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My ancient tablet finally let me read manga in peace

How an underpowered tablet became my most loved piece of tech

A woman’s hand with a fuschia manicure, holding a tablet depicting three panels from a manga Photo: Ana Diaz/Polygon

A shitty tablet sits on my bedside table. It has a glass screen protector with long thin cracks and fan-made stickers from the anime Haikyuu! on the back. The battery takes over 24 hours to charge fully and it can’t keep a charge well while doing basic tasks. It’s buggy, slow, and struggles to stream video. It has an outdated version of the Android operating system and can’t even download certain apps. It’s roughly 6 years old at this point, and its tech is fraying. Despite all that, I think it’s one of my favorite pieces of tech I own.

That’s because it’s been one of the most stable sources of entertainment for me since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it may not have the versatility of an iPad, it’s become my go-to piece of tech because it allows me to do one thing extremely well: read manga on the Shōnen Jump app. Together, the shitty tablet and Shōnen Jump make for a powerful combination stronger than Goku himself.

Shōnen Jump, the popular Japanese manga magazine, has a subscription service where you can read titles digitally for $1.99 a month. Each day, you can either load online or download up to 100 chapters of manga. (In my experience, hitting the 100-chapters limit is hard, but not impossible.) Shōnen’s library swells with titles ranging from staples like One Piece and Naruto to more recently popular series like Jujutsu Kaisen and My Hero Academia.

For me, reading on the Shōnen Jump app started as a way to connect with old interests in a new way. I went back and read Bleach after only having watched the show as a teen. In doing so, I finally got to see a more satisfying ending to that story, since the anime ended without adapting the final arc. (To my luck, creator Tite Kubo ended up announcing a sequel series, Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War, less than a year after I completed the manga, but I’m still glad I read it.)

Nobara, Yuuji, and Megumi in Jujutsu Kaisen Image: MAPPA

Bleach ended up being just the beginning, and I proceeded to tear through decades’ worth of manga. One Piece alone is over 1,000 chapters. Mangaka Eichiro Oda released the first chapter in 1997, and I was able to read over 20 years of a story on my tablet. At first, starting One Piece might seem intimidating, but I genuinely enjoyed knowing exactly what I was going to read each night. I’ve now read the entirety of the series that’s been released so far.

I’m waiting for One Piece to accumulate more chapters before I pick it up again, but other series bring their own charms. I read the gory smash hit Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto, as well as his emotionally gripping and devastating manga Look Back. There’s Jujutsu Kaisen, whose Shibuya Arc (which has not been animated yet) absolutely whips. Spy x Family got an anime release on April 9, but the manga is one of the most enjoyable and entertaining reads in several years — inside or outside the medium. The Shōnen Jump app has become a practical and enjoyable addition to my regular media diet.

The shitty tablet is the perfect way to read through all these grand adventures. Sure, it can’t play games, but it has more than enough juice to load the pages or download the chapters. Even its lack of computing power brings an unanticipated treat: The tablet doesn’t run Discord well and I didn’t download Twitter, so I now have a dedicated reading tablet where I’m not constantly bombarded with notifications. Another huge bonus for me is that the tablet was free. It belonged to my younger brother, who stopped using it after its charging issues began.

A woman’s hand with pink painted nails holding a tablet with anime characters on the front. Image: Ana Diaz

I won’t lie. I’m not toting this sucker all over town. The battery takes forever to charge, even though it can hold a charge for a day or two of reading. Also, you need to prepare in advance by downloading the reading if you won’t have access to reliable internet. However, it’s there when I need it. I’ve taken it to read on six-hour road trips and have torn through years of a story in one sitting. It feels great, too, since it’s not too heavy; it’s much lighter and easier to hold than a standard iPad from the latest line. Plus, I like that I don’t need to worry about protecting it, since it’s beat up already.

It’s nothing fancy and I usually just leave it plugged into the wall and sitting on my bedside table. But that’s fine! My shitty tablet has become a treasured part of my nightly wind-down routine, and has been a way for me to reconnect with manga and develop new interests. So now, when I run into people who are interested in manga or grew up watching anime, I always ask if they’ve considered getting a shitty tablet.

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