Last year saw a whole load of festivities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, and Akita Shoten is looking to do much the same to celebrate their own magazine Weekly Shonen Champion’s 50th anniversary. Yet, their focus is much different from their rival, as the publisher looks to give fans and readers more control over the proceedings of the various events and happenings.
The Weekly Shonen Champion 50th anniversary site launched at the end of last week, sharing the publisher’s ambitious vision for the fan-driven project. The main attraction is the large ‘Gratitude Festival’ scheduled for July 15 in the Akihabara UDX building, which will put on exclusive events, galleries and talk shows for fans, much like rival Shueisha’s own annual Jump Festa.
Yet Akita Shoten is keen to get fan input into the happenings of the event. The official Weekly Shonen Champion 50th anniversary site launched two separate ways to do so when it went online last week – the ‘Select Manifesto’ and ‘Dream Project’ systems. Both systems will use fan interaction to determine the specifics of the Gratitude Festival when it begins on July 15.
The Select Manifesto system allows fans to vote on the events they want to see during the Gratitude Festival on a series by series basis. Three rounds of voting are planned, with four series per round. The highest ranking event per series will then become a reality at the Gratitude Festival, as per the fans’ wishes.
For example, the different events to choose from for BEASTARS include a color page gallery, a Rui photo spot, and for series author Paru Itagaki to ‘introduce’ a ‘guest character’ of her choice during the festival.
The process for the ‘Dream Project’ events is similar but necessitates a more material contribution from the fans as it will use ‘crowdfunding’ to fund the ‘dream projects’ of several authors of some of the magazine’s most well-known works in honor of Weekly Shonen Champion’s 50th anniversary. These dream projects include a giant gross-out statue of Midousuji Akira from Yowamushi Pedal author Wataru Watanabe, a georama of Baki’s house from BAKI the Grappler author Keisuke Itagaki, and a giant replica of John from The Vampire Dies in No Time author Itaru Bonnoki.
In order to fund these projects, fans are invited to purchase one of two ‘tickets’ attached to the projects when the crowdfunding process opens proper on May 16. One is 5,000 yen and will net you a thank you email with an exclusive illustration, a supporter credit, as well as ‘data’ on three chapter manuscripts. The second ticket, at 10,000 yen, includes the previous rewards as well as a reproduction manuscript picked at random from a pool of five.
Passionate fans will surely have no problem in shoring up money for the various ‘dream projects’ in exchange for the exclusive goods on offer, but a publishing giant such as Akita Shoten resorting to crowdfunding is more than questionable. It’s also unknown at what threshold these projects will be funded as well as whether backers will get their money back in the likelihood of inadequate funding as of the time of writing.
Nevertheless, Akita Shoten’s focus on fan interaction for Weekly Shonen Champion’s 50th-anniversary celebrations is an interesting one. The magazine has never been as popular as some of its competitors, but it has played host to more than a few great series over the years – Black Jack, Cutie Honey, BAKI the Grappler, Squid Girl, Yowamushi Pedal, as well as the currently running BEASTARS – easily the magazine’s biggest current series, which will no doubt get even bigger when its anime adaptation begins this October.