I have a new obsession. Going on My Anime List and delving into the publication specific pages. Every manga magazine has one – whether it be everyone’s favourite Shonen Jump or the boisterous Big Comic Spirits. Why do I like doing this so much? I’ve come to ponder this question – and it comes down the inherently data-base driven attitude I feel all anime and manga fans tend to have at the heart of them.
Namely though – it’s for recommendation. Over the years, like most fans, I’ve amassed a list of favourite manga series – and yet, am constantly in search of ‘more’. More enjoyment, more stimulation, more reading material than I can ever possibly consume. And as such, some kind of sorting process needs to be applied – and one I’ve typically found works wonders is by sticking to the system that defines the manga industry itself – its serialisation process.
The idea of specific manga magazines has always appealed to me – maybe it’s because in the West, short of Viz’s Weeky Shonen Jump app, we’re rarely exposed to the ‘magazine’ style compendium-like experience of reading manga in this format. No, it’s just the good old tankobons for us. But still, there’s something about the idea of a carefully curated magazine that appeals to the traditionalist in me – the ‘if you like this, you’ll also like this’ mindset of good, hearty editorialism.
We’ve all seen Bakuman, we’ve seen a larger-than-life extrapolation of what it takes to bring a series to serialisation. And I think it’s a fascination with that process that drives me to see what else a magazine might have when I’ve particularly enjoyed a certain manga that runs in said magazine. Some of the comparisons will be obvious – it’s become a defining characteristic of Shonen manga that they all follow the same trends and general plot beats.
But it’s when you get further down the chain that I find it gets really fascinating – when each magazine has its own hyper recognisable style. From the lewd tits and arse lads’ mags, to the refined, serious quirk of Kodansha’s Morning and Afternoon. From the bright pastels and clean lines of Nakayoshi, to the rough around the edges brouhaha of the small print-run seinen mags.
Of course, many of these individual titles won’t ever make it to the West. Won’t ever be translated into English. And maybe that’s for the better. In an age where we’re increasingly getting *every* anime that streams each month, it’s fast become evident that most are average at best. And I’m sure the situation is even more pronounced with manga.
And yet, I remain fascinated by the elusive ‘scent’ each magazine has – an aesthetic trend or singular, indefinable ‘style’ that crosses over all their titles, no matter how distinct the art itself might be. Imagine yourself as the ‘reader’ – part of the magazine’s audience, and not just as a fan of an individual series. It’s something Shonen Jump has mastered over the years – creating hit after hit of carefully ‘crafted’ manga that fit to a distinct editorial trend. And imagine this trend for each magazine – it might just show you the way to your next favourite series.