Weekly Shonen Jump is Japan’s most successful manga magazine, something that’s been true, excluding a brief early-aughts blip, for upwards of 20 years. But the brand didn’t get there by some fluke – it earned notability by harnessing a number of talented artists in many eras; Go Nagai in the late 60s, Buichi Terasawa and Osamu Akimoto in the 70s, Hirohiko Araki, Masami Kurumada, and countless others in the 80s.
But that doesn’t mean the past 2 decades were free of uncertainty or bad luck for Shueisha. In actuality, in between the early-nineties peak where the magazine’s circulation topped 6 million copies and the modern era of Oda Eiichiro breaking his own volumes’ records on a regular basis, they experienced one of the biggest misfortunes that can befall a publishing empire: two franchise cornerstone series ending withing 13 months of each other.
This past year, viz media pulled off a first for the non-Japan manga industry. I’m referring to Shonen Jump Alpha, a digital “magazine” offering same-week release of the chapters of some 11 Weekly Shonen Jump manga. It’s pretty cool, and at 26$/year for 48 issues (and a buck per back issue), it’s not a totally unreasonable subscription fee. But that specific business model, one of same-week releases for official translations, is unfortunately not something that’s likely to be transferable to the majority of manga. Especially seinen and josei series with smaller fanbases. If you’ve ever wondered if the manga translation industry will catch up to where the anime industry is now with simulcasts, this article discusses the depressing reality of the situation and why such an outcome is relatively unlikely.
I’m a tremendous fan of battle series that play with creative power systems. So I was ecstatic when, some 5 years ago now, a new fantasy adventure manga about a couple who needed to hold hands constantly or perish called Double Arts arrived on the scene. I was equally devastated when, half a year later, Weekly Shonen Jump’s ruthless management killed the series dead immediately after some of the best introductory chapters of manga I’d ever read. I was younger then and didn’t realize that there were thousands of amazing manga I’d never even be able to read in my lifetime, so I was all kinds of devastated.
This whole affair was my introduction to one Komi Naoshi, a multiclass genius of a manga author who handily survived Double Arts’ cancellation and is currently set to break the anime barrier with an adaptation of two-years-young Weekly Shonen Jump (hereafter WSJ) manga Nisekoi. He’s also one of the few personalities in manga or anime who gets exponentially cooler the more I read about him. If you don’t currently have the afternoon’s worth of time to check out his entire mangaography (something I wholly endorse), then you might as well read this column.