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Is Japan’s biggest “boys” manga magazine really being read by little boys?

Nov 13, 2019

Weekly Shonen Jump’s name might not be entirely accurate, so our in-house fan offers an alternative.

Japan’s best-selling manga anthology is, and for many years has been, Weekly Shonen Jump. The one Japanese word in the title, shonen, is written with the kanji 少年, which literally mean “small life,” but more accurately the term translates to “boy.”

As such, Weekly Shonen Jump is largely seen as the standard-bearer for for-boys comics in Japan, but a recent tweet from Twitter user @jyaricat has some people questioning whether the term on the cover actually matches the reader demographics.

“Had a thought-provoking conversation today.
Me: “…so, in order not to be a bad influence on children, with that kind of manga, what Jump does is…”
My daughter, who’s in the sixth year of elementary school: “Shonen Jump manga are manga that adults read, aren’t they?”
Me: “What?”
Daughter “I mean, adults are the only ones who buy it. None of the boys in my class buy it, and I read the copy that you buy.”
Me: “Whaaaa…”

Getting back to @jyaricat’s initial tweet, the father went on to point out that some anime based on Weekly Shonen Jump manga air at times when young boys probably aren’t going to be able to watch them. Dr. Stone, for example, comes on at 10 p.m., and Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba at 11:30 p.m., well past most young kids’ bedtimes.

This got one of our in-house manga fans, Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko, thinking too. Is Weekly Shonen Jump really for shonen?

Let’s turn it over to Ahiru Neko:

“For me, when I think of the word ‘shonen,’ I think of someone who’s still a child. I guess I’d start using the word for a kid who’s started elementary school…but if they’re still in like the first or second grade, they’re more like ‘toddlers’ than ‘boys,’ I think. So, really, the start of being a shonen, to me, is around the third or fourth year of elementary school.”

When I think back to when I was growing up, I hardly ever read Jump when I was in elementary school. It wasn’t until I was part-way through the sixth grade [the last year of elementary school in Japan] that I started buying the new issue every week, and before that, not just me, but my classmates too, were more likely to buy manga magazines aimed at younger readers, like Korokoro Comic or Bonbon.

Korokoro Comic

When I was in elementary school, I loved series like Dragon Ball, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Slam Dunk. But for all of them, it was their TV anime adaptations that I followed. I hardly recall ever reading the original manga, and even if I did, it was in one of the collected volumes, not in the weekly Jump installments. When I was in elementary school, I think I always thought of Weekly Shonen Jump manga as something that was written for people older than me.”

“Looking back, there really weren’t that many elementary-school kids who bought Weekly Shonen Jump, and people didn’t really get serious about reading it until they got a little older, in middle school…maybe it would be more accurate to call the magazine “Shonen and Older Jump.”

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