Mangamo, a new manga streaming app built by executives from Hulu, Crunchyroll, Netflix, Viz, and others has launched with hundreds of titles and a two month trial, perfect for testing the waters on new books or a new comics format. The app is available on iOS devices initially, and we got a chance to test drive it for you. As the web’s foremost manga connoisseur*, I felt uniquely qualified to give an official opinion.
*I’m definitely not that. I have read and enjoyed a good amount of manga prior to checking out this app, but most of what I’ve read can be classified as “Greatest Hits” – a lot of stuff that was adapted into anime and sent over here on Toonami, for example, as well as the titans of the genre like Akira and Pluto. So actually, I think I’m just the right person to review this: I have a phone, very little background knowledge, very little money to spend, and plenty of time to kill. Let’s read some manga on
The user experience on Mangamo is pretty good right out of the gate. The whole point of Mangamo is promotion: to get new books and new concepts in the eyeballs of new readers, and in that, the app is very effective.
When you open the app, new books and new chapters are highlighted at the top, and as you scroll down, books are highlighted by some helpfully specific genres, like “Time Travel” or “Don’t Read This At Night.” The promotional art for each series is, as far as I can tell, extremely effective. There are some striking images that are cropped really effectively to draw readers in.
Once you pick a series, you again get some helpful promo art on the series page. You get the option of choosing the chapter to begin on, or you get brought to the last page you read if you’re continuing a story.
The biggest issue I had were some occasional long load times, which may be explained by the fact that I was using a test build – the final release will likely perform better.
THE READING EXPERIENCE
Once in a book, everything worked great. I was a little worried going into it that they might try and change the scroll to left-right instead of the correct right-left panel flow. Swapping directions feels like the comics equivalent of speaking bad English very loudly in a foreign country – it doesn’t help anyone understand, but it certainly makes you sound like an idiot. Thankfully, they did not. Everything moves in the correct direction. Unless you choose vertical scroll, which is an option, but don’t do that.
To me, the books read beautifully. I am a guided view purist (in that I hate it and don’t use it), and I was happy to discover that it didn’t exist on Mangamo, and that zooming in would still give you the easy ability to scroll around the panel and take in all of the fine detail of the page.
The art looks great, by the way. The best thing that digital comics production did was revolutionize the way colorists practiced their trade, but that revolution obscured how great some of these devices make inks pop. Good manga art looks really good on Mangamo.
The rest of the production quality is suitably professional. A lot of the manga internet is built on fansubs, which is a moral grey area not worth litigating here, but professional localization makes a noticeable difference in the reading experience.
The genre listings are exceptionally helpful in choosing what to read, but the most impressive thing about them is that they’re mostly not one-offs. There’s a lot here, even in the limited reviewer access. Even if you’re just looking for high profile stuff like Attack on Titan, you will probably find something you recognize. But the app makes it so easy to try new things, you’ll probably be able to find something you haven’t heard of easily and dig into it.
Considering how much I read, a two month free trial is a no brainer, even with three other comics streaming services on my phone. And that’s certainly enough time to assess whether you want to pay $4.99 a month to continue on past the trial period. The biggest impediment to a continued subscription is probably the glut of other services out there – I’ve taken to turning some streaming services on and off depending on what my month looks like, and I suspect that’s what I’ll be doing with Mangamo as well. I don’t think I’ll regret it when I am paying for it, though.