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By Adam Arnold
As we went to print last month, VIZ officially unveiled their much anticipated new manga anthology simply title Shonen Jump. In Japan, Shonen Jump has been keeping young boys and even grown men and women entertained for over thirty years, and that phenomenon is finally coming to North America. The English incarnation is a far cry from its phone book-sized counterpart - but don't let that fool you, because this title definitely has the most bang for your buck.
The first sign of what VIZ had in store came at a special by invitation only press conference and shortly followed with the distribution of a 52-page Issue 0 sneak preview. Though VIZ chose to unveil its latest project at the 2002 San Diego ComicCon instead of Anime Expo, they made sure that otaku would be able to pick up the preview issue at one of the nationwide Suncoast stores or through their local comic shop thanks to Diamond Distributors.
Titles in the magazine range from the mainstream to the obscure, but all of them are sure to a spawn countless fan sites. Titles like Japan's insanely popular One Piece and the manga version of one of Cartoon Network's latest Adult Swim shows, Yu Yu Hakusho were announced to help play backup with Dragon Ball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh!
Since Goku and that card kid don't need any introduction, let's take a look at that pirate kid and the ghost busters. One Piece is strange pirate kid named Monkey D. Luffy who ate some cursed Gum-Gum Fruit and now has these really weird powers where he can, like in the preview, get really fat and bounce back cannon balls. Luffy has a small crew and they set out on the Seven Seas in search of a legendary treasure known as, you guessed it, "One Piece."
Yu Yu Hakusho is a series that's also known as "Poltergeist Report" and focuses Yusuke Urameshi, a guy who died saving a kid from getting run over by a truck, and his unlucky fate as he is sent back to Earth in order to protect others from all the things that go bump in the night. If you thought the stuff that happens along snake way in Dragon Ball Z was whacked, then be sure to not to miss this off-the-wall series.
Sure, all of those titles could hold their own as single issues, but having them in anthology makes the book all the more sweeter and cheaper! The book's only $4.95 for 256 pages; compare that to the measly 48 pages you get for $2.95. Also, included in the anthology are a couple of lesser-known titles such as Naruto, Shaman King, and Sand Land. For those not in the know, Sand Land is also by Akira Toriyama and plays out like an early story arc from Dragon Ball. There is this drought, and this strange band of people gets together and has some bizarre adventure. You gotta see it to believe it.
The last two titles are a bit of a hard sell, especially since they are both hit or miss series depending on each fan's individual taste. In Shaman King, Yoh Asakura, a modern-day shaman, travels the globe, taking out evil spirits with the help of this spirit ball thingy. It's sort of like an action packed Yu Yu Hakusho. On the opposite end of things, Naruto is an action-packed title about a band of apprentice ninja who are learning the arts of their craft. But, it's not all black sheep and stuff because there is a lot of comedy and love to be found here. Fans pick up the title for the headline manga and undoubtedly find a number of other titles that they'll want to follow every month.
What VIZ Has to Say
In the midst of the events going on at ComicCon, Animefringe had the pleasure of talking with a handful of key VIZ representatives (including Jason Thompson, Rick Bauer, Seiji Horibuchi, and Kazuhiko Torishima) about what their newest title is all about and what's in store for it in the future.
First and foremost, we jumped right into discussing the book's main draw, Dragon Ball Z. According to Jason Thompson, the single monthly issues of Dragon Ball Z will conclude at the end of the Frieza saga and then continue exclusively in Shonen Jump. That means that the series will pick-up at the beginning of the cyborg/android saga and will continue towards the end. Though this does mean a higher price tag for fans who've been following the single issues, Rich Bower thinks that the fan "reaction will be positive." Yet, don't think the original Dragon Ball series will follow suit, because that series will still be released in single-issue form.
One Piece had been previously announced as a licensed title, but the announcement to include it in Shonen Jump was an interesting twist. When questioned about its inclusion, Jason told us that One Piece was an obvious choice, because it's popular right now in Japan. The other series were selected because some are already in America in some format. Some of the other titles are a bit risky, but as a whole VIZ is very confident of the choices.
In terms of page count, Jason said that Dragon Ball Z would consist of three chapters a month, equaling out to be an average of 43-45 pages. All the other series will have two or three installments an issue or 40 pages or more. Rounding out each issue is also some editorial content ranging from anime, video games, and introductory information on the Shonen Jump titles in the U.S. and Japan. There will also be some exclusive content like artist spotlights and interviews. We did ask if the manga preview section from PULP would be moving into Shonen Jump and we were told that a version of it would be transferred over to Animerica Extra.
An interesting bit of info came from Jason that since Sand Land is a shorter series, it will conclude sometime next year. At that time, they'll replace it with another title, but at this time, it's too early to say what the next series will be. Fans of tankoubon collections will be happy to know that they will start appearing on store shelves early next year. Their size and release dates all depend on the page count.
Though the recent trend for translating sound effects has become to simply subtitle them. Shonen Jump will have all of the sound effects fully translated into English for the sake of legibility and for comic fans. Since most of the sound effects read left to right already, it isn't a big stretch to do touch up work.
As the conversation moved away from Shonen Jump towards trade paperbacks, Rick Bauer told us that there hasn't been a final decision made concerning single issues of specific titles, but they will continue for a long time into the foreseeable future. Jason also added that a lot of fans are looking towards a magazine format for their manga and he thinks it's the best thing at the moment. Plus, the appeal for anthologies is coming back. In the same vein of questioning, Rick said that Shonen Jump will become quite popular and is a mass-market title for a wide audience that has plenty of room for future growth.
With anime and manga popularity reaching such an all time high, it's hard to tell what the next big show or title will be, but one thing is certain - VIZ sure knows what they're doing. Like it or not, Shonen Jump is ready to set a new precedent for English manga anthologies with both titles and content. Look for it to blast off of newsstands this November.
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