Sunday, February 5, 2012

Commentary: Weekly Shonen Magazine

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

In the article on Weekly Shonen Jump, I wrote that there are 4 top magazines for young males in the Weekly Shonen line - Jump, Sunday, Champion and Magazine. Magazine and Sunday are the two oldest, having both launched in 1959. They were celebrated with an anniversary exhibit at the Kawasaki City Museum in 2009, and some of the special postage stamps that were released a little later are still available at some remote post offices. Jump may have the top spot now for sales, but all four are still fighting it out by stealing the most popular artists from each other.

(Sherdock - Sherlock Holmes is resurrected as a dog, with a high school boy acting as his caretaker and "Watson".)

Weekly Shonen Magazine has had some of the best artists over the years, including Shigeru Mizuki with "Gegege no Kitaro", Shotaro Ishinomori with "Skull Man" and "Kamen Rider", and Fujio Akatsuka with "Tensai Bakabon". For me, the defining title is "Makaritouru Koutarou" (1982-1994). I haven't bought a copy of Magazine (properly spelled "Magajin") since Tatsuya Hiruta fell ill and stopped writing Koutarou.

(Happy Project)

As for today, at least half of the manga in Magazine are being fan scanilated, and several of the titles are almost as popular as Jump's Naruto. These include:

Fairy Tail
Godhand Teru
Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei
Air Gear
Ace of Diamond
Maho Sensei Negima
Hajime no Ippo

The art is all over the place, but largely average on the whole. "Ippo", "Zero" and "Zeus" are drawn in cartoony styles, while "Negima" and "Air Gear" are almost hyper-realistic. "Zetsubo Sensei" and "Fairy Tail" have very light, clean lines. Being a boy's manga, the genres consist mainly of fighting, fantasy, gags, school life and sports:

Soccer (Area no Kishi)
Basketball (Ahiru no Sora)
Baseball (Ace of Diamond)
Boxing (Hajime no Ippo)
Fantasy (Dragon Collection, Cage of Eden, Negima, Air Gear, Code:Breaker)
Fighting (A-bout)
Gambling (Tobaku Haouden ZERO, by Kaiji author Nobuyuki Fukumoto)
Edo-era Drama (Bakudan, Gamaran)
School life (Again!)
Gags (Zeus no Tane, Zetsubo Sensei)

(Tobaku Haouden ZERO)

"ZERO" might be a little more adult, in that it's a mahjong gambling story, and "Zetsubo Sensei" focuses largely on parody that skewers politicians, celebrities and foreign politics. On the reverse side, "Fairy Tail" is the kind of over-the-top superhero story that appeals to fans of "Spiderman" and "Naruto", while most of the sports titles are pure wish fulfillment. I had been following "Air Gear" for the first 20 volumes or so, primarily because I liked the artwork, but the fight sequences started getting a little too unbelievable and I dropped it a couple of years ago. I'm still following "Fairy Tail" and "Gamaran" just out of morbid curiosity. The two that I still like are "Negima" for the story and some of the girls are cute, and "Zetsubo Sensei" because of the gags, and the occasional papercraft projects.

I think that Magazine tends towards slightly harder-edged stories than either of Sunday or Jump, so it may appeal to slightly older western fans. There's nothing really hardcore here, but there is the occasional sex-related joke and some toilet humor, so you might want to be prepared for that. But, if you already follow "Air Gear", then you know what you're getting into.

260 yen, 500 pages


Dates for 2/6 to 2/13:

Birthdays (16):
Patrick ("The Avengers") Macnee, 2/6/1922
Chris Rock, 2/7/1965
Robert Klein, 2/8/1942
Nick Nolte, 2/8/1941
Jules Verne, 2/8/1828
Mitsuru (Touch) Adachi, 2/9/1951
Frank Frazetta, 2/9/1928
Joe Pesci, 2/9/1943
Lon Chaney Jr., 2/10/1906
Jimmy Durante, 2/10/1893
Leslie Nielsen, 2/11/1926
Burt Reynolds, 2/11/1936
Jane Yolen, 2/11/1939
Oliver Reed, 2/13/1938
William Shockley, 2/13/1910
Peter Tork, 2/13/1942

Died (9):
Danny Thomas, 2/6/1991
Raymond Scott, 2/8/1994
John von Neumann, 2/8/1957
Osamu Tezuka, 2/9/1989
Jim (Ernest P. Worrell) Varney, 2/10/2000
Jack L. ("Well World") Chalker, 2/11/2005
William Conrad, 2/11/1994
Frank Herbert, 2/11/1986
Stan Laurel, 2/13/1965

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