Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Here's a question:

Why's it called "Shonen Jump"?

I know that "shonen" is Japanese for "young boy", and jumping is, well, jumping...so is this big, setting-the-world-on-fire manga collection actually named "jumping boy" or "young boy jump"? And why should I care anyway?

At the risk of really sounding nitpicky and unhip, this is one reason of many why I just can't seem to embrace manga- the awkward-sounding, loses-something-in-the-translation nature of the whole genre. I look and see a host of stories with subject matter such as transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas, big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas, sometimes all at once, and I wonder- is this the model to which Western comics should aspire? Leaving aside the actual cost-effectiveness argument (John Jakala's already-classic comparison can't be disputed) is it really all that much better than what we're generally being served up by America and the rest of the world? Or is it just different, and therefore somehow better by inference?

And before you begin to flame me, calling me an idiot and a Luddite or something- I'm not necessarily putting down manga, don't get me wrong, but I'm reading a hell of a lot about it lately and I'm beginning to feel like I did long ago when all the good music magazines and cool people I knew were championing punk music...and I just didn't get it. Perhaps I'm not seeing forest for trees or something like that. I feel like there's something wonderful going on and I'm not able to see it, kinda like the dude in Mallrats that kept staring at the picture, trying to see the sailboat, and everyone kept walking by and pointing it out to him. It's reminding me of when I used to get in discussions with my hair-metal loving friend, Keith, back in the late Eighties and early Nineties. I just couldn't tell them apart, musically- to me, Warrant, Winger, Skid Row, Dokken, Extreme, Tesla, Poison, Motley Crue, and so on sounded exactly alike, and that's one reason why I couldn't get into them. I just didn't give a damn because there wasn't anything going on there to engage me- nothing that made them distinctive or interesting to me. Keith swore up and down that there were differences, big ones, and he couldn't believe that I couldn't hear them. And I'm thinking that all the manga enthusiasts out there are like good old Keith, and once again I'm just not hearing or seeing it.

Or maybe I just think too much. Anyway, why "Shonen Jump"? Is that the best title they could think of?

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