How the weekly Shonen Jump became Japan’s most popular manga publication

Weekly Shonen Jump is home to some of the most popular manga series of all time, including One Piece, My Hero Academia, Hunter x Hunter, Dragon Ball, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Naruto, Bleach, and Death threat. In the 60s, Shonen jump had a lot of competition like Shonen Weekly Magazine and Weekly Shonen Sunday. However, it has managed to rise to the rank of the best-selling and oldest manga magazine that it is today.

Today Weekly Shonen Jump is 53 years old and has a long list of iconic manga series that have made the publication home. The magazine has overseen much of manga history over its half century. The first published Shonen jump was back in 1968 and was founded by Shueisha Inc., a Japanese publishing house founded in 1949. Since then the world has changed, but Weekly Shonen Jump has adapted and managed to maintain the status it has acquired over the years.


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The origins of the weekly Shonen Jump

Shonen Jump covers from the 1960s.

The company that founded Weekly Shonen Jump, Shueisha Inc., already had great success with a few bestselling children’s manga books to their credit before establishing the Jump to print. They also had experience outside of manga, having published magazines focused on music, fashion and pop culture. Among all these publications, it would be Weekly Shonen Jump who ended up becoming the company’s cash cow.

In its first year, Shonen jump was not weekly but in fact biweekly and became weekly when its sister weekly publication, Shonen Book, ceased to appear. Manga that appeared in the first editions included Shameless school, Kujira Daigo, Chichi no Tamashii, and Kamikaze Ore. Like any shonen post, they posted stories aimed at teenagers from start to finish, so much of the series was comedy, action, and sports manga.

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In the 70s, notable manga from Weekly Shonen Jump included THe Gutsy Frog, Lion Books 2, Play Ball, Barefoot Gen, Mazinger Z, The Circuit Wolf, Doberman Cop, KochiKame: Tokyo Beat Cops, Cobra, and Kinnikuman. It was at this time that Weekly Shonen Jump started holding annual competitions for new and up-and-coming manga artists. The two awards they started giving included the Akatsuka Award for Humorous Manga and the Tezuka Award for a Great Story.

At this point, manga magazine had not yet reached its golden age. While the manga was enjoyed by audiences, the stories did not gain international acclaim. It was not until the 1980s and 1990s that Weekly Shonen Jump hit the gold mine in terms of content.

The Golden Age of Weekly Shonen Jump

Split image from the covers of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Dragon Ball Shonen Jump.

From 1986 to 1995, Weekly Shonen Jump’s circulation increased each year and peaked at around six and a half million copies. In the early 1990s, the magazine had a readership of around 18 million people in Japan. Its popularity has been attributed to some of the manga released at the time, many of which were long-standing international hits. These popular manga behemoths included Dragon Ball, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Yu Yu Hakusho, Rurouni Kenshin, and Yu-Hi-Oh!. Some that started in the 90s are still in the magazine today as A play and Hunter x hunter. The golden age did not last, however, and the publication was awakened in 1998 when it lost its place as the best-selling shonen manga magazine for the first time in 24 years.

Since the 2000s, magazine readership and circulation have declined steadily since its heyday. In 2017, print circulation fell to less than two million. However, part of this decline is due to the rise of digital distribution via Weekly Shonen Jump’s app and website. Fans have started to favor reading manga on their phones and computers rather than on paper, which has naturally driven the number of prints down.

Weekly Shonen Jump Today

Shonen Jump cover with sung Luffy from One Piece.

Although no longer in its golden age, Weekly Shonen Jump is still going strong and remains the number one manga publication in the world. The publication even had its own crusader fighting video games to commemorate certain birthdays such as Jump the super stars, jump the ultimate stars, and Victory of the J-Stars against. In 2013, the magazine got its own theme park called J-World Tokyo. In 2019, due to the popularity of manga and anime internationally, Shueisha created a mobile app for English and Spanish readers called Manga More that has a ton of published magazine titles available to read for free.

The shonen genre that typically only targeted teenagers has also broken the mold over the years, gaining many fans outside of the demographic, such as teenage girls, older men and women. The readers particularly liked Weekly Shonen Jump for particular series such as Death Note, One Piece, and The prince of tennis. Manga stories have also captured the hearts of many readers outside of Japan, making Weekly Shonen Jump an international force in countries like Germany, China, the United States, Thailand, Sweden and Norway.

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