Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Guilty Pleasure that is Shōnen Jump and Which Can You Still Not Get Enough Of?

I have a confession to make, I have a very large soft spot for Shōnen Jump manga. Now I know that I've made more than one mention about how I find it frustrating that manga like Naruto and One Piece continue on this slow decaying cycle of power-ups and never ending plots. But, I for one will never tell you that they are not entertaining and a joy to read. Kinda like romance and military trillers for the American publishing world. These genres are guilty reads for some people and it keeps bringing them back decade after decade.

The sheer evolution gold that comes out of Shōnen Jump and Shueisha is mind boggling when put into scale. Shōnen Jump itself has been published since 1968, of course to compete against Shōnen Sunday which was very popular and successful. I mean Naruto has been running a weekly serialization for 15 years come this November. 15 years. One Piece has been serialized for 17. Of course, neither One Piece or Naturo hold a candle to Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo, which has been running in Shōnen Jump for over 30 years. Guess what my friends, thats longer than I have been walking and breathing on this Earth. 

These manga then evolve into anime. Recently the animation world has been flooded with Kuroko no Basket, Medaka Box, Nurarihyon no Mago, Gintama and the return of HunterXHunter. Walk into your local, or website, animate and characters goods abound for these shows. I can find coasters, coasters for god sakes for Ao no Exorcist and Gintama, shirts, clear files, CDs, writing boards, cups, bowls, pencils, boxes, and just about anything else for them there. Why is this?

Of course, part of this is that there are always new little boys to catch in their plot depths, though maybe not if you look at the Japanese birth rate. We as older readers are also always sucked into them too. We've all seen the guy who still wears a Naruto headband, walks around with a Pikachu hat on, and proudly declares himself an Otaku. 

The reason I bring this up is fairly simple, I have been reading Kenshin in honor of the up coming movie. My friends are so happy about this movie and are going wild just thinking about it. I imagine that the online fansubing community has been conducting strategy meetings to be the fastest group to put it together in the best quality fansub. Hell, they probably have a random friend set up to record at the movie theater for them. I'm not even half way through Kenshin yet, but that's my plan for the next couple weeks. I gotta finish it before the movie comes out. 

While I was reading Kenshin, I was struck by how, for lack of a better term, different it was from normal Shōnen Jump titles. I mentioned this after I read Shaman King as well, how Yoh was not the stereotypical Shōnen Jump hero. Instead of putting all his energy and personality into defeating Hao and "becoming the best Shaman King ever", Yoh has got to be one of the most relaxed Shōnen Jump characters I have ever read. Kenshin, instead of being a young idealistic boy who is out to prove himself to the world, or within his own community, has already done so. He is much older, 28, and already possesses skills that put him at the top of the social ranking. 

Then I got to thinking about the whole Jump Universe, yes it deserves to be capitalized. All the Jump spin off magazines need to be involved in this discussion: Jump SQ, Saikyo Jump, V Jump, Grand Jump, and only slightly JumpX. When I look at a lot of the manga that comes out of these magazines, I just can't help but get a little nostalgic for their plot lines. I mean really, they are so entertaining and you are able to suspend your disbelief so well with these titles. I mean really, a world of ninja and pirates that are able to turn themselves into skeletons and giant rubber bands? What's not to love on a sheer ridiculous scale?

So my question is this: What Shōnen Jump or Jump Universe is your guilty pleasure? Do you have a secret bible to Naruto? Have you read and watched every episode of Reborn? Do you yearn for the days of Slam Dunk over Kuroko no Basket? You have a crush on Rukia that hasn't vanished? Are you actually happy that Shaman King now as a sequal? Have you seen the Prince of Tennis musical yet? Or are you still all about Goku and Dragon Ball? Tell me and share it with all and sundry! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sprite with a Splash of Time

So yesterday in my culture class, we had an introduction to the theme we would be discussing until the end of the semester, Japanese literature that reflects post modernist themes and what they are trying to reflect on Japanese contemporary society. The professor, a older Japanese man, started throwing out names of Japanese authors that I hadn't heard of and then looked at me and asked me who my favorite mangaka was. I was slightly surprised since I thought we were only going to be dealing with "literature", as in novels and short stories, but when I told him that my favorite manga was 20th Centure Boys by Urasawa Naoki he got very excited and ran to the board to write it down in English and Japanese. He followed that up by stating names like EVA, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, The Matrix, and 7 Seeds.

What do all of these titles have in common? Of course, they all deal with a post modern world, the end of the world, atomic energy and how humans react to these different themes. The real answer is that they are all sekai-kei, 世界系, or stories that revolve around saving the world. Over the last 20 years many Japanese contemporary authors have started using these themes as major issues in their works. What my professor wanted us to start thinking about was this; what could have brought a rise to these themes? And not only in "literature" but in popular culture as well? What kind of reflections to they make on Japanese society and the Japanese mindset?

As a reader and as a social scientist, I am very excited about this subject. I have spent a lot of time and money reading many books and manga that deal explicitly with these themes. In preparation for this class I went looking for new titles in my logically titled "Manga I want to read" folder in my bookmarks and pulled up Sprite.

Now before you ask, no I am not talking about the refreshing lemon-lime soda that was brought to us by the great soda capital of the world, the United States of America. I am talking about the very well thought out and interesting manga drawn and authored by Ishikawa Yugo. Currently on volume 8 in Japan, it has only been scanlated up to volume 4 in English and has yet to be picked up by an English publisher. Now I usually don't pull up and discuss manga that hasn't been finished or further along in plot on this blog since I like to have a full range of the plot and characters before I start making my theories and observations. I am making a good exception for this manga because I want it to be on people's radar.