My ‘Golden Kamuy’ Debacle Reveals Holes in VIZ’s Free Shonen Jump Service (UPDATED)

It must be said that I absolutely adore VIZ Media’s new Shonen Jump service. It has successfully made consumption of manga in the west more accessible and economical with latest chapters available for free and the back catalog accessible for a very reasonable $1.99 monthly subscription. But the service is not without its problems – as the recent addition of Golden Kamuy to the service showcased.

The news that Satoru Noda’s Golden Kamuy was added to the service reached me on Friday last week, and I was very excited to say the least. I had always been intrigued by the premise of action and survival on the Japanese frontier, but I had heard that the anime adaptation wasn’t very good – who can forget the CGI bear – so I had always said that I would check out the manga instead. It’s addition to the Shonen Jump service seemed, therefore, the perfect opportunity to finally do so.

My 'Golden Kamuy' Debacle Reveals Weaknesses of VIZ's Free Shonen Jump Service
The notorious bear (Source: Crunchyroll)

However, loading up my Shonen Jump app and checking for Golden Kamuy in the back catalog didn’t retrieve any results. I was quite confused, as the news came from quite a reliable source. But a swift Google search quickly brought me the solution – 18+ rated content doesn’t show up in the app.

Golden Kamuy has its fair share of gore and violence, so this rating is certainly warranted. Yet why would VIZ put a hard limit on 18+ content in the app? Surely, if it is available as part of the subscription, then subscribers should get access to it. If there’s a need for age verification, then at least offer us a way to do so with an ID card or passport instead of blocking it completely.

In any case, I figured that if it wasn’t on the app, then I could just read it online. Luckily, I have a 2-in-1 laptop, so I can read manga quite comfortably using that. But yet another problem confronted me – region locking.

My 'Golden Kamuy' Debacle Reveals Weaknesses of VIZ's Free Shonen Jump Service

A quick search of VIZ’s website took me to the page where I could presumably read Golden Kamuy online, but instead, it displayed the following message: “The latest free chapters in your location are available on our partner website MANGA Plus by SHUEISHA.”

Well, fine, I thought. I’ll just use MANGA Plus, I guess. But searching through MANGA Plus retrieved no results either! Contrary to what the message says, Golden Kamuy is not available in my region (France) via MANGA Plus. It was only through the power of a VPN that I was even able to confirm that the series was indeed now available through Shonen Jump. Talk about a wild goose chase.

Looking at the small print of VIZ’s website revealed why Golden Kamuy wasn’t available in my region of France – the Shonen Jump service does not operate here. I assume this is either because of a lack of French-language manga or because VIZ simply lacks distribution rights in France. Either way, I started my subscription in the UK, so perhaps that’s why it still works. Yet providing inaccurate information and support in the form of the MANGA Plus signpost simply isn’t good enough – especially when I’m a paying customer.

In the end, this whole incident has revealed some real weaknesses in VIZ’s platform. Adult content being blocked from the app with no way to circumvent it without using the website is, frankly, ridiculous. But even more so, without prior knowledge, it’s very possible that a subscriber might never know that they’re missing out on more adult-oriented manga such as Golden Kamuy. Furthermore, the lack of clarity on region locking for subscribers was frustrating, thanks to inaccurate support and information.

This is not an attack on VIZ or the Shonen Jump service. As I stated at the beginning, the project is an incredibly important step forward in promoting manga consumption in the west and combating piracy. But if VIZ wants their initiative to grow to the heights it could, these problems need to be addressed as soon as possible.

UPDATED: We received a statement from VIZ media after the posting of this article.

GOLDEN KAMUY is rated Mature, so the vault chapters are not available through the SHONEN JUMP app, and is only available to be viewed through the VIZ website.

However, we are only currently licensed to publish our series in certain territories (U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the Philippines, Singapore, and India).

Since GOLDEN KAMUY is not actually on the Manga Plus app, we’ve forwarded this error onto our tech team to update the page.

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