Japanese culture has been making its way West for the last few decades and it's not just Pokemon and Dragonball Z that have been big hits in the West. There's shows like Naruto and One Piece as well. All of these hit Anime shows all started off as a Manga though, or a Japanese comic if you will. These comics are traditionally black and white, they come thick and fast and for many, they are the purest forms of stories like Naruto and Dragonball. Manga has its appeal because anyone can become a Manga artist – or Mangaka in Japanese – as such there are hundreds upon thousands of great manga titles to explore. Book copies can be expensive though, and they often take up a lot of room if you really get into it. Why not go digital then? There are many manga readers for Android but, none of them are quite as polished as Manga Rock. Read on to find out why.
Description: I can hear what some of you Otakus out there are thinking – why the hell would I want to read digital manga, it's not the same!!! Well, actually, it is and there's nothing wrong with reading manga digitally – as long as it's sourced properly – all that matters is that you get your fix and the artwork and stories are done justice. With access to numerous online manga outlets, in several languages, Manga Rock has most of the boxes ticked. The app is available to download for free, to purchase the full version, to remove ads there is an in-app purchase of just $3.99. Those of you with a Nexus 7 or similar tablet can attest to how nice it can be having so much media at your fingertips and with resolutions of 1280 x 800 in displays, you can get some great results. Also, I think this image below sums it up, this is three volumes of Naruto, with the Nexus 7 on top of it. Which would you rather carry around?
How it Works: To get started using Manga Rock, you'll first have to download the app from the Play Store. There are two versions of the app, one for US-users and another for those outside the US, be sure to download which version you need. After that you'll be asked to select sources in your native language:
There are a lot of languages to choose from and many sources as well, which is very nice. Once you've chosen your sources, you can go on to choose some manga to read.
As you can see, there are a lot of titles available, and the side-menu works really well, and looks great. Selecting a title will give you some more info about it:
Upon deciding whether or not you like it, you can hit the bottom-right button to download some issues, then you can move on to choose which chapters to download:
When you select a chapter to read, it'll open it up and you can start reading:
If you know where you left off and want to skip ahead when reading, simply pinch inwards to get a view of all the pages:
So, that's how you use Manga Rock, it's difficult to call this the Kindle of Manga but, that's what it feels like. It is so easy to get hold of manga and read it with this that I think I might actually finish Naruto, and not end up with shleves of the stuff gathering dust. This is brilliant. The best part? Well, it stacks up pretty nicely against the printed, real deal. Take a look:
That's not the best photo but, it really does look better on my Nexus 7. It's a lot easier to make out details thanks to the great resolution and contrast and swiping left and right is often easier than trying not to rip the thin pages.
Disclaimer: Certain manga – like Naruto – is licensed by Viz Media and they own the rights to it in the US so, US users will see a variation in what they can download and read using the app, due to copyright. Please bear that in mind while using the app in the US.
Opinion: While I'm not a massive manga fan any more, it was a large part of my life growing up, as most Japanese culture was. I learnt how to speak Japanese during High School and I've always loved games like Pokemon, Mario and Anime like Naruto and Dragonball. If you're an anime fan looking for something new but also the same, then you'll be pleased to know that manga is much the same but also a more "pure" experience. Anyone that has watched an episode of Naruto or Dragonball Z will know bad filler content can be. With manga there's no filler content. Manga Rock makes it super-easy to get manga on to your device, with a beautiful UI that's both modern and easy to use there's little reason not to try it out. The ads are a little big on the Nexus 7 but, this is an app that's just launched, so expect it to go strength-to-strength. This is something every manga fan has to have installed on their smartphone or tablet – especially on their tablet.
- Speed (4/5) – Manga Rock seems well optimized and runs smoothly. Downloading of mangas wasn't too quick but it was more than adequate.
- Features (5/5) – With multiple places to get content from – in different languages – and a stunning UI, what more is there to ask for?
- Theme (5/5) – This is how Android apps should be made now, with the slide-out drawer standard, it's a wonder more apps aren't as polished as Manga Rock.
- Overall (5/5) – If you're a heavy manga reader, then you need this app in your life, if not, this is a great place to start and discover something new.
- Multiple places to get manga from, in different languages.
- Easy downloads that will continue in the background.
- Shining example of how Android apps should be designed.
- Manga Rock's reading experience is easy, fluid and makes great use of the touchscreen.
- Downloads aren't terribly quick.
- Ads could be scaled down in size on the Nexus 7 – however, these are easily removed by purchasing the full version.
Conclusion: Manga Rock is a brilliant app to read manga, not only has it one of the best reading UIs out there, but it's also extremely easy to get hold of manga as well. It can ever deliver manga in more than just English, which is great for those in other parts of Europe and even Latin America. I can't stress enough how good it is to see a developer take advantage of what Android 4.1 and above can bring to app design, the slide-out drawer and action bar are used to great effect and there's even smart use of gestures such as pinching and more. The vast variety of manga and fast speed of the app makes this a no-brainer for those already heavily invested in manga but, those just starting out will find a welcoming app to start something new. For those starting out I'd recommend just taking a look at the huge catalogue on offer and choosing something to get your teeth stuck into. Manga Rock will make your commutes quicker and your lazy Sundays more fulfilling. Don't forget to download which version you need, there's one for US residents and one for those outside of the US.