January 30, 2012–Shonen Jump Alpha launches for North America, bringing six very popular titles from Japan’s Weekly Shonen Jump to a legal, digital format. There were two caveats with this launch: there were only six titles, and there was a two week delay from Japan. But now, the Alpha days have passed. It’s a new era for the Shonen Jump brand and Viz Media. Shonen Jump Alpha will become the new digital Weekly Shonen Jump as of January 21, 2013.
It’s been less than a year, and so many things have changed. Let’s go back to the beginning: there were six weekly series that first premiered in Shonen Jump Alpha. In alphabetical order, we had Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, One Piece, and Toriko. Then Bakuman ended. It was a real shock, especially to Alpha subscribers. One of the pillars of the magazine was going away! But, they added Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration, a monthly title. I had always assumed that a monthly title would eventually come down the line, I just wasn’t expecting it to be the new Kenshin. And then came Barrage, starting from chapter one. Something new and untested just debuted in Japan’s magazine and then premiered in Alpha! And more titles kept coming: the monthly Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal and Blue Exorcist along with another new series Takama-Ga-Hara. I was definitely getting my subscription’s worth of new and interesting manga that I never would have experienced on my own.
But it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows. There were troubling times, too. Nura moved from being a weekly title to a monthly title during the 2012 summer as it reached its finale. Both Barrage and Takama-Ga-Hara were cancelled before they hit 20 chapters. I don’t know how much sway the US audience has, but it looks like the Japanese audience was very picky. It was just like the polls in Bakuman and what the results alluded to: if you aren’t popular among readers, then you’re going to get cancelled. It was a side of manga that I’ve never actually experienced before. It was such a cut-throat, Wild West style mentality, since most of the manga titles that I’ve come to enjoy before Alpha even launched were already pre-established series that would get their full run of stories. I started to feel bad each time a series was going to get cancelled prematurely, because both those series clearly had more stories to tell. They just weren’t given their chance.
During the last stretch of the year, Cross Manage and Nisekoi: False Love have also managed to come aboard. Both these two series are a very nice change of pace for what was too prevalent in Alpha: battle manga. Cross Manage deals with sports (so yes, there is some “battling” in sports, but lacrosse is a good alternative setting) and Nisekoi is a romantic comedy. It was strange seeing Nisekoi starting at chapter 49, but they were a welcome sight indeed. Just by these two series alone I feel that Alpha is trying to reach out across the board to all sorts of manga fans, even though the real target market is young male readers. I think we can conclude by all the female fans seen at conventions that a lot of these series appeal to both genders of all ages. And at the end of the Alpha-stage, we get the final chapter of Nura.
Alpha is now gone. We’re now in the age of simultaneous release. Weekly Shonen Jump, for North America, all digital, same Monday release as Japan. It’s a dream come true for anime fans here, and we’ve got a whole new layout as well. After reading the issue, I’m very impressed. The cover art is very stylish. I love the new manga series intro page using a snippet of a panel as a cover image. It blends nicely into the chapter compared to the completely black background, manga title, a few head snippets of the title characters, and plain white text. And we’ve got a new series from one of my favorite manga artists as well, One-Punch Man by Yusuke Murata (from Eyeshield 21). And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. There’s apparently more announcements coming the next month or two within each issue. So hold on to your hats, and get ready. Weekly Shonen Jump is here to stay. Issues purchased are now yours to keep forever. Android users can read issues of Jump for free with ads. And if you know someone who likes manga but doesn’t have a Jump subscription, it is now easy to gift them one via email.
Weekly Shonen Jump is available for purchase online or through the Viz app for $25.99 for a year subscription or $0.99 each issue. A year subscription also comes with 4 Yu-Gi-Oh! cards mailed to your house each season plus a physical+digital yearbook at the end of the year chronicling Team Jump’s adventures, creator interviews, and special one-shots. For more info, visit shonenjump.viz.com.