Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Golden Age of Jump Part 1: Too Many Classics to Count

By the end of 1983, Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump was doing pretty damn well, all things considered. Following the end of Ring ni Kakero in 1981, readership was over 3 million & maybe even nearing 4 million. Series like Kochikame, Kinnikuman, High School! Kimengumi, & Captain Tsubasa were still nowhere near their ends (especially the first one) & bringing in readers, while the likes of Dr. Slump, Cobra, Cat's Eye, & Fuma no Kojirou weren't far from their respective ends (within a year, at most), with readers no doubt curious about what would come next from the authors of those works. What I now call the Bronze Age was one of establishment, a period of time that was all about laying the groundwork, & setting standards for what would follow. Now that all of that had been done from 1968-1983, it was time to move forward.

After roughly 15 years of life, already outliving predecessor Shonen Book, Jump was ready to take everything to the next level. I'm sure that, little did the editors, executives, & manga creators at Shueisha know, the next 13(-ish) years would be the absolute apex of success for the magazine, eventually reaching a reader base of about 6.5 million, completely destroying the competition when it came to sales. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however, because the first half of what be later called the "Golden Age of Jump", 1983-1990, would only reach a 5 million readership (yeah, "only"). Alongside the super-long-runners that carried over into this age, what were the titles that started this mammoth-sized rise to sheer dominance? Well, the one that's generally considered the first "Golden Age" Jump manga was more proof that first impressions aren't always accurate, because, much like Masami Kurumada, the man who drew this epic had a failed start at first.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Bronze Age of Jump Part 2: Turning Bronze Into Gold

The first half-ish of Weekly Shonen Jump's Bronze Age was definitely a time that was all about establishment. Shueisha needed to bring in readers for its new magazine, and its manga creators did so by a variety of means. Go Nagai challenged the establishment, Hiroshi Motomiya stuck to his guns while also helping bring in a solid female fanbase, & the duo of Shiro Tozaki & Norihiro Nakajima showcased sheer insanity in ways that were never seen before in a story-driven, action-oriented fashion, among other writers & artists. Still, all of the titles I brought up in Part 1 began & ended in the Bronze Age. In Part 2, we'll not only examine the titles that truly set into motion the gears that made Jump's following era so successful, but about 3/4 of them would wind up existing to some extent in said following age.

But first, let's get one more trio of unknown (outside of Japan) manga out of the way.

Debuting at the tail end of 1975 was a gag manga named 1•2 no Ahho/Idiots!! by Kontaro (real name: Takashina Mitsuyoshi). Doing something never done before, Kontaro took a generally serious genre, in this case baseball manga, & made it into a full-on comedy; in fact, this manga is considered the foundation of the "baseball gag manga" genre. As for the title itself, it followed a man named "Kantoku/Director", who had lived on Morong Island for the past 20 years since the end of the Pacific Front of World War II, & his work with a boy named Sadaoka (named after Shouji Sadaoka, a promising rookie for the Yomiuri Giants at the time) as they work to improve Friendship Academy's baseball team. 1•2 no Ahho!! earned a nice bit of notoriety by also featuring a lot of satire about current events of the time, likely focusing on actual events that were happening in baseball. It would run for just slightly shy of three years, ending in mid-1978 after 129 chapters across 10 volumes, but it would return in a small way with Shin 1•2 no Ahho!! in 2001, though obviously not run in Jump the second time around. Still, Kontaro showcased a way to mix genres together successfully, and that would be something that manga would wind up doing a lot in the future.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Bronze Age of Jump Part 1: Breaking the Rules & Setting Standards

Bronze is a metal that is of less value than that of gold or silver. In terms of honor, a bronze medal equates to third place, and that is a similar way that I look at the early days of Weekly Shonen Jump. It wasn't exactly going to immediately beat the existing top two of shonen publications, Kodansha's Shonen Magazine & Shogakukan's Shonen Sunday, and even in comparison to its later glory days these first 15 years or so aren't quite as known to many as what would come about in the 80s & beyond. Even in Japan titles from these early days are only rarely brought up when it comes to stuff like anime & video games. Still, everything has to start somewhere, and the era that I am calling the "Bronze Age of Jump" is similar to that of a young athlete that shows promise; it may only be "third place", but there's tons of potential & inspiration to be found.

Kujira/Whale Daigo by Sachio Umemoto was Jump's 1st Cover

In mid-1968, Japanese book publisher Shueisha decided to replace its young boy-aimed manga magazine Shonen Book, home of manga like Big X & Mach GoGoGo, after 11 years with a new publication, turning Book into a special issue. Said new magazine, Shonen Jump, debuted as a semi-weekly publication, but shortly into 1969 Jump became a weekly magazine, and with it came the end of Shonen Book (which was replaced by Bessatsu Shonen Jump, followed by Monthly Shonen Jump, followed by Jump Square). In order to compete with Magazine & Sunday, though, the editors at the newly founded Jump seemed to encourage their manga creators to eschew the unspoken rule book if they wanted; if nothing else, controversy can create cash. Combined with the magazine debuting alongside some newbie creators who would go on to become icons of the industry, the early days of the Bronze Age may be more important than most would think.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

An Introduction to The Ages of Jump

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

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

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

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