Manga publisher and anime distributor Viz Media embarked on a new era of simultaneous Japanese and English manga publishing January 21 after releasing the first issue of the renamed and redesigned Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha. Now called Weekly Shonen Jump, the digital manga anthology will now publish weekly installments of many of Viz’s bestselling manga series on the same day they appear in the pages of its counterpart anthology in Japan.
Driven by North American fans longtime desire to read hit manga series at the same time as Japanese fans—rather than waiting a year or more for licensing and translation—Weekly Shonen Jump will feature the latest installments of such popular series as Naruto, Bleach, One-Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Rurouni Kenshin on the same day they are released in Japan. But simultaneous publication is also aimed stemming the decline in manga sales in North America, and Viz (along with other U.S. manga publishers) is also looking to undermine digital piracy and illegal scanlations by making popular manga series in Japan available at the same time in the North American market with reasonably priced digital editions.
The newly renamed Weekly Shonen Jump will launch with a new series, One-Punch Man by Yusuke Murata (artist of the popular football comedy, Eyeshield 21), a comedy about a superhero who knocks out all his enemies with one punch and is desparate to find a villain strong enough to challenge him. An annual subscription to WSJ is $25.99 for 48 weekly issues. WSJ can be accessed through the Viz Media digital platform which includes VizManga.com, the Viz Media app for iPad, iPhone and iPod devices as well as for Android devices and the Kindle Fire tablet. There’s a video presentation on Weekly Shonen Jump here.
In a phone interview with Andy Nakatani, editor in chief of Weekly Shonen Jump (U.S.), from the Viz Media offices in San Francisco, he said the company has been working on getting the process of simultaneous publication right for about 2 years. For the last year or so the publication has been published weekly with manga installments about 2 weeks behind Japanese publication.
Nakatani calls simultaneous publication “one of the main things fans want, they want the timeliness.” Nakatana also acknowledged its role in fighting digital piracy and illegal scanlations, though he called WSJ, “not the perfect solution to piracy, but this is definitely one way to fight it. Hopefully it will encourage fans to go legit.”
Natakani was quick to cite the work of Viz’s parent company Japanese manga house Shueisha in achieving the simultaneous publication, “we work really closely with Shueisha to get files for the manga as soon as they are proofed. We have freelancers working here at the Viz offices, sometimes around the clock,” to get them ready for publication in English. He said Viz has been essentially producing the simultaneous weekly publication for the last four months, “honing the process, and making sure that Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan was confident in us; they have to be satisfied with the quality.”
Asked if there is any evidence that simultaneous publication may also undermine print sales, Nakatani said “its too soon to tell but so far there’s been no affect.” However he also said there are “a lot of factors and market conditions, so it’s hard to sort out. Borders closed and our digital releases started soon after that.” Borders was one of the biggest retail outlets for manga in the U.S.
Nakatani said the U.S. Weekly Shonen Jump offers six series each week, while the Japanese print version, a mammoth weekly anthology, offers about 18 different series each week. He said “we want to do more simultaneous publication” at Viz Media and said they intend to add more series to the U.S. Weekly Shonen Jump, over time, “its hard to make it happen but this is a special event.”