Comics Spotlight On: Shonen Jump

Geek Culture

Happy Comic Release Day!

I decided to venture into the world of manga this week on the theory that there might be parents who want to introduce their children to comics but desire a wider range of stories than superheroes.

My eldest son asked for a subscription to Shonen Jump when he saw the listing in a Scholastic Book Club flyer from his school. He’s had the subscription for four years now and still eagerly checks the mailbox each month on the day the magazine is due out. And while he likes superheroes, he’s read far more manga that originated in Japan than American comics. He’s not the only one. The shelf space at bookstores show difference in sales between the manga digests and the American comics available in the larger trade format.

Summary: Shonen Jump is a black and white anthology magazine. It contains up to eight continuing stories each month. The stories range wildly in subject matter from pirates, ninjas, soul reapers, adventures centered around card games like Yu-Gi-Oh and even tales of mechanical children. The last is currently running in the magazine and has a story credit for Stan Lee. However, my son said the story itself isn’t one of the best.

Mostly, the stories are made up of battles and fighting. But between the fights, they also focus on friendship and honor. For example, in the latest installment of Naruto, our hero refused to turn in his former friend, even though his friend had betrayed him and everyone else.

What Kids Will Like About It: These are wildly imaginative tales full of action and they’re also grounded with humor. I would say the magazine is more oriented to boys than girls since my girls quickly grew disinterested but that’s hardly a representative sample.

What Parents Will Like About It: First, I have to admit I have serious problems reading backwards in the manga style. That includes not only turning the pages backwards but scanning the panels in a different order. Maybe I’m just not visually flexible enough but this is a serious barrier in my enjoyment of manga. It doesn’t bother the kids. It does bother me.

But I persevered and read several issues. I quickly found much to admire about the stories. I enjoyed the friendships and the complex characterization of villains. The artwork is spectacular in spots. I also loved the wild concepts.

Extras: Before each story installment, there’s a recap page that includes who all the main characters are and a recap. Each issue also contains a letter column and fan art.

About the Creators: Shonen Jump is published by Viz Media, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California. All of the works in Shonen Jump were first published in Japan and then translated for the American audience.

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