Shojo Beat ends as Ikki begins its run


POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Manga maneuverings are afoot at the House of “;Naruto,”; Viz, with the fall and rise of two manga anthologies recorded over the span of a few days last week.

The fallen anthology is one that more mainstream audiences, particularly those who read “;shojo”; (girls) manga, are familiar with: Shojo Beat, the monthly magazine launched in 2005 as the shojo counterpart to the monthly “;shonen”; (boys) anthology Shonen Jump. The last issue will be the July 2009 issue, which should be available locally in mid- to late June.

While the magazine may be ending, the Shojo Beat imprint and the titles currently being serialized (”;Crimson Hero,”; “;Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~,”; “;Honey and Clover,”; “;Honey Hunt,”; “;Sand Chronicles”; and “;Vampire Knight”;) will live on in the graphic novel format.

Let's pause to consider that lineup for a bit. “;Crimson Hero”; is the only series to have lasted for the magazine's entire life span, while “;Vampire Knight”; is arguably its most popular series right now. But of particular note is that three other strong shojo series for Viz, “;Love*Com,”; “;Nana”; and “;Ouran High School Host Club,”; are NOT part of that lineup. (”;Nana”; was part of Shojo Beat's launch lineup but was dropped as the series started exploring more mature themes.)

Compare that with Shonen Jump's current lineup - “;Bleach,”; “;Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo,”; “;Naruto,”; “;One Piece,”; “;Tegami Bachi,”; “;Yu-Gi-Oh GX”; and “;Yu Yu Hakusho”; - and the disparity is clear. Of those series, only “;Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo”; and “;Tegami Bachi”; haven't hit critical mass yet, and the former is leaving to be replaced in the fall by the Stan Lee-written “;Ultimo.”;

The stronger, buzz-generating series in a manga anthology help to prop up weaker series and boost manga sales across the board, a task the Shonen Jump lineup is performing to perfection. The Shojo Beat situation would be like replacing, say, “;Bleach,”; “;One Piece”; and “;Yu-Gi-Oh GX”; with “;Dragon Drive,”; “;Hoshin Engi”; and “;Legendz”; - not bad series, mind you, but certainly not as buzzworthy. And with one strong (but not “;Naruto”;-esque) title in “;Vampire Knight”; and more supporting series gaining buzz outside of Shojo Beat rather than in it, it becomes clearer why this magazine is closing: It's just not meeting Viz's needs the way Shonen Jump is.

But as one anthology shuts down, another one debuts: Ikki, an anthology devoted to manga for older audiences. Ikki will be available exclusively online for free at http://www.sigikki.com, using the same manga-reader technology being used in the serialization of Rumiko Takahashi's “;Rin-ne.”; The site launched with “;Children of the Sea,”; by Daisuke Igarashi, with new chapters available weekly; four other series will debut in early August.

Viz's first attempt at a mature-manga anthology, Pulp, ran from 1997 through 2002. But whereas a new print anthology like Pulp might meet the same fate as Shojo Beat in this market, the online format gives Viz a chance to gauge readers' interest without the costs of printing physical copies. While it might lack the portability of a print publication, it's certainly a noble experiment, and I hope it succeeds.

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