Another mini-essay to make up for the lack of them as of late. Let’s talk about that teenage phase of anime that everyone into the medium experiences.
As much as I rag on Shonen Jump these days, I grew up on the magazine like most people did, and it was actually a major influence in regards to how I became an anime fan. I’m in a bit of a reminiscing mood at the moment, so I figured I’d talk about a part of my life that I’m pretty sure I’ve only referenced a few times, but have never actually gone into detail about. Believe it or not, there was once a time when I worshipped this magazine’s output the same way most American kids in the 90s worshipped the Disney Afternoon. However, even back then, my experiences were a bit unique compared to other people who got into this medium back when you could watch anime episodes on Youtube.
I’m both like and unlike most anime fans in that the first Shonen Jump series I ever had exposure to was Dragonball Z. Some people I was friends with along with people who I wish I had made more effort to be friends were addicted to renting the VHS tapes and playing those PS1-era fighting games, and I ended up getting into the show through them. I was never super crazy about it to the point that I sought it out myself, and I didn’t have cable so the only way to watch DBZ at the time was to wake up at six in the morning (which was beyond me), but something about it really engaged me. Maybe it was the martial arts. Maybe it was that “Rock the Dragon” theme song. Maybe it was the Kamehamehas. I personally can’t remember that far back.
It was also through DBZ that I discovered the original Dragonball, and I ended up liking that more than DBZ even though I watched more of its more popular successor on the whole. I could only find Blood Rubies and the first four episodes for rent, and there wasn’t any cable to watch that series, so I never truly got into it, but I preferred its more innocent tone.
The first Shonen Jump series I truly got into was Yu-Gi-Oh, which my brother and I absolutely adored as kids to the point that we bought so many cards and video games growing up. We even incorporated rules that the show just made up as it went on in our own playing styles. The story itself was pretty dumb, but we just found the high-drama surrounding the card game that we loved to be so addicting that we didn’t care too much. It was also through Yu-Gi-Oh that I was introduced to the world of manga when I happened to find the first volume at the bookstore and discovered how different it was compared to the series (for the first six volumes at least) with the Pharaoh being more violent and the games being more dangerous. Obviously, being the edgy teenager I was, I preferred that version and even watched the entirety of the original series before it became Duel Monsters-focused with my bro. We watched GX as well when that came out, but I left after the first season of that ended whilst my brother continued for a good while longer to the point that he learned of Synchro, Pendulum, and XYZ monsters – which I barely know the basics of.
Shaman King was the second Shonen Jump series I saw whilst airing and I just found the concept to be incredibly cool. Young warriors fusing with ancient fighting spirits in order to participate in a tournament that’s held once every few years or so was unlike anything I’ve seen in animation before, and I really admired Yoh’s slacker attitude at the time along with some 4kids localization jokes that aren’t really funny now, but to my underage mind, they were comedic gold. The one downside was that there were hardly any re-runs of the show’s episodes after the characters flew to America, so if you missed one and didn’t know how to watch anime online, you would lose out on key parts of the series forever. That happened to me with two episodes and to this day, I haven’t bothered to watch them.
Back when Hollywood Video existed, my brother randomly rented a VHS of Yu Yu Hakusho, which I don’t know how he discovered the existence of, but nevertheless I was introduced to my third Shonen Jump series, although I wouldn’t actually watch it until during the Reborn era (which I’ll get to later). It was never a personal favorite or anything, but Yu Yu Hakusho came close to defining “cool” for me with its thuggish characters, supernatural powers, and having this old-school feel to it that I didn’t quite understand at the time, but made it feel more timeless than any of the other Shonen Jump series I had seen. Plus I thought the dub was simultaneously good and hilarious, like Jin’s Irish accent and such. I ended up getting tired of the show during its final arc because at that point, I felt like the characters had gone through all the development that they could get. But regardless, it still stays fresh in my memory as a series that had its good points.
One Piece was the first Shonen Jump property that I discovered through the manga (Montly Shonen Jump back when that was a thing to be precise), and from then out until I started the blog, everything else that was Shonen Jump I would discover through the manga. I really loved One Piece growing up because of its weird art style along with how it combined pirates with superpowers, which I loved as a kid, and I still occasionally keep up with the manga from time to time. What stood out the most for me was how it used superpowers in a tactical way rather than devolving into “my superpower is better than yours” nonsense like Spiderman or X-Men did, along with how it promoted following your dreams and friendship in a manner that my inexperienced shonen mind found refreshing. I loved it so much that I ended up binge-reading all of the available online manga, watching all of the movies, and checking out a good chunk of the anime series, hoping it would never end. Obviously I regret that mindset, but just know that even though I can see the faults with it now, I’m still going to miss it somewhat when it finally ends. It was definitely my favorite Shonen Jump property growing up and beyond.
Next was Naruto, and considering how much I hate ninjas, it should be clear that I wasn’t a fan of Naruto in the least. Which is ironic because it was the first anime that I ever saw subbed, as well as the show to introduce me to the Youtube scene, mostly because my friends like it. There were some parts I thought were kinda cool, but I ended up dropping the series when they introduced Itachi, because he had this bodyguard with a sword that sucks out all chakra the moment it touches you. Even as a kid, I found that weapon to be too unbalanced and stupid because literally nothing could stand up to that. And if the bad guys weren’t going to play fair, why should I care about anything else that happens in the series? I did tune in a bit after the time skip, but I found Shippuden to be incredibly boring and severed my connection with the series right then and there.
A friend of mine introduced me to Bleach and I found it to be kind of cool, although it did start to lose me when Ichigo stated he would fight this Hollow on his own because said Hollow killed his mother. I’ve never been a fan of those one-on-one justifications because I grew up on JRPGs, where fights were generally three-on-one or four-on-one. Basically, they promoted camaraderie, which I vastly prefer to “sometimes a man’s got to do something by himself”. I ended up ditching the series right after Rukia got kidnapped and before the Soul Society arc even started, because at that point, they changed the rules in a way I didn’t find very appealing. I guess you could say I saw the warning signs of Bleach’s downfall real early, huh?
My brother randomly bought a copy of the Rurouni Kenshin manga after that failure and we both got pretty invested into it, although he liked it a lot more than I did. I ended up disliking the manga around the halfway point because I found the shortchanging of women to be ridiculous once Yahiro or whoever the little boy’s name was ended up winning more fights than the experienced female fighters. And I also started to really hate Kenshin because of how fucking stupid he was as a main character with his unfunny comedic antics and no-killing policy. We ended up watching the anime for a bit as well, but I got bored and ditched the thing around the 20-episode mark or so. I did like how Kaoru was given a more active role in the series, but otherwise Kenshin just wasn’t appealing to me.
Black Cat was after that, and I remember thinking that it started off okay, but once the series became too unfocused regarding the superpowers and such, it lost me. The same friend who introduced me to Bleach also introduced me to the Black Cat anime, and I remember that being cooler because it actually started off with the parts of Train’s life that were actually interesting. However, just like the manga, once superpowers started to become introduced and the rules went out of control, I found the show to be incredibly tedious.
Next was Hikaru no Go, and my brother and I really liked that one. We even bought the first four episodes on DVD back when anime DVDs were like twenty bucks for four episodes and watched the rest on this really crappy Toonami streaming service that I can no longer recall the name of. I was the only one who ended up finishing the anime, but both my brother and I read the manga and we ended up losing interest after a major character left the series. Thankfully, the anime ends right at that point, but when I was that young, I was geared more towards happy endings and felt really confused on how to feel about the story’s decisions for the finale. Now that I’m older, I understand it all the more and think it was pretty smart for a Shonen Jump series. Still don’t love it like most people who finish the series do though for similar reasons to why I don’t love Hero Academia.
My brother and I also became really addicted to Prince of Tennis, although me more than him. It’s a pretty bad series as an adult due to how utterly stupid the tennis actually is, but back when we were trying to be tennis players (unfortunately, I failed utterly at the sport), it was sort of the perfect escapism that actually aided in my bro getting into real sports and the beauty that is Rafael Nadal. And at the time, I preferred a giant mess to something formulaic like Whistle or Eyeshield 21. Or D. Grayman. I tried getting into that, but Allen was such an idiot and the organization he joined were such bores that I didn’t even finish the first book.
Gintama was the next series I discovered and I remember aside from that one chapter where Gintoki won a fight because he tampered with his opponent’s sword to not be the least bit funny. I’ve always disliked the humor in every Shonen Jump series I tried, particularly when it involves some female character physically abusing the males, so an entire series consisting of that style without any serious action wasn’t appealing to me. So I was surprised to see that it was one of the most critically acclaimed anime of recent times after the first series ended, and even tried getting back into it a few years ago. Needless to say, I failed. Claymore also suffered a similar fate. I read one chapter, found the premise to be ridiculous, and stopped right there. Couldn’t be bothered to try the anime.
Then there was Death Note, which I remember being really cool in regards to having a smart main protagonist, a cool concept, L in general, and some hilarious lines. It started to lose me a bit when Mika got introduced and overcomplicated the rules, but it was L’s death where the story completely lost me until Light ended up paying for his crimes in the finale. I didn’t watch the anime for that because I never knew it existed until college, and when I discovered it, I found the dub to be really good and wanted to watch Death Note in that version. Unfortunately Netflix only had the Japanese version in college and the dub was hard to find at the time due to copyright strikes and such. Eventually, it just slipped from my mind because I already knew how the story was going to go. I did finish it fairly recently after I discovered Netflix was going to take it down soon…only for them to keep it on anyways, so so much for that.
The last Shonen Jump series I got into during high school was Reborn!, which I found slightly hilarious at the start, but mainly kept on later when I saw that the wimpy lead eventually becomes a badass flame manipulator. At that age, I was just more susceptible to twists like that. I even watched the anime as it started airing, but then it introduced the time travel arc and that just dragged on way too long. I ended up ditching it once the main bad guy revealed that he had another team of badasses that was never foreshadowed before all along, which was pretty much the writer saying “I have no idea what I’m doing either”. Just so you know, I did read the ending, and it wasn’t very good.
After I entered college, Shonen Jump became much more miss than hit for me and I started to gravitate more towards visual novel adaptations and hentai (because fuck my morbid curiosity as a college student). Fairy Tail got my attention for a time, but that belongs to Shonen Gangan rather than Shonen Jump. I tried out Psyren and absolutely hated it because I found that the shonen action cliches clashed badly with the post-apocalyptic setting and it annoyed me how the girls were the wrong side of badass in addition to being few. There was this Mx0 manga which had its moments, but was kinda meh even before it got cancelled. Neuro: Supernatural Detective got tiresome after twenty chapters.
Some people recommended Soul Eater to me, but I ended up dropping that one around the time Kid showed up because I absolutely hated Black Star. He still has the worst character conception I’ve ever seen: a ninja who acts nothing like a ninja so he never hides, always yells, and gets through fights purely on luck. Basically, I was rooting for Kid to shut him up for good, but Kid had this horribly unfunny quirk where he needed everything to be perfectly symmetrical, and when he lost the duel because his hair got cut, I found myself unable to continue that manga and never touched the anime. A lot of people seem to consider it a classic, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s rubbish.
Addendum: I have been informed that similar to Fairy Tail, Soul Eater also belongs to the Shonen Gangan magazine rather than Shonen Jump like I somehow thought. After ten seconds of deliberation, I decided to keep its entry on here anyways because I want to voice my dislike for how stupid the series was.
I did keep on with Rosario+Vampire, Sket Dance, and To-Love-Ru for a lot longer than I should have, not because they were particularly funny, but because I was romance-obsessed at the time and wanted to see the main characters get with each other. When too many girls started coming into the mix though, I ended up dropping them. I did read the ending to Sket Dance though and I thought it was horrible what they did with Bossun and Himiko’s relationship. Didn’t make it far into Nisekoi either, as the harem hijinks physically repelled me with how straight-faced it was to the point that I didn’t see it surviving for long. As you can see, I had a remarkably bad track record of what’s going to be popular even back then. Ichigo 100% and I’s appealed to me even less because they were trying to combine harem hijinks with this realistic style/tone, and I found the combination to be awful. Beelzebub had my attention for about sixty chapters, but that was it. And of course, do I need to mention Bakuman?
When I started the blog and paid more attention to the fanbase, everyone went nuts over Hunter x Hunter and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, so I watched them. I did enjoy them around the 2012-13 period, but in retrospect, I was only trying to join the “winning” side like most disphit masses do in the world of online opinions, which affected my cognition of those shows greatly. And said coloration couldn’t last me forever, as I was getting tired of Jojo about four episodes before the first season concluded, so when the second series came, I realized that the show never truly appealed to me and stopped watching. As for Hunter x Hunter, I’m surprised it took until the Chimera Ant Arc for the slow pacing to even get to me if I’m being honest. But it did, and I ended up ditching that too.
After those shows failed to get me interested and I stopped reading manga in general, I pretty much swore off Shonen Jump forever, having fully outgrown its style of storytelling. Level E was fun, but nothing that really stuck in my mind. I tried Assassination Classroom, but I didn’t think it was funny so I didn’t watch more than an episode. Shokugeki no Soma wasn’t bad once I gave it more of a chance, but it eventually succumbed to being repetitive and that’s all she wrote. Never bothered with Dragonball Super, Kuroko’s Basketball, Medaka Box, or Boruto because I didn’t care. Haikyuu is an obvious no. Well-animated, but no originality in the sports formula whatsoever.
Finally there was My Hero Academia, which I’ve already talked about in length before and still plan to talk about in the future, so I won’t go into too much detail. It still has the Shonen Jump cliches/problems of course, but Hero Academia ended up bringing so much more than that during its sequel season to the point that I was reminded of how much better Fast and Furious got once it started casting The Rock. I don’t think it breaks the mold for shonen action cliches like some people claim, but it does refine them in a way that’s not retarded. Hopefully it doesn’t become a victim of its own success like everything else from the Shonen Jump magazine, but I can worry about that when the warning bells actually ring.
As for any Shonen Jump interaction after that, a few people I know on online chats and such have recommended that I watch Fist of the North Star – which is very interesting because despite knowing the memes, some plot points, and me toting it as an anime that newbies should watch in order to become familiar with how the medium does action, I’ve never actually seen Fist of the North Star. I know a lot of today’s fandom hasn’t seen it either, but it really seems like a series I should at least be more familiar with if I’m going to start recommending it to people. So I went ahead and pre-ordered the blu-rays, readying my body for over 150 episodes of Kenshiro’s manliness. Hopefully it survives this.
And those were my memories of Shonen Jump. I hope you guys enjoyed reading my long history with the magazine and if you want me to describe memories of other anime-related things, let me know in the comments section.