Shonen Jump has been a crucial part of anime and manga success stories in the United States, with some of the most popular characters and IPs starting on those Jump pages.
Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto and most recently My Hero Academia all started as black-and-white prints in the magazine. It has gone through multiple iterations: from a weekly paperback with a Yu-Gi-Oh! card stuffed inside to a digital-only platform focusing on a digital-only magazine.
In early December, manga staple Shonen Jump announced that it would be doing away with its digital magazine format to evolve once more. Fans of series like My Hero Academia, Dragon Ball and countless others can pay a $1.99 monthly fee to unlock access to new issues and a back catalogue boasting more than 10,000 manga chapters. Those not willing to pay still have access to the three most recent chapters of many popular series through the website or official app.
“Great stories that inspire people are always relevant, but the format change we’re doing now is what makes us specifically relevant in 2018,” Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Andy Nakatani told Newsweek. “We want to make more official manga available to more people, in a way that allows the creators to get their due.”
The shift to digital for the English language version of Shonen Jump magazine started in 2012. Japanese and English versions of content could be released at the same time and more content could be produced.
In the past, Nakatani would help decide what Japanese manga to translate and bring over to the physical and digital magazine. With only a limited number of space, his team needed to be meticulous about what content they’d invest in. “We’re always looking for a good story that draws you into its world, but the series also needs to have the potential to be popular, and it needs to be appropriate for our audience,” he said. Going forward, the most manga that makes it into the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump will be translated and put online.
“So in a sense, I’ll have a lot less decision-making to do,” Nakatani jokes.
Looking forward, Nakatani is hopeful about the change and the direction English Shonen Jump is heading in. “My favourite moment is now,” he said. “This has been in the works for a while, and seeing Shonen Jump in this new format, and looking at the potential of where this might take us is really exciting.”
Switching to a digital-only format does have its downsides. Those Yu-Gi-Oh! cards that came packaged with the magazine in the late ‘90s and early 2000s were a huge pull for fans seeking a complete collection of Konami’s TCG. When the switch to digital was made, monthly subscribers would get their cards mailed to them, allowing them to keep on collecting. This change to an even smaller subscription model has to do away with this promotion, with the last four exclusive cards getting shipped out over the course of 2019.
But, the Japanese Shonen Jump still has a physical copy and still sometimes comes with physical cards. So what’s going to happen to the English releases of all those cards? “The promotional Yu-Gi-Oh! cards were perks for annual subscribers, and going forward we’ll only be offering monthly memberships,” Nikatani said. “Cards that we would have released as promotional cards might make it into the next deck you get from Konami.”