that same chapter, so now thanks to me repeatedly Liking the first chapter, the number rose to 140. So even though a series may have a lot of hearts, it could just be one or two people repeatedly boosting the numbers. I don’t like that.

Final Thoughts

So while Alpha Manga has some downsides (no PC version, a bit slow, non-English header images, the whole signup process), it’s got quite a selection of free reading. Maybe they will eventually reduce the number of free chapters, but assuming three earliest + six latest, that’s pretty good. And at least there are options for accessing locked content without being forced to pay. Again, how good may depend on how many tickets a chapter costs, but for now, you can read almost everything for free since Alpha Manga is still so new. While shonen outnumbers shojo 2:1, that’s still 10 manga targeting female readers, including the popular villainess genre and isekai.

I knew a few of these manga from AlphaPolis’ website, and Alpha Manga certainly brought over some of their biggest hits. Really hope they enter the physical manga market themselves or by teaming up with a publisher, because I’d love to see May I Ask for One Final Thing? (and others, but especially this one) in bookstores. If you haven’t already, download the app. With 30 manga available on the service right now, there’s a high chance there’s a series you’ll want to follow along with and you might as well find out which ones those are before chapters start getting locked.

Have you downloaded Alpha Manga yet? What did you think of the app? Are there any series that stood out to you?

The post My Start with Alpha Manga appeared first on TheOASG.

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