We have another entry into the 'release manga on an online platform' sweepstakes this week with Mangabox, a project put together by Dena, with assistance from a few manga publishers in Japan, primarily Kodansha. The goal is to release daily manga chapters of various series, some of which may be familiar to English-speaking readers, either because they know the anime, they know the series it's spun off from, or they're familiar with the author. It launched last week with about 22 titles available in English, and it's also available on the Japanese side as well (with a few more titles - more on that below).
All the titles have now had at least one chapter, so we've gotten a basic look at the fare we'll be seeing. It reads very much like a young men's magazine, with some dumb comedy, some romance, some horror, and some adventure. The daily feed of 2-3 new chapters means that no one series overwhelms the other (again, with one irritating exception), and the app itself is easy to use and very readable (it was initially incredibly bright, but they seem to have toned that down a bit in an update).
So, what are we seeing over here? Let's do a bullet point list:
The Knight In The Area is actually a spinoff of the ACTUAL Knight in the Area, a popular soccer manga that runs in Weekly Shonen Magazine and is almost 40 volumes and still going (i.e. unlicensable). This is actually a prequel, though, examining the life of one of the coaches from the main series when he was in middle school. It's quite well done if you like sports manga.
Can't Ride A Bicycle! is a comedic school life manga about a club composed of young men who all love the idea of riding bikes but have very poor bike riding skillsets. If you like K-On! or Free, this should interest you, though it's even fluffier than both of those so far.
High-Rise Invasion is a survival game manga starring a young girl who finds herself in a deserted school being pursued by a chainsaw killer. it turns out her brother is around there as well, and she is in a world of high-rises with bridges between them. It hasn't grabbed me so far, but I am weary of survival game manga.
High School Ninja Girl, Otonashi-san is a 4-koma school comedy about a ninja trying to fit in at high school. It's slight, but cute. I smiled.
The Great Phrases Women Fall For. Sigh. Every Japanese magazine seems to have an out-of-left-field short gag manga that runs at the end of their magazines, and this is Mangaboxes. It's composed of definitions of words given by smug men. Not particularly funny, its biggest fault is that it is the only serial here that runs daily. There's only 2 definitions per day, but that's 4 pages of my life I will never get back.
Kindaichi Case Files: Takato's Side is a spinoff of the very popular everywhere but here (where it tanked) mystery series. This side story features Kindaichi's adversary in school, dealing with his own grisly murder. I suspect it may get rather dark. Well done so far, though.
Billion Dogs shows why I hate judging series with only one chapter. The first chapter of this series made itsound a bit Medaka Box-ish, with the adventures of a proud student council president looking to improve things. The second chapter shows us a darker side, though, and I suspect this may get even more twisted before we're done. Who are the good guys here? I'm really enjoying this.
Spoof on Titan is what you'd expect, a 4-koma gag manga based on the breakout hit series Attack on Titan. It's cute and fun, playing on the character's broad stereotypes. Note that this is not the same as the high-school AU comedy that's coming out over here in March.
District Hakkenshi (code:T-8] seems to be a retelling of The Hakkendan in a modern setting, starring a lazy yet intelligent high school student. It's by the creators of Getbackers, so is definitely worth checking out, though I want to read more before committing.
NadeNade ShikoShiko is a comedy about a guy who dreamed of a magical caveman girlfriend, only to find that she's actually there at his house one day. Could get funnier, but I'm not optimistic.
Schoolgirl Landlord Honoka, from the author of Pastel, is about fanservice. And also a young girl who arrives at her late grandfather's boarding house and meets the eccentric tenants, yes, but mostly fanservice. Get ready to see a lot of underwear.
Peephole is possibly the most explicit title we've seen on here (it really needs a warning), and is equal parts creepy and horrific. Featuring a suicidal young man who finds new life by peeping on his next-door neighbor pleasuring herself, it takes a much darker turn near the end. Needs another chapter for me to get a handle on it. Again, slightly wary.
Girl and Car on the Beat is a police comedy about a new officer and her relationship with the old, beat up police car the station has. The car narrates, and is not all that happy to be saddled with a young woman. No, it's not a magical car - only the readers hear the narration. Needs more chapters to get a feel for it.
The Chronicles of Akoya is an action-adventure series set in Ancient Times, and starring a young sword-wielding woman who I suspect may be orphaned soon. Some very jarring fanservice at the start, but otherwise a decent opening.
My Grandpa's Stories Can't Be This Weird! is a gag comedy that pretty much is what it sounds like, and is in no way related to any Little Sister series, despite the title. If you recall the old Jump gag comedy Bobobobo-Bobobo, this is along the same lines.
GREEN WORLDZ is another action-adventure horror story about a world where plants seem to be killing everyone. And I mean suddenly - it just starts to happen. It's just gotten started, so we'll see what happens, but there's some striking imagery in the first chapter.
Araidoki is another school comedy with supernatural elements, that suffers from mediocre art more than anything else. Some of the gags were vaguely funny, but overall I wasn't impressed.
Man's Bestest Friend features a leading man you want to beat to death with a bat, and a heroine who is a dog turned into a human. She's even called Wanko. I have no desire to read any more of this.
Horizon was the best to date of the action-adventure manga, detailing the life of Genghis Khan as a young man. A lot of gore, as you might expect given the hero, but it's well handled and I'd like to see more. Fans of Berserk or Vinland Saga will like this.
First Love Suicide Pact is another "this has barely gotten started, needs more chapters" story, but its view of what mindset leads a person to the point of suicide is interesting, and I want to see how it resolves everything. It looks like a teacher-student romance here, though, be warned.
Stra the Warlock is a fantasy series taking place in a world where humans re enslaved by demons. The story so far is meh, but the art is sort of interesting - it has a Masamune Shirow feel to it.
In a Heartbeat is about a young man who has come to the realization that he's gay, but is generally too shy and nervous to do anything about it. Then he runs into his old childhood friend and first love. Again, only one chapter is far too early to judge this, but BL fans should take a look.
Mangabox is also available in Japan, and has a few extra series there. The untranslated series all seem to have one thing in common: they're out in Japan in other formats, such as in Young Magazine or Futabasha's Manga Action. Whereas all the titles we're seeing translated here are web-only so far. Helps to avoid scanlations. For the curious, Japan also has two Ghost in the Shell: SAC titles (one of which is out over here already); Slave District, which seems to combine gambling and rape, and I would think is VERY unlikely to come out over here; Gainax's Sudden Death, from the artist who gave us the borderline H harem series Love Junkies, which is all about tea ceremonies; Shoot!, a very old soccer manga, though I'm uncertain if this is reprinting the 1990 series or a spinoff of that; and King's Game, a survival game manga that seems to trend a bit darker than High-Rise Invasion.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with Mangabox so far. The daily dribbling out of chapters is a good way to keep people coming to the site, and also helps you to not get bored with a specific title. Well, except the Great Phrases Women Fall For manga. That's boring. But skippable. Definitely recommended so far, and I'll be interested to see if they bring in new content in a month or two.