Editor’s Note: One of our goals at Multiversity in 2017 was to bring more manga coverage to the site. Between our This Week in Shonen Jump series, the Multiversity Manga Club podcast, and the Go Beyond annotations, we’ve taken some serious steps towards achieving that goal. Today is another step in that director; Andy Nakatani is the Editor in Chief of the English-language version of Weekly Shonen Jump, and we are thrilled that he sat down with Darcy for this interview. Due to this interview falling during the 2018 Winter Olympics, we put a primary focus on sports manga in the back half of the chat. We look forward to 2018 being a year when we add even more diverse coverage here at Multiversity. – Brian Salvatore, Senior Editor
Before we really begin I just wanted to congratulate you on your 6th year of overall publication, and your 5th year doing so as Weekly Shonen Jump, which shares both the title and weekly publication date of the Japanese edition. How has this journey been for you, as Editor-in-Chief? Has it been as you expected, or full of surprises?
Andy Nakatani: Thank you so much. It has been quite a journey, and I’ve learned so much in these six years. And yes, of course it’s been full of surprises. Eight years ago, I never would have thought I’d be a proponent of ebooks, but now I totally read manga and prose novels digitally. Experience-wise though, I think interacting with readers, working with the Shonen Jump team here as well as working closely with our counterparts in Japan has been the most rewarding.
Do you have any special plans for this coming year then regarding celebrations, or just general changes for the magazine?
AN: We don’t have any specific plans as far as celebrations are concerned that I can talk about right now. And as for changes to the magazine…we’re always trying to improve, and there are things in the works that, if they happen, will be really exciting. We’re still in the preliminary stages, and I’m not sure when and if these things will happen. So unfortunately, I can’t even hint at what’s to come…for now…
As of now there are as many as 16 different ongoing series that can be found in English Weekly Shonen Jump, besides the various Jump Start series, which are taken from magazines such as Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump, Jump SQ and V Jump. Are there any plans to add to this line-up in the coming months?
AN: There are multiple factors involved with the decision to add a new series the main factor being whether we have space in our lineup. I can’t really reveal if any “space” will be opening up in our lineup in the near future, but definitely stay tuned to our weekly Shonen Jump podcast and our Twitter for updates.
Which series in the current line-up do you look forward to reading yourself, each week? Your answer doesn’t have to be restricted to just one!
AN: I’d say of the newer series I look forward to “The Promised Neverland” because the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter leave you really wanting more. It’s accomplishing exactly what it’s supposed to. Also, I look forward to “One Piece” to see what madness Oda Sensei comes up with every week. “Blue Exorcist” is in an exciting point in the story with Yukio going to the other side and the things happening with Rin… And… “My Hero [Academia]” and “Food Wars” and… Well, I guess I have to say that I can’t really complain about my job because at least for part of it, I get paid to read manga!
Is there a series not found in English Weekly Shonen Jump, which you wish you could introduce to a more global audience?
AN: If it were at all possible, I’d want everything in the Japanese Shonen Jump to be in ours to give the complete experience. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Is there a series you had in English Weekly Shonen Jump, which you felt ended prematurely?
AN: As an editor, I wish all of the series could continue and tell their story. I feel a personal connection to all the series we run in our lineup!
How do you decide which of the Jump Starts you continue to publish in English Weekly Shonen Jump past Chapter 3? Is that down to the reader surveys, or does the Japanese staff indicate to you which series are likely to run the longest over there and you make a decision based on that?
AN: As I mentioned earlier, the biggest factor is whether we have space in our lineup. We pay a royalty to Shueisha and the manga creators for the content, and we have a set budget which limits how much we can do. Beyond that, our reader surveys do really influence our decisions. We also try to think about how commercially successful a series might be. We also get input from Japan, and finally our own personal preferences play a role as well.
How do you go about deciding the order of the manga each week? Is that a decision influenced by the Table of Contents in the respective Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump issue, or is that a decision made solely by you, as Editor-in- Chief of English Weekly Shonen Jump?
AN: If a series has the cover and lead color pages in Japan, and it’s a series that we’re serializing, then it will get the cover and lead pages for us, too. Beyond that, series order is up to me. I’ve mentioned it in our weekly podcast before, but I kind of think of it like making a mix tape of songs and trying to come up with a good flow to the order. It’s fun!
How would you describe the current state of the magazine’s line-up, compared to your previous years spent as Editor-in-Chief? Is it arguably one of the most diverse in recent memory for the magazine?
AN: Sure. I think “The Promised Neverland” adds quite a different flavor into the mix, plus we’ve got golf, fantasy, super heroes, and rom-com, so I’d say we’re doing pretty good. And then there are the titles we’re serializing simultaneously for free on our website and in the Apps such as “My Hero Academia: Vigilantes,” “Juni Taisen,” “Dragon Ball Super,” and “Boys over Flowers Season 2.” When we started going digital weekly in 2012, we had six series—”One Piece,” “Toriko,” “Naruto,” “Bakuman,” ‘Bleach,’ and ‘Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan.’ I think we’ve come a long way both in terms of diversity and quantity.
From the wonderful world of manga, both past and present, do you have a favourite sports-based series?
AN: As editor in chief, I shouldn’t really pick favorites, but I will. My favorite manga, regardless of whether it’s sports based or not, is Takehiko Inoue’s “Slam Dunk!”
Since its inception English Weekly Shonen Jump has published around 10 sports manga, for varying lengths of time. These series have covered: golf, lacrosse, swimming, baseball, table tennis, judo, soccer and dancing, which I think you would agree is quite the spectrum. Is there a sport though that you would wish to see as the focus of a manga, published in English Weekly Shonen Jump?
AN: Hmm… Not particularly. I think the right creator can take any subject and potentially make a great story.
Would you say that, on the whole, sports manga appeal to a different audience than more fighting-oriented series like “One Piece,” “My Hero Academia,” and “Black Clover” do? And if so, does this make it harder for them to have longevity in a magazine like Weekly Shonen Jump?
AN: I’d say this applies more to the English-reading audience than it does for those reading Shonen Jump in Japan, which has a track record of long-running sports manga. So I think it wouldn’t be a direct correlate for longevity in Weekly Shonen Jump in Japan.
Why do the majority of series in Weekly Shonen Jump revolve around characters of the high school age, especially those that are rooted in sport? Is it a case of trying to relate to the magazine’s key demographic?
AN: I think I’d agree with that. But in addition, athletics and extra curricular clubs are a major part of middle and high school culture in Japan, so that gets reflected in manga. Also, high school athletics are followed on a national level in Japan with events like Koshien for baseball. Even distance-running gets nationally televised with the high school Ekiden championships. High school athletics is much more prominent there in the national consciousness than it is in the United States.Continued below
Tadatoshi Fujimaki was well known for creating Kuroko’s “Basketball,” prior to beginning “Robot x Laserbeam” in the March of 2017, which currently stands as the only sports manga in English Weekly Shonen Jump. While Kuroko’s “Basketball” centered around the exploits of a high school basketball team, Fujimaki made the decision to implement a time skip in “Robot x Laserbeam” as early as Chapter 30/31, which takes the characters beyond high school. Do you think this was done to separate Fujimaki’s new work from his previous one, or to help Robot x Laserbeam stand out amongst its current sports manga peers?
AN: I can’t really speak to Fukjimaki Sensei’s motivations…
Do you believe there is room for sports series in Jump that revolve around characters of all ages, considering the incredibly wide appeal of sport outside of the realm of manga?
While numerous sports manga in the recent past have had relatively short serialisations in Weekly Shonen Jump, both “Haikyu!!” and “Hinomaru Zumo” appear to be thriving in Japan. What would you say manages to set these kinds of series apart, in comparison to other sports manga that often last less than a year?
AN: The competition for coveted spots in the lineup is fierce for all genres, so I’d say short serializations aren’t limited to sports manga. In general, great manga should have great characters, great world-building, great narrative storytelling, and great art. Easy, right?
Given the success of these two manga series, alongside the recent release of the English Dub for the Haikyu!! anime and the announcement of an anime for “Hinomaru Zumo,” could we see either of these two series join English Weekly Shonen Jump’s line-up this year?
AN: I wouldn’t say no.
If you could bring a previously finished sports manga back for a revival in Weekly Shonen Jump, what would it be and why?
AN: This is a hard one mainly because we’re really focused on the new Captain Tsubasa anime coming in April, which is an adaptation of the classic soccer manga that came out in the Eighties. It’s a classic manga making a comeback in anime!