Imagine over 300 pages of your favorite comic series collected in one magazine for the tidy sum of $4.95. In 2003, the fantasy became reality when Viz, who has been publishing and packaging English translations of Japanese comics (manga) for over a decade, launched an American version of the venerable Japanese magazine Shonen Jump. Every month the Jump collects serials of such popular manga and anime properties as Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and YuYu Hakusho.
Granted that the reader has to buy each monthly issue to follow the storyline, the Jump cliffhangers are far from the unsatisfying “decompressed” faux graphic novels that mar American comics. Each chapter is almost a self-sustaining and satisfying tale with a beginning, middle, and end, so if a reader skips a month, it’s not the end of the world. Each month, the Jump’s staff write detailed characters synopsis and story summaries for each series that easily catch the reader up to speed.
The quality of the seven series currently serialized are a mixed bag. I particularly liked Naruto, Shaman King, and Sand Land, and I was shocked to find that Yu-Gi-Oh! is very well drawn. The Jump is an all ages book designed to appeal to juvenile readers. The writing is geared more towards action and soft melodrama, not as complex and mature as most American mainstream comics pretend to be. Still, the Jump, which also includes games and informative short articles, is very entertaining. Opening an issue reminds me of what it was like when I was a kid about to crack open a comic book I knew was going to be fun to read.