By Yayoi Kawatoko / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterShukan Shonen Jump, the weekly manga magazine published by Shueisha Inc. that has introduced countless comics and fired the imaginations of boys for decades, celebrated its 50th anniversary last month.
How has Jump been able to produce so many hit manga that have grown to become social phenomena? The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed the magazine’s current editor, Hiroyuki Nakano, to discover the secret to its success and what the future holds.
“The only thing that hasn’t changed since the first issue is that it’s kept on changing,” Nakano said.
Jump was first published in July 1968, later than two other major weekly manga magazines for boys: Shukan Shonen Sunday and Shukan Shonen Magazine. Established manga artists at the time were already drawing for the other magazines, so Jump offered opportunities to new artists.
Discovering new talent has become a lasting tradition of the magazine, which is still producing popular works. Another tradition is the premium Jump places on reader opinion cards. Each issue still comes with a card asking readers to write down their favorite work and mail it in.
“Producing a big hit is the main incentive for artists and editors. We are vying for the top spot week in, week out,” Nakano said.
One can go on and on naming the major hit titles Jump has produced: “Harenchi Gakuen” (Shameless school) and “Otoko Ippiki Gakidaisho” (One male juvenile boss) in the early days; “Kinnikuman” (Ultimate Muscle), “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) and “Captain Tsubasa” in the 1980s; “Slam Dunk” in the 1990s; and timeless favorites such as “Dragon Ball” and “Kochira Katsushika-ku Kamearikoen-mae Hashutsujo” (This is the police box in front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward), nicknamed “Kochikame.”
In 1994, Jump achieved a circulation of 6.53 million, a record in the magazine industry.
The current marquee series is “One Piece,” which began in 1997 and passed the 20-year mark last year. The book compilations of the manga, about a character named Luffy who sails the seas with his mates on an adventure to become the pirate king, have seen more than 430 million copies printed. “The appearance of ‘One Piece’ raised the level and status of manga today,” Nakano said.
Jump continues to be the No. 1 manga magazine for boys, but popular works such as “Kochikame,” “Bleach” and “Naruto” successively ended their runs several years ago. Apart from “One Piece,” not a single current work in the magazine has had more than 1 million copies printed in their first edition.
Children today belong to a generation that takes for granted being surrounded by digital technology. Reading manga in electronic book editions and uploading one’s own manga on the internet have become common in the world of manga. Readers’ interests have become diversified, and so have the platforms for finding new talent.
Friendship, hard work and victory have come to been seen as major themes in Jump, although Nakano says these are not set in stone. “Yakusoku no Neverland” (The Promised Neverland), a manga currently serialized in Jump, has a female protagonist. At first, even some of the magazine’s editors were convinced the story was not well-suited to Jump. However, it has grown to become a major hit.
Currently, the print run for each issue of the paper edition stands at one-third of the figure in the magazine’s heyday.
“I personally think manga are more interesting when read on paper,” Nakano said. “But the move to digitization is natural, and it’s up to readers to make the choice.”
Jump is already experimenting with ways to find promising new manga artists, such as by creating a smartphone app for posting digital manga.