Square Enix’s Manga Up! App was under flak for its questionable censorship of content and monetization practices—making viewers very upset.
Manga fans/otakus need their fan service to survive! With the recent launch of Square Enix’s manga app, Manga Up! (July 25, 2022, in North America), brought public outrage for ‘absurd’ censorship across multiple manga content. Fans have voiced their outcry and anger on social media when censored black bars appeared on questionable panels.
Censorship has been common in the manga industry for NSFW content such as sexual activities or flat-out nudity. And typically, these nude scenes would be covered with either a cloud, some creative way of using objects to block out breasts or sexual organs, or it would be cut off by the panels themselves. Most hard censoring would happen in more blatant adult manga like hentai or doujinshi where the artists intend to show full sex scenes in their manga panels.
However, Manga Up! went a little too far. One of the problematic censorings pointed out was with Marin Kitagawa’s bathing suit scene in the sex-positive manga series, My Dress Up Darling, which had a huge censored bar across her breast area but was not even nude. The anime ran without this censoring on Crunchyroll, so that said something on its own.
The Square Enix run app was first launched in Japan in 2017 that featured the company’s licensed manga such as Goblin Slayer, Soul Eater and Fullmetal Alchemist. While censorship was common, users noticed that Manga Up! was way too strict with its censorship—and also uploaded screenshots to prove a point. One manga even censored a panel with a character’s thigh barely in the panel.
With the censorship issues growing, the app has started getting a bunch of 1-star reviews on the Android Play Store and other app stores. One fan wrote: “Too much censorship, especially in stupid places where it clearly doesn’t need to be. Artistic integrity and freedom of expression have been attacked for years now, and you would think Square Enix of all companies would understand that, and their customer base hates it.”
The direct competitor to Manga Up, the Shonen Jump app, has charged its users $1.99 a month with a daily reading limit of 100 chapters. Manga Up! did a weird thing by including experience points and microtransactions for its users. Understanding the whole payment/incentive system gave me a migraine and made me facepalm more times than some of the moments in the latest season of Attack on Titan.
Manga Up! users have an eight-chapter daily reading limit and would gain experience points that they could use to read more chapters. The experience points were split into three categories: Up points, XP, and Coins. So, users will either have to build up enough points to read more each day or purchase experience points coins from its shop. The latest chapters could only be read using XP and Coins. First-time users would receive 120 XP upon registration, which equated to about $0.99 USD.
The kicker of the argument against Square Enix’s Manga Up! monetization setup was that one chapter could be split into separate parts. So, users would have to purchase Coins to finish a single chapter. Imagine having to pay for three parts of chapter one of a book. This concept was enough to stir many fans away, especially since Manga Up’s! selling point was Square Enix’s exclusive rights to Fullmetal Alchemist’s manga artist/mangaka, Hiromu Arakawa’s newest fantasy-action series, Daemon of The Shadow Realm. With the microtransaction system, it would take me hundreds, if not thousands, to finish reading the series!
The Square Enix team at Manga Up! did release a statement that they would be working to fix the censorship issues that occurred since it was “unavoidable to release the app to the whole world outside of Japan.” No comments have been made on the microtransactions feedback yet. It kind of begs the question of whether they should have waited to fix this problem before launching it in North America or did they plan to alienate a certain audience.