Popular comics, such as "Socrates in Love"(Japanese original title means " Shouting Love in the Centre of the World") are available through mobile phones.
Something strange is happening in the ways of using mobile phones – a rising number of people are reading manga (comics) on mobile phone screens.
The leading company in the field of distributing manga for receiving by mobile phones is NTT Solmare Corp. A total of 3 million pieces of manga put out by the company were downloaded by mobile phone users in March alone. The manga pieces are priced at an average of 40 yen each. The comic works which are widely recognized as masterpieces, such as "Hokuto no Ken (Fist of Hokuto) " and "Rupan 3Sei (Lupin III)" are among the 181 titles, or 14,000 stories, of already existing comics are in the stock. Those who want to receive the comics would pay a minimum of 315 yen each to buy 300 points per month. The comics can be down loaded to their mobile phones in exchange for some amounts of the points. The payment is charged on the telephone bill.
All Triggered by High-functioning Mobiles and Fixed Packet Charge
The company started the comic distribution business in August 2004. It was by no means an easy going at the beginning. A turning point came, however, in the summer of last year when the high-functioning mobile phones, called the 3G (third generation) mobile phones which made it possible to show the comic pictures clearly, began to be widely used. The introduction of the fixed packet charge system, which made it possible to down load the service without worrying about the amount of payments, also pushed the comic business. In addition to all these, Katsuyuki Kobayashi, of the mobile business headquarters of NTT Solmare, explained about the expansion of the comic business by noting
"When we increased the distribution of manga pieces targeted at women, the sales exploded. "
The comic distribution business was primarily targeted at male salaried workers in their 30's and 40's. Thus 80% of the receivers of the service at first were men. By coordinating with the publisher Shogakukan Inc. in April last year, however, NTT Solmare increased more comics that are targeted at women, such as the "Tokyo Love Story." As a result, women now account for more than one half of the customer base.
The fact is that women are behind the popularity of mobile phone manga.
It was in April of last year that another company, eBOOK Initiative Japan Co., Ltd. , launched mobile phone manga business. The company made its policy to serve mainly teen-age girls and women in their 20's by distributing such manga works as the "Berusaiyu no Bara (Rose of Versailles)" and "Yokubari na Kuchibiru (Greedy Lips) Works of Erika Sakurasawa." As a result the monthly sales have gone up by 10 folds in the past year, and the number of monthly down loading has topped 100,000. This company offers manga pieces for men as a matter of course. But the majority of the recipients are women. The company explains:
"Setting aside the fact that women love manga, it is women, not men, who are capable of freely using mobile phones and who show interest in newly available contents. This is why we targeted at women."
Faced by the problem over the copyright matters, it has been difficult to sell manga on the networks. But publishing houses are positive about the new business as commented by Shogakukan: "New business chance has come."
"A progress is being made without any problem in negotiations with the authors on the matter. There will be more and more manga pieces to be offered on the networks."
About newly published pieces, however, the company indicated there are some red tapes to clear through the copyright issue because of problems involving the company's own, and book stores', manga sales.
5 Billion Yen Market for Mobile Phone Manga Business this Year
According to a study conducted by Impress, the business of electronic publication for the term ending in March 2005 grew 150% over the previous term to 4,5 billion yen. Of the figure, 1,2 billion yen were for distribution on mobile phones. The figure is likely to grow further this year. "The electronic publication as a whole is expected to breakthrough the 10 billion yen mark. Mobile phone manga will contribute to the most part of the increase," says Kobayashi, of NTT Solmare. "The sales of mobile phone manga alone will be somewhere around 3 billion to 5 billion yen," predicts eBook. Publishing Link, Ltd., the company that deals with electronic publication, says that the company is studying the possibility of launching mobile phone manga business against the background of the rapid growth of the business. The business seems to grow robust further. This could be a new mobile phone culture that will find its place in Japan.