Reviews are subjective things. A reviewer is drawing on many things when they write their review. Besides technical things such as story structure, character development and art, a reviewers personal preferences and experiences can affect their feeling about a book. And sometimes, even their gender can make a difference as to whether a book gets a good score or bad. In the following discussions, reviewers Alex Hoffman and Lori Henderson will look at different books and examine the similarities and differences they have over each of them.
Lori: It’s been quite a year for Shonen Jump Magazine. The digital edition started running weekly at the end of January 2012, with chapters 2 weeks behind it’s Japanese counterpart. The print magazine officially ended in April. And now, in 2013, the magazine has gone same day with the chapters as the Japanese print edition. I’ve been a subscriber to Shonen Jump since it debuted back in 2003. How long have you been reading Alex?
Alex: I’ve been with Shonen Jump since it went digital – although I read a few of the paper versions while I worked at my small town library. I loved the idea of the anthology, but at the time I wasn’t that into shonen manga. I’m a Shonen Jump Alpha adoptee, since the digital format worked a lot better for me, and I don’t have to deal with the physical copies. So much of the problem with Yen Plus before it went digital was that the anthologies took up so much space. But I’m definitely sticking with Shonen Jump for now. Lori, what are your thoughts on SJ’s first year as a digital product? Did it meet expectations?
Lori: Being a collector/borderline packrat, the piles of issues never bothered me much. They fit into comic book long boxes and nicely fit under the bed. I didn’t buy Yen Plus because of price more than space. But I have to say, I wasn’t happy with Shonen Jump’s transition to digital. The big problem for me was the ENORMOUS gap in story that the jump to 2 weeks behind Japan meant for print Shonen Jump readers. For some of the regular titles like Bleach and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, that meant 10-20 volumes of story just got bypassed. That might be okay for those who read scanlations to keep up with the story, but I was just fine with SJ’s slower pace, so this jump was really jarring. If, like with other speed-ups of One Piece and Naruto, there had been some acknowledgement of this gap and there had been something, arc descriptions, anything, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed as I was when I read the first digital issue after reading the last print issue.
Alex: I also found myself lost – and I found that if I was reading a series in paper or on the VizManga app, I refused to read the Shonen Jump content because I didn’t want to spoil it for myself (Bakuman is a prime example – the series ended in Shonen Jump with 6+ volumes left to be printed). I’m about as lost with One Piece as I possibly can be (I only got to volume 12 in the combined tankobon and didn’t want to get 60 volumes deep on the series). But the saving grace of Shonen Jump Alpha (and why I reupped my subscription) was the new series that were introduced through SJA. What did you think about the new content introduced in SJA?
Lori: I was like that at first, not wanting to read Bakuman, but I figured (at the time) that the issues would expire, and I probably wouldn’t remember most of what happened anyway, so I went ahead and read them. As for the new stories, I haven’t been too impressed, but as far as Japanese sensibilities go, I seem to be justified. Barrage wasn’t bad, but it was too generic. Barrage wasn’t an interesting protagonist. I like Tiamat more, and I felt more sympathetic to Black, the main villain of the first arc, than Barrage. I didn’t find anything appealing about Takama-ga-hara, in either art or story. But since both have been ended, I guess I wasn’t alone.
I didn’t enjoy the new Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration either. I don’t mind reboots or showing characters in a different light, but I really didn’t care for the way Watsuki went about Kenshin’s reboot. I also don’t like the art. It’s very sharp and angle-y (if that’s a word). I didn’t think I would like Cross Manage, but that has surprised me. I’ve enjoyed the chapters I’ve read so far. I like the main character Sakurai and am interested in seeing his story. I haven’t read Nisekoi or One-Punch Man yet. I’m still in November.
Alex: So overall not very overwhelming. And that’s kind of what is going on with me too. I liked Barrage well enough, but it didn’t capture my imagination. The same could be said for Takama-ga-hara, which had a rough set of characters and rough art and direction. The comic was “funny” but in reality, it wasn’t that good.
Cross Manage has been the overwhelming winner out of the new starts in Shonen Jump Alpha. The way that the story has developed, its unique and interesting characters, and how it makes the game of lacrosse interesting makes it a delightful read. Nisekoi starts in the middle of the series, and you have to really start at the beginning. It reminds me of a mix of Love Hina and Wild Roses, but it’s got a lot of humor and I’ve been really enjoying it. The first volume is available digitally in the Viz Manga storefront. I am also not caught up with the latest edition, so I haven’t read One-Punch Man.
Lori: Well, it looks like we mostly agree on the new series. What do you think of SJA adding some monthly titles from other Jump magazines like Blue Exorcist and Rurouni Kenshin? I do like being able to check out other Jump titles that aren’t necessarily WSJ. Would you like to see more of these Monthly titles?
Alex: I think it’s a great idea to add non Jump titles into the mix. I like reading Blue Exorcist and while the Ruroni Kenshin remake isn’t really my favorite, it’s nice to see some variety in WSJ’s lineup. I would be glad for other titles to go into WSJ. One of Viz’s recently announced Shonen Sunday title, Magi, would be a great choice.
Overall, I think the WSJ has a lot of room to grow, but it’s on the right foot. And with new titles being added, it’s a great service for such a low-cost. I’m happy to keep buying WSJ subscriptions if they are delivering new content and getting more licenses for the US market.
Lori: I’m looking forward to the new title Magi too, but I think that might be too big of a line to cross. The monthly titles we’ve seen so far are still Jump titles. I would still love to see more Shonen Sunday though. Really, I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing a monthly digital magazine from Viz. The return of Shojo Beat would be awesome.
While I agree that Viz has taken a lot of good steps with Weekly Shonen Jump, they are just too big of steps for me. Ten years ago I was thrilled to get to read so many great titles in one magazine for a great price. But the titles have changed, and I have changed. I just don’t have time to keep up with the weekly reading, and trying to marathon issues just feels like slogging through a swamp. I will be moving to the collected volumes, and letting go of my subscription.