Shonen Jump Goes Same Day as Japan: Interview with EIC Andy Nakatani

Yesterday was a big day for the folks at Viz: Their weekly digital magazine, Shonen Jump Alpha, changed its name to Weekly Shonen Jump, the same as its Japanese counterpart, and started running manga chapters the same day they come out in Japan. We talked to Andy Nakatani, the editor in chief of the American Weekly Shonen Jump, about making that transition and the changes that started this week.

MTV Geek: How is the magazine going to change?

Andy Nakatani: Starting Monday, January 21, we are going to be Weekly Shonen Jump instead of Shonen Jump Alpha, and that's pretty exciting because we are going to share the name with the actual magazine in Japan, so that's saying a lot.

Starting on January 21 we are going simultaneous with Japan, so we will be releasing the chapters on the same day as in Japan.

Is Shonen Jump digital in Japan?

No, it's the same day they come out in print. I'm saying the official street date in Japan.

Also, along with the new name, we have a new look to the magazine, and we are really excited about that as well.

I think the current look of Shonen Jump Alpha could be described as "crowded."

The whole look and feel is going to be more up to date. It's still going to be filled to the brim, because it still has that manga aesthetic, but in terms of design, our new logo, we just want to show this is something new.

And then you have a new series?

"One Punch Man"! We are excited about that as well. The writer is a guy named ONE and he kind of started it as a webcomic, and Yusuke Murata, who did "Eyeshield 21," does the art. It's kind of a superhero storyline, and premise of the story is that the main character is so powerful, despite his average looks, that he defeats his enemies with one punch, and that frustrates him because he wants a challenge. It's a combination of this dynamic jumping-out-of-the-pages comic, with a superhero action kind of look to it, and this gag sensibility, combined with the look of the main character—he looks kind of mediocre.

So is it comedy or action?

I would say it's both.

In Japan, "One Punch Man" doesn't run in Shonen Jump, it runs in a seinen magazine, right?

It originally ran on Young Jump's website, so it didn't run in print. [Young Jump is a sister publication of Shonen Jump.] But there are tankoubon [print volumes] out in Japan.

It went straight from the web to collected editions?

Yes. That's kind of a new format for Japan as well.

So your magazine has the Shonen Jump name, but you have some flexibility in choosing comics from related magazines?

Yes. "Blue Exorcist" is from Jump Square, "Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal" is from from V Jump, "One Punch Man" comes from Young Jump, so they are all part of the Jump line.

How much choice do you have in which series to run, and what do you look for?

Not just in terms of series selection but in terms of our whole production process and pretty much everything in this project, we are working closely with Shueisha [the Japanese publisher of Shonen Jump and co-owner of Viz], so everything we do, we consult each other and kind of go hand in hand and collaborate to make decisions, such as what new series to put in. If we have questions about how something should be translated, we go directly to them. They in turn can go to either the artists themselves or the editor in Japan. Just going near-simultaneous this past year has necessitated working this closely with Japan, which we have never done before. They have become an integral part of our process, which is pretty exciting in and of itself.

You were two weeks behind, but now you're up to date—how are you doing that? Are you skipping chapters?

In Japan, Weekly Shonen Jump has three or four weeks off, so they have combined issues, and it kind of worked out where at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, they had two weeks off. Previously, when Japan had a week off, two weeks later we would have a week off. This time, when Japan had a week off in late December, we did not take that week off. When they had another week off in January, we just ran, so we will be caught up by Monday. So this past week we were only one week behind. The scheduling kind of worked out so we didn't have to do anything spectacular except not taking time off.

What about "One Punch Man"? Will that be simultaneous with Japan?

We are going to start from the beginning, with chapter 1, so we will not be simultaneous. For that series we wanted to start at the beginning. We should be caught up in a few months.

What have you learned over the past year of running near-simultaneous with Japan?

I think personally I may have slightly underestimated the rigors of what putting out a weekly is like. We were two weeks behind Japan when we started, but by midway last year we were really looking to do this, so for the past several months we have been running as if we were simultaneous so we would learn the logistical things, what could go wrong and how to get it down, so there won't be any slips come next week. It's not just on our side, because we are working so closely with the publisher in Japan, getting files from them.

Are the folks on the Japanese side learning anything from you in terms of digital? Are they looking over your shoulder?

Yes. We are working closer together than ever and they are watching what we are doing. They are part of the decision making process. They understand this is a different market. We learn from each other.

What are you finding out about your audience? How do they compare to the subscribers to the print magazine?

I would say that it's a slightly older audience; the gender is kind of similar, more male than female, but we do have a significant female audience as well.

Are people mostly subscribing or buying single issues?

Mostly subscribing, currently.

How is the free issue promotion on Android working out?

There are people doing that. It's kind of a new thing, so we are looking at different things, how we promote. We are hopeful about how that is going to go.

How complicated is this transition logistically?

Obviously production time has become super compressed. That is the main, main, main thing.

Getting art, translation, retouching?

Exactly. As well as designing our covers, table of contents pages, any editorial content like stories or that kind of coverage as well.

How are you getting feedback from your readers?

We have the Shonen Jump website. Also when you look at the issues online, you can leave comments, and there's a fair amount of activity there. So we can kind of see at least for the people who are participating in the comments where they are at. We also have reader surveys that we are doing. What people think is important to us.

You bring in a lot of real-life aspects, like meetups at cons, and you send out print premiums like trading cards and samplers to your subscribers. Why is that important?

We want to keep everyone engaged and interested. This past year was our launch year, and we wanted to interface as much as possible. It was also important because it was kind of a transition from doing the print magazine, where we were sometimes a couple of years behind where Japan was, and then doing this, where we were just two weeks behind where Japan was.

Have the print readers followed you?

Many have. I think for some people it may not just be for them. And I think there are people who are on the fence, that will stick with us. People are people.

Are you thinking of offering a digital subscription for libraries?

We are looking into it. I don't have a definite date, but we are looking into it.

How are people reading Shonen Jump—on the web or on mobile devices?

For the first year, we had more online readers than anything. But I think that number may change this year, especially because we have just made Weekly Shonen Jump purchasable on iOS devices. This past year you could read it on the iPad or iPhone but you couldn't buy it in iTunes. As of two or three weeks ago you can, as long as you have downloaded the most recent version of the app. So that should change a little bit I think.

Can I go to iBooks and find a single issue of Shonen Jump?

Not yet.

Anything else you want to add?

This coming Monday is a big change for us but it's not going to end there. We are going to improve what's in the magazine, where we deliver the magazine, the website where we discuss the magazine—everything is going to change on Monday and everything is going to keep improving, because we have to with digital. A lot of things are changing on the 21st, and very soon after that there will more changes. Hopefully people will be happy with the things to come.

Here is a preview of "One Punch Man":

ONE-PUNCH MAN © 2012 By ONE, YUSUKE MURATA/SHUEISHA INC.

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