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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Golden Age of Jump Part 2: The 2,500,000 Reader Pyramid

When most manga fans were to think of manga that came from Shonen Jump's "Golden Age", the general response would more than likely be filled with titles of the 80s, i.e. the stuff I covered in Part 1. Quite frankly, that's a completely reasonable response, too, because a fair percentage of manga that debuted from 1983-1990 still see new products to this very day. Saint Seiya has a sequel manga, various spin-off manga, nigh-yearly anime productions, & video games. Dragon Ball, after a bit of a drought, has a brand new midquel anime series airing on Japanese TV. City Hunter has a parallel universe sequel manga still running that had its own anime series. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a big deal for TV anime right now. Also, Sakigake!! Otokojuku, Fist of the North Star, & Hana no Keiji live on to this day, either via recent video games or spin-off manga & anime. In comparison, the manga that debuted during the second half of the Golden Age, 1990-1996, aren't quite as inundated with recent ("within the past five years or so") productions, though there are some notable exceptions. Still, it's not like Jump suffered by any means during this second half, and three series that debuted at the tail end of 1990 made sure that the new decade (or at least it's first half) wasn't going to feel less important in comparison to what came before.

A former assistant to Tsukasa Hojo during City Hunter's run, Takehiko Inoue made his professional debut as the artist of the short-lived 1989 manga Chamelon Jail (written by Kazuhiko Watanabe) under the alias Takehiko Nariai. Taking a year to prepare for a solo debut, Inoue looked back at his old high school days, when he was part of the basketball team. Inspired by his fond memories, he debuted Slam Dunk, which told the journey of Hanamichi Sakuragi, a red-haired delinquent who only joined the basketball team to impress a girl he has a crush on, as he went from talentless punk to a potential high school b-ball great. Mixing together Inoue's excellent drawing style with excellent comedy, fun characters, & lots of visual flair for the sport itself, though it took itself very realistically, Slam Dunk not only became a true-blue mega hit for Jump, but it also suddenly made basketball way more popular than it ever was; before Inoue started his manga, the sport was more or less ignored in Japan. In a Jump environment that was dominated by Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk was probably the first real series to not just challenge it for the overall throne (by that I mean not just being the most popular series but also be a massive seller), but arguably dethrone it at a regular pace. In fact, as of today, Inoue's first solo manga is still one of the best-selling manga of all time, selling over 120 million copies in Japan alone! In 2010, Inoue was even given a special commendation from the Japan Basketball Association for helping popularize the sport in Japan. Toei also got involved, giving the manga a TV anime adaptation from 1993-1996 that ran for 101 episodes (plus four movies). Finally, on the manga side, when the series came to an end in mid-1996, after 31 volumes, not only did Slam Dunk become the third Jump series to be given the full-color final chapter treatment (& the last for close to 20 years), it's very end resulted in a readership loss of roughly two million, a.k.a. four times the amount that Dragon Ball's finale did to Jump's readership! Indeed, Slam Dunk's finale marked the very end of the Golden Age of Jump... Luckily, we still have the entire second half to still get through, so let's continue.

A few weeks later saw the serialized debut of a man who first became known for drawing Dragon Ball Gaiden, a mid-1990 one-shot based on Akira Toriyama's series; that said, his first series would be almost nothing like that. Chinyuuki -Taro to Yukaina Nakama-tachi-/Journey to the Strange -Taro & His Pleasant Friends- by Gatarou☆Man may have been based off of the same Chinese classic story as Dragon Ball, Saiyuki/Journey to the West, but that was really the only similarity between the two. Following Taro Yamada, a self-proclaimed "dandy" whose violent & callous behavior got him transformed into a half-monkey, half-child... thing, & his journey with the monk Genjo to the paradise called Tenjiku, Chinyuuki was technically a gag manga. I say "technically", because it certainly wasn't quite like any of its contemporaries. Man was someone with a truly dirty, foul, & depraved sense of humor, with the end result being that Taro wasn't just the kind of egotistical anti-hero who would piss on your grave; no, that wouldn't be enough for him. Taro would piss on your grave, paint graffiti onto your parents' grave, & then piss on that grave to clean off the graffiti before dumping a deuce on the grave to act like some sort of reverse air-freshener. Not surprisingly, the manga didn't endear itself in any way to some people. While it was apparently successful at the time, it was vehemently hated by parents, and in early 1992 Shueisha put an end to the manga after only six volumes. Gatarou☆Man would make a short-lived spin-off in Jump via 1994's two-volume Manyuuki ~Baba ato Aware Nage Bokutachi/Baba & Her Pathetic Servants~, followed by an actual sequel/reboot over a decade later with 2009-2010's four-volume Chinyuuki 2 -Yume no Inzei Seikatsu-hen/The Royal Life of Dreams Chapter-. To celebrate Man's 20th Anniversary as a manga creator, flash OVA adaptations were made of both Chinyuuki & Jigoku Koshien/Battlefield Baseball (which had previously been made into a live-action movie in 2003). Overall, though, Man's debut serialization would remain relatively low-key until 2014/2015, when Taro Yamada was included as a playable character in the video game J-Stars Victory Vs, which celebrated Jump's 45th Anniversary (& V-Jump's 20th). His inclusion, though angering many international fans because his manga was unknown outside of Japan, did bring some new notoriety to Chinyuuki, with a new live-action movie adaptation debuting in Japan this month. Not bad for a manga that was so messed up that it got canceled due to complaints instead of ratings.

Yoshihiro Togashi started his career in manga off in 1986 with various one-shots, and would make his serialized debut with 1989-1990's Ten de Showaru Cupid/An Altogether Wicked Cupid, a romantic comedy about a boy & a sensuous devil girl, which only lasted four volumes. He wouldn't become a big name until his next work, though, which was late 1990's Yu☆Yu☆Hakusho/Poltergiest Report. Debuting in such a competitive time was no easy task, as he had already experienced with his prior series, so Togashi did something extremely ballsy when he debuted his next work... He started off by killing his main character. Indeed, the manga started with the death of Yusuke Yurameshi, a high school delinquent whose first truly altruistic action in life resulted in his untimely end. After being given an eventual second chance at life, though, Yusuke is recruited by the Spirit World as its "Spirit Detective", investigating ordeals involving demons & the like. Though it started off more as a mystery-styled series, Togashi always planned on making it an action manga, and his smart writing, intriguing characters, & use of horror, the occult, & Buddhist concepts helped make the series into one of Jump's most iconic. In fact, Yu Yu Hakusho (the stars are optional) was rated higher (i.e. its new chapter would be in the magazine earlier) than Dragon Ball on numerous occasions during the time both series ran simultaneously, and while the latter obviously sold more due to sheer length the former more than pulled its own weight. Togashi, however, was a bit of a perfectionist, which resulted in him working harder on his titles than he usually had to, and in mid-1994 he decided to put a rather sudden end to Yu Yu Hakusho out of his own "selfishness", after 19 volumes. Still, the series is now looked at as a true icon of Jump's Golden Age, and Studio Pierrot's 112-episode TV anime adaptation from 1992-1994 (plus two anime movies & a series of recap OVAs from 1994-1996) is still considered a classic on its own merit.

A series that's essentially unheard of outside of Japan (only recently has it even been given any sort of fan translation), early 1991's Outer Zone by Shin Mitsuhara was an interesting change of pace from the usual Jump fare. Inspired by both The Outer Limits & The Twilight Zone, which is likely where the name came from, as well as Mystery Zone (the Japanese equivalent of those series), the manga was an anthology series telling various tales involving the occult & the supernatural, far from the linear storylines most Jump manga utilized or even the use of a main recurring cast, with all of them being led by self-proclaimed "guide" (or "stalker", as the manga put it) Misery. In a magazine filled with over-the-top action, stylish sports, romantic comedies, & various gag manga, a supernatural-themed anthology series was definitely a sharp contrast, which is likely what allowed Outer Zone to run for exactly three years, ending in early 1994 after 15 volumes. Upon researching, however, there did seem to be some bit of slight controversy, as Chapter 87 (Banned) was apparently called out by renowned Japanese SF writer Hiroshi Yamamoto for being a bit too similar to a story he had written on his blog. Sadly, Outer Zone never saw any sort of adaptation, anime or otherwise, & Mitsuhara only rarely did manga afterwards. That being said, though, Mitsuhara did return to his most notable work with 2011's The Outer Zone Re:visited, which has survived the cancellation of Comic Tokumori, the magazine it ran in, & this year switched over to being a webcomic. Maybe with the recent fan translation effort the series may gain some more notoriety (even if only slightly), because at the very least it was very different from almost anything ever offered in Jump, conceptually.

Roughly a year following the end of Yamashita Taro-kun, Koji Koseki returned with yet another baseball manga that would run for a respectable amount of time, yet remain manga-exclusive. Mid-1991's Pennant Race: Yamada Taiichi no Kiseki/The Miracle of Taiichi Yamada regaled the story of the subtitled lead, who had dreams of playing in Japan's Central League. He finally achieves that dream by joining the Astros, the worst team in the league, but by imitating his icon, Osamu Mihara (a famous player & coach in Japan), Yamada hopes to go all the way. Once again, Koseki delivered a realistic sports manga featuring a little player who could that tries to defy the odds, though this time it's in the majors via a make-believe team (that may be an homage to Astro Kyudan?). Sadly, not much else to say about Pennant Race, seeing as it never did see any sort of adaptation, not even an anime pilot of any sort, which Yamashita Taro-kun did get, at the very least. Still, it ran for just slightly shy of three years, ending in early 1994 & lasting 14 volumes, & it kept baseball in the minds of Jump readers once again. Following Pennant Race's end, there wouldn't be another notable baseball hit for another four years.

The year 1992 saw a number of notable debuts, all within the second half of the year. First up was Bonbonzaka Koukou Engekibu/Bonbon Hill High School Drama Club by Yutaka Takahashi, a gag manga that nowadays may rub some people the wrong way. It starred Shotarou Junna, a newcomer to Tokei Hill High School who immediately falls in love with Makoto Hibino, one of the beauties at the school. Unfortunately for him, he gets targeted by Hiromi Tokudaiji, a notorious gay prankster, and is forced to join the school's Drama Club. Though Makoto is the club's vice president, which means that Shotarou can be continually close to her, the only problem is that Hiromi told everyone in the club that Shotarou is his boyfriend. While that kind of basic set up is one that would now be looked at as potentially insulting by some people here in North America, Japan has always had a very different climate when it comes to stuff like homosexuality, so I can't fault it on that alone (and since I haven't read any bit of the manga at all, I can't really judge it in general). Anyway, a school-based gag manga was something that Jump was missing since the end of Kimengumi, which is likely how Bonbonzaka ran until mid-1995 & lasted 12 volumes; no anime adaptation to be found, though. Takahashi wouldn't see another success quite like this one, though he did make a couple of one-shot comebacks to this series, with 2001's Bonbonzaka Koukou Engekibu Encore & 2010's Bonbonzaka Koukou Engekibu Returns!, both of which were featured in Oh Super Jump magazine.

The next series would also take up a touchy subject, but in this case would revel in it to an extreme. After quitting a job as a design office artist after only three months, Keishu Ando would make a few one-shots before debuting his first serialized work, late 1992's Kyukyoku!! Hentai Kamen/Ultimate Perverted Mask!!. A parody of masked heroes like Kamen Rider, the series followed Kyosuke Shikijo, a boy with girl troubles that dreamed of being a cop. After saving classmate Aiko Himeno from bullies he becomes smitten with her, but when she becomes a hostage during a bank robbery, Kyosuke has to hide his identity to save her; he revealed himself in public just prior. By accident he put on a pair of panties over his face, and doing so activated his dormant genes (his mother worked in S&M), turning him into a powerful hero, Hentai Kamen, who defeats villains wearing nothing but a pair of panties over his face & a pair of loins to cover his man parts. Yes, that is indeed the basic concept behind the series, & Ando did as much as he could with it, even having Kyosuke do a leaping pelvic thrust into his opponents' faces be a special attack. Obviously, the manga didn't last long at all, ending after only a year in late 1993 with only six volumes, but it's the post-cancellation life that's most astounding. For a manga that seemingly came & went so fast in Jump, something that has happened to many, many other series that people either forgot about or never knew of in the first place, Hentai Kamen has become a bit of a survivor. First was 2008's Kaettekita Hentai Kamen/Perverted Mask Returns, a one-shot that appeared in Jump Square that was done by School Rumble's Jin Kobayashi that took place during a eight-year time skip that happened in the original manga. After that came 2013's Hentai Kamen Second, a one-shot done by Keishu Ando himself that appeared in Jump Square to help promote the live-action movie adaptation. Indeed, also in 2013 was a feature-length theatrical film based on the original manga that was first teased at the end of Evangelion 3.0's theatrical showings. Originally planned to be released straight to home video, it was moved to theaters, where even with a small run it wound up doing ten times better than projected. The movie even won the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival's Audience Award & was the recipient of the Daniel A. Craft Award for Excellence in Action Cinema. Following that, Ando made another new short story, Hentai Kamen EX, in 2014. Not bad for a manga that seemingly failed during Jump's greatest age, not bad at all.

An assistant to Tsukasa Hojo at the same time as Takehiko Inoue, Haruto Umezawa debuted slow, with his second serialization, mid-1992's Hareluya, ending after only one volume. Umezawa must have really liked the characters he introduced in that series, though, because at the tail end of the year he debuted a complete reboot called (Hareluya II) BØY; the part in parentheses is in the title, but in Japan only the latter part is generally used. Following Hareluya Hibino, a high school delinquent who dreams of "World Domination", the manga followed he & his friends as they helped various people wherever they go, generally by beating down various antagonists. In the original Hareluya, the lead was the literal "Son of God", but in the reboot he's instead the son of a priest, though he's still just as self sure & cocky. Calling himself "invincible", & usually carrying around either a metal bat or a frying pan, this rebooted Hareluya was able to take all sorts of damage, always getting back up to fight back as long as he & friends felt it was a worthy cause. Mixed together with a heavy 90s aesthetic, similar to how Kimagure Orange Road (star is optional here, too) was completely 80s, & a strong rock influence (the title was a reference to 80s J-Rock band BOØWY), BØY wound up becoming probably one of the longest-running yet lower key manga during the Golden Age. While it certainly did have its moments of big popularity, it's still rarely brought up among the likes of other super-long runners, even though Umezawa was able to do BØY until the very start of 1999, lasting 33 volumes. Hell, even the 25-episode TV anime adaptation from 1997, which was the first time a Jump anime ran in a late-night timeslot, has never been put out on DVD (minus the first episode being a part of the same DVD series that Moeru! Onii-san was a part of); VHS & LD only here. Still, considering that only four Golden Age titles went on for longer than it (Dragon Ball, Otokojuku, Dai no Daibouken, & Rokudenashi Blues), not to mention it's exact serialization timeframe, BØY may be the best representation of the 90s in Jump history, & it's kind of surprising that it doesn't get quite as much attention as other titles of the time.

In comparison, the next notable title didn't even run for a tenth of the length as BØY, yet wound up becoming a bit more remembered & inspirational. The Jump debut of Koji Kiriyama (who made his professional debut with Shonen Sunday), mid-1993's Ninku (a portmanteau of the kanji for "Ninja" & "Karate") was the first notable ninja manga for Jump since the early 80s with Fuma no Kojirou. Detailing the war between the last remnants of the Asian-influenced Ninku Corps & the European-styled Empire, the manga starred Fusuke, a generally dopey-faced boy who was really the former captain of the 1st Ninku Coprs. Accompanied by his flatulent penguin as well as other Ninku captain allies, Kiriyama had his ninja be based around the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, as well as be able to control various elements (wind, air, earth, etc.), similar to the Fuma & Yasha ninja in Kurumada's story but with more flair. Interestingly enough, while the manga was a hit, it only ran for two years before "pausing" in mid-1995 after 9 volumes. Still, it was successful enough to receive an anime pilot for the Jump Super Anime Tour in 1994, followed by a 55-episode TV anime from 1995-1996 & an anime movie in 1996, all of which were done by Studio Pierrot & directed by Noriyuki Abe (who lead Yu Yu Hakusho's anime). While we didn't get the pilot or TV series, the movie was brought over to North America alongside the original release of the second Yu Yu Hakusho movie. Ten years following the abrupt halt, however, Kiriyama would return to his hit manga via 2005-2011's Ninku ~Second Stage Etonin-hen/Zodiac Ninja Chapter~, which ran in Ultra Jump for another 12 volumes & finished up what the original manga started. In terms of influence, Kiriyama had two assistants named Hiroyuki Takei & Takeshi Konomi, both of which will be important in the next age, & Ninku, specifically, heavily inspired a young person named Masashi Kishimoto... I'll just leave it at that for now.

Nine weeks after Ninku's debut came a gag manga that became a bit of a boon for the magazine, yet a boulder for its creator. Mid-1993's Tottemo! Luckyman/Such a Luckyman! by Hiroshi Gamou starred Yoichi Tsuitenai, the unluckiest boy in the world, but when an alien hero grants him its abilities, Yoichi becomes Luckyman, the luckiest hero in the world. A gag manga that relied very heavily on both absurdity as well as wordplay, it became an instant hit upon debuting. In terms of absurdity, Luckyman himself had extremely slow attacks that only worked because sheer luck would allow them to hit, & his allies all had names that were as self-explanatory as the lead's was. In fact, three of them (Yujoman, Doryokuman, & Shouriman) were literally the superhero representations of Jump's motto of "Frienship, Effort, & Victory". As for puns, Yoichi was full of them, like often using the catchphrase "Lucky, Cookie, Monjayaki", or having his ability to transform be reliant on eating a garlic clove called the rakkyou, since it sounded similar to "rakki", which is how the word "lucky" is pronounced in Japanese. Still, readers were in love with the series, which resulted in a rather quick TV anime adaptation by Studio Pierrot that ran from 1994-1995 for 50 episodes. The manga was only eight months old upon the anime's debut, with only a little less than 30 chapters having been published at that time. The manga would end up running for four years, ending in mid-1997 after 16 volumes, but Hiroshi Gamou wouldn't seem to be able to make a real follow-up. In fact, Gamou would become somewhat infamous with a manga he wound up helping write while finishing up Luckyman. Yasuaki Kita's Makuhari debuted in early 1996, but during serialization Jump's editors put Gamou in charge of the writing to help out. Kita & Gamou absolutely could not get along, though, with them bickering with each other publicly via the authors' notes in each volume, until Kita decided to end the manga suddenly in late-1997 after nine volumes. The ending was infamous for Kita revealing that the main character was, in fact, Hiroshi Gamou, essentially putting the blame all on Gamou for the manga becoming a failure. Gamou himself wouldn't see success, either, but a new age may very well see him get another chance at it... Or maybe not. I'll explain in a later part.

Both writer Sho Makura & artist Takeshi Okano got their starts in manga in the late 80s/early 90s, but neither would see success until teaming up. After a couple of one-shots in 1992, they expanded on their initial work by debuting a serialized version of Jigoku Sensei/Hell Teacher Nube in mid-1993. Breaking from Jump's usual standard of school-based manga, the series starred Meisuke Nueno, Nube for short, a homeroom teacher at Domoro Elementary whose gloved hand hid a dark secret: Nube was also a skilled exorcist who, after a tough battle, managed to seal a powerful demon in his left hand, which he now called the Demon's Hand. A mix of fourth-wall breaking comedy, Kochikame-style poking at recent events (of the time), yokai legend telling, & a little action, Nube found itself to be a fairly popular series for the time. The idea of having the main character be a teacher was intensely novel (the closest prior to it would usually feature a "main" child alongside the adult), the use of yokai-themed storytelling made it a great replacement for Yu Yu Hakusho in that regards (as the series was ending in another year), and the use of current events, news, anime, & gaming, though likely dating the series now, all mixed together to create an intensely entertaining series for Jump readers. While not exactly the first name to think of in terms of Jump classics, the manga kind of became just that, running until mid-1999 for a total of 31 volumes. Nube would also receive a TV anime adaptation from Toei from 1996-1997 that ran for 49 episodes & three movies, followed by a three-episode OVA continuation from 1998-1999, & in 2014 received a J-Drama adaptation that ran for 10 episodes. In terms of manga, Makura & Okano would do other manga, both solo & as a duo, before returning to the world of Nube with Reibai/Spiritual Medium Izuna, a spin-off that starred Izuna Hazuki, one of the recurring secondary characters, & ran in Super Jump (both the regular magazine & its Oh SJ spin-off) from 2007-2011. When Super Jump came to an end in 2011, the series received a continuation in new magazine Grand Jump in the form of Reibai Izuna Ascension. Finally, 2014 saw an actual sequel with Hell Teacher Nube Neo in Grand Jump Premium, which takes place 10 years later & has Nube returning to Domori, even working alongside his old student Kyoko, who has since become a teacher herself; to my knowledge it's still presently running. If anything, Nube has gotten more credit now than it ever had in the past.

Following the end of Captain Tsubasa in mid-1988, Yoichi Takahashi made numerous follow-ups, some about soccer & some not, but none of them seemed to really hit it off with readers. Knowing what the fans really wanted, he decided to return to his debut smash hit with an actual sequel, early 1994's Captain Tsubasa: Principe del Sol, also known as the World Youth Chapter. Following Tsubasa after he left Japan to play for Brazil before seeing him work with his old friends & rivals as Team Japan in the AFC Youth Championship (now known as the AFC U-19 Championship), this return seemed to deliver the same style of sports action that made the original manga such a success, though with more refined artwork, obviously, as well as a heavy reliance on real-life soccer teams & tournaments. The story arc, & manga itself, would end three years later in mid-1997 after 18 volumes, with Tsubasa now married & working with F.C. Barcelona, and it was the last time Captain Tsubasa would ever appear in Shonen Jump, at least in serialized form; Takahashi would draw a one-shot for Jump's 40th Anniversary in 2008. After doing some other manga, Takahashi would more or less return to Tsubasa full-time via Young Jump & then Grand Jump, first with 2001-2004's Road to 2002 series (14 volumes), followed by 2005-2008's Golden-23 (12 volumes), 2009-2012's Kaigai - Gekitou (8 volumes split up between "in Calcio" & "En La Liga", & the still-running Rising Sun, which started in 2013. All together, that puts Captain Tsubasa at 91 volumes, presently, 55 of which were serialized in the pages of Shonen Jump. As for remaining anime, there was an OVA adaptation of the Holland Youth one-shot in 1994, a return to TV via Captain Tsubasa J (46 episodes from 1994-1995), and 2001-2002's 52-episode TV series (which was technically just called Captain Tsubasa, but is generally referred to as Road to 2002), which is the last anime production to have been made yet. Both J & Road to 2002 also featured heavily-truncated (& altered in some ways) re-adaptations of the early portions in order to focus on adapting later materials, which may be why there hasn't been any new anime made from the manga since 2002; it may just be too long to really be worth adapting for new audiences now. Regardless, Captain Tsubasa has gone on to become one of the most iconic sports manga in the world, and it all started (& originally continued) with Shonen Jump.

While the likes of Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, Rokudenashi Blues, & Dai no Daibouken were able to carry Shonen Jump very well when the readership was roughly 6.5 million in 1994, the magazine still needed a big hit that would have to be able to keep readers buying new issues when they would all eventually end or start to lose readers. Yu Yu Hakusho was nearing its finale & Dragon Ball was in its last year-ish of content, after all. The manga that would end up having to shoulder that responsibility wound up being Rurouni Kenshin -Meiji Kenkaku Romantic-/Kenshin the Wanderer -The Romantic Tale of a Meiji Swordsman-, the debut serialization of Nobuhiro Watsuki. Watsuki was a bit of a wandering assistant before making his debut, having worked for Ryuji Tsugihara, Yoichi Takahashi, Haruto Umezawa (during the original Hareluya's run), & a talented but no-name (at the time) artist named Takeshi Obata. Similar to his pre-professional life, Watsuki's manga followed a wandering ronin named Kenshin Himura during the early Meiji period, who back in the Bakumatsu war was known as the deadly "Battousai the Manslayer". After deciding to stop his murderous ways, Kenshin wielded a Reverse-Blade Sword (i.e. the sharp end was on the back), and though he tried to stay out of battle, his past would usually come back & force him to fight once more. Mixing together a lot of historically-accurate environments, events, & even people, though with some artistic liberties taken, obviously, with tense action & memorable original characters (some based on actual people of the time), the manga found a strong audience & became a reliable back-up to the biggest names as the Golden Age came to its end. Another strong appeal was in Watsuki's drawing style, which aimed to appeal to women as well as men, similar to what Masami Kurumada did in the late-70s & throughout the 80s. In fact, Rurouni Kenshin is generally considered the manga that lead Shueisha's (somewhat) impetus to bring in more artists that drew in a more female-friendly style, leading some people to nickname that style of manga "Neo-Shonen"; it certainly was a "New" way to look at shonen manga. In fact, when the Golden Age did come to an end, Kenshin became the de facto #1 series in Jump, having to carry the magazine in the tough times that followed for the next few years, though it would eventually end in late 1999 after 28 volumes. Luckily, a 95-episode TV anime adaptation from 1996-1998, an anime movie from 1997, two series of OVAs in 1999 & 2001, plus a two-episode OVA from 2011-2012 as well as a trilogy of live-action movies from 2012 & 2014 have kept the series fresh in the minds of fans. Plus, from 2012-2013 Watsuki returned to his biggest work with a two-volume "Restoration", which acted as a retelling of sorts to an extent.

By the very end of 1994, Shonen Jump had seen many different sports in its pages, like baseball, boxing, wrestling, soccer, & basketball, but horse racing was one that was missing for the most part. That gap was filled in via Midori no Makibao/Makibao of the Green, the second work of a man known only as Tsunomaru; his debut was 1992-1993's 8-volume Mon Mon Mon. Following the career of the young runt of a mule named Makibao as he went from no-name farm animal to a potential threat of a steed on the race circuit, the manga was technically a gag manga (not a surprise, considering how monkey-like Tsunomaru drew humans), but at the same time took its horse racing seriously enough to also be a somewhat dramatic story of a true underdog. The title could also be interpreted literally as "Midori's Makibao", as Makibao raced partially to win back his mother, Midori, who was taken away from the ranch to pay back old debts. The mix of gag manga comedy with actual sports manga storytelling, something that hadn't been done since Susume!! Pirates in the late-70s, was likely a big part of why the manga wound up becoming Tsunomaru's iconic work, lasting until early 1998 for 16 volumes. It also received a 61-episode TV anime adaptation from 1996-1997 by the same Noryuki Abe-lead Studio Pierrot that animated Yu Yu Hakusho & Ninku. Tsunomaru would make other series after Makibao, but another hit would elude him. He decided to return to his only success in 2007 with a sequel, Taiyou no Makibao/Makibao of the Sun, which starred Bunta, the last son of Makibao's half-sister Makibako, who took the name Hinode/Sunrise Makibao on the race track. That ran in Weekly Playboy until 2011 for 16 volumes before the magazine ended that year & became the online-only Weekly PlayNEWS, which is where its continuation, Taiyou no Makibao W, still runs alongside the returns of Kinnikuman & Otoko Zaka.

My cut-off for including titles did result in one somewhat notable title being excluded, which was 1987-1989's The Momotaroh, a wrestling manga made by the then-debuting Makoto Niwano. It was generally successful enough during its run, lasting 10 volumes, but I decided to not make an exception for it. The main reason for that is because Niwano would later have a longer series that I decided to include. Debuting in early 1995, Jinnai-ryu Jujutsu Butoden Majima-kun Suttobasu!!/Jinnai-Style Jujutsu Fighting Tale: Majima, Go Straight!! followed Rei Majima, who aimed to become the strongest by using Jinnai-Style jujutsu, which came about during the Sengoku period. Instead of simply relying on a general fight manga, though, Niwano showcased all sorts of fighting styles in Majima-kun, like sambo, taekwondo, muay thai, boxing, sumo & judo. Combined with Niwano's general energetic drawing style, Majima-kun wound up running until early 1998, lasting 15 volumes. While an anime adaptation was nowhere to be found, which is something that has eluded Makoto Niwano in general, Rei Majima would end up crossing over with Momotaroh in 2007's Momotaroh vs. Majima Rei -Fushin no Megami/The Immortal Goddess-, and then in 2009 Niwano gave his second hit a full-on sequel via Jinnai-Ryu Jujutsu Rurouden Majima, Bazeru!!/Jinnai-Style Jujutsu Wandering Tale: Majima, Burst Forth!!, which is still running to this day as a webcomic; it's presently at 17 volumes.

After a taking a year off after the end of Yu Yu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi returned in late 1995 with a manga that seemingly was made simply to mess with everyone, readers & editors alike. Level E technically followed an alien known only as Prince Baka as he investigated life on Earth, but even that basic explanation would not be enough to properly detail the kind of story the series was. First up, Hakusho's great success apparently resulted in Togashi being given a lot of leeway, & possibly even carte blanche, when it came to making manga; some fans call this "Togashi-ism". While Level E seemed like a basic comedy at first glance, detailing how Prince Baka lived with high school student Yukitaka Tsutsui, it quickly changed direction from there. While the lives of Yukitaka & his friends would come into play at times, Togashi also had Baka force five kids into becoming a Super Sentai parody, and in general the series often came off like one giant troll of a product. It really seemed as if Togashi was purposefully messing with his superiors at Jump, constantly doing something unexpected, & the readers were simply being dragged along for the ride. In the end, only three volumes worth of content came out during its slightly over a year run which ended in early 1997. Togashi would later create another massive hit, which has since truly showcased the power of "Togashi-ism", making Level E a bit of an infamous curiosity until is received a TV anime adaptation by Studio Pierrot & David Production in 2011 that covered the entire manga. Even there, the trolling wasn't held back on, with Prince Baka even invading the opening theme during the chorus, before being told by singer Chiaki Kuriyama to "sit down" & stop.

The very last issue of 1995 saw the debut of the series that I, personally, feel was the first ever "modern day" gag manga. Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo, Masaru-san!!/Sexy Commando Side Story: That's Amazing, Masaru!! was the serialized debut of Kyosuke Usuta, who had previously only done one-shots for a number of years, and detailed the "everyday" life of Masaru Hananakajima & his band of friends who gathered together at school as the Sexy Commando Club. Sexy Commando itself was "fighting" art that relied on confusing opponents so much that they simply gave up on fighting back. As indicated by the quotation marks, though, the lives of these people, especially Masaru, were far from everyday. While gag manga before this series was always liable to go wacky & bizarre, there was generally a sense of logic or sense behind the actions & gags. Sexy Commando, in comparison, had no cares about making sense or keeping things within a lick of reason. For example, Masaru always wore giant yellow shoulder rings, but said rings were able to making cash registers tell their operators to kill them, weighed insanely heavy, & even kept Masaru's haircut nice & stylish. When he told his friends the story about he how simply found the rings in the forest one day before beating up some oddly-dressed guys who wanted to steal the rings, his friends told Masaru that those had to be aliens & that the rings were alien tech; Masaru simply laughed it off, explaining that aliens don't exist & that his friends were silly. Even though it only ran until late 1997 & lasted seven volumes, Sexy Commando still sold over 7 million copies & even received a TV anime series of 48 short episodes in 1997 that followed the first 48 chapters almost exactly panel by panel. Today, gag manga is notorious for its habit of occasionally going into the inexplicable & dumbfounding, & I feel that it was because of Kyosuke Usuta's first major work. Sadly, though, his later success has more or less usurped Sexy Commando in terms of notoriety, but maybe that's just because Masaru's Sexy Commando is just that good; you're too confused by him to try to give him regular attention.

I had originally planned on ending the list there, but one final title caught my eye when I was compiling the entire list of ages, so we'll end the Golen Age with a manga that debuted at nearly the very end of it. When you make your first marks in manga by co-winning the 34th Tezuka Award in 1987 alongside Yoshihiro Togashi, and then doing it again with the 35th Tezuka Award in 1988 alongside Takehiko Inoue, you likely had a lot of people looking at you. Sadly, though, Yuko Asami didn't quite have the strongest career start. Her debut work, 1991-1992's horse manga Ten yori Takaku/Higher than the Heavens, only lasted for two volumes, so afterwards she worked as an assistant to Takeshi Okano on Hell Teacher Nube for a bit. At the start of 1996, she made her comeback with Wild Half, the tale of Taketo Iwase, a boy who winds up teaming up with a dog that can speak with humans (& even take a humanoid form) named Salsa, as he helps his older brother, a detective named Toshifumi, with various cases. Apparently, throughout the course of the manga, other animals would also be introduced, and mystery (or at least criminology of some sort) has generally been a genre that Jump had always been light on, which was likely what helped make the series a bit of an surprise success. While it wasn't a major title during it's run, it still wound up running until the very end of 1998 & lasted 17 volumes, which is nothing to put one's nose up towards. Yuko Asami would also find love through Jump, as she wound up marrying Outer Zone's Shin Mitsuhara, and they are still together to this day, from what I can tell. While anime eluded Wild Half, it did receive a stage adaptation, Wild Half ~Kiseki no Kakuritsu/Probability of a Miracle~, that ran in both early 2014 & early 2015, & in 2014 a spin-off manga, Wild Half: Okiba-kun no Hanashi/The Tale of Okiba, started up via Domix's Manga Genki Hatsudo Keikaku, Mangen for short, which adds in actors & music to the published pages.
The Golden Age of Jump would end in mid-1996 with the full-color finale of Slam Dunk. As mentioned at the start of this part, Inoue's manga was the big reason why Shonen Jump still had a really large reader base at this point, so when his series ended, 2,000,000 people stopped reading. Though there were still some remnants of the age running afterwards, most of them were reminders of the gigantic days of success that just ended. It was up to Rurouni Kenshin to take the reigns & be the leader, which was probably a big reason why the magazine didn't suffer more than it could have following a loss like that. While the major and/or notable manga of the Golden Age's second half may not number the exact amount that the first half featured, a good number of them are still in the minds of Japanese people to this day. Yu Yu Hakusho & Slam Dunk are still considered classics, Captain Tsubasa still showed that it mattered after a multi-year gap between series, Rurouni Kenshin put the focus on attracting both genders of audiences even more than before, & Sexy Commando's "do anything you want" kind of humor completely changed the way gag manga would operate from then on out. We also can't forget that Hell Teacher Nube, Outer Zone, Ninku, Rurouni Kenshin, & Majima-kun have all returned in one way or another via manga, as well. Even via these relatively basic overviews that I've been giving each of the manga involved in these posts, it's easy to see why the Golden Age has been deemed as such. The manga that debuted from late 1983 to mid-1996 just had something to all of them that seemed to put them above what came before, & even what came later to varying extents. The increased readership was nothing but a win-win for Shueisha, but with every massive rise comes a period of dark times, and what came next for Jump was a time where no one was really sure where the magazine was going to head. While Kenshin could carry the weight for the most part, the magazine needed brand new pillars.

While a "Dark Age" was coming to Jump, it wasn't necessarily because what came after was bad, but rather it just couldn't match up to what immediately preceded it. Come back later to see what came out during these rough years that would set up a later age of notable success.

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