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! 

1 comment:

  1. I really liked one piece for a long time. So long that I even caught up with the manga when it was 500 eps ahead of me. It has a sense of fun and innocence that I think the other shonen mangas struggle to capture (maybe it's not what they're aiming for though).

    Naruto makes for a fleshed out and rich world but the characters always seemed a little too angsty to me and not enough emphasis or time was given to the older generation of ninja. I think I have a problem identifying with Naruto himself because he's just a little bit TOO dense. I don't have a problem with instinct (rather than logic) based characters like luffy and goku but Naruto is just a little bit TOO special, even when it comes to social interactions. I'm maybe one of the only people that actually preferred shippuuden because it was a little more adult and the youngsters finally had their training wheels taken off (at least that's what it felt like).

    Bleach, for whatever reason, always felt empty and sparse with a world just barely given enough context to base the fights in. Each character's personality seemed to be only explored through their fight scenes and they just didn't feel real to me somehow. I think the best backstory in the whole thing was maybe kenpachi because it was hinted he had a deep a meaningful sensei-student relationship with the top guy but it was never properly explored. I'm not a big fan of the highschool setting for the first part and soul society struck me as so rigidly hierarchical as to be unbelievable. Who wants a heaven that's even more depressing than the real world? The colour palette they used was also bland and dreary with lots of concrete, possibly inspired by real world tokyo? And then there's the espada arc where they just started drawing everything as either sand or white buildings. God that was dire.