As much as I love manga from Weekly Shonen Jump, my tastes have evolved into areas of interest that appeal to young adults. Shonen, despite its mainstream popularity, does get boring once in a while and you want something a little more risque. That’s when I discovered Weekly Young Jump, the seinen Jump magazine under Shueisha. Since its debut in 1979, Young Jump has been titillating and shocking audiences with its focus on violence and other mature themes. That and the gravure idols that grace the pages alongside the manga. Here are some of the noteworthy titles that make Young Jump one of the most popular manga magazines in Japan.
Gantz by Hiroya Oku
Perhaps one of the most controversial manga titles in history. Gantz portrays a world where humans are forced to fight aliens in video game-style deathmatches. Frequent character deaths and graphic violence are the norms in this series. However, the action is well-done and the designs of the battle suits and weapons are top-notch. Gantz is science fiction that tosses you into a laundry washer, puts you in the spin cycle and leaves you wondering “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!?”
At its core, Gantz is a look at the human psyche when put in a survivalist environment. It managed to spawn two live-action movie adaptations, starring some of Japan’s hot young actors. This was one of Young Jump’s best-sellers in the manga charts when it ran from 2000 to 2013.
REAL by Takehiko Inoue
If you’re looking for someone to do a serious take on basketball, Takehiko Inoue is your man. When not writing the award-winning Vagabond in Kodansha’s Morning, Inoue details the lives of wheelchair basketball players in Japan. It is a gripping look at what it’s like living with a disability. Not everyone who is disabled tends to be strong as the media would tell you. REAL has won the hearts of readers everywhere for its amazing character portrayals.
Even though it is published irregularly in Young Jump, volumes of REAL have sold well in Japan because Takehiko Inoue commands that much respect.
Terra Formars by Yu Sasuga and Kenichi Tachibana
The successor to Gantz in every single way. Terra Formars tells the battle between humans versus humanoid cockroaches to reclaim the planet Mars. The series is extremely violent and the cockroaches as scary as hell. What’s interesting about this manga is how the humans use the powers of different insects and animals to fight the cockroaches. A petite woman beating up giant cockroaches because she has the strength of the strongest ant in the world? Sounds pretty cool to me.
In a sense, Terra Formars tries to educate people about science…in a violent way. The next great sci-fi action title from Young Jump has gotten popular since its debut and is a best-seller in Japan. With Gantz over, cockroaches will be flooding readers’ minds, much to their dismay.
Kingdom by Yasuhisa Hara
If you want a historical series of epic proportions, this is your manga. Kingdom is a retelling of the Warring States Period in China. It tells the tale of a young boy named Xin and his journey from being an orphan to becoming the first emperor of China. Kingdom has won awards and recognition by peers in the manga industry for its dramatic storytelling. It even got into the Guinness World Record book for “Manga Written by Most People” in 2012.
Although Kingdom may feel a bit shonen at times, it’s one of Young Jump’s royal jewels and its anime adaptation on NHK has been well-received by fans. Who said anime and manga aren’t educational?
These are the four titles that are the most well-known in Young Jump today. Other notable titles published in the magazine include:
Liar Game by Shinobu Kaitani (A psychological series about a tournament where people lie and cheat in games to win money. It spawned a few live-action TV drama adaptations and movies.)
ZETMAN by Masakazu Katsura (Excellent manga about superheroes from one of the greats, despite having a subpar anime adaptation)
Usogui by Toshio Sako (Pictured above in the first image. A violent story about a gambler who bets his life in crazy games to gain money and power in a secret gambling society.)
Kamen Teacher Black by Toru Fujisawa (Leave it to someone who knows about badass teachers to create a story about a masked teacher. Pictured alongside Usogui in the first image.)
Rozen Maiden II by Peach-Pit (Yup, this is the original source material for the 2013 anime adaptation)
Elfen Lied by Lynn Okamoto (The nightmare that is Lucy had a perfect home in Young Jump from 2002 to 2005.)
Tokyo Ghoul by Ishida Sui (A story about a young boy who is half-human and half-ghoul. Very intense and a good amount of fast-paced action.)
Nejimaki Kagyu by Atsushi Nakayama (An interesting romance/action title about a male teacher who is protected by his super-powerful, female childhood friend.)
Gokukoku no Brynhidlr by Lynn Okamoto (The spiritual successor to Elfen Lied in some ways. An anime adaptation is coming.)
Shirayukihime to 7-nin no Shuujin by Kuroko Yabuguchi (A apocalyptic take on the Snow White fairy tale. Snow White is a loli princess, while the Seven Dwarfs are mostly bishonen warriors.)
81diver by Yokusara Shibata (A series about shogi that has an interesting female maidcosplayer/shogi player)
If you love a wide mix of manga and don’t mind how crazy they can get, Young Jump is your magazine. If not, you can always stick around for the gravure idols – like the lovely Natsuna, a staple model for Young Jump and the actress for Kei Kishimoto in the Gantz movies.
Jumping from friendship, effort and victory to violence, sex and gambling sure is the proper evolution of youth, isn’t it?
Images © Hiroya Oku, Takehiko Inoue, Yu Sasuga, Kenichi Tachibana, Yasuhisa Hara, Studio Pierrot, Shueisha.
Natsuna Photo © Natsuna/Shinji Hosono/Shueisha.