In April Viz is launching a new imprint under the company's Shonen Jump brand.  Shonen Jump Advanced will present cutting edge stories with more mature themes to older teens and young adults, but like the other manga titles published under the Shonen Jump brand, the Shonen Jump Advance books will feature a lower cover price ($7.99) than most manga releases.  The first three titles in the new line, Eyeshield 21, Hunter X Hunter, and I'S will be rated T+ for older teens and will be released in April.


Each of the three new manga titles has potential.  Eyeshield 21 is a sports manga, a genre that has finally started to assert itself here in the States with titles such as The Prince of Tennis.  Eyeshield 21, which is written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata, is the first manga series about the game of American football to appear in North America.  Will American audiences respond to the mixture of bone-crushing action and slapstick comedy?  It's too early to tell, but this series has sold some five million copies in Japan and inspired a video adaptation.


Even more promising from a commercial point of view is Hunter X Hunter, a highly anticipated release from Yoshihiro Togashi, the creator of YuYu Hakusho.  Hunter X Hunter is a fantasy adventure saga that centers on Gon, the son of a famous Hunter, who wants to follow in his father's footsteps, but who must learn how to track down monsters, seek treasure and cast magical spells if he is to pass his Hunter Exam.  Hunter X Hunter has been a huge hit in Japan, where the various volumes in the series have sold over 36 million copies and the property has spawned video games, trading cards and an anime series.


I'S, the third title announced for the Shonen Jump Advanced launch, also comes from a manga-ka with an impressive track record and a highly recognizable style.  Mazakazu Katsura (Video Girl Ai, Shadow Lady) has no peer when it comes to drawing the nubile female form and I'S with its storyline of a sixteen-year-old high school boy torn between his childhood girlfriend, who suddenly returns from the U.S. and moves into his house, and the hottest 'babe' in school, a model whose swimsuit layout in a popular magazine has resulted in the creation of her very own fan club at school, should provide Katsura with plenty of opportunities to display his skills.