I woke up this morning to see a headline from ANN about how Shonen Jump’s circulation has dropped below 2 million. Bad news for everyone, right?
The answer, I feel, is more complicated than that. Because at the heart of this is the simple truth is that manga magazine sales have been falling across the board for years. While WSJ’s fall is perhaps the most noticeable and pronounced, its competitor Weekly Shonen Magazine has also experienced a similar fall – now selling less than a million copies itself.
The reason why I remain hesitant to classify this as inherently bad is that it feels exactly the same as what we’ve seen here in the UK in regards to newspaper and magazine circulations. In the past few years we’ve seen the likes of Time Out become freebies handed out at tube stations, while only a few weeks ago came the news that once final bastion of music mag sales Kerrang was to go monthly.
So when manga fans comment that Shonen Jump must ‘do’ something to arrest the sales fall and ‘climb’ back to its former glory, it misses the point to a certain degree. The horse has bolted – so to speak. Nothing – arguably – will reverse this trend; only, potentially, slow it. When people attach certain significance to individual series, ie. (if only Hunter x Hunter was to return!) or (if only Shonen Jump had serialized Attack on Titan instead of Kodansha) – it sees only a short term picture instead of the long term downward trend.
What, I feel, is of more significance here is what WSJ is *actually* doing to try and halt the fall. I watched an excellent video from one of my favourite anime YouTubers right now – Super Eyepatch Wolf – where he talks about how what WSJ needs isn’t a selection of moderately successful series (eg. Black Clover, Nisekoi etc.) but one or two MEGA smashes like My Hero Academia or Assassination Classroom.
Of course, not every series can be the ‘next One Piece’ – but WSJ can at least function in the hope of that, whilst all the while facing the reality that one day, inevitably, One Piece *will* eventually end, just like Bleach and Naruto before it.
But in the mean time WSJ is fast undergoing efforts to do absolutely everything in its power to manufacture another MEGA hit of – at the very least – Ass Class style proportions. In many ways, Ass Class is kind of a model series – burning short and bright, lasting only four years, but being all kinds of hot during those years.
By axing middling series and replacing them with a constant stream of new titles (from which the mediocre ones will again be axed) WSJ has essentially created a rolling conveyor belt – a veritable production line in service of creating the next hit; all via process of elimination. What of it if ten average series have to die in the process – having released only two or three volumes worth of material? If even one big hit (say current flavour of the moment The Promised Neverland, or the promising Dr. Stone) is created in the process, then they’ve ‘won’.