Friendship, Hard Work, Victory for 50 Years
The weekly comic magazine, Shonen Jump, was first published 50 years ago in 1968. Since then it has been feeding the dreams of young people, mostly boys. Despite an unavoidable decrease in the number of prints in recent years, public affection is as high as ever, and a series of three exhibitions are being held to celebrate its history. The first ended in huge success in October 2017, and the second will run from March 2018.
How can it be? The new editor of this long-selling magazine, Mr Nakano, is 40 years old. He is younger than the magazine itself and many of his loyal customers. He reveals the secret of its longevity rests in two basic rules.
The magazine once sold an astonishing 6.5 million copies per week at its peak in the 1990s. It has decreased significantly to 1.85 million per week in 2017, but amongst the other weekly comic magazines, it is the best performer. The second biggest only sells the half this number.
Paper publications in any field are struggling, with editors around the world fighting to adjust contents to suit digitisation. Shonen Jump is of course in the same boat. However, they plan to survive by sticking to what they are. When he was promoted to chief editor in June 2017, Nakano declared that he would not change the content and direction and stated his belief that they can grow as long as there are new and interesting comics constantly feeding through.
In fact, consistency has always been the strength of the magazine. There has never been a significant shift in direction due to a change at the top.
The editor, of course, makes the final decisions and sets the direction, but the biggest decision maker has always been the readers. Even if the chief editor wanted to introduce a new comic, it would not see the light of day if readers do not want it. The opposite is also true. Some comics that did not have the conviction of the editing team nevertheless received overwhelming support from readers, got published, and became a hit series. The readers get what they want to read and see.
The magazine gets over 10,000 feedbacks per week, depending on the giveaways. The giveaways are famously generous, and it is worth more to receive as much feedback as possible. And readers know that their opinion counts to keep their favourites, old and new, in the publications. The quality of the returned feedbacks is generally passionate and high. This is the source of inspiration, and is what determines direction, which has never changed.
New Authors Always Welcome
Another aspect is that great significance is given to new stories by new authors. The veteran creators and the editing staff builds experience, but can lose the edge to think outside the box. Aspiring comic authors, on the other hand, write what they want to read, develop, and grow up with, which they are not getting from the current series.
The system of picking these new ambitious stories up are linked to readers’ feedback. The editors know it is worth taking risks from the experience they have built. The team knows that experience and a history of success is a double-edged sword, and they take care not to misuse them.
Nonetheless, because of the back catalogue of 50 years, the readers – including the new comic authors – are very respectful of what to expect of Shonen Jump.
Friendship, Hard Work, Victory
There is something called “Three Principles of Jump”. They are “Friendship, Hard work, Victory”. Interestingly, these are well known in the industry, but have never become official principles. Not many writers and editors take these principle seriously on the face of it, but it is something that the readers look for when immersing themselves in the magazine.
In fact, all the stories that get space in the magazine have at least one of these aspects in the story. Friendship means the act of caring for the team, family, and friends, Hard work means the act of working to achieve one goal, and Victory means winning, often through the previous two elements.
It always has to come back to the stories and characters which stick to this basic pattern. It is not official, but it is a pattern that runs throughout the magazine as an undercurrent; giving stability and consistency. Current and new writers are very aware of this when creating new stories.
Attractive stories and characters are more the mantras when it comes to creation and editing, rather than the soundbite provided by the three principles.
So, what are the stories and who are the characters that they have sent out to the world?
That is for next week.
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