In A Nutshell
Shonen Jump is an extremely popular Japanese manga. Published weekly, it features several continuing stories in each telephone book-sized issue (usually in the ballpark of 430 pages), which along with its reasonable price and selection of consistently high quality of story and art, has made it a cultural institution in Japan.
Manga (which are Japanese comics, in essence, though some purists might rage against that simplification) is a hugely popular art and entertainment form in Japan. The most popular manga magazine in Japan is Shounen Jump (or Shonen Jump).
To give an idea of the impact of this , Shonen Jump sells between four million and six million copies every week in a country with half the population of the United States.
History of Shonen Jump
Shonen Jump, which loosely translates to courageous boy adventures and more literally to Teen Jump, is the most popular Japanese manga. The magazine has been published weekly since December 1977 by Shueisha, the largest manga publisher in Japan.
The magazine was born out of a rising popularity in graphical stories in Japan at the time, mostly due to the strong popularity of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga, which was one of the most popular series of all time. Lone Wolf and Cub was released (as are almost all manga) in a serialized format, with short episodes appearing weekly (or in some cases monthly).
As Lone Wolf and Cub neared the end of its run in 1977, it became clear that there was a very large market for such serialized graphic fiction in Japan. In order to test the waters for the next hit manga series, Shueisha released a compilation magazine in December 1977, which contained the first installments of a great number of manga series. This was not the first time such a compilation of serial graphic stories had been tried in Japan, but Shonen Jump happened to be at the right place at the right time, and it was accompanied by a strong set of artists and writers for the various stories. It took off quickly.
The magazine really began to pick up steam in the 1980s, with the introduction of Akira Toriyama's massively popular DragonBall series, which ran from 1985 to 1994. This series was perhaps the most popular manga series of all time.
Today, Shonen Jump is the most popular manga in Japan, selling just under six million copies each week to eager Japanese readers of all ages. In November 2002, an English version of the magazine began to appear in America; see below for more details.
Here are a few of the most popular artists to appear in Shonen Jump.
Akira Toriyama is most well known for his immensely popular series DragonBall, but also was the author of Dr. Slump, which was hugely popular in the early 1980s in Japan. Toriyama has largely retired from manga.
Eiichiro Oda is a newcomer to the field, but he is the author of the most popular manga series in Japan of the last few years, One Piece.
Yoshihiro Togashi is the author of Yu Yu Hakusho (the most popular series in the mid-1990s), as well as the current popular series Hunter x Hunter.
DragonBall (also known as DragonBall Z), authored by Akira Toriyama, is the massively popular story of a boy named Goku, who grows up to become the greatest martial artist in the universe. Reknowned and emulated because of how Goku grows up throughout the series, as well as Akira Toriyama's strong sense of humor mixed with the drama and strong side characters.
Yu Yu Hakusho is basically a series about the spiritual redemption of the main character, a troubled young man named Yusuke. He dies, and then gets the opportunity to return to Earth to set things right. Again, the growth of the central character is vital here, along with the strong theme and interpretation of reincarnation and other spiritual ideas.
One Piece is currently the most popular series in Japan. It's based on a pirate theme, centered on the story of a boy named Luffi (or Rufi, depending on your translation) who is seeking a treasure called the One Piece. Various other competing pirates are either trying to find the One Piece or have other goals in mind, and their stories overlap. One Piece is notable for its relatively unique theme and the large number of interesting characters.
Shonen Jump Comes to America
Shonen Jump is now being published in America by Viz on a monthly basis (for now). The first issue appeared on newsstands on November 26, 2002, with the first issue containing:
Yu Yu Hakusho
Also appearing in the first few issues are Shaman King and Naruto.
If Shonen Jump shows even the possibility of reaching the levels of popularity reached in Japan, it will be moved to a weekly printing schedule, which is one thing I would definitely like to see.
http://jump.shueisha.co.jp/ (website for Japanese Shounen Jump)
http://www.shonenjump.com/ (website for English Shonen Jump)