With Japan cracking down on piracy in the country when it comes to manga, a vacuum has opened in the west for services to offer up any and all manga for fans to read. Over the years, piracy of manga (and most other comics) was reaching incredible heights, and now that the sites are being shut down, that means that the creators and distributors can get the money that they deserve for their creations.
One of the biggest names leading the charge to make manga more accessible in the west is a new app called Mangamo. Containing titles such as Fire Force and Attack on Titan, Mangamo isn't playing any games when it comes to delivering the best content from Japan to its western audience.
Recently, we were able to sit down with co-founder Dallas Middaugh and ask him about some of the inner workings of the app, including the price point and prospects for the future, including western comics. With so much coming for the future of Mangamo, the possibilities are endless.
Make sure to give a read below and if interested in the full audio, make sure to give a listen to LiteraryJoe's Inner Child Podcast below! Also, don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments!
Literary Joe: I'm curious if you have any dream titles that you'd like to bring onto the subscription service that you don't have yet or any publishers that you want to partner with that you haven't yet?
Dallas Middaugh: Can I just say all of them and leave it at that? (Laughs) So, I'm going to just let you know up front that I'm more or less going to dodge the question now, but I'm going to give you an answer sort of. I could sit down and tell you all the publishers that we want to work with. All the publishers we've been talking to, et cetera, et cetera. But that actually is not information that I necessarily want to share publicly.
What I will say is this, there is so much manga published in Japan, and there's so much that doesn't make it to this market. There's just so much opportunity out there. So when I wear my business hat, I could tell you, and I'll just pick an obvious one, right? I mean, obviously, I would love to have Shueisha on the service. I would love to have the Shonen Jump titles, but they have their own service. So that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.
So when I look at it from a business perspective, of course, there are major publishers that I would just kill to have on the service. But when I look at it more from my artistic and manga fan perspective, you know, I'm so happy with the publishers that we have. We have all these amazing series. Some of them had anime that you might've heard of like Somali and the Forest Spirit or Arte or Dropkick on my Devil. You know others have no anime like Reset Game or Loving Yamada.
We always want to keep adding new publishers because it is our goal, and it is our mission to get as much manga out there in English, which is the easiest way to get it read by the most people as possible. So my dream list is every publisher.
The problem with that, of course, is that while we know there are, let's say four, maybe five major publishers in Japan, there are over 200 publishers that you would consider to be full-fledged publishers. And over 2000 entities publishing manga in Japan. So, it can be hard to actually go through and figure out exactly which ones you'd want to get first. Cause really, they're all doing amazing work.
Literary Joe: Before you became involved in the publishing world, were there any manga titles or anime titles that you were interested in back when you were younger?
Dallas Middaugh: Sure. But I'm really old. So we're talking about a very different time. I mean, I will never date myself. I came upon anime through the show Starblazers, which kind of pegs my age for you there, meaning that in the late seventies and early eighties, you know, I wasn't old enough to really understand this, but looking back on it, I think I was really taken in, not just by the art style, but also by the more serious subject matter. And the fact that it was a story told serially, that in fact, if I missed an episode of Starblazers, I was kind of hosed.
Cause you really had to catch each one. It was like reading a chapter of a book. And that was kind of how I imprinted on anime. You know, as far as manga goes, I've always been a comics fan pretty much from birth. And when I was in college, this was definitely far before the Pokemon days. Viz was releasing things with a company called Eclipse, and they did things like Mai the Psychic Girl and Crying Freeman. And again, I had a similar experience in my college years that I did when I was a kid of discovering this style of storytelling, and this method of storytelling that was just so radically different from everything else I had seen. And I was just infatuated with it.
But you know, the other story that I like to tell is that the thing that actually got me into manga publishing was, was Hayao Miyazaki's Natsujikai. When I went to interview at Viz, I was much younger, and I wasn't really sold on working for the company. I enjoyed the manga, but I wasn't like a mega fan. And the person I interviewed with we got along well, and he handed me a copy of the box set of Natsujikai and said, I think you'll really enjoy this.
And I went back and read it and was just so stunned. I mean, you know, it's such an amazing piece of work. And I was so stunned by how good it was that I literally went back and said, okay, I want this job. I absolutely want to do this. And that was great because all of a sudden, you know, it wasn't like you could just go online and read this stuff easily. But we had a warehouse, and I was able to go into the warehouse and just pick stuff up and read it all the time. And I read almost everything Viz published over the couple of years that I worked there.
Literary Joe: So you keep bringing up comics. Do you have any Western-based graphic-novel type comics, or do you have any plans to try to bring any on the service? Or are you strictly focusing on Japanese manga?
Dallas Middaugh: It's a possibility for us, for sure. But anything that we would bring on that wasn't strictly Japanese manga would have to somehow feel manga-adjacent. So, the easiest example, bringing in Superman, wouldn't make any sense for us. Not that it's on the table, but that just would not make sense versus finding a publisher who is doing something that has more of a manga and anime influence, that could make sense for us.
But at the end of the day, the service is Mangamo; it's not Comicsmo, so our focus is always going to be on manga. The vast majority of what we offer is always going to be Japanese manga.
Literary Joe: How did you guys settle on the price point?
Dallas Middaugh: Well, you know, at the end of the day, there are so many factors there, right? Not least of which is, of course, you know, we know behind the scenes, what it costs to do all of this, and the cost is not insignificant in addition to the creation of the app itself and having full-time staff. We localize most of the series that we publish and paying for translation and layout.
It's not cheap, but having said that, you know, obviously, we can't just go in and charge $20 a month. You know, we can't just look at it and say, here's the number that would be great for us. We have to try to find that balance between what is going to enable us to run an effective business. What is going to ensure that adequate money is going back to the actual creators of the manga, but what can the market bear? And all I'm really trying to say is that all of those things were factors when we came up with the $4.99 price point.
*This interview has been edited for clarity, and the audio portion is co-hosted by fellow site writer Nick Brooks.*
Mangamo is currently available for 4.99/month, and you can check it out here.