Shonen Jump, the most popular manga publication in Japan and North America, is a regularly released magazine collection of serialized boy’s comics typically including stories from Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach, Naruto, Psyren, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Slam Dunk.  Shonen manga, the content of Shonen Jump is distinctive in terms of its style, content, and approach to the material.  Manga stories, like those in Shonen Jump are often initially presented in magazines and later re-released as books or collections.  Shonen stories tend to be adventure or action based, include satirical humour, and focus on teenaged male protagonists.  Common themes in Shonen manga are robots, superheroes and sports and typically follow the growth of a character, the discovery of their identity and critique society.  Shonen artists frequently portray characters as thin, with large eyes, small mouths, and as either heroic males or unrealistically proportioned young women.

While manga publications have existed throughout the early twentieth century in the form of titles like Shonen Club, Weekly Shonen Magazine, and Weekly Shonen Sunday, it was the serialization of manga stories in the 1950s and 1960s, published in tankobon volumes which led to their increasing popularity throughout Japan.  In 1959 Kodansha Ltd., one of the largest publishers in Japan issued Shonen Magazine, which soon attracted new writers and artists and ultimately led to series becoming increasingly developed and complex.   Given the rising popularity of Shonen manga in Japan new publications such as Weekly Shonen Jump began production in 1968, later giving way to other regular texts including Monthly Shonen Jump, Saikyo Jump, and Jump SQ.  The success of the Jump anthologies in Japan ultimately meant that they would serve as the basis for the American edition of Shonen Jump.  Modern manga and publications such as Shonen Jump have been heavily influenced by the stories of Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy and Akira Toriyama the creator of Dragon Ball.

In the mid 1980s manga and anime began being introduced into mainstream culture in America slowly gaining in popularity following the successful introduction of stories such as Akira, Pokemon, Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Robotech and the works of Hayao Miyazaki into western markets.  As a result, once audiences had a sense of the stories available demand increased for more Japanese publications like Shonen Jump.  In response, in 2002, Viz Media in conjunction with Weekly Shonen Jump, the Cartoon Network, Suncoast, and Diamond Distributors helped promote the American release of Shonen Jump, or SJ, a regular Shonen manga publication.  North American publications of SJ began in November 2002 with the release date listed as January 2003.  Each subsequent magazine typically contained serialized stories from seven Japanese manga series as well as reviews and articles of card games, video games, DVDs, movie critiques, and anime news as well as interviews with manga artists.  In its western publications, Viz entertainment primarily utilized Japanese original works for translation though many of the tales released were either specially selected or had their content highly edited for American audiences.  Shonen Jump, like its Japanese counterpart, was generally well received by critics who noted the strength of its stories and content.  Despite achieving success with American audiences and garnering an international following of readers, as of March 2012, Shonen Jump magazine ceased producing physical copies in North America and focused on releasing online stories called Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha.

— Sean Morton

Further Reading

  • Gravett. Paul, Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics.  London: Laurence King, 2004.
  • McCarthy, Helen, A Brief History of Manga.  Lewes: United Kingdom: Ilex Press, 2014.