Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Decline of Straight Battle Manga?

Has the end come for Jump battle manga? Or a better question, have the Jump battle mangas become too long? Have they been turned into cash cows for a publishing company that is first a business and second a gateway to one of, if not the, most influential and successful manga magazine? When has a manga gone on for too long for the backlash to set in?

These are all questions that I have seen floating around on the net and thought about personally from time to time when I contemplate what remains popular in certain manga magazines and why. Within Jump alone there has been a shift in what genres are gaining attention and popularity. Kuroko no Basuke, the relatively new Haikyuu and one of the latest manga that started serialization, Cross Manage, all indicate that sports manga are back on the raise. Where as the pushing of Nurarihyon no Mago and Bleach to finish indicates, to me, that the straight battle manga are losing popularity and fans are responding accordingly.

Of course, the continued success of Naruto and One Piece would lead others to believe that straight battle manga are still popular. While I would agree that they are still popular, we have finally reached market saturation. Very similar to the vampire boom in American pop culture, I think that Jump has seen that the straight battle manga are finally seeing a decline and a slight backlash. Just look through tumblr and twitter to see the mountainous amounts of negative comments each week for Naruto. Without fail I see a comment from a loyal reader that left the story because it was just getting nowhere and they felt slightly betrayed by Kishimoto for ruining a good plot/series.

The main reason why I started to feel this way was because of the recent addition of Cross Manage to the Jump magazine. Looking at the list of manga that has come out this year in Jump:

  • Haikyuu!!
  • Kurogane
  • Ansatsu Kyoshitsu
  • Takamagahara
  • Retsu Date Senpai
  • Cross Manage
  • Koisome Momiji
  • Sensei no Bulge
  • Nisekoi
Out of these titles, there are only 3 that I would name a straight battle manga and 1 of them has already been cancelled and the other 2 I haven't really seen much buzz about. This could also be do to the fact that they are all so very new and they have not gained a larger following at the moment. Yet there are 2-3 sports manga that have been serialized in this last year along with a surreal classroom fight and a romantic comedy. Haikyuu!! seems to be doing well as Jump is pushing it not only in the magazine but on it's website as well. With the recent addition of Cross Manage that semi subverts the standard female-manager theme, I would say that Jump themselves might be seeing less battle manga submissions, or they are being much more careful in what battle manga they find compatible with their audience. I believe this is Jump/Shueisha jumping on the rising success of Kuroko no Basuke; which just ended a very successful anime season. 

All of this being said, I know that battle manga are still going to rule the shōnen manga world. Shogakukan has Magi coming out this next week as an anime Conan still has a huge fan following. Kodansha has Fairy Tail and Code:Breaker, but Baby Steps, Area no Kishi, and Hajime no Ippo have a huge presence in their Shonen Magazine. I have seen a subtly growing shift in the amount of battle manga that is coming out. For example, Shogakukan jumped on Arakawa Hiromu's slice of life Silver Spoon for weekly publication to huge success. 

As you have probably been able to deduce from reading so far, I am extremely happy about this shift. As exciting and engaging as straight battle manga can be, there is just a point where they become redundant and too much. I have long been of the opinion that the big 4 (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Reborn) have gone on for a little too long. After so many years, it becomes an issue of continued quality for me. The mangaka is allowed to throw anything that they want into the story (i.e. Prince of Tennis) and the whole story starts to deteriorate into a giant mess of characters, unfinished plot points, and fighting. In fact, I use Prince of Tennis as the measuring stick for when a manga has gone on for too long. 

And yet, there is now a Shin Prince of Tennis where the mangaka is again allowed to do whatever he wants, but now it's in Jump Square. Animate stores and the online shop are overflowing with merchandise girl fans can buy of their favorite character without really caring about the story that goes into it. This is when a great manga has been turned into a Shueisha cash-cow. 

Have the big 4 turned into cash-cows? I would have to say yes for Naruto and Once Piece. We could even add Gin Tama into this mix because it just never seems to end either. Walk into any souvenir shop in Japan and you will find city themed cell phone charmes with all of Naruto, Luffy, and Gintoki playing with deer in Nara, eating takoyaki in Osaka, and climbing the Tokyo Tower. One Piece has so much stuff that they have opened a whole store completely dedicated to it. Again, another cash-cow.

I have always been of the opinion of quality or quantity. I want my manga to be the best that it can be without any artificial flavors, colors, or dyes making the product less organic. Give me Death Note and Bakuman quality plot, drawings, and pacing over open-ended manga that take up more time than they should. I cannot be the only reader who feels this way. 

Review! Comment! I would love some discussion on this issue! 

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