In Japan, Weekly Shonen Jump is one of the most popular manga magazines, featuring some of the biggest selling manga series in the world, including One Piece, Bleach and Naruto. In North America, VIZ Media has been publishing an English language edition since its January 2003 debut issue.
Now almost eight years later, Shonen Jump Magazine is re-launching with a new look in the January 2011 issue, and the Shonen Jump website will also debut new, subscriber-only features in December 2010. I spoke with Shonen Jump Senior Editor Joel Enos about these changes to this manga monthly, and how fans can help shape its future, both in print and online.
Q: For readers who might not be familiar with you, can you explain a little bit about your role and the kind of work you do at VIZ Media.
Joel Enos: My title is Senior Editor, and I’m the Senior Editor for the Shonen Jump imprint. I edit Naruto and for the last year, I’ve been editing Ultimo, the manga by Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei. I recently handed that title to another editor, and now most of my position for the last year has been actually been running Shonen Jump Magazine.
So, I still have a very strong hand in the manga, but only related to how it runs in the magazine. I work with the other editors to oversee the general structure for my own series, Naruto, but also One Piece and anything that we preview or showcase in Shonen Jump Magazine.
SHONEN JUMP REVAMP: NEW LOOK AND NEW MANGA
Q: You, and the other editors have been hinting at a reboot of Shonen Jump Magazine for a while now — most explicitly at your panel at San Diego Comic-Con this past summer. So what does this change mean, specifically? What can readers expect to see?
Joel Enos: It means a lot of different things, really. But specifically, the most exciting thing for us, the editorial team is that we're able to show off a different look to the magazine after eight years. Visually, it looks different, it looks fresh. It looks very organized.
The original version of Shonen Jump looked good for the time when it came out, but you've got to keep current, and keep up with what's out there. I think this change makes the magazine look more contemporary.
The most exciting thing for the fans is that we're bringing back Yu-Gi-Oh. We'll be serializing Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's every month. We're also launching a new series by a relatively new manga-ka; it's called Psyren. It's a science fiction adventure story. It's really, really cool. The first two chapters will be featured in the January 2011 issue too.
Q: You've been getting feedback from fans over the years. What are the top two or three requests from fans that you're addressing with this redesign?
Joel Enos: One of the things we've heard from readers… well, I wouldn't say that they've been saying that the mix of manga has been getting stale, but that they'd like to have access to more variety, more series, more stories.
I've been the editor for Naruto for almost five years now. I can't tell you how much I appreciate how much fans enjoy reading it, but it is on chapter 500 now. But I also think it's important to make it easy for new readers to get into a story.
Honestly, we haven't had a new series in the magazine in a while. We hadn't found stories that were the perfect fit for the magazine, but I think we have now with Psyren, and with Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's. We also want to offer more manga, so that's one reason why we're doing the online serialization.
Now, of course, we won't be taking Bleach, or Naruto or One Piece out of the print magazine. Those are the fan favorites, and our favorites as well. But with a print magazine, we're restricted by page count. We just can't go bigger than 300 pages. With online serialization, the possibilities are endless. We can feature all kinds of content, all kind of manga series. So we can give readers more manga in more ways.
Q: Speaking of more manga, there’s a ton of Shonen Jump titles in Japan that haven't been released yet in North America. How do you decide what gets published in the U.S.? Are there certain factors that you take into account?
Joel Enos: Well, first and foremost, if any of the editors here on the team look at something and they are very enthusiastic about it, they'll champion that title to acquire it here. We pretty much look at everything and then it’s pretty much a huge ongoing pow-wow where we editors explain why we think it would work. We’re using our experience and expertise as editors, as far as what’s going on in the U.S., what’s going on with manga, which manga are working (here). We ask questions like, 'Are we getting a little too far into the intellectual stuff?' Is there a really good action?' So we definitely consider the variety (of our line-up) too.
Q: In the first five years of Shonen Jump Magazine, there were several long-running series that stayed there for years. Now, it seems like you're doing a more cyclical rotation, where you have some mainstays stories like Bleach and One Piece, then previews of new stories cycle in to appear for an issue or two.
Joel Enos: Well, the reason why we're doing that is exactly what you said. The magazine has been around for almost eight years now. It’s not a new magazine anymore, but there are new readers coming to the magazine, as well as to manga all the time.
When Shonen Jump first launched as a magazine here in the States, it caught the interest of a lot of people who not only weren’t so much into magazines because this kind of manga magazine hadn’t existed in the U.S. before. We introduced a lot of readers to these manga series. I think Naruto started in the second issue. And now, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece… I mean, the success of those titles is astronomical. They’re now a part of American pop culture as well.
Since then, I think the audience has changed, pop culture has changed. The "manga trend" may be on the decline, but manga's place in mainstream popular culture is firm now. That changes the way people read the magazine, and that it makes it a little bit more exciting.