VIVA-PSICOM Publishing, for better or worse, has revitalized Philippine popular literature by acquiring publishing rights to popular fanfiction from Wattpad, editing them to remove references to the original material they were based from, and printing them on paperback.

This also gives VIVA more than enough intellectual property to choose from for potential film adaptations, and in turn attract a growing teenage (mostly fangirl) audience.

The said joint venture has since set its sights on a new target market: manga and anime fans. The job opening for Japanese-to-Tagalog translators it released back in February fueled speculation of its possible plans to translate and publish various manga titles.

VIVA-PSICOM has since confirmed these rumors and released its first set of Filipino-translated manga in Early June: the first two volumes of Fairy Tail and Attack on Titan.

©Hiro Mashima • KODANSHA. Published by VIVA-PSICOM Publishing Corp.
©Hiro Mashima • KODANSHA. Published by VIVA-PSICOM Publishing Corp.

 

This is not the first time a Philippine-based publisher ventured into translating manga to the vernacular. You may have seen volumes of Doraemon and Detective Conan manga published in Filipino by JLINE Comics Center on bookstore shelves.

Although JLINE‘s effort to bring manga to the masses is certainly laudable, it had to sacrifice printing quality (they were printed on  the same type of paper that schools use to print periodic exams) to cut on cost.

That being said, it will be very interesting to see how VIVA-PSICOM‘s foray into manga publishing will all turn out, both in terms of sales and popularity.

This is why we are reviewing one of its initial manga releases—Fairy Tail Vol. 1 by Hiro Mashima—to get a sense of the groundwork the publisher is laying out for its manga releases moving forward.

This review will not delve into the story and characters of Fairy Tail, but will instead focus on how VIVA-PSICOM handled its local release.

 

The Good

Overall print quality

A typical page from Fairy Tail Vol. 1 Philippine Edition.
A typical page from Fairy Tail Vol. 1 Philippine Edition.

Simply holding the volume in your hand tells you how much VIVA-PSICOM wants its readers to get as close to the real manga experience as possible: it is read from back to front, it is almost as thick as English-translated manga, and the cover shares the same design as the Japanese and English releases. I do wish that the cover emphasized its main selling point—its translation to Filipino—instead of just printing “Philippine Edition” in small letters.

In contrast to the greyscale paper that JLINE used for its Doraemon releases, VIVA-PSICOM uses paper with very good thickness and just a slight yellow tinge. Although I cannot tell if it’s the exact same paper that Japanese and English publishers use for manga, it shouldn’t matter even to manga purists as it serves as an excellent canvas to the media it serves to present. The quality of the printout is superb overall, but there are minor blemishes which we will go into detail later.

 

Translation
If one is to be very picky about terminology, the language used in the translation isn’t strictly Tagalog, but is instead a good degree of Taglish. Yes, there were certain instances where I wished they used the Tagalog word instead of English and vice versa, but it is still quite comfortable and not too awkward to read through.

I admit though that I haven’t read nor watched the source material before reading this manga, so it’s difficult to tell if anything got lost in translation. (If anyone has read both the English and Tagalog releases, please feel free to point out any translation errors in the comments.) At the very least, nothing in the dialog felt out of place within the context of the story, which is a good sign.

Price
At PhP 195, it is definitely a steal compared to English releases from ViZ Media, Tokyopop and even ChangYi, which can go anywhere from PhP 250 to 500 per volume. And considering that the publisher pulled out all the stops to come as close to the genuine article as possible, it is quite a bang for your buck.

Unless of course, you find these cons glaring…

 

The Bad

Comic Sans
COMIC. FREAKIN’. SANS. Although the variety of this much-maligned font used in this release is more slender than the one we’re used to seeing, manga purists and avid comics readers might consider this a huge dealbreaker.

Since the whole thing is sold vacuum-sealed, you won’t be able to tell which typeface the publisher used until you buy it, which might make anyone who buys it feel cheated. And even if you manage to get used to seeing that font in the dialog, a part of you would still wish that they used a more authentic typeface.

If anyone from VIVA-PSICOM is reading this, please note that a version the font used far more often in English manga releases—Anime Ace 2.0—is available to download and use for free. You’re welcome.

 

Minor printing issues

Page 169, where the low resolution rendering of the panels is apparent.
Page 169, where the low resolution rendering of the panels is apparent.

Although I meantion that the printout quality is mostly top-class, there are still some issues with the printing that occasionally show up on the pages of this release.

A few pages show ink bleeding and dotting, but not to the degree that it adversely affects how the panels show on the page. A page or two might show as slightly misaligned, depending on the printing run the copy came out of.

The most glaring of these issues though is when some pages are rendered in a lower resolution than others, which in the case of this volume shows on pages 132 and 169.

These pages show as being fuzzy and slightly pixelated, except for the text inside the speech balloons. This issue could stem either from the source material that Kodansha provided, or how the editing software rendered the image after the translated dialog was put in.

 

The Verdict

Casting the font and printing issues aside, I find VIVA-PSICOM‘s Filipino edition of Fairy Tail very impressive especially considering the low price its asking for each volume of the manga. The fact that I could only find two major but fixable issues with this release speaks volumes of how far the publisher has come to provide the best possible manga reading experience.

If this venture turns out to be commercially successful, which is not a far-off possibility, VIVA-PSICOM could very well release all available volumes of its titles, which in the case of Fairy Tail currently stands at 49 volumes. It may also consider acquiring licenses of other popular titles from Kodansha like Air Gear and School Rumble, or expand to titles from other manga publishers such as Shueisha and Shogakukan.

We could be witnessing the dawn of a golden age for manga in the Philippines, but this will depend on whether or not VIVA-PSICOM plays its marketing cards right.

I am giving the Filipino-translated edition of Fairy Tail Vol. 1 an 8 out of 10 stars. The score could’ve been higher if not for the use of Comic Sans, but otherwise I consider this a must-buy for all anime fans, whether or not you’ve read the manga already.

 

Volumes 1 and 2 of Fairy Tail and Attack on Titan are exclusively available on all National Bookstore outlets nationwide for PhP 195 each.

If you have comments or reactions regarding the topic, you may send an email at [email protected] or Tweet at @PBNkapamilya.


The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of Anime Pilipinas, its members, partners, and colleagues. If you have comments or reactions, please email at [email protected].

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