It’s been almost three months since VIZ Media’s new Weekly Shonen Jump service launched, signaling a bright new future for the provision of English language manga. In focusing on free simultaneous publications for currently running series and providing access to their back catalog for a very reasonable $1.99 per month, VIZ has essentially eliminated any reason to read Shueisha properties illegally. And now with publishers such as Yen Press and Kodansha Comics also getting in on the simulpub game, it seems like things are only going to get better from here on out.
So now that the dust has settled, perhaps you’re considering trying the service out. Perhaps you’re interested in the currently running series, but also want to check out some past titles. And as someone who spends far too much time worrying about the development of Shueisha properties in particular, perhaps I can offer some recommendations.
I’ve compiled a short list of my recommended reads available through the service below. This list includes some of Weekly Shonen Jump’s brightest stars, but also choice picks from further afield. Clicking the picture will bring you to that series’ page on VIZ’s website, where you can read some of the first chapters for free, and then choose to sign up for the subscription if you wish.
Release: March 2019 – Present
Author(s): Riichiro Inagaki, Boichi
Synopsis: After a catastrophic incident that turns the entirety of humanity into stone, science genius Senku sets out on a mission to reclaim 3000 years of progress. But in his way stands the formidable Tsukasa, who is determined to create a society of the strong…
In my humble opinion, this is the best series in Jump right now. Artist Boichi (ORIGIN, Sun-Ken Rock) and writer Riichiro Inagaki (Eyeshield 21) have been able to overcome an otherwise muddled start and craft one of the most unique shonen series in recent memory. In particular, the series’ focus on scientific discovery makes it a welcome break from the more action-focused series that fill Shueisha’s magazines, and indeed this list. That’s not to say, however, that the series doesn’t have action – rather, it’s action is always poignant and character-driven, plus made all that more enthralling by Boichi’s excellent artwork. And with an anime on the way, there’s no better time to get into the series, especially for such a reasonable price.
My Hero Academia
Release: July 2014 – Present
Author(s): Horikoshi Kouhei
Synopsis: In a world where superpowers known as ‘quirks’ are the norm, Izuku ‘Deku’ Midoriya is ‘quirkless.’ Nevertheless, he dreams of one day becoming just like his idol, All Might. A chance encounter then gives Deku the chance to fulfill his dreams of becoming the greatest hero, and he enters into his superpowered life at UA Academy.
I might offend some fans with this statement, but Horikoshi Kouhei’s original My Hero Academia manga is way better than Studio BONES’ anime adaptation. Of course, the anime adaptation is what has made the series blow up in recent years, but it’s never quite sat right with me. Not only is the pacing in the manga on the whole much better, but the main draw to the manga for me has always been the art. Horikoshi’s character writing is great, if not in creating natural drama than in just creating a unique, ever-expanding cast of characters. But his character design and eye for action are what makes this version of this series so essential – the detail of which is invariably lost in the translation over to anime. Plus, there’s the added benefit of not having to wait between anime seasons if you decide to pick up the manga – no spoilers!
Astra Lost in Space
Release: May 2016 – December 2017
Author(s): Shinohara Kenta
Synopsis: Set in a science fiction future, a group of high school students set off for ‘space camp’ but quickly find themselves attacked and transported 5012 light years away. Armed only with their knowledge and the ship Astra, they must begin the long and perilous journey home.
Yes, this series has exactly the same premise as Star Trek: Voyager – a crew that has to find their way home through the vastness of space, and all the perils that result from it. But that’s more of a testament to Astra than anything else, as the series delivers the kind of high sci-fi adventure that rarely appears in Japanese media nowadays. Sket Dance creator Shinohara Kenta is behind the series, and his experience in crafting slice of life character drama adds so much to the series as it juggles being a survival drama, a rip-roaring adventure, high sci-fi, teen drama and a mystery series all at the same time. The result is a manga that scratches so many itches that I didn’t even know I had. It’s also got an anime on the way – meaning that now might be the perfect time to get ahead.
Release: August 2008 – April 2012
Author(s): Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata
Synopsis: High schooler Moritaka Mashiro has long since given up on his childhood dream of becoming a mangaka. But an encounter with class genius Akito Takagi reignites that dream once more, and the two of them set forth as a duo on the road to becoming world class mangaka.
This series is a very special one for me. Not only because it is an excellent coming of age story, but in that its focus on how manga is made was got me interested in manga in the first place. You can really tell that this story is one that comes from the heart of superstar Death Note duo Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, as it tells very real stories of emotional struggle in the pursuit of dreams. While J.C. Staff did a fine job in adapting the series to anime to completion over the course of several, I think that a manga about manga should be read as a manga – it seems like common sense. Furthermore, in watching the anime you’re missing out on the incredible artwork of Obata, whose character designs are always unique and expressive. Plus, with the subscription, you’ll be able to read the entirety of the series for a fraction of the price compared to if you bought all of the volumes.
Juni Taisen: Zodiac War
Release: September 2017 – May 2018
Author(s): Nisio Isin, Akira Akatsuki
Synopsis: Twelve warriors, each representing an animal of the zodiac, gather in an evacuated metropolis to stage a battle royale, the sole victor of which will have any wish of their desire granted. But quickly things take a turn for the worse, as things are not as they seem…
I’ve always been a big fan of Nisio Isin, especially when it comes to his forays into manga. While I would love to be putting Medaka Box on this list, as it’s one of the best Jump manga ever, as of the time of writing it has not yet been translated into English. Fortunately, Isin has another series available via VIZ’s Shonen Jump – the manga adaptation of Juni Taisen. This series received an anime adaptation last year, but it would be an understatement to say that it was underwhelming. Dull production and direction marred an otherwise excellent, if Isin-typical story. That’s not the case with the manga adaptation, however. Isin’s Medaka Box collaborator Akira Akatsuki brings excellent visual design and direction to the story, making this into the definitive version of the story (although VIZ has also translated the original light novel).