Square Enix’s New Manga Up Service Has Awkward Censorship and a Terrible Pay Model

Square Enix recently released its Manga Up service globally, and it’s already under fire. Readers have taken issue with the app’s ridiculous level of censorship and extremely high prices compared to its competition. In the week since the service’s launch, more and more fans have taken to social media to speak out against what seems to be an incredibly low-effort way for Square Enix to make the most money off its manga IPs for the least amount of effort.

How Manga Up offers inferior versions of manga for more money

Manga Up was released in Japan in 2018 but only recently got a global version. Users have reported that content on the Japanese version of the service doesn’t feature any additional censorship. However, the international version has an overwhelming amount of censorship. Furthermore, it doesn’t just include nudity or violence. Instead, practically anything that could be considered risque (and a lot that’s not) has been inconsistently censored throughout the app’s library.

This means characters that show cleavage, like Marin from the top-rated My Dress Up Darling series, can spend entire chapters mostly obscured. Furthermore, Manga Up doesn’t use the standard mosaic or thin strips we usually see. Instead, big black boxes are slapped over the offending material.

I’d place my bets on the censorship being performed by an AI. There are some results, like an exposed knee or the crotch of a girl wearing jeans that is in no way lewd or sexualized, that makes me think that humans didn’t review these changes, much less carry them out.

Part of the impetus to censor Manga Up so severely seems to be that there are only two versions of the app: Japan and everywhere else. So, it wouldn’t be surprising if Square Enix sterilized all the content on the global version so it could release the one app everywhere to save money.

The Manga Up Global Team did respond to the complaints of censorship with what is effectively a non-answer:

“Regarding Censorship on the MANGA UP! App

In consideration of each mobile platform’s policies, some modifications were unavoidable to release the app to the whole world outside of Japan (this is not limited to only English-speaking countries).

We are still in the early exploratory stages and will strive to improve while listening to your feedback.

In the meanwhile, some of the content is available uncensored through other official streams, so please continue supporting the artists.

Thank you for your patience.

-MANGA UP! Global Team”

That Tweet was sent on July 27. Since then, Manga Up has only tweeted once more to advertise new content going up on the app. This behavior is very peculiar for a service that just had its global launch.

Manga Up’s monetization is nonsensical

Manga Up Chapters

Also odd is the way Manga Up monetizes its content. There’s no monthly subscription and no way to permanently unlock any manga. Instead, there are three different currencies you can use to borrow a manga “chapter” for 72 hours. You get free currency that refills each day that allows you to borrow eight “chapters,” but there’s a catch. Every manga chapter in this app is divided into 4 “chapters.” So, really the free currency only allows you to read two chapters a day.

To make matters worse, the premium currency on Manga Up is expensive. A user on Twitter, @LossThief, calculated that if you wanted to “buy” all 1,055 chapters of One Piece on Manga Up (for three days since even content purchased with premium currency expires), it would cost $1,043.46. Alternatively, you could buy a physical version of every individual volume at full retail price for $791.01 and keep them forever. The best deal, of course, is to subscribe to Shonen Jump for $2 a month. It has a limit of 100 chapters per day (which is 98 more than you get from Manga Up), but that’s the only caveat to your subscription.

Manga Up Shop Premium Currency

So, why would Square Enix release a service with the worse version of every manga on it and charge more than MSRP for the privilege of renting it for three days? I refuse to believe someone could be so out of touch as to think this would be successful. So, either Square Enix is actively sabotaging itself for some reason or trying to increase its valuation through every available avenue.

Square Enix’s game release calendar has been packed this year, and the company has been making some weird moves. It seems to many like the company is posing itself for a buyout. If that’s the case, it’d make sense to throw up a manga subscription service and try to gain as many users and sell as much premium currency as possible for the least amount of effort.

The other news, a leak suggests more Rainbow Road is coming to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Iron Man and Thanos armor sets have been datamined.

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