The most celebrated manga periodical in recent years, Shonen Jump firmly established itself on the North American market, both in print, and through digital distribution. The magazine’s circulation exceeds 2 million copies in Japan, and was the past home to series such as Naruto, Dragon Ball, Death Note, and Bleach. Let’s look at some of the lesser known titles to run in the magazine, if only briefly.
eIDLIVE by Akira Amano
From the author of the hit franchise Reborn, comes a gorgeous watercolored science fiction manga about a boy who finds himself becoming an intergalactic police officer. eIDLIVE has big shoes to fill: Akira Amano’s previous hit ran for several years, and dozens of volumes in Weekly Shonen Jump, spawning an 200 plus episode anime, as well as video games. It tends to go off on tangents at times, and the humor connects only occasionally. Much of the humor attempts the cliché, “he fell on top of her in an awkward position” gag, a recurring trope in manga and anime, repeated ad nauseam. That said, there’s lots of fun ideas mixed in like intergalactic police, and an adorable alien sidekick who is integral to the plot. Said alien sidekick is responsible for the actual capturing of the culprits themselves. The watercolors might not be to the liking of some people as they don’t connect with the series science fiction bent. The coloring is faded yet too bright all at once but there is an enjoyable little series to be found here.
Cyborg Roggy by Yu Miki
This manga has many things going for it: a cyberpunk world, slick characters, a dark premise, and a man in stylish heels doing odd jobs. Filled with dark, slick action scenes, Cyborg Roggy leaves a desire for more. The plot hints at a grand tale of a cyberpunk world, yet sadly what little there is of this series has yet to be released in English beyond its preview in Jump. Regardless if you are in search of an action adventure series with more adult characters this is worth a look.
Mononofu by Haruto Ikezawa
Mononofu depicts a mentally sluggish young man trying to survive in a quick paced world. When he discovers shogi, the Japanese equivalent to chess, he decides to become a professional. Ikezawa does an excellent job, particularly in its first chapter, of portraying a struggle people with mental disabilities many can relate to. Like eIDLIVE, this manga is from a fairly well known author, Haruto Ikezawa, known for the series Kurogane, which, for reasons not entirely clear, has yet to be brought over to English speaking audiences. Characters are what Mononofu excels at most of all: Takara’s struggle is very human, he simply wants to feel like he belongs somewhere. The supporting cast is similarly filled with colourful, yet likeable characters. The artwork is no slouch either, being both distinct and expressive. For readers looking for a quiet series to read before going to bed this series might be just the remedy.
It’s worth mentioning that each of these series is called a “Jump Start” in the magazine. They are previews for potential fully translated series. None of these series were successful with western readers except elDLIVE, which is receiving an anime adaptation in the coming year. Cyborg Roggy and Mononofu don’t have the same support, so their future is less certain. While it may not appear obvious at first glance, they each have a melancholy feel about them due to a truncated length. Each has potential for something greater, and western readers may never get to experience more than a sampling of each of them in their original form.
Despite a fantastic first showing, each series is not without flaws. Cyborg Roggy, while stylish and flamboyant, as many Shonen Jump series are, has a grittier feel to it that really does not allow it to connect with the Shonen Jump demographic; Mononofu focuses a lot on the human psyche, and is a coming of age story, and subsequently won’t connect with readers interested in flashier battles; in the west, elDLIVE likely was not added because of its often times juvenile humour, and the polarizing use of watercolours.
As it currently exists as Weekly Shonen Jump, and simultaneously publishes, simulpub for short, manga as it goes on sale in Japan in a weekly anthology magazine format. The Jump Starts themselves are then evaluated to determine whether they should continue to be translated and brought over or not. Thanks to this system in the magazine, manga which likely would not have seen the light of day in the west was made available as a sample for readers. Even though Jump starts failed in the west, checking them out is a great way to experience a different variety of titles.