Reading Manga: Horizontal or Vertical?

Shueisha’s Jump Group, creator of “One Piece” and “Naruto”, announced the 2024 launch of “Jump TOON”, a new manga service specializing in vertically scrolling manga. Shueisha, the most significant manga publisher, focuses on webtoons. This indicates that vertical scrolling manga forces are taking over Japan.

Webtoon is a type of digital comic originating in South Korea. You read manga by scrolling vertically on your smartphone. While Japanese manga make their profits by printing and publishing books, webtoons make their profits by charging for their websites. Because webtoons are less costly than manga, the webtoon market in Japan has been expanding since 2013. The advantages of webtoons are that they do not involve physical publishing, so they can be expressed in color, and they can be complexly staged using smartphone functions, such as adding animation and music.

When I first read the webtoon, I had the impression that the cartoon was moving like a video. The vertical movement of the finger on the phone screen is synonymous with the reader moving the camera up and down in the cartoon world (the so-called tilt shot). I found that the generation that grew up watching online distribution rather than paper books is good at expressions that make still images look like videos.

I would like to mention that webtoon production costs money. Originally, anyone with a piece of paper and a pencil could draw manga. But the production of webtoons requires a computer or tablet and drawing software. Precisely, Korean webtoons are not produced by a single outstanding manga artist but are studio productions by a group of professionals in each section: planning, character design, scriptwriting, drafting, coloring, finishing, etc.

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