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Sunday, January 3, 2016

An Introduction to The Ages of Jump

A Happy New Year to everyone! I may be entering "part-time" status with the blog, but that doesn't mean that I'll be holding back if I have an idea I want to try out, especially if it's something I can do by relying on my own personal research. The best way to showcase this is to bring back the concept of "Jump January", and then expand that into "Jump February", too. In fact, why not try to actually cover Weekly Shonen Jump's history by way of its long-runners & notable hits?

I make no attempts to hide that I am a fan of Shonen Jump as a whole, even though it's technically a manga magazine filled with titles aimed mainly at pre-teen to young teen audiences; to be fair, though, there is a sizable fanbase of ages 16 & up. I definitely don't keep up with many of the series that run in it, nor have I watched anywhere near a notable amount of their anime adaptations, but I tend to find enjoyment & fun in a good majority of what originally ran in the 48-year old magazine; I guess "Friendship, Effort, & Victory" is just a motto that I appreciate. Sadly, when it comes to the history of the catalog, there isn't quite as much know-how out there. There's the present history, sure, but the present's shape, style, & identity is formed because of what came before it, and there's a ton that came before it.

From the original 1968 logo to the present logo, the Jump Pirate's always been there.

Even in Japan, there is one specific time in Jump's history that is given an exact name, and that's the "Golden Age of Jump". This specific era was home to titles like Fist of the North Star, Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, Yu Yu Hakusho, Slam Dunk, & Rurouni Kenshin, i.e. some of the most iconic action manga of all time, let alone simply within the annals of Jump. Still, those titles were only able to come into existence because of the successes that came before them, the ones that established the ideas, concepts, traditions, & tropes that these later titles refined into their most identified forms. Also, after the Golden Age there was a another era of great success for Jump, one which could be argued actually came to an end with the start of last year following the end of Naruto, which was only the fourth Jump manga to ever have its entire final chapter be serialized in full color (following Ring ni Kakero, Dragon Ball, & Slam Dunk). Not just that, but you obviously can't go from era of all-time greatest success (in term of readership numbers) to another era of (not quite as high) success without a small mini-era of dark times, where your biggest breadwinners have all ended & something new needs to take the helm. There's more than just one "Age" within the history of this magazine, and it's time to finally identify all of them.

Therefore, welcome to what I call "The Ages of Jump". This will be a massive look at the various manga that defined Weekly Shonen Jump through what I consider the four "Ages" that the magazine has gone through so far, and I've used the names of the various Ages of Man to identify them:
The Bronze Age of Jump [1, 1968-41, 1983; ~15 Years]
The Golden Age of Jump [41, 1983-28, 1996; ~13 Years]
The Dark Age of Jump [28, 1996-43, 1999; ~3 Years]
The Silver Age of Jump [43, 1999-50, 2014?; ~15 Years?]

While I have pinpointed the beginnings & ends of these Ages down to the exact issue & year, that's mainly for purposes of simple identification. Remember, transitioning from one Age to another completely takes time, so these are basic time frames that I'm relying on. The fact that they last more or less equally long (minus the Dark Age) is just a coincidental bonus that kind of solidifies my concept of these Ages of Jump. Still, just because the Golden Age ended in 1996 doesn't mean that it's identity left Jump right then & there, because there were still a few Golden Age-era titles running well into 1999. That applies to the other eras, too, like how Jump's present golden child, One Piece, is technically a Dark Age manga, & the longest-running manga ever (in terms of total length), Kochikame, is technically a Bronze Age manga. Likewise, there will be plenty of titles that debuted during what I've deemed the recently-ended (maybe?) Silver Age that will continue well into whatever new Age Jump may be entering right now.

So how exactly will I do this? I'll be splitting up each Age across two posts, and in each one I'll bring up exactly 18 manga (minus the Dark Age, which will be a single post with 15 titles) that debuted during these respective Ages, and what they either have definitively brought to the table or (for less known titles, especially those in the early Bronze Age) what they likely did special to make them run for as long as they have. Why 18 titles per post? Because the metric I'm using inadvertently spaced out evenly like that. What metric am I using to reduce the literal hundreds of Jump manga to only ~123 of them (plus maybe the occasional one solely for referential purposes)? I am only counting titles that have run for at least three years, with only a few exceptions in cases where they truly did something especially notable in the short time they ran in. While I think it's highly respectable to last even just one year in Jump, which is infamous for being ruthless in terms of putting an end to promising titles early, if one can last three years or beyond then it's at least made it to a double-digit volume count, and in that time it's shown that it deserves some real attention. Also, while I'll bring up anime adaptations whenever possible for a covered manga, I am not relying on them as proof of being worthy of inclusion. Many notable Bronze Age titles never received anime adaptations, for example, while the nature of anime production nowadays has resulted in numerous short manga being animated for no other reason than for promotional purposes, so I'm removing the concept of anime adaptations from consideration for inclusion.

I think with as many titles as I'll be covering (seriously, 123 is a big number) I'll have covered all of the truly notable ones, plus numerous lesser-known ones, but I'm sure someone, somewhere, may still read this entire series of posts one day in the future & think "Hey, what about [insert Jump manga I neglected to mention here]?!". If that's the case, then I'm sorry, but I think I should be given some slack in this situation. So, yeah, this will likely take up not just this month but also next month, especially if I want to actually cover all of these titles with at least an equal amount of detail. So let's explore some history together, shall we?

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