Even if you’re a dedicated reader of standalone manga titles, you can’t escape the simple fact that many manga series are very long. (I’m looking at you, One Piece and Naruto.) If you collect the print volumes, they can take up a lot of space on your bookshelves. Follow multiple long-running series and it can get out of hand quickly. Because of this, it makes sense to read manga digitally. But that raises the question: what are the best manga reader apps and sites to use?
The Hard Truth about Manga Apps and Sites
Before I dive into that topic, I want to clear up some confusion regarding reading manga online. You can’t do it for free. I’m sorry. There are no online manga readers or manga apps that allow you to do that legally. While there are some sites that let you sample a couple series or chapters for free, there are none that let you read everything without paying something.
If you do find a site or app that claims to let you do that, I must inform you that it’s probably engaging in piracy. The manga available at those places are either English-licensed titles that have been pirated or they’re scans of unlicensed series that are unofficially translated by fans, also known as scanlations.
To make matters worse, there are even some paid manga apps that also engage in piracy. Isn’t that terrible? You’re handing over money, but none of it goes to the original manga creators, let alone the people who translate and publish it. These can be harder to spot, but you can still weasel them out. Ask yourself if it sounds too good to be true. Are you paying on a per-title basis? That’s probably legit. Or are you paying only $4 to access hundreds of manga series forever and ever? That’s probably less so.
I’m not trying to lecture anyone. I’m just trying to raise awareness, especially since many Asian countries—including Japan—are taking steps to crack down on piracy. People are being sentenced and fined! The last thing I want is for someone to get in legal trouble for their manga addiction. There are better ways to live.
With that out of the way, I’ve compiled some of the best manga reader sites and apps to use. I’ve also included a few manhwa and webtoon reader sites and apps for anyone wanting to branch out into Asian comics other than manga.
Best Manga Reader Apps and Sites
Comixology (Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Browser)
Seems obvious, right? But it’s true! If you also read Marvel, DC, or Image comics digitally, there’s a good chance you’re already doing so via Comixology. If so, why use another app? I’m a big fan of streamlining your digital life. Most North American manga publishers make their digital titles available on Comixology. The only caveat here is that not all manga series are available in digital format. On the other hand, some titles are only available in digital format. Some North American manga publishers even use the sales of these digital-only series to determine whether they should release a print edition. Overall, I consider Comixology to be the best manga reader for existing fans of Western comics and casual manga fans who normally read their ebooks on Kindle. (Did I mention that Comixology is owned by Amazon?)
VIZ Manga (Android, iOS)
Read English-language manga for any amount of time and you’ll soon notice that a lot of it is published by VIZ Media. One Piece, Naruto, One-Punch Man, Tokyo Ghoul—some of the biggest manga titles are published by VIZ. If you find yourself gravitating mostly toward series in VIZ’s catalog, this might be the best manga reader for you. In addition to letting you buy manga, it lets you preview new releases and even offers select chapters for free.
Shonen Jump (Android, iOS, Browser)
Weekly Shonen Jump is one of the biggest manga anthology magazines in Japan. Series like Haikyu! and My Hero Academia are serialized in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. VIZ publishes the English-language counterpart, which releases manga chapters of series the same day they’re made available in Japan. Old-time manga fans may remember the days of being years behind the Japanese release, so it’s great that today’s manga readers don’t have to experience that (for some series, at least). Shonen Jump also allows you to read select chapters for free via their website in your browser.
Crunchyroll (Android, iOS, Browser)
Most people know Crunchyroll as the anime streaming site. What’s lesser known is a premium membership—which allows you to watch new anime episodes an hour after they broadcast in Japan—includes access to a decent selection of manga titles. You won’t find any VIZ titles, but you can find manga published by Seven Seas Entertainment, Kodansha, and Vertical. Some of the selections are entire volumes while others are the most recent chapters published in Japan. For example, if you’re caught up on the collected volumes of Attack on Titan and can’t wait for the next release, you can check out the latest serialized chapters. An important thing to note, however, is that once these recent chapters are collected into a volume, they’re removed from Crunchyroll, so it’s in your best interest to stay on top of your reading list. Crunchyroll is the best manga reader for your budget if you’re also an anime fan.
Book Walker (Android, iOS, PC, Mac, Browser)
Book Walker is a global ebook store for manga and light novels. It’s kind of like Amazon except it only sells those two things, which makes casual browsing easier. The storefront splits everything into categories like new releases, simulpubs of recent serialized chapters, award winning titles, and even series that are being adapted into anime. In terms of discovery, I find the separation helpful. The major downside of this site, however, is that it’s based in Tokyo, so you may be charged foreign transaction fees. You also must use the website to make purchases, which is awkward if you’re all about the instant buy via app like I am. Depending on your location, though, this might be a good option.
Renta is the romance manga site. It hosts English-language romance manga of all types: shojo, erotica, boys love, and Harlequin. (Did you know a fair number of Harlequin novels get adapted into manga?) The site has its own translation and adaptation team, so it offers a decent number of exclusive titles. Purchasing is a little different from what we’re used to in the West, so let me walk you through it. You can either rent a title for 48 hours or for an unlimited period of time. You can also upgrade to unlimited from a 48-hours rental. To do so, you can either pay directly or buy points, which you can then apply to your rentals. If you find yourself using this site a lot, I recommend going the point route because not only is buying points in bulk a better value, Renta also occasionally offers discounts on point bundles.
Best Readers for Non-Manga Asian Comics
LINE Webtoon (Android, iOS, Browser)
Remember when I said above that no site will let you read hundreds of manga titles for free legally? I wasn’t being entirely accurate. While it’s true no site will let you read hundreds of manga titles in their entirely for free, there is one site that lets you read hundreds of webtoons for free: LINE. Mind you, LINE doesn’t just host webtoons from South Korean creators, it publishes comics from artists all over the world. But if you want access to lots—and I do mean lots—of regularly updated series for free, LINE Webtoon is the best manga reader for you, even if it doesn’t strictly host manga.
Netcomics (Android, iOS, Browser)
Let me backtrack a bit. South Korean comics are known as manhwa or webtoons. Manhwa is the transliteration of the word, “manga.” That said, the majority of South Korean comics are digital—hence the term webtoons. What makes webtoons unique is that they’re formatted specifically for reading via mobile, specifically your cell phone. In other words, there’s no confusion about which direction to read panels in. You just keep scrolling down.
Now back to Netcomics. This site offers a limited selection of manhwa and webtoons. You have the option to rent or buy titles. You can also earn points by writing reviews, which can then be applied to rentals and purchases.
Lezhin Comics (Android, iOS, Browser)
Lezhin bills itself as a publisher of premium webtoons for mature audiences. In short, its titles are not for kids. I cannot emphasize this enough. It uses a system similar to Renta, where you purchase coins, which you then use to purchase titles. Unlike Renta and Netcomics, there is no rental option, but Lezhin lets you sample at least the first chapter—and sometimes more—for free. As a word of warning, Lezhin sells by the chapter, not by the volume. And for the sake of full disclosure, Lezhin has faced intense scrutiny in the past due to the alleged unfair treatment of its creators. It’s not entirely clear whether those criticisms have been addressed, so you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you want to support them.
And there you have it! Some of the best manga reader apps, along with a few non-manga reader sites as well. Have you used some of these apps? What did you think about them? Know of any others? Let us know in the comments.