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Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Silver Age of Jump Part 1: Weekly Shonen Jump - The Next Generation

Commonly snuggling in between the almighty "Gold" & the tertiary "Bronze", the term "Silver" is traditionally associated with being second. In American comics, the Silver Age was what came after the Golden Age that started everything, being named as such not because of it being of lesser worth than what came before, though I guess the Comics Code-enforced silliness of the age may make some people think that, but rather it was simply the next concept of value following gold. While everyone obviously dreams of being on top, only one can truly be just that. There's nothing wrong with being second in anything, to be honest. To utilize the ideology of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure character Hol Horse, being #2 means that you're still worthy of respect (or fear), yet you don't have the target on you at all times like #1 does. Even people who win a silver medal understand that, though they didn't reach the top of the mountain, they know what they have to surpass in order to do so. It encourages competition, and that's great to see. Anyway, onto the last of the Ages of Jump... The Silver Age of Jump.

After establishing everything in the Bronze Age, seeing astronomical success in the Golden Age, & slow recovery (or at least stabilization) in the Dark Age, Weekly Shonen Jump was ready for a new age to appear. When the year 1999 came in there were only four Golden Age manga still running in the magazine, but within the first half alone Hareluya II BØY & Hell Teacher Nube were gone. Hell, even JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, which for the past 12 years had been a stalwart title for Jump (alongside Kochikame, which itself just hit 23 years old), was technically put to an "end" in between its Golden Age compatriots. By issue #43, Rurouni Kenshin, the manga that had to carry the weight of keeping the magazine as popular as possible following the end of Dragon Ball & Slam Dunk, was at its own end; it was the final survivor of the Golden Age. Luckily, the Dark Age gave Nobuhiro Watsuki's series some great back-up via titles like Yu-Gi-Oh! & Hunter×Hunter, while One Piece & Seikimatsu Leader-den Takeshi! were setting themselves up as the next tent poles of the magazine, though the latter would later get screwed by its own creator's perverted tendencies. Eiichiro Oda & Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro were good friends, however, so what they needed was someone who could challenge them to be better; they needed a rival. Luckily, Jump experienced a one-of-a-kind moment in that fateful issue #43. Never before & not yet since did a single issue of Shonen Jump feature the finale of one iconic series & the debut of what would become another iconic series. Rurouni Kenshin had the opportunity to metaphorically pass the torch, and it had to be okay with leaving a legacy with a thematic rival, because a samurai was now shaking hands with a ninja.

Masashi Kishimoto started doing manga via various one-shots in 1995, following in the footsteps of his idols, which included Akira Toriyama, Akira's Katsushito Otomo, Blade of the Immortal's Hiroaki Samura, & Nobuhiro Watsuki. In 1997 he made a one-shot that had potential but felt it was too tough to make into a serialized manga. Two years later, with help from editor Kosuke Yahagi, he would rework that one-shot into something that could be told weekly. Inspired by the TV anime adaptation of Ninku, which Kishimoto had wished kept on going, Naruto told the story of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja growing up in the Hidden Leaf Village of Konoha, who dreamed of one day becoming Hokage, the beloved leader of the entire village. The only problem is that Naruto is a precocious little scamp who's mostly despised by the village, not just because of his vandalistic actions but also because his body is the seal holding in the dreaded Nine-Tails, a giant fox beast which nearly destroyed the village back when Naruto was a newborn. Similar to Dragon Ball's Goku, Naruto himself would start off as a young boy for the first portion (27 volumes) of the story, showcasing his advancement from a mischievous & lazy, though talented, ninja-in-training to a true force to be reckoned with, while also seeing his peers (especially his friend/rival Sasuke Uchiha) become better ninja. After that point, though, a notable time skip would occur, switching the story over to a focus towards the secret & torrid past of some of Konoha's legacy & an eventual Ninja War itself starting. Kishimoto's appealing art style, which definitely showed its Otomo influence, combined with the use of various Japanese legends like Princess Kaguya & The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya only helped endear itself heavily to not just Japanese audiences but also worldwide. Though it tended to always be second to One Piece in terms of overall ratings, minus one year where it actually surpassed its rival, Naruto would continue staying popular & more than smashed past the 42 volume mark that Dragon Ball, Rokudenashi Blues, & Prince of Tennis had all hit, just like its pirate-themed rival. In the end, Kishimoto ended his shinobi epic at the very end of 2014, after 72 volumes, with Naruto joining a truly exclusive club when it became the fourth Jump manga to receive a full-color final chapter, 18.5 years after the last one. It now stands alongside Ring ni Kakero, Dragon Ball, & Slam Dunk as a goal that many Jump manga creators probably hope to achieve.

Naturally, the series would also see various anime adaptations by Studio Pierrot, starting with a TV series that shared the manga's name that ran from 2002-2007 for 220 episodes, followed by a second series, called Naruto Shippuden/Hurricane Chronicles, that adapts the post-time skip story & is still running to this day since 2007; it is presently at 448 episodes as of this post. There have also been 11 theatrical movies, the last two of which take place after the manga's finale, as well as 11 OVA productions from 2002-2014. Kishimoto has also written a short sequel manga, The Seventh Hokage and the Scarlet Spring, than ran in Shonen Jump from April-July of 2015, and this Spring will see the debut of a new TV anime that focuses on the backstory of Sasuke's brother (& one of the villains of the series), Itachi Uchiha. Because of the sheer length of the original manga, & it's status as the series that stood right beside One Piece for so long, I do feel that the Silver Age of Jump both started & ended with Naruto. While there are also noteworthy series in Jump at this moment, which I'll obviously get to very soon, the loss of Naruto via a full-color final chapter really felt like it was the end of an era, one that was longer than the Golden Age & roughly as long as the Bronze Age. It will be up to other titles to take the gap that Naruto's end has left in Jump, & that will be a new age to name in the future.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves too fast, because there is still an entire Silver Age to get through.
I had mentioned that Hirohiko Araki technically put an end to his iconic & bizarre manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure in early 1999. That was because, at 63 volumes following the end of Part 5: Golden Wind, Shueisha felt that the manga was becoming too hard for newcomers to get into & enjoy. Unlike Kochikame's episodic nature, JoJo was still a story told in serial format, & though each Part could be enjoyed on its own, each successive tale still built off of story that had happened prior. Therefore, the decision was made to (kind of/sort of) restart the manga to an extent in order to allow newcomers to enjoy the series alongside the existing fanbase. Debuting in the very first issue of 2000, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 6: Stone Ocean starred Jolyne Cujoh, the daughter of Part 3: Stardust Crusaders' lead character Jotaro Kujo, who got sentenced to Florida's Green Dolphin Street Prison for 15 years after being falsely accused of a hit-and-run. While trying to help his daughter out, though, Jotaro's stand Star Platinum gets taken away from him, leaving him near death, & it's up to Jolyne & her new prison pals to not just save him but possibly also existence itself. While it still was a part of the overall JoJo timeline, Araki still made sure that it was easy for newcomers to become immersed. He re-introduced the concept of stands, the "physical" representation of a person's aura introduced in Part 3 that allowed for all sorts of crazy abilities & battles (& the obvious inspiration for titles like Shaman King & the Persona series), and while the overall story still featured a few call backs to previously established stories, it was still a new type of JoJo for a new generation of readers. Hell, Araki even made his lead character a young woman, which was rarely done in shonen manga, though Araki's way of drawing combat-capable women had changed greatly since Lisa Lisa from Part 2. This sixth storyline would run until mid-2003 for 17 volumes, and though there is no anime adaptation of it yet, should the recent JoJo TV anime productions continue on past Part 4 we may eventually see a Stone Ocean anime one day. Araki would debut a new manga, Steel Ball Run, in Shonen Jump in early 2004, but after a year it was moved over to Ultra Jump, which is now the new home of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Steel Ball Run would eventually be revealed as Part 7 of JoJo before ending in mid-2011, & Araki is presently making Part 8: JoJolion, which is an alternate universe take on Part 4's story. Much like Kinnikuman, Bastard!!, & Otoko Zaka, new volumes of JoJo still bear the Jump Comics labeling in order to match up with the original Shonen Jump run, even applying to JoJolion, which has never even appeared in the magazine.
Kentaro Yabuki first got his work showcased when he was just a teenager, when a piece of fan art that he made for Dragon Ball, which showcased a hypothetical fusion of Gohan & Trunks, was published in the magazine as the winner of a contest. A few years later, Yabuki got into the industry for real, working as an assistant for Takeshi Obata on the first seven chapters of Hikaru no Go. After that, he made his professional debut with 1999's Yamato Gensouki/The Yamato Fantasy Tale, which ended after only 17 weeks & ran for two volumes. A year later, in mid-2000, Yabuki would debut his second series, Black Cat. An updated take on his late 1999 one-shot Stray Cat, the manga followed Train Heartnet, a carefree sweeper who works with his partner Sven Vollfied until the two come across a thief named Rinslet Walker & a young girl named Eve who is really a human bio-weapon. This would have Train come into contact with people from his dark past as an assassin for the organization Chronos. While there have been complaints waived towards its relatively traditional execution as a shonen action manga, Black Cat wound up gaining a notable fanbase around the world, & in Japan itself it ran until mid-2004, lasting 20 volumes. Yabuki's artwork was a bit of a middle ground between "traditional" shonen artwork & the "Neo-Shonen" style that was slowly becoming more & more notable in Jump, specifically, allowing it to cast a wide net over potential fans. A year after the manga ended a TV anime adaptation would be made by Studio Gonzo that ran from 2005-2006 for 24 episodes, which helped widen the fanbase for the series around the world. Afterwards, Kentaro Yabuki would become more synonymous with his next major work, which I'll get to at the end of this part, but Black Cat was still where he first put his name out to the world.

Kyosuke Usuta's Sexy Commando Gaiden, the manga that introduced modern-day gag manga (in my opinion), came to an end in late 1997, but his follow up, 1999's Bushizawa Receive, would run for only 20 chapters & two volumes. Usuta's third series, however, would be a bigger hit than his debut work, and would even become the one that he's most known for nowadays. Debuting in mid-2000, Pyu to Fuku! Jaguar/Blow that Recorder, Jaguar!, followed some of the same basic beats of Sexy Commando Gaiden. The main character was technically Kiyohiko Saotome, who dreamed of becoming a professional guitar player, but would constantly get stopped by the appearance of Jaguar Junichi, a young man who played the recorder so well that it sounded like a guitar. While Kiyohiko would eventually get a gig, he not only wound up living in the same dorm as Jaguar but also ended up attending Jaguar's recorder classes instead of the guitar class he wanted; he also wound up being given the nickname Piyohiko by Jaguar, which he was stuck with. With a basic plot synopsis like that, it's obvious that Jaguar wound up being very similar to Sexy Commando is terms of concept & style, but just as odd is how Usuta's two major works would become known around the world. In Japan, Jaguar is easily the more popular manga, running until mid-2010 (ending on the same exact issue number that it debuted in back in 2000, #38) & lasting 20 volumes. In both 2007 & 2008 there were flash OVA productions produced by Kaeruotoko (a.k.a. "Frogman") that totaled to six episodes, & later in 2008 came a live-action theatrical adaptation. Not just that, but when Jump's various crossover video games from the past decade (Jump Super Stars, Jump Ultimate Stars, & J-Stars Victory Vs.) were all being made, it was Jaguar Junichi being used as the sole Usuta representative; Masaru Hananakajima was nowhere to be found. Outside of Japan, though, Sexy Commando Gaiden is the more synonymous work, mainly because of the anime adaptation being a cult classic due to it being directed by comedy anime king Akitaro Daichi; the manga has been fully fan translated, too. Jaguar, in comparison, is next to unheard of, with the manga still being slowly fan translated to this day (and still not quite half-way there, either), & both the flash OVAs & movie got no real traction, even among fansubbers; in fact, none of them ever got fansubbed. If anything, Pyu to Fuku! Jaguar is an excellent example of something being a notable hit in Japan, possibly one day even being considered a classic, but due to a lack of international penetration will remain big only in its home country.
Speaking of gag manga, the last time Jump had a gag manga that was disguised as an action series was Sakigake!! Otokojuku. In early 2001, a man named Yoshio Sawai, who had previously only done comedic one-shots, made his serialized debut with Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, which took the gag/action mix & went in a very different direction than what Akira Miyashita did. In the year 300X, the world is under the control of the Maruhage Empire, lead by Tsuru Tsururlina IV, which commands that everyone be bald & in despair. To keep control, his Hair Hunters go anywhere & everywhere, removing anyone's hair & leaving their villages in ruin. Someone who actively goes against the Empire, though, is Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, the successor of the fighting style known as the Fist of the Nose Hair, because many of his special attacks utilize his wild & lengthy nasal growth. While the basic concept sounded like an absurd parody of Fist of the North Star, this was actually nothing more than the tip of the iceberg for the series. Fights would immediately devolve into sheer mayhem, usually making absolutely no sense (if there was any sense, it was only a little) & featuring all sorts of wordplay, parodies, or outright references. Bo-bobo's cast of comrades were just as wacky, featuring his female manzai comedy partner Beauty, a giant & sentient piece of candy named Don Patch ("the real star of the story", according to him), & even a living piece of humanoid jelly named Jelly Jiggler (Tokoro Tennosuke in the original Japanese). In fact, the two most normal & traditional looking shonen manga friends, Gasser (Heppokomaru in Japanese) & Softon, were conceptually the silliest. While they both were excellent fighters, Gasser (true to his name) fought with explosive flatulence, while Softon had an ice cream head that was colored pink (i.e. he was an almost-literal poopy head). It wouldn't be enough to say that nothing was off-limits for Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, because there simply were no limits in the first place.

The manga wound up running until late 2005 after 21 volumes, but was followed up very quickly with a sequel, early 2006's Shinsetsu/True Theory Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, but due to a stronger focus on having an actual story, among other reasons, the sequel ended in mid-2007 after only seven volumes. Still, the manga was popular enough to receive a TV anime adaptation by Toei from 2003-2005 that lasted 76 episodes, only ending because of complaints from parents, who found the nonsensical humor, which sometimes went into toilet humor, to be a bad influence on their children... I am not joking, because that is literally why the anime ended. Seriously, as if having the second opening theme be called "Baka/Idiot Survivor" wasn't indication enough of what kind of series it was. In fact, when the anime was brought over to North America & dubbed into English, the dub didn't even bother to try to properly adapt the avalanche of Japanese humor, instead using what was happening within each episode to tell its own zany humor, sometimes poking fun at the purposefully left-in Japanese to give nonsense reasons for why the show was so insane. Sadly, while the anime was fully dubbed, the manga has only seen a small partial release by Viz Media, covering Volumes 9-15, though it's not exactly a surprise why only that much came out. Even today, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo is very much a "love it or hate it" series, with the reader's personal tolerance for scenes like Yugi Muto popping out of Bo-bobo's giant afro to summon Osiris/Slifer the Sky Dragon really determining whether he or she will truly enjoy it... Yes, that indeed did happen, & Kazuki Takahashi himself even drew Yugi for that panel. Sadly, Yoshio Sawai has never made another big manga, but I don't think anyone could possibly be able to even match a series like this.
Susume!! Pirates' mix of sports manga & gag manga, while telling an actual story, was a great idea, which makes it surprising that only 1994-1998's Midori no Makibao really followed its lead since it ended in 1980, at least up until the new millennium. A true spiritual successor to Hisashi Eguchi's innovative manga would finally come about in mid-2001 with Mr. Fullswing, the serialized debut of Shinya Suzuki, who was a part of the infamous "Watsuki-gumi", a.k.a. the people who worked for Nobuhiro Watsuki during the run of Rurouni Kenshin. While it is unknown whether the manga's title was meant to be a reference to pro player Michihiro Ogasawara, who was really nicknamed "Mr, Fullswing", it wouldn't be too much of a surprise if it was, considering the kind of wacky humor the manga utilized. Starring Saruno Amakuni, who join his school's baseball team solely to one day date the manager, the manga detailed Saruno's journey from poorly-skilled player who can only hit a baseball really hard to a decent enough third baseman who can respectably play alongside his Junishi High teammates. Instead of being a serious tale, like Slam Dunk (which the origin story does imitate), though, Mr. Fullswing was a full-blown referential gag series where the lead was the beaten butt of most of the jokes. Saruno would often make jokes or crack wise, sometimes directly referencing other anime & manga, & just as often Saruno would wind up being bloodied & hurt in some fashion, only to return to 100% peak condition immediately afterwards. Similar to Susume!! Pirates & Midori no Makibao, however, Shinya Suzuki still told an actual sports story, with the team hoping to make it all the way. The series wound end up running for exactly five years, ending in mid-2006 after 24 volumes, longer than any of the previous sports/comedy mash-ups before it. Oddly enough, though, Mr. Fullswing would never be adapted into anime of any sort, only receiving some Drama CDs (which isn't anything special, admittedly, as many manga get made into Drama CDs without ever getting an anime). In a time, & era, where any Shonen Jump manga of any real length, let alone popularity, winds up receiving an anime adaptation of some sort, even if it's sometimes much too early to really do so, Mr. Fullswing remains a bizarre aberration, & it's not like Shinya Suzuki has had much major success following his debut series. His follow-up, delinquent/otaku comedy Bari Haken, only ran for most of 2008 before ending after only four volumes, & afterwards he left the magazine, though he still does manga for online magazine Jump Live. Out of all of the people that came from the infamous "Watsuki-gumi", Shinya Suzuki is somewhere in between his comrades. He didn't wind up being more or less a small name manga creator from the start, like Mikio Ito & Kazushige Yamada , but he also didn't manage to achieve long-lasting notoriety, like Hiroyuki Takei or Eiichiro Oda. Instead, he hit hard with his debut, only to fizzle out afterwards. That's not an insult to his skills, but rather a way to describe his popularity.

After seeing his debut serialization ZombiePowder. summarily put down after only four volumes in early 2000, Tite Kubo was getting ready to give it a second go. He came up with a pilot manga, but it didn't quite find an audience among the editors at Jump, feeling that it's concept of a boy who fought using spirit-based powers was too similar to Yu Yu Hakusho. According to "legend", though apparently it's never been confirmed or outright denied, Akira Toriyama somehow got a hold of the pilot, maybe from his own editor at the moment, & enjoyed it, even sending Kubo a letter of encouragement to continue pushing for his concept. Eventually Kubo was allowed to go ahead with this idea, which debuted in mid-2001 under the name Bleach. Starring Ichigo Kurosaki, a high school boy who can see ghosts, the story has our lead becoming a "substitute" Soul Reaper (a literal Shinigami/God of Death in the original Japanese) after getting himself killed while trying to save actual Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki from an attack by a demonic spirit called a Hollow. If One Piece is this generation's Dragon Ball, then Bleach is most definitely this generation's Saint Seiya; Naruto would be this generation's Ninku, if anything, though way more ubiquitous. The comparison is very apt, as Kubo has admitted that he was a giant fan of Seiya while growing up, and the similarities are very obvious. The 13 Squads of Soul Society (home of the Soul Reapers), specifically the leaders of each, are very similar to the Gold Saints of Athena's Sanctuary, both feature story arcs where the heroes have to rescue friends, both by entering future friendly territory (Soul Society & Sanctuary) as well as real enemy territory (Hueco Mundo & Hades' Inferno), and both very much utilized very stylized visuals to attract strong female audiences. Kubo in particular has a big interest in fashion, which means that his characters always have a very appealing style to their clothes, and his art style is intensely sharp & appealing, though he does have a habit of not drawing backgrounds during battles (also similar to Kurumada, actually). This all combined into an action manga that became the final piece of a new "Big 3" for Shonen Jump, & arguably the first truly identifiable one since the original "Big 3" of the late 60s. In between all of that time were various manga of varying popularity, making it hard to pinpoint exactly three that stayed that way for a long period of time, though one could easily name some "Big 2"s throughout time.

Though Bleach has since dropped hard in popularity, largely due to extreme pacing issues brought about by Kubo deciding to give every single character he introduces some sort of focus & backstory, Shueisha is allowing Kubo to properly finish off his story, which is in its final story arc (for the past two or three years, mind you, but still final), & is presently at 70 volumes. A TV anime adaptation by Studio Pierrot (directed by, who else, Noriyuki Abe) in late 2004 wound up running until early 2012 & lasted 366 episodes, adapting all the through the penultimate story arc. Along with the TV series were four anime movies from 2006-2010, the last of which being based on an unused concept Kubo had of the heroes entering Hell, as well as two OVAs from 2004 & 2005; there was also a stage musical made in 2005. While the series looks to be ending more on a whimper, at least compared to how super-popular it was during its heyday, & may not even receive a full-color final chapter, even though it's one of the all-time longest series in Jump history, Bleach still deserves its spot in Jump history through sheer gumption & length alone.
Unlike many other manga creators featured in this overview, Mizuki Kawashita didn't get her start with Jump, and unlike the few that also didn't, she didn't join Jump for a good while. She first debuted under the pen name Mikan Momokuri in 1994 & did various shojo manga, like Sora no Seibun & Akane-chan Overdrive. Kawashita joined Jump under her real name via 2000's Ririmu Kiss, which only lasted two volumes, but would see her first major Jump manga via early 2002's Ichigo/Strawberry 100%. While there were various rom-com manga in Jump since the 80s that utilized love triangles, Kawashita's tale may have been the first real (or at least "big") harem manga for the magazine. The manga followed Junpei Manaka, who dreams of being a director, who winds up becoming the point of attraction of three different girls, though he specifically is looking for a girl he met on a rooftop once, though the only thing he can remember is that girl wore strawberry-print panties. There was also a fourth girl, but she was more of an older sister-style character & not a direct love interest. While the concept would likely have been executed in a much more comedic & raunchy style if done by a male author, Kawashita apparently went in a more dramatic & romance-focused direction, similar to what Masakazu Katsura did during the 90s. This resulted in Strawberry 100% running until mid-2005 & lasting 19 volumes, and in the same year it ended it received a TV anime adaptation. Following a 2004 OVA, a 13-episode TV series ran from April to June of 2005, followed immediately by four OVA episodes, all of which were done by Madhouse. Sadly, this would be Mizuki Kawashita's only big success with Jump, with her various rom-com follow-ups, like 2007-2008's Hatsukoi/First Love Limited & 2009-2010's Anedoki, all ending after only a handful of volumes (at most); Hatsukoi Limited did receive its own TV anime adaptation in 2009, though. Presently, she has returned to shojo manga & her Mikan Momokuri pen name.
Sometimes, a concept so ridiculously absurd is given the "OK" by the editors at Shonen Jump, one so shocking (for its time) that you can't believe that it actually happened. This happened during the Bronze Age with Harenchi Gakuen, it happened again in the Golden Age with Kyukyoku!! Hentai Kamen, & it happened once again in the Silver Age with mid-2002's Pretty Face, the debut serialization of Yasuhiro Kano, a man who had been doing one-shots for Jump since 1992. The manga detailed the new life of Masashi Rando, a high school student & karate expert who has a crush on classmate Rina Kurimi. While returning from a karate tournament, however, the bus he was on crashed & Rando suffered horrible burns all over his body. Luckily for him, he's found by plastic surgeon named Jun Manabe & fixed up, though Rando remains in a coma for a year. Unluckily for him, Manabe used the only photo Rando had on him, which means that he now has Rina's face; the year-long coma also thinned out his body, giving him a body similar enough to Rina's as well. He later finds out that he's been declared dead since the accident, with his family moving away in mourning, and while sulking back to Manabe he runs into Rina. Instead of freaking out, though, Rina is happy, because she thinks that she has finally found her missing twin sister, Yuna. Now Rando has to live his life as if he's Yuna, feigning partial amnesia, all the while trying to find the real Yuna, who ran away from home. Yeah, much like Hentai Kamen, it astounds the mind that this idea was given the go by Shueisha to run in a magazine aimed at young boys. Naturally, comical nosebleeds abounded & Rando had to somehow learn to be feminine, yet not exactly lose who he was before the accident. Astoundingly enough, though, Yasuhiro Kano made the series work, becoming an extremely well done manga based on such a mind-bogglingly absurd concept. Still, said very concept just wasn't going to appeal to the general Jump fanbase, not to mention it heading into some very risqué territory every now & then (yes, penises had to be brought up in some fashion or another, eventually), so it's not a surprise that Pretty Face only lasted a single year, ending in mid-2003 after six volumes (exactly like Hentai Kamen, in fact). Understandably, the series never saw any sort of adaptation, & Yasuhiro Kano himself has seemingly had trouble creating a truly popular series, as all of his follow-ups (2006-2008's M×0 & 2011-2012's Kagami no Kuni no Harisugawa/Harisugawa of the Mirror Country) failed not too long after debuting; M×0 did last two years, but ended rather suddenly. He is presently doing his latest manga, 2014's Kiss×Death, in the online magazine Jump+. Still, Pretty Face showed that manga creators could still be given the chance to do almost anything they wanted to do in Jump, even in the new millennium.

You know a sport that hasn't been covered yet in this overview of Shonen Jump's history? American football. It could have happened back in the 70s, as Akio Chiba apparently considered doing either a rugby or football manga before going with Play Ball, but the sport that is easily the most American game ever created didn't get its chance to shine in Jump until mid-2002's Eyeshield 21. Created by the duo of writer Riichiro Inagaki (who had done a couple of one-shots prior) & artist Yusuke Murata (a former assistant of Takeshi Obata's), the serialized debut of the two detailed the journey of Sena Kobayakawa, a weak & constantly bullied boy who just entered the school he wanted to go to, Deimon High. Because of his constant bullying though, which involved constantly getting stuff for his oppressors, Sena is an insanely fast runner & can see any & all openings in the tightest of spots for him to get through. Yoichi Himura, quarterback & captain of the Deimon Devil Bats (the school's barely-existent football team), winds up seeing Sena in action, and coerces him into becoming the team's running back. In order to keep Sena's ability a secret, Himura has him wear a helmet with an eyeshield, giving him the moniker of "Eyeshield 21" after his jersey's number. While the team would start playing normally by borrowing other Deimon sports team's players, the Devil Bats would eventually gain its own permanent members, including Sena's old bullies, and through Inagaki's writing would have all of them become not just better football players. but also better people; Sena's bullies even learn to not just respect him, but also learn to respect themselves, for example. Combined with Murata's extremely expressive & detailed artwork, Eyeshield 21 not only became another giant sports manga hit for Jump, but was also another series that helped increase the popularity of the sport it used. Even though it went more towards the side of the fantastical for some of its on-field feats, the manga helped increase awareness of american football in Japan, which was only increased to a larger extent through its anime adaptation. Following a 2003 OVA produced by Production I.G. for that year's Jump Festa, Studio Gallop debuted a TV adaptation in 2005 that ran until 2008 for 145 episodes, covering all but the final arc (a world tournament that some fans feel is best left ignored, admittedly), & even featured NFL Japan as one of the companies helping pay for its creation; Gallop also produced its own OVA short in 2005. While fans of the manga seem to look down on the anime due to its use of "filler" at various points, it was still a major part of how Eyeshield 21 helped make Japan more interested in a definitively American sport, and the manga itself would eventually end in mid-2009 after 37 volumes. Since then, Riichiro Inagaki has written the occasional short manga, while Yusuke Murata would do the same until 2012, when he started doing a completely redrawn version of webcomic creator ONE's surprise hit One Punch Man, which just recently completed its own short TV anime adaptation & is receiving additional OVA stories.
Following the end of Rurouni Kenshin, Nobuhiro Watsuki was having trouble making a successful follow-up. His next series, the wild west-styled Gun Blaze West, only lasted for most of the second half of 2001 before being canceled after three volumes, mainly due to Watsuki (admitting to) literally making up the story as he was drawing it. It's hard work to come up with a story that one could tell on a weekly basis, so Watsuki decided that his next manga would be his "last shonen action series", deciding to create an homage to everything he loved about the genre & style. Mid-2003's Buso Renkin/Armored Alchemy followed Kazuki Muto, a high school boy who always tries to do the right thing, but winds up getting himself killed while trying to save a girl he saw that was being attacked by a giant monster. He awakens only to find out that the girl, Tokiko, has replaced Kazuki's heart with a kakugane, an object created through alchemy, that not only lets Kazuki continue living but also gives him the ability to summon a Buso Renkin, a weapon formed by the wielder's own spirit & personality. Kazuki winds up teaming with other battle alchemists to fight a crazed genius & then later a dark reminder of the alchemists' original experiments. One half of what made Buso Renkin such an enjoyable manga was that, though highly derivative in initial concept (which sounded like a cross between Bleach & Fullmetal Alchemist), Watsuki utilized a metric ton of imagination & variety. Each Buso Renkin showcased was wildly different from the others, ranging from giant laces to boomeranging chakrams shaped like gears to even a giant robot! The other half of the equation, though, was an excellently told love story between Kazuki & Tokiko. Starting off as simply two people who have to work together, their relationship slowly evolved to them looking out for each other, followed by them caring about each other as friends, to finally wanting to be with each other as soul mates. Dubbed a "Boy Meets Battle Girl" story by Watsuki, Buso Renkin may not have been an entirely original manga, but it was a giant love letter to shonen action that wound up being one of the best examples of the genre out there. Though it initially was a respectable hit for Jump, the manga faced harsh anger from fans when Watsuki dared to indicate the death of a popular character. Even making it so that the character actually lived was not enough to swell the change in tide, though, which resulted in the manga ending properly via Akamaru Jump in mid-2005 after only 10 volumes. Still, it was an appealing series, which resulted in Xebec adapting the entire manga as a 26-episode TV anime from 2006-2007. Though it was deemed to his "final" shonen manga, Nobuhiro Watsuki did follow Buso Renkin with 2007's Embalming -The Another Tale of Frankenstein-, which he did with Jump Square until the Spring of 2015. Watsuki will likely return with another manga sooner or later, but his journey with Shonen Jump ends here, one which had him shoulder the weight of the post-Golden Age crush while assembling his own little group of people who would become successful in their own rights; a respectable-length but impactful run, nonetheless.
After finishing Hikaru no Go with Yumi Hotta in mid-2003, Takeshi Obata was riding a high as being one of the most talented artists in Shonen Jump. There was no doubt that readers were looking forward to the next series he would put ink to, and in only half a year he would return, this time teaming up with a mysterious man known only as Tsugumi Ohba; together, they would create a series that was seemingly anti-Jump in every way. Debuting in the first issue of 2004, Death Note followed Light Yagami, a bored high school genius who hates anything he deems "evil" with all of his being. One day, he comes across an abandoned notebook with a cover that reads "Death Note", complete with instructions as to how to use it to kill whoever the writer wants to see dead. After confirming its power by writing the name of a man who committed a crime, Light becomes haunted by Ryuk, the Shinigami that originally owned that specific Death Note, as they are normally used by Shinigami to do their job of killing those who are meant to die. Realizing the power he now wielded, Light decides to start anonymously killing off any & all evil people he could find out about, eventually gaining a cult-like following who call their new god "Kira". Eventually, Light would become embroiled in a cat-&-mouse game with a detective known only a "L", who wishes to see Kira caught & punished for his crimes, made all the more dangerous when Light starts working with L in order to find out his rival's real name so that he could write it in the Death Note. In a magazine that tended to feature leads who were either heroic or simply "good", Death Note featured a lead who was as dark of an anti-hero as possible, even coming off more as a villain with a god-complex than a well-meaning extremist. Instead of epic physical battles between characters with powerful physical (or energy) abilities, Ohba & Obata went with epic battles of wits, with Light & L always having to try to stay one step ahead of the other, lest one of them suffer horrible fates. It was dark storytelling in way that Jump had not really seen before, and it did make some parents in Japan at the time wonder if the series really should be in a young boys' magazine. Eventually, the series would come to an end, due more to it overstaying its welcome after a point than anything (though the complaints from parents were probably a factor at all times), with an infamous ending appearing in mid-2006 after a 2.5 year run; the manga lasted 12 volumes (plus a 13th "How to Read" volume that was really just a data book). After the end, though, came a TV anime adaptation by Madhouse, that obviously ran in late-night, from 2006-2007 for 37 episodes, plus two Relight TV recap movies (featuring some new scenes) in 2007 & 2008. There were also two live-action movies in 2006 that featured its own original ending, a novel in 2007 that starred L that received its own live-action movie adaptation in 2008, & in 2015 there was an 11-episode J-Drama adaptation. Without a doubt, Death Note was something different for Jump, & though it overstayed its welcome in the end, it is still one of the most infamous & well-known shorter series in the magazine's history. Hell, kids are still caught in schools around the world with their own (filled-out) Death Notes to this very day, which is pretty unsettling, all things considered.

Throughout Shonen Jump's history, there have been various types of gag/comedy manga, but only one had managed to survive for longer than any of the others probably wished to go on for. Osamu Akimoto's Kochikame was undoubtedly the king in that regard, but one other series has managed to outlast all of the others comedies in Jump history, partially by imitating Akimoto's series in execution to an extent. The sole serialization (to this point) of Hideaki Sorachi, Gintama/Silver Soul debuted one week after Death Note & was the absolute opposite of that series in mood. Taking place in an alternate universe history where Edo-period Japan is taken over by aliens, collectively called the Amanto, & very quickly advanced into a society that was both of its time yet also very modern day, the manga stars Gintoki Sakata, a former samurai who once fought against the Amanto in the initial war before deciding to live among society as a freelancer by way of his company "Odd Jobs Gin". While Sorachi was encouraged by his editor to make a historical series, Gintama is usually anything but historical. Sure, various people of the era are re-purposed in new forms, like having the Shinsengumi be a more traditional police force (complete with cop cars), but the main focus of the manga is, first & foremost, to poke fun at anything & everything while also having absolutely no regard for common decency. It doesn't matter how anachronistic the end result may be, Sorachi pokes fun at modern day society, utilizes too many references to count as non sequiturs, & is not anywhere near above utilizing toilet humor, going as far as making poop & puke jokes as much as possible if deemed necessary by the creator. Similar to Kochikame, Gintama also winds up creating a massive world filled with so many identifiable & memorable characters, with many of them coming back for various stories often, and that's one-half of how Gintama has managed to last. Beneath all of the disgusting humor & history rewriting, the series manages to consistently feel fresh, usually by utilizing any & all humor possible while also doing the occasional bit of having fun with what's popular at the moment; the seeming randomness of other bits doesn't hurt, either. The other half of Gintama's ability to continue going, though, is that, really deep down, there is an ongoing narrative that advances through serious, action-filled drama. Every now & then, Hideaki Sorachi will tell a story arc that, though still comical at times, operates more like a shonen action series, & what's most impressive is how good he is at doing said dramatic & action-filled arcs; as absurd as Gintama can get, you still get highly invested in the serious stories. Sorachi's art style being appealing to female audiences certainly helps, too.

Following an OVA made for Jump Festa in 2005, a TV anime adaptation would debut in 2006 by Sunrise (which also made the OVA). Originally relying on the direction of Shinji Hiramatsu, who also directed the majority of the Kochikame anime, the anime Gintama not just adapted the manga but also featured many original stories, generally matching the wit & absurdity of Sorachi's general style. The anime also took advantage of everything new it added, allowing itself to poke fun at other anime, regardless of whether it was by Sunrise or not, would make the occasional reference to roles that its various voice actors played in other shows, & was simply able to match the overall quality of the manga. It would eventually end in 2010 after 201 episodes, but since then has returned to TV twice, to the shock (& even apology) of its own lead characters, with each new series adding a pointless piece of punctuation to the end of the title to indicate a new series (which is parodying other anime that seriously do that). Presently, the most recent series, Gintama°, started up in 2015. There were also two theatrical anime movies made, one of which in 2010 retold an earlier serious story arc & the other in 2013 being a completely original story. As of right now, the manga Gintama is at 61 volumes, with the current rumor being that it may actually come to an end sometime this year. The rumor isn't without reason, though, as Sorachi had admitted last year that he would be focusing on serious storytelling for the time being, though comedy will always be there, & the anime has started entering that territory itself. While it obviously wasn't going to match Kochikame in terms of length, Gintama wound up becoming as close to an equal as that series could possibly receive, & will likely go down as one of the most iconic comedy manga in Jump history.
If there's one thing that the Silver Age may be known for, it's for housing a surprising amount of manga that wound up outrunning Dragon Ball (& Rokudenashi Blues) by a large margin. Including One Piece from the Dark Age, there are four series that went on for longer than 42 volumes. The Prince of Tennis wound up hitting exactly 42 volumes, but there was one other series that hit that seemingly iconic number, & it was the only one to be done by a woman. Akira Amano originally debuted in 1998 via Young Magazine, but would "re-debut" with Shonen Jump with mid-2004's Katekyo/Home Tutor Hitman Reborn!, which she had originally tried out via one-shots as a seinen manga before finding a fit as a shonen series. It starred Tsunayoshi "Tsuna" Sawada, a young boy who finds out that he is chosen to be the tenth leader of an Italian mafia family known as the Vongola, as he is the descendant of Vongola I, who wound up moving to Japan. To train him for his job, the Vongola send to Tsuna an infant-sized hitman named Reborn, who will act as his mafia-education tutor. While he remained resistant to he decided-upon future, Tsuna would eventually earn friends (i.e. family members), & would slowly learn to become a more self-assured person by way of constant use of Reborn's "Dethperate Bullet" ("Dying Will Bullet", if more directly translated), which allows the person who is shot the chance to be reborn (pun obviously intended), better than before, to fulfill the "victim's" dying wish. While the concept sounded like it would eventually be about rival gangs trying to take out Tsuna, which it did on a basic level, Amano would end up going in very wild directions with Reborn!. Whether it was everyone who fought gaining rings that gave them crazy superpowered attacks or even trading places with their future selves in order to protect the future from going to hell (yeah, that was one of the longest story arcs), Reborn! was, if nothing else, a wildly unpredictable shonen action series after a while, feeling at times like it was a way for Amano to use other ideas while not having to create brand new manga. Naturally, Amano's art style was another example of the "Neo-Shonen" concept, which resulted in the manga gaining a rather notable female audience. In the end, Reborn! ran until late-2012 & lasted 42 volumes, though many fans were not exactly pleased with the ending that came about. It also spawned a TV anime adaptation by Artland than ran from 2006-2010 for 203 episodes, which sometimes utilized "everyday life" filler stories in between story arcs so as to not catch up to the manga too fast. Without a doubt, Akira Amano is the most successful female manga creator in the history of Shonen Jump, though she may never create a follow-up that can ever match her big hit; not that she would want to, though. Presently, Amano is doing her second Jump serialization, 2013's élDLIVE, online via Shonen Jump+.
The issue following Reborn!'s debut saw the serialized debut of another female manga creator who would go on to notable fame in her own regard. After graduating high school, Katsura Hoshino moved to Tokyo to work in the anime industry. After having the chance the work on series like the Kochikame anime & Nippon Animation's Hunter×Hunter, she moved to making manga, debuting in 2002 with the one-shot Zone. In mid-2004, Hoshino would take some ideas from Zone & rework them for her debut serialization, D.Gray-man. Taking place in a world that is under assault from demonic creatures known only a Akuma that are lead by the mysterious Millennium Earl (who had been the main character of Zone), the manga detailed the battle between Allen Walker & his fellow Exorcists & the Earl's seemingly never-ending army of Akuma. Though a traditional shonen action series at heart, Hoshino gave everything a very macabre & victorian style, instantly making it very different from other series of its ilk when it came to mood & visuals. In fact, Hoshino has been praised the world over for her intricately detailed artwork, with some calling her one of the finest artists in comics today, though many have also called her out for not being all that good at handling action scenes. Still, D.Gray-man was another notable hit for Jump in the new millennium, with sales in Japan alone reaching over one million copies after only two volumes, which was a record for new artists at the time.

Sadly, Hoshino would be struck with illness twice during serialization, both requiring hiatuses, but eventually the series hit a rough spot. Hoshino would injure her wrist in November 2008, with the series returning in March 2009 before going back on hiatus that May; this would be the last time D.Gray-man ever appeared in an issue of Shonen Jump. A new chapter appeared in that summer's issue of Akamaru Jump, but in November 2009 the series moved to monthly magazine Jump Square. Katsura Hoshino would work on the manga monthly until the very end of 2012, though, when it went on hiatus once again. Most assumed that Hoshino was deeply ill, but in 2013 she did the initial character designs for the Sunrise mech anime Valvrave the Liberator, which showed that she could draw to some extent. In mid-2015, though, D.Gray-man returned once again, this time appearing in the brand new magazine Jump SQ. Crown, which runs quarterly & is apparently still running regularly. Still, a new compiled volume has not come out since Volume 24 in 2013, but with the quarterly run there will eventually be new volumes. Before all of the hiatuses, though, D.Gray-man was popular enough to receive a TV anime adaptation by TMS. It ran from 2006-2008 for 103 episodes, even adapting some of the spin-off novels that were made to keep from catching up too quickly; "traditional" filler was also to be found, naturally. Announced at the end of 2015, however, was surprise news that the anime would actually be returning sometime this year, and that it would be continuing off of where the previous anime left off at; re-castings were already confirmed, though. Regardless, even if the series wound up getting hit with the same case of "chronic hiatus" that Hunter×Hunter now experiences, D.Gray-man was shonen action done in a style that had not been seen before, & it's great that it's still being made.

Though Mr. Fullswing's lack of any sort of anime adaptation, in spite of its length, was an oddity for the first half of the Silver Age, it wasn't the only one. At the very end of 2004 (so late that it was actually issue #53!) was the debut of Yoshiyuki Nishi, a former assistant to Takeshi Obata (at the same time as Yusuke Murata, in fact), who started his career with Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation. A more or less explanatory title, the manga detailed the various jobs that Toru Muhyo, a genius "Magical Law Executor", & his assistant Jiro "Roji" Kusano as they investigate various cases involving ghosts, followed by their judgments towards said spirits' original lives; good ones go to Heaven, while bad ones go to Hell. A generally "story of the week" series, Nishi gave the title an overall creepy & quirky style to it all, which helped it stay around for a fair amount of time in Jump, even if it rarely became a major series in the magazine; the occasional bit of perverted naughtiness didn't hurt, either. The manga would run for roughly 3.5 years, ending in early 2008 after 18 volumes, but like Shinya Suzuki's big hit there would never be any sort of anime adaptation of Muhyo & Roji. Also similar to Suzuki, Yoshiyuki Nishi has yet to create a series that can match the success of his debut work. His two follow-ups, 2008-2009's Bokke-san & 2013-2014's Hachi -Tokyo 23-ku/Tokyo's 23 Palaces-, both failed to make it past 2-3 volumes, though Nishi still does the occasional one-shot. Even though neither Mr. Fullswing nor Muhyo & Roji have received anime adaptations yet, there is always the possibility that it could happen in the future, as they were both still Jump manga that ran for respectable lengths.
The year 2005 would see only one notable new series, which was the debut of Yusei Matsui, a former assistant to Yoshio Sawai. Unlike his teacher, but similar to Yoshiyuki Nishi, Matsui's manga was a mystery series with a love for the dark & twisted. Early 2005's Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, or simply Neuro: Supernatural Detective, followed Neuro Nougami, a demon who loves devouring mysteries; the more mysterious the better the taste. Sadly, though, Neuro has solved & eaten all of the mysteries in the Demon World, so he decides to go to the Human World, where he eventually makes an agreement with a high school girl named Yako Katsuragi. After helping her discover who killed her father, which was declared a suicide, the two open up a detective agency, all the while keeping Neuro's demon identity a secret; to everyone, Yako is a genius detective & Neuro is her assistant. A mix of the mystery genre, graphic violence, & dark humor, usually involving Neuro "encouraging" Yako is his own demonic ways, the manga became a bit of a dark horse in Jump at the time, both by being a mystery series (which tended to be short-lived in Jump) & by being downright bizarre due to the demonic aesthetic often used by Matsui. Essentially acting as Jump's demonic equivalent to Detective Conan/Case Closed, Neuro would run until mid-2009 for 23 volumes, & received a TV anime adaptation by Madhouse that ran from 2007-2008 for 25 episodes; said anime is not well received by fans of the manga, however, due to a diverging plot. While there were series that had the occasional bit of mystery to them in Jump's history, it says something about the genre's appeal with Jump readers on the whole that it took this long for the magazine to finally receive its first real hit mystery manga. Yusei Matsui would later follow up Neuro with another hit, but that's for Part 2.
During the production of the Black Cat anime, creator Kentaro Yabuki met Saki Hasemi, an anime writer & occasional artist for various anime & video games; Hasemi wrote seven episodes of Black Cat. The two hit it off & eventually decided to co-create a manga, with the end result being a harem comedy so perverted & sexual that it eventually had to leave Jump's main magazine. To Love-Ru, a pun for the phrase "Love Trouble", debuted in mid-2006 & starred Rito Yuki, a high school boy who just can't admit his love to the girl of his dreams, Haruna Sairenji. While taking a bath one day, though, a nude girl suddenly appears in front of him. The girl is Lala Satalin Deviluke, heir to the throne of the planet Deviluke, and she doesn't want to marry any of the suitors that her kingly father has chosen for her. She claims to want to marry Rito, & through multiple misunderstandings Rito is given an ultimatum by King Deviluke: Fend off Lala's various suitors to prove his (apparent) love for her, or the Earth gets destroyed. While that was the basic concept, the actual execution wound up a little like a modern-day take on Rumiko Takahashi's Urusei Yatsura, i.e. lead character gets into some sort of predicament, often fantastical in some way & usually involving one or more of the various girls (at least one of which is an alien) that wind up surrounding his life. Lala seemed to be the most common instigator of said predicaments, too, mainly because she would often utilize various tools & inventions made from Deviluke technology, which allowed for things like body switching & even turning Rito into a girl everyone named Riko; the latter wound up becoming very popular with fans. Within two years, the manga would be adapted into a TV anime by Xebec which ran in 2008 for 26 episodes, followed by six OVA episodes from 2009-2010. Eventually, though, the manga's antics started getting more & more risqué, & the manga ended up finishing in mid-2009 after 18 volumes. That would not mark the end of the series as a whole though, because in late 2010 Yabuki & Hasemi debuted a sequel, To-Love-Ru Darkness, in Jump Square; the story is about Lala's sister Momo wanting to create a harem for Rito comprised of all of the girls around him. A second season of the anime, Motto To-Love-Ru ("More Love Trouble"... Get it?), debuted right when the sequel manga did, running for 12 more episodes. Being in a monthly magazine, where editorial tends to be more relaxed, Darkness apparently goes even more risqué than the original manga, & eventually received its own TV anime, which had two seasons in 2012 & 2015 for a total 26 episodes, plus a series of OVA episodes coming out all this year. Compared to how Harenchi Gakuen was looked at back in 1968, I'm sure those who were against it back then would be gobsmacked if they knew what To-Love-Ru was like 40 years later.
The first half of the Silver Age of Jump was a mix of new takes on old ideas & concepts that pushed the limits of what a "shonen" manga magazine could get away with, or at least what Jump could usually get away with. Naruto gave Jump its first truly iconic ninja manga, eventually being deemed worthy of a full-color final chapter, which probably started to feel mythical by the time it finally happened again. Series like Pyu to Fuku! Jaguar, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Mr. Fullswing, & Gintama took gag manga & either went to greater absurd lengths or actually merged the genre with serious storytelling even more than before. Finally, series like Pretty Face, Death Note, & To-Love-Ru truly pushed boundaries in ways that likely couldn't have been done in the past, due to changing standards; none of these three series could have existed like they did back in the 70s, 80s, or even 90s. Among all of those were various shonen action series, the bread & butter of Jump itself, and they either utilized styles that had not been used before (D.Gray-man, Reborn!, Eyeshield 21) or simply used pre-existing styles very well (Buso Renkin, BleachBlack Cat). Part 2 of the Silver Age will cover 2007-2014, so while the "history" to be found will be rather recent, it will still be the end of this crazy, almost way too long ride. I hope you'll look forward to it as much as I'll be happy to be done with it.

Maybe then we can finally see just how far we've come...


  1. Why people say Bleach had a "big drop"?, Well, yeah it's popularity decreased but not like many people say, the sales were always good and better than many series even currently series.
    I've always thought the reason is the "cancelled" anime, it was like the big loser of fandoms, you know bleach is bad or the worst because the anime was cancelled.

    Well, that's my point sorry for my english and good article, Im really like it.

  2. And Muhyo got its anime adaptation!