JManga, a 100% legal digital manga distribution site, is an interesting phenomenon. Good intentions mixed with a hodgepodge of titles and a bizarre pricing structure, which I can basically describe as paying the site to give you an allowance, have made it questionable as to whether or not anyone should try it out. Ultimately I decided to subscribe myself (the $10/month deal), and there are two major reasons for my decision.

The first reason is that it is now available in Europe. Up to only a few months ago, JManga as a service was restricted to the US and Canada, and so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. With their roll-out into Europe, however, I wanted to at the very least support that decision. Even if I don’t get terribly many manga on there, I wanted to encourage the idea that regional restrictions for books in digital form is nonsense. Though I know that I’m only one subscriber, I also want other similar services in the future to follow suit.

The second reason is that JManga actually has a feature that I have not seen on any other manga site, legitimate or otherwise. Sure, tons of scanlation sites exist and they provide easy access to thousands of titles, but JManga actually gives you the option to switch back and forth between Japanese and English. One click of a button and the page you’re on changes into the other language. For someone like me who wants to read more manga in Japanese but might have trouble with particularly difficult phrasings or unknown vocabulary, it’s a far simpler solution than constantly running to consult good ol’ Jim Breen. It’s even more convenient than owning the physical books in two languages in certain ways, though the load time between versions can be a bit long, and the interface itself still needs some work.

I’m well aware that this utility really only helps readers with strong (but not perfect) Japanese literacy skills, people who can read a manga in Japanese for the most part, people with a good grasp of kanji, who have a firm enough understanding of the grammatical structure of the language to know what specific part of the sentence in a potentially quite liberal translation corresponds to the original, and who can spot when a joke has been localized for the English version. For beginners, it may be too much of a chore to consult the Japanese versions, and for someone who’s fully fluent or even a native speaker, there’s simply no need to switch to English at all, unless perhaps that person wants to learn English. I happen to fall in that “sweet spot” though, and in that respect I’ve found it quite useful. If you do too, then maybe it’s something worth considering.

By the way, it seems like the most popular manga on JManga are yaoi titles, yuri titles, and Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru. Makes sense to me.

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