Square Enix Botches New Manga Service With Sex Censorship, Extra Charges

Square Enix Botches New Manga Service With Sex Censorship, Extra Charges
What in the world did I summon? (Image: Square Enix / Shounen Gangan / Kotaku)

Yesterday, Square Enix launched the English version of its new online manga service, Manga Up!. But within 24 hours of its release, users have voiced outrage over the app’s aggressive censorship bars and monetisation practices.

First launched in Japan in 2017, Manga Up! features licensed manga under Square Enix, such as Goblin Slayer, Soul Eater, and Fullmetal Alchemist. However, users noticed that manga titles with more adult content like the sex-positive series have censorship bars over its characters. This led users to upload screenshots from Manga Up!’s app and voice their outrage at its heavy-handed censorship.

Censorship isn’t unique to manga. In spicier manga that are hentai or doujinshi, intimate manga panels utilise censorship bars to cover up penises. Run-of-the-mill manga series handle censorship in creative ways by either drawing clouds over character’s naughty bits or inserting euphemisms. They can also go the nuclear route by having their series feature a boatload of fanservice like with Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail. Usually licensed manga don’t actually show the ins-and-outs of sex scenes. Manga with mature ratings that do depict sex scenes have a tendency to not get too detailed about what’s happening, save for Berserk. In bookstores, these manga are plastic wrapped so curious customers don’t see what’s contained inside its pages.

Each series on Manga Up! comes with a content warning. For example, Fullmetal Alchemist’s content warning informs readers that the series includes murder, self mutilation, religious themes, and discrimination. While bloody battle scenes and smoking don’t get the anime shadow effect treatment on the app, series like the sex-positive manga series My Dress-Up Darling have huge censor bars over anything that could be considered risqué–basically any cosplay Marin Kitagawa wears in the series.

According to Manga Up!’s official Twitter account, the app’s use of censorship is Square Enix’s way of appealing to mobile platform policies for a wide array of countries like Indonesia.

“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.)” Manga Up’s statement read. “We are still in the early exploratory stages and will strive to improve while listening to your feedback.”

In lieu of Manga Up!’s current censorship status, the company concluded its statement by encouraging users to support manga artist’s work by reading uncensored manga available on other manga-reading platforms.

Read More: We Sure Got Used To Microtransactions And DLC, Huh

Censorship isn’t the only thing that’s put Manga Up! in the hot seat online. In contrast to the Shonen Jump app which charges users $US1.99 ($3) a month with a daily reading limit of 100 chapters, Manga Up! has experience points and microtransactions, as if it were a video game.

On Manga Up!, users have an eight-chapter daily reading limit. By completing chapters, users gain experience points that they can use to read more manga chapters. These experience points are split up into three categories: Up points, XP, and Coin. If users wish to deep-dive into their favourite manga, they’ll either have to accumulate enough points to do so or purchase experience points coins from its shop, which has its own dedicated tab in the app. “Advance chapters”–i.e., the most recent chapters in a series–can only be read by using XP and Coin. By downloading the app, users get a first time additional 120 XP, which amounts to $US.99 ($1) USD through Manga Up!’s in-app currency. To make matters worse, single chapters on Manga Up! are split into parts–basically incentivising readers to purchase coins so they can complete an entire chapter.

Kotaku reached out to Square Enix for comment.

Manga Up! is having a rough launch for its web manga and app service. Square Enix’s horse blinder-esque commitment to lean into unpopular monetisation tactics like integrating “story-focused NFTs” and Final Fantasy VII NFTs has also found a home with Manga Up! through its use of in-app currency. This is a shame because the major selling point for Manga Up! is its exclusive rights over Fullmetal Alchemist mangaka Hiromu Arakawa’s newest fantasy action series, Daemon of The Shadow Realm. Now that series has the weird gamer stink of predatory microtransactions associated with it.



  • hmm, why do people even look at this sort of app?, Square Enix has turned into nothing more than pure money grabbers, as can be seen with FFXV and it’s DLC farm, and has since been in everything they’ve done. Mobile apps just go for grabbing as much as possible, from putting up 10+ adds when you open the app, to locking progress behind inpossible means. And if what I read is true and SE is looking at Sony buying them, then I see games being locked behind a very unavailable/ expensive and ugly looking console for 2+ years before being available on PC (which is more accessible and powerful). I used to be subed to Crunchyroll, but with the lack of revoicing (in eng) and the amount of full screen blur it was no longer worth the time, much like this.

  • At some point Japanese companies may service the Western manga market better than a bunch of weebs translating & redrawing for free, but I doubt it’ll be anytime soon.

    • There is Book Walker is owned and operated by Kadokawa, you can’t miss them as they sponsor a lot of anime and manga tubers.

  • ‘like the sex-positive series’

    Give me a break and use English FFS, you’re just embarrassing yourself. There’s no denying how stupid this censorship is though (almost as stupid as the phrase sex positive), if the shirtless males aren’t censored while females are it’s just hypocritical, sexist and illogical by default. There’s a lot of that around and it’s always disgusting to see.

    • Sex-positive is a completely normal term that has been used to describe media that promotes sex in healthy ways. Sometimes explicitly depicted, sometimes not.

      The problem is that there’s a missing manga name in the sentence, not that it’s nonsense. Almost the exact same phrase is used later with the name not missing: “…series like the sex-positive manga series My Dress-Up Darling have huge censor bars…”

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