Where and why to download digital manga in Japanese

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There are few situations where you feel a sudden urge to read some manga in Japanese and the only thing that you are carrying is your mobile phone. But if that should ever happen, god forbid, you will know how to tackle the problem. I’ve been downloading quite a bunch of digital manga over the past year and tried out different shops and options. Yesterday I felt that certain manga itch again and I instantly knew that I should probably download a new manga for my Ipad. It’s just nice to read some stuff in Japanese right before sleepy time but proper lightning is always a problem when I try to read in my bed. And there comes the Ipad with its glorious backlit screen which solves all my problems. I’ve been readings lots of comics on my iPad including up to the recent issue of Invincible. (Loved the hell out of this series.) And so I can assure you that the great vivid colors and zooming options can come in quite handy for us Japanese learners. Especially if there are some Kanji in some of these super tiny Jump manga. But beware the resolution, if zoomed in, isn’t all that great. I definitely prefer to read Jump manga (which are usually released in the tiniest manga format possible) with their physical versions.

What I love most about reading digital manga is obviously the ability to read the stuff on a well lit screen but I tend to forget how super comfortable it is download nearly any reading material in seconds. No waiting, just click the button and its there.

If you’re looking for physical manga check my guide on where and how to buy manga and books from Japan!

Revisited, 15.02.2015: More infos about the digital manga section at the Japanese iTunes store.

Where to buy digital manga – hassle free

If you’re an IOS or OSX user you can buy nearly every manga at the Japanese iTunes store. Creating an account is easy (just search for a guide online) but the Japanese iTunes store (like every iTunes store) only accepts native Credit Cards. Which means that we have to rely on gift cards which are always more expensive then their real value. (if you’re still looking for some) But here comes the solution: honto.jp, again. The best shop for buying real copies of your favorite manga series, sells digital versions of nearly every comic. The selection is huge and the prices are always a bit cheaper then their physical equivalent. Here is a quick list on how to get started.

1. Make an account at honto.jp
2. Get yourself a Japanese iTunes account
3. Download the honto.jp IOS App (available for Android as well)

You can then easily purchase every digital manga like you would do with a real book order. When you’ve done this, you open your honto App, connect it with your account and start downloading the manga which you bought directly on the honto website. Works like a charm.

25507962_1I’m especially fond of all these so called color editions カラ版 of popular Jump manga. The coloring just looks gorgeous on a screen and is really a nice addition. These are slightly more expensive then their “normal” versions but the money is always well spend. If probably all know that I’m not that crazy about Jump manga with the exception of the exceptional Dragon Ball. But I even gave One Piece a second chance with it’s colored version and suddenly I love.

Of course this is not all due to the coloring of the manga but it’s really something that makes me consider re-buying some of the stuff I already own and want to read again.

Honto is currently hosting a promotion which will give you 200 points on each 1000¥ spend for all your digital purchases. Not a bad time to start getting into digital manga, if you ask me. But hurry up, the deal expires in a couple of hours.

立ち読む let’s you try before you digitally buy

Lately I’ve been checked out the Japanese iTunes store a bit more. The honto App is still the place where I actually buy the manga if I want to have something very quick but I love to take a peek at the Japanese iTunes store first. There is a pretty nifty feature which is called 立ち読み which means reading while standing and refers to the people in Japan who are standing around in the bookstores and read.

It’s nice to have a sample before buying just to check out the art and get a quick feel for the title. This has always been the biggest flaw when buying from honto because there 立ち読む feature is not very practical. You can’t even buy directly from inside the App. But for this I’ve found iBooks in conjunction with the Japanese iTunes store to be pretty comfortable.

japanese manga itunes-2

This is inside the iBooks App on my iPad. Every titles witht the red ribbon indicates that it’s a small sample. Usually bewteen 10-15 pages. After that a button appears which quikcly let’s you buy the whole manga. Unfortunately this is only possible with a Japanese credit card or with some credit in your iTunes account.

japanese manga itunes-4

The selection is huge. Even more than on honto if I’m correct.

japanese manga itunes-3

The Anime just started a couple of weeks ago in Japan and Assassination Classrom is as popular as ever. I bought the first two volumes two years ago in Tokyo and still remember that I had no idea what that title was about. Never heard of it before. The fantastic cover artwork alone and alone hype surrounding the manga made me buy them nonetheless. I’m pretty much up to date with the manga. It’s quite amusing but the characters are lacking. Except for the main one, the teacher who runs the show.

japanese manga itunes

An here it is, the small button that let’s us take a peak inside so we can check out the art and make sure the Japanese is manageable for us. And it let’s us check for Furigana as well. Isn’t that awesome. Just click on センプル and the small preview will download on your tablet or phone.

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  • Anon85

    Seeing the colored version of Dragon Ball Z reminds me of French comics. I’d almost forgotten how those are colored which shows how much I’m used to black and white now.

    • Yeah, you’re right about this. Gives the whole thing a completely different chatm. But I have to say: The coloring job is really well done. I’m sure its done by a program like it’s the case with all these recent US comics, but it looks far better on these manga if you ask me.

  • Juan Betancourt

    Jakob, just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I’m just starting out learning Japanese and I had taken a shot at finding a way to download/purchase manga in Japanese but had no luck. This blog in general is useful – keep it up!

    • Thanks Juan. These are the comments that keep me going :) I’v been searching for something for quite some time myself and everything was not really satisfying. Honto instead just works like a charm :) Hope you enjoy your digital manga!

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  • Akame_21

    I know this post is a little old… but I have 2 questions.

    Can you switch itunes accounts? Say I want to buy manga in japanese, use Japanese itunes in conjunction with honto.jp app… Directly afterwards can I switch to my USA itunes account? Or are you locked to Japanese for good

    Have you been using a non japanese ip adress with no repercussions? I know most people who use the amazon.jp kindle store use a vpn, japanse mailing address etc.

    • I just updated the post yesterday but regardless, a post here should never too old to be commented on. Always want to keep the content fresh through adding new stuff to it when ssomething new and relevant pops up.

      Switching iTunes accounts is a breeze. Just log off and sign in with another account. There are tons of tutorials out there which explain how to make a Japanese iTunes account so I didin’t bother. But switching is fast and without a hassle.

      Yes, I’ve been using a non-Japanese IP without problems. When using the honto App you purchase the books and manga directly on their website and than login to with your credentials in the honto App (only available in the Japanese store) and download your purchases.

      Buying directly from the Japanese iBooks store you just need some credit and you’re ready to go.

      • Akame_21

        Awesome. So it’s really no big deal to switch back and forth between USA and JP apple id account then. I just didn’t want to get locked out of games/music/apps etc that I use a lot from USA store.

        But yeah this post was awesome and helped me so much. I’m finishing up core 6k now and need to get in to immersion and wanted to go digital. Digital is soooo much cheaper than paper and with word lookup, backlit screen etc it just makes perfect sense for the Japanese learner. I can get all 27 volumes of claymore for like $90 digital versus ~$180 for paper at kinokuniya (not to mention I have to make a day trip to the city). And this post convinced me that an iPad is the way to go. I’m ordering one today!

        But anyways thank you so much! I’ve been a longtime lurker here, and I have to say your articles are extremely helpful. Keep up the good work!!!

        • Thanks a lot for all the praise and kind words. Really glad I could help. Going digital is definitely great sometimes but I really have a weakness for books. Not to mention Japanese manga really look great on the bookshelf. Have you checked my guide?


          Just to make sure because digital make cost nearly the same as their physical counterparts if you order directly from Japan. Kinokuniya just jacked up their prices on imports which is the same here in Germany with all resellers.

          Just started with iknow exactly 38 days ago . Love the counter. Congrats on mastering the whole 6k!

          • Akame_21

            No problem :) The 6k was boring and tough to work through though… But it laid a pretty good foundation for getting in to native materials. There is no way I could do core10k though… :x I don’t plan on returning to anki, and even if I do it will be minimal compared to what I’ve been doing.

            Honestly I think it comes down to the fact that I’m so used to reading manga on my computer, so just the illuminated screen and size of the display make it worthwhile. Not to mention it would be nice to lay in bed and read at night. My room is also kind of small and the lighting is sub par, making paper a little bit more of a hassle to read.

            Then it comes down to storage… Once I start collecting my favorite series I’m not sure where I would put them all if I bought paper! I know I’ve been asking a lot of questions… but there’s one more! Let’s say in the future I start to use up all my available space on my iPad can I remove/add manga to my honto.jp app freely? Kind of like using my honto.jp account as a cloud for the manga I bought but don’t have the storage space for?

          • I’m currently using iknow with their 6k. Never knew they did 10k at some point. After going though Heisig, the first 15 levels of WaniKani and several other customs lists on Anki I definitely won’t do anything new srs related after 6k. Definitely understand you there.

            Get an iPad. You won’t regret it. If that thing had a statistics feature like the 3DS my hours of usage would be through the roof. Amazing like piece of technology. Am using it for my studies as well. It’s just so comfortable to have all your papers on one tiny device. Always.

            When you’re buying manga through iBooks everything that is connected to your account but not download on your device will be shown with a little cloud and a grey ribbon instead of the red one which all the small samples have. The honto App allows you to download from your “library” to your system. They did an alright job with the interface but all the sorting options can’t be beat. If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask. Always happy to help.

          • Akame_21

            Thanks for your help Jakob! :)

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  • Ying

    Vielen lieben Dank für die ganze Infos! (mein Englisch klingt nicht so schön wie deins, daher benutze ich einfach mal deutsch) ich finde deine Seite super und habe die direkt für später gespeichert :) Es ist alles super aufgebaut und einfach zu lesen. Leider habe ich es selbst nie geschafft, sowas wie deine Seite zu erstellen, freue mich daher erst recht eins gefunden zu haben, welche mich auf Anhieb angesprochen hat ≧∪≦

    Liebe Grüße aus Norddeutschland