The Little App That Couldn’t: Tezuka Osamu Manga on iPad

Review by Ed Sizemore

I think by now my love of all things Tezuka is well-known. So you can imagine my delight when on July 13th it was announced that Tezuka Osamu Magazine Club had launched an English-language iPad app. The app promises immediate access to a digital library of 62 volumes of manga, with more volumes to be added later. The app itself is free to download. To access the library, you have to pay a monthly subscription fee of $9.99.

Tezuka iPad app

When I heard the news, I excitedly downloaded the app. There is some nice free content. You get an issue of Weekly Astro Boy Magazine that contains the Astro Boy story, “World’s Greatest Robot”; the first chapter of Phoenix: Karma; and the first chapter of Buddha: Brahmin. There are also 39 motion manga episodes available. These are chapters of series like Astro Boy, Black Jack, and Phoenix where panels are displayed and voice actors give dramatic readings to the dialog. This is all done in Japanese with English subtitles.

The heart of the app is the manga library. With the fee, you get the complete collections of Astro Boy, Ode to Kirihito, Apollo’s Song, Dororo, Buddha, MW, and Adolf. In addition, you get ten volumes of Black Jack and the first six volumes of Phoenix. While I own all these books in physical form, I was thrilled to have digital versions that would be much more portable.

Needless to say, I subscribed immediately. After getting the subscription confirmation from Apple, I tried to access the library. No such luck. I figured it might take a while for everything to get processed, so I waited 24 hours and tried again. I was still unable to access the library. After three days, I decided to contact the magazine.

While the app may be in English, the magazine’s website is not. Thankfully, Google’s translation function enabled me to get to the contact page, and I sent an email telling of my problems accessing the library. I waited four days and got no response. So I sent a second email expressing my grave disappointment. I also contacted Apple to report problems with the app and request a refund of my subscription. I’m still waiting to hear from either the magazine or Apple.

I probably shouldn’t have had my hopes up. Last year, I downloaded the Astro Boy Magazine app for the iPhone. It never worked either. You could download and view the first free issue with no problem, but I was never able to get subsequent issues to download. Either I got a connection error or the issue took so long to download that iTunes timed out.

I had wanted to write a review telling everyone with an iPad to download this app immediately. Instead, I’m telling everyone to avoid the Tezuka Osamu Magazine Club app. It doesn’t work. That’s truly heartbreaking for English-speaking fans of Tezuka. If Tezuka Pro wants to know why Tezuka isn’t better known in America, failures like this are a good reason.

Update: Last night, Apple told me they would refund my subscription fee.

14 Comments

  1. Sad to hear this isn’t working out. I tried the Astro Boy Weekly App for iPhone last year and had the same problems: issue take so long to download that the screen switches itself off, something most people take to mean it has given up and gone to sleep (it hasn’t, but that’s another story). Long in-app purchase downloads are a problem with many magazine-style apps — “Tokyo Kawaii Magazine” suffers from it too — but with Astro Boy, it seemed like you needed unrealistically good wifi (i.e., a super fast connection with no other users) to get an issue to download. You would think that in testing it, someone should have raised a red flag that the user experience was unacceptable. Coupled with the fact that the iPhone app was never updated to take advantage of the perfectly-sized-for-comics iPad screen and it’s doubly disappointing.

  2. (sighs) I am slightly sad that this is not working out. I am wondering if you noticed this, but they spelled Tezuka Osama’s name incorrect.. I have the app’s name as Teduka Osamu… now here’s the wait game.

  3. Kevin Lighton

    ‘Teduka’ might simply be a romanization using the Nihon system (which is based on where a character falls in the standard listing of hiragana/katakana) rather than the more commonly used Hepburn system (based on the character’s pronunciation). I can’t be sure because I don’t know the characters used to write ‘Tezuka’.

  4. Animemiz,

    Where do you see the app’s name misspelled? I looked on the iTunes and I only see Tezuka.

  5. “I can’t be sure because I don’t know the characters used to write ‘Tezuka’.”
    The characters are 手塚, ‘te’ plus ‘tsuka’ which becomes ‘zuka’, so ‘Teduka’ would be correct under the Nihon system.

  6. Kevin & James,

    Have either of you downloaded the Japanese language version of the Tezuka Osamu Magazine Club app? I see it’s available in the US. Was wondering if the subscription worked on that version.

  7. Kevin Lighton

    Ed,

    I haven’t. My Japanese is nowhere near good enough for that.

  8. <sarcasm>Oh, imagine that. Tezuka Productions messing something up.</sarcasm>

    Ed, if the Japanese version you are talking about is the “Tezuka Osamu Magazine Shop,” by YAPPA Corporation, 299 Japanese reviewers give it an average of 3 stars on Japan’s App Store. Readers complain of the text being hard to read, and the overall functionality as sucking in a big way.

    I love the folks at Tezuka Pro as people, but Tezuka Pro’s business acumen reflects that of Tazuka himself, who had a knack for bankruptcy and failed non-manga projects.

  9. Matt,

    Thanks for that info on the Japanese version of the app. It’s heartbreaking to hear.

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  13. astarisborn94

    The good news is that the English app has been updated to where you are able to access the contents. The bad news is that the app is very buggy and the English version particularly sucks.

    At least there’s the benefit of being able to access both the Japanese and English version on the same subscription (especially if you know Japanese or am learning it as I am), but lets be honest here, unless you know Japanese, the app isn’t worth it. I subscribed and enjoyed a few volumes, but I don’t plan on resubscribing.

    Here’s the good and the bad of the app: http://www.astroboy-online.com/forums/showpost.php?p=207988&postcount=13

  14. […] for want of trying: Tezuka Productions released a Weekly Astro Boy Magazine iPhone app in 2010 and an iPad app in 2011 that promised all sorts of delicious Tezuka content. The problem with both apps is that […]

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