Friday, December 20, 2019

Locked Out of the Shonen Jump Vault? Part 3: Forgotten & Abandoned

In the past two parts of this look at Jump manga Viz Media released that currently isn't in the Shonen Jump Vault section of the label's year-old subscription service, I've occasionally brought up the idea of "manga that Shueisha forced Viz to release". This has actually been admitted by people like Jason Thompson, who used to work freelance for Viz as an editor, and it really isn't all that surprising. Most of the English manga publishers that exist today are actually owned (either partially or completely) by a Japanese conglomerate of some sort, and that means that there is always the possibility that said owner will want to make sure a specific title sees release. Sometimes it works out & the manga sells well abroad, but other times the manga will be a bomb, and it could leave the possibility that the publisher will be forced to continue releasing a title that only loses more money with each release. If you ever wondered why some manga releases slow down to a trickle, & hasn't simply caught up to Japan, that's why; it's an attempt to stem the flow. Back around 2010, Viz was able to put a stop to some Shueisha manga that just were not selling, but had been obligated to release on behalf of its co-owner, but some are guessing that this doesn't apply to fellow co-owner Shogakukan. For example, while Case Closed has managed to maintain a seasonal release ever since 2010, Hayate the Combat Butler went down to twice a year in 2011, while Kaze Hikaru (which will be ending early next year) has only seen one new volume a year ever since 2011; at this rate, Viz won't be done with Kaze Hikaru until at least 2037!

Still, not every entry in this final third fits this description, but all of them do share this fact: None of them are mentioned in any way on Viz's website, even though all but one of them were indeed published under the Shonen Jump (or Shonen Jump Advanced) label. I call these the... Forgotten & Abandoned!

Let's start things with what is easily the most interesting & unique situation there is when it comes to a Shonen Jump manga that Viz has released "all of" in the past... Sort of.... Technically... At the time. Riku Sanjo has been a writer in the entertainment business ever since the mid-80s (from M.D. Geist to Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu to both Kamen Rider W & Drive), & in late 1989 teamed up with artist Koji Inada to debut Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, a Shonen Jump manga based on Yuji Horii & Enix's Dragon Quest RPG series; it wasn't based on any specific entry, but rather utilized elements to create an original story. It was a massive hit, running for 37 volumes until late 1996 & even seeing a TV anime adaptation & trio of movies by Toei in the early 90s. Following that, Sanjo & Inada made Dragon Quest IV Gaiden: The Labyrinth of Hell, a single-volume spin-off of that particular game, for Monthly Shonen Jump in 2001, and in early 2002 the duo returned to Monthly Jump with an original series, Beet the Vandel Buster (also known as Bouken-Oh/Adventure King Beet). It tells the story of Beet, a young teen who wishes to bring an end to the "Dark Ages" that the monsters known as Vandels have brought upon the world, especially after the Zenon Warriors, five men who were Beet's idols, seemingly sacrificed their lives to protect Beet by infusing him with their Saiga, weapons brought about by the user's very soul & life force.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Locked Out of the Shonen Jump Vault? Part 2: Acknowledged, But Unloved

For those wondering how exactly I gathered together the series for this three-part list of Shonen Jump manga, I simply looked at the manga listed on Viz Media's ANN Encyclopedia page, since it lists (just about) every single manga that Viz has ever licensed, & compared that to what's listed on the Shonen Jump app itself (plus a double-check on the website, because otherwise I would have erroneously included Fire Punch, Platinum End, & Ral Ω Grad, which are only available on the website). Through that, I was able to reduce the massive list to just 22 series, each of which I searched through Viz Media's own website, in order to determine what were already being sold digitally, & what were not. Here's where things get very interesting now, because while Viz has been very diligent on getting as many of its various manga re-released digitally (like Firefighter!: Daigo of Fire Company M, which you should definitely read, because it's excellent), not every single manga that Viz has released physically has seen a digital release. Considering that Viz has re-released notoriously low-selling manga digitally, like Basara, Saint Seiya, & the aforementioned Daigo, and has even given numerous lesser-known series previously licensed by TokyoPop new digital-only releases via Viz Selects (but never continued those that were left unfinished), there must obviously be reasons for why I was able to find five Shonen Jump manga that Viz has fully(-ish) released, but to this day remain without any sort of digital release.

I (jokingly) call these the Acknowledged, But Unloved. Of course, like last time, let's just start with the most obvious one of them all...

In the annals of Shonen Jump history, there have only been four manga that have received the holy grail of veneration: The Full-Color Final Chapter. Many manga that are seen as successes will receive the first few pages in full-color, i.e. like it was a Western comic book, for their final chapters, as a way to pay respect to its legacy, but only four had their final chapters done in full-color for their entire lengths. The first, Ring ni Kakero by Masami Kurumada, will NEVER see an official English release of any sort; hell, it can't even get an unofficial English scanlation of any sort of actual length or dedication! The second & fourth, Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama & Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto, are two of the most iconic manga ever in North America. Meanwhile, the third series, Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue, has had a bumpy road to a full, official, English release. At first, Gutsoon! Entertainment, the US division of Coamix (founded by former Jump editor Nobuhiko Horie & City Hunter's Tsukasa Hojo), gave it a go, serializing it in Raijin Comics, which was essentially the rival magazine to Viz's Shonen Jump, & five compiled volumes would see release from 2003 to 2004, before Gutsoon called it quits. Combined with Toei's own botched DVD release of the anime the next year, it seemed as if one of the most iconic & popular manga in history, one that literally made the entire sport of basketball popular in Japan throughout the 90s, would never see a proper, complete release in North America.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Locked Out of the Shonen Jump Vault? Part 1: Simply Waiting for Their Turns

On December 20, 2018, Viz Media did something simultaneously insane & brilliant. It ended the digital Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, which itself replaced the physical Shonen Jump magazine that ran monthly for years, & in its place was a brand new subscription model. For just $1.99/month, readers would gain access to every single Jump manga that Viz was "simulpublishing" on a weekly basis, just like the digital magazine, but unlike before you weren't at the mercy of back-issues that you had to otherwise purchase separately, if you weren't subscribing from the very beginning. Instead, every chapter of every simulpublished manga was made available on a new Shonen Jump app, so new subscribers could easily catch up; you could also read them online at Viz's website. But what exactly was "insane" about this new endeavor?

Hmmm, maybe the fact that Viz was also offering nearly every single Shonen Jump manga it had ever published on the app as well!

A snazzy new logo, done in the style of the Japanese logo, was also introduced.

Yes, for just $24/year, one has access to not only brand new, weekly chapters of currently-running manga, but can also read the entire runs of over 50 different manga from the past, in what Viz calls the "Shonen Jump Vault", with the only restriction being that you can only read up to 100 chapters each day; for most, that's immensely more than reasonable. However, the keyword there is "nearly", because Viz didn't instantly make all of its currently-published Jump manga available on the app right away. In fact, some series, like Fire Punch, Platinum End, & Ral Ω Grad, are only available via the website, likely due to content that wouldn't fly on an app that's (technically) for all ages. Still, when this new program launched, Viz did promise that other manga would get added over time. So, over this past year, there have been the occasional "new" additions to the SJ Vault, regardless of whether they're from Weekly Shonen Jump or not, like One-Punch Man (which is Shonen Jump-adjacent, as volumes are published under the "Jump Comics" label in Japan), JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (all the way up to the current release of Diamond is Unbreakable), Boys Over Flowers (which isn't a Jump manga, but the currently-running sequel is serialized over at Jump+, so Viz tossed both in), & even Golden Kamuy from Young Jump (though, due to its mature content, it's only available on the website, not via the app).

However, the people at Viz did also indicate that their overall goal is to, ideally, make available ANY manga that ever got published under the Shonen Jump (& Shonen Jump Advanced) label on the app; naturally, achieving this would likely require negotiating new licenses for older titles. Of course, it's obvious that Viz will not eventually put up literally every Jump-related manga it has ever published in its 33-year history. For example, the Vault will never see those old releases of Space Adventure Cobra, Baoh, or Fist of the North Star that Viz released during the late 80s & early 90s, because they were done in the old "flipped" format, and two of them weren't even finished. However, there are still 22 different Jump manga that Viz has published in the past, in "unflipped" format, that are not currently on the app, so I just want to go over each of those & see what could, theoretically, still get added to the Shonen Jump Vault.

This will be split across three parts, and first up is what I call Simply Waiting for Their Turns, as all of these Jump manga are currently being offered digitally already by Viz, but are just not available as part of the subscription.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

To Live & Die in Obscusion: A Memoir of the 9th Anniversary

Why does one do the things that they do? I guess that question is rather vague & broad, but when I first started The Land of Obscusion back in 2010, I had a simple justification in mind: "I want to write about the stuff that no one else wants to." Now, nine years later, after nearly an entire decade, I wonder if that justification still holds any worth to it. Now, sure, there's merit in it to those who actually read this blog, and I am always thankful that people find it a worthy distraction from a real world that's honestly only getting more & more hectic, & an online one that seems to focus more on spite & hateful discourse, but like anything one does, there has to be that feeling that you yourself are getting something noteworthy out of it... Right?

This April I took the entire month off, after consistently writing for the blog for 100 months straight ever since I started it up. To be perfectly honest, I really enjoyed the break, & it was something I honestly should have done a while ago. At the same time, though, during that entire month I wasn't exactly anticipating returning to the blog; I wasn't dreading it by any means, but it wasn't like I was missing it, either. Since then, every single remaining month of this year only saw two or three articles from me, except for October, which simply was a case of things all coming together at the same time & me wanting to cover two anime to celebrate Halloween. Really, though, taking the month off, combined with the slower pace, made me think back to an idea I had years ago that I never put much stock into: Calling it quits after 10 years.

As I've mentioned in some previous anniversary pieces, hitting just one year felt like an accomplishment, so I just continued doing it, not really thinking about how it'd feel to hit another year. Then the second year came & went, followed by the third, then the fourth, which was then succeeded by the fifth, which predated the sixth, and before I knew it I had reached the seventh & eighth anniversaries of the blog. During all those years, a little thought would sometimes pop into my head, "Wouldn't it be fitting to end after 10 years?", in a sort of romanticized or poetic feel. After all, a decade is a long time, and in a niche world like that of anime, manga, or even gaming only the most dedicated actually wind up even hitting that number, let alone continue well beyond it. Not just that, but who in their right mind would be willing to put in that much time, effort, & even money into something, only to never receive a single, solitary thing in return? After all, think about any notable anime & manga writer or site, some of which I'm personally friends with, and they've all made that jump at some point, for a variety of reasons. In that case, shouldn't I do so, as well? After all, getting that translation for the Gundoh Musashi tell-all interview last year wasn't exactly "cheap".