On next Monday the American edition of Japan’s leading manga anthology Shonen Jump will be released on the same day that the print edition hits the streets in Japan (see "Manga the Same Day as Japan"). Andy Nakatani, the Editor-in-Chief of the Weekly Shonen Jump (U.S.) graciously took time from his busy schedule to explain the reasons for the move to simultaneous release and how it will work for the popular manga titles that are serialized in the digital-only American edition of Shonen Jump.
Can you tell us a little about your biography and how you got to become Editor-in-Chief of the American Shonen Jump?
I have been a Viz Media for a while. I think this is my 13th year at Viz. My background is in translation, and that is how I started at Viz, but I started out as an editor, and I was an editor for a long time. After years and years, this is where I am now. I edited Eyeshield 21, Vagabond, 20th Century Boys, and countless others.
Why did Viz Media decide to push to get the right to publish its digital American version of Shonen Jump simultaneously with the release of the paper edition in Japan?
Going back, when you think about it, when we were doing the print magazine here we were something like two years behind the Japanese edition, and I think the fans, the readers they always wanted something more current. Plus the whole impetus behind starting (the digital) Shonen Jump Alpha last year was to catch the readers up and get as close as we could and we have managed to get within a few weeks of Japan. So for this year the next logical step was to go simultaneous with publication in Japan.
Can you explain the timing of how this works? What day of the week does Shonen Jump come out in Japan?
Officially the physical magazines hit stores, newsstands, and kiosks in Japan on Monday, so that is the official release date for Shonen Jump in Japan. We will release our new digital version, which will be called Shonen Jump, not Shonen Jump Alpha any longer, at 10AM Pacific time on Monday. We are calling it "simultaneous" because it comes out on the same day, though technically it’s a bit later. I think the difference in time is a little bit less than 24 hours, taking into account the fact that they are something like 17 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.
Doesn’t the American version of Shonen Jump include not just manga from the weekly Shonen Jump in Japan like Naruto, but also manga like Blue Exorcist that appear in Japan in other monthly manga anthologies? How are you going to work the release time for the monthlies?
Yes some of them come from magazines like Jump Square and V Jump. The Shonen Jump strips will come out here on the same day that they appear in Japan, but with the monthlies it is a little bit different. For example Jump Square and V Jump, one of them comes out on the 4th of every month and the other one comes out on the 21st of every month. We decided that we wanted to keep them all in one issue, so for the monthly strips (Blue Exorcist, Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal) they will appear in our magazine on the closest following Monday to their release in Japan. So if the 4th falls on a Wednesday, the Jump Square titles would appear in our digital Shonen Jump edition the next Monday. If the 4th falls on a Monday, they will come out that day.
Viz Media have been providing those who buy subscriptions to the digital Shonen Jump with special playable Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. Do you plan to continue that process?
I think that a lot of our readers really like that, so we are going to continue to do that. Last year we did four Yu-Gi-Oh! promo cards, and for 2013 we plan to do four more.
Viz Media launched the Shonen Jump Alpha digital edition almost a year ago (see "Why Cancel One of the Bestselling Comics in the US?") at a time when the circulation for the paper edition of that anthology was around 125,000 per issue. Have you been able to recover that circulation with your digital edition?
I would say that circulation was not quite where we were with print, but it is a different medium and we are pretty hopeful that we can keep growing our digital subscriber base.
Have you studied the demographics of the readership for the digital edition of Shonen Jump?
Yes we have done some studies, not extensive, but we have done surveys. Our readership tends to be more male than female, which was also true with the print edition.
Do you have a higher percentage of female readers than the print edition in Japan?
Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan clearly has a higher percentage of female Readers. For Shonen Jump I believe the recent trend in Japan is that the female demographic is growing. It used to be more male. But now if you take One Piece in Japan, everybody’s into One Piece, which is still the most popular manga and the lead title in Shonen Jump there.
What is the main purpose of the digital edition of Shonen Jump and this effort to sync it with Japan? Are you just attempting to build circulation for the magazine itself, are you attempting to forestall scanlating piracy, or is your main job to gin up interest in these properties that will be released in trade paperback editions later by Viz Media?
I would say that the main objectives are increasing circulation and increasing our subscriber base for it as well as creating a buzz for the whole product line. As far as forestalling scanlation by going "simultaneous" we are trying to provide an alternative for those people who do want it right away. The fastest that we can release the material is when it officially releases in Japan. We can’t go before that. That’s the best that we can do.
The title that is debuting on the 21st is called One Punch Man. The story is done by a person who goes by the name ONE. He started it as a Webcomic. It is drawn by Yusuke Murata, who is the artist for Eyeshield 21, which Viz Media has already released here. He is an incredible artist and well suited for this project. The premise of One Punch Man makes it kind of a superhero story. The protagonist is very mediocre or average looking. He’s thin and prematurely bald. His problem is that he is so powerful that he defeats his enemies with one punch and then he gets disappointed because it’s over in one punch again. The art is very detailed and dynamic with superhero action, but it also has this funny gag element.
How would you compare the treatment of superheroes in manga versus the way they portrayed in American comics?
I think that the major difference is that here there is a core audience that has a familiarity with the comics themselves and then there is a larger audience that has more recently become familiar with them through the movies. I think that in Japan the vast majority of people only know these characters and the genre from the movies.
What digital platforms will the new Shonen Jump be available on? Will it just be available via the Viz app?
Currently it is through the Viz app, but the Viz app is available online and allows material to be played back on the iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and Android phones as well as on the Kindle Fire tablet.