Anime Expo 2013
by Carlo Santos,
Viz's Shonen Jump panel gave fans an inside look at the workings of the brand. The panel was headed by Shonen Jump staff Urian Brown and Eric Eberhardt, Shonen Jump USA editor-in-chief Andy Nakatani, and editor of the Japanese edition, Hisashi Sasaki.
Nakatani began by reminding attendees of the Shonen Jump Alpha online subscription, and the various bonuses that fans can receive (such as Yu-Gi-Oh! cards) for subscribing.
The panel then moved on to a slideshow describing the history of manga and Shonen Jump's place in it. Sasaki spoke in detail about Shonen Jump's origins in 1968 as a competitor to periodicals such as Shonen Magazine and Shonen Sunday. The slideshow continued with a list of well-known Shonen Jump titles throughout history, beginning with classic 70's and 80's titles like Mazinger Z, Barefoot Gen, Kochikame, Space Adventure Cobra, Kinnikuman, Dr. Slump, Captain Tsubasa, Fist of the North Star, and Kimagure Orange Road.
The advent of megahit Dragon Ball also marked the beginning of Sasaki's career, and he spoke about some of his personal experiences during this time. Sasaki witnessed Dragon Ball's worldwide explosion in popularity, and it was also during this era that many great hits of the 80's emerged: City Hunter, Saint Seiya, and Jojo's Bizarre Adventure. Sasaki theorized that artists who were close in age all competed against each other to produce the best manga—a phenomenon that would later be repeated during the rise of the "Big Three" (Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece) in the 2000s.
Sasaki went on to speak about the 90's, which brought hits like Video Girl Ai, Slam Dunk, Yu Yu Hakusho, and most notably, Rurouni Kenshin (which was edited by Sasaki himself). Its creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki, actually started submitting material to Shonen Jump back in high school. Similarly, One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda began working with Shonen Jump when was a student, and it was the encouragement of the company's editors who helped him fine-tune his art. But even with Oda's promising talents, Sasaki admitted that he never imagined the series becoming as successful as it is today.
The late 90's also brought series like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Whistle!, Hunter x Hunter, and longtime fan-favorite Naruto, which is the best-selling manga in the US. The 21st century then saw the beginning of Bleach in 2001—and at this point in the discussion, the panelists reminded the audience that they would rather see fans reading the manga through official, paid channels (i.e. Shonen Jump Alpha). On a related note, it was in 2002, just one year after the debut of Bleach, that the U.S. Shonen Jump magazine began running.
The mid-2000's marked the debut of Death Note, while in the U.S. Naruto began running on Cartoon Network's Toonami block. Two well-known series, Toriko and Bakuman, both began in 2008, and Sasaki—despite being the type to "stay in the shadows"—allowed the creators of Bakuman to tell a story based on the real Shonen Jump company, even including Sasaki as a character. One of the most recent Shonen Jump hits is Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, which began in 2011, and just one year later, Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha launched in the U.S. as an online publication that allows English-speaking fans to stay caught up with the Japanese releases.
Shonen Jump Alpha has also allowed international fans to become acquainted with some of the very newest Shonen Jump titles including Barrage, Takama-gahara, Cross Manage, and Nisekoi. The year 2013 has already brought brand-new series to SJ Alpha such as One-Punch Man, World Trigger, and—soon to come in the July 15 issue—a new Akira Toriyama creation.
Shonen Jump's continuing quest for "world domination" means that Shonen Jump Alpha will now also be available in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, through the iOS platform (and later on Android).
The panel was then opened up to a brief question-and-answer session. Among the various topics discussed was the emphasis on newer manga—the panelists said that they wanted to re-create the Japanese fan experience of reading lots of new series debuts in SJ Alpha. Even a something as unlikely as a lacrosse manga (Cross Manage) ended up being well-liked among U.S. readers. The inclusion of One-Punch Man, which actually runs in Young Jump rather than Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan, also means that the SJ Alpha editors are open to the idea of including works from other magazines (but still within the Jump umbrella).
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