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Fairy Tail and Japan's Shonen magazine

Sunday 20th May 2012

Matt Kamen on Japan’s Weekly Shonen Magazine

Shonen magazineMystic action abounds in the second thrilling collection of Fairy Tail, as flame-spewing Natsu, ice-mage Gray, summoner Lucy and the rest of the gang take on sorcerous threats across the world of Earthland. The series is based on the long running manga by Hiro Mashima, and as the anime closes in on its 150th episode in Japan, it’s clearly shaping up to be the next Naruto or Bleach, delivering ongoing adventure to a devoted audience. Unlike a certain orange ninja or black-garbed grim reaper though, Fairy Tail’s roots do not lie in the pages of the famous Weekly Shonen Jump anthology.

Covering everything from the likes of Masami Kurumada’s boxing drama Ring ni Kakero to Akira Toriyama’s world-conquering Dragon Ball, Shueisha’s boys’ manga serial is – to western fans at least – near-synonymous with lengthy action sagas. However, while Weekly Shonen Jump first saw print in July 1968 and is now indisputably the top selling boys comic in Japan, it was actually preceded by almost a decade by rival publisher Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine.

Shonen magazineFirst published in March 1959, Weekly Shonen Magazine has been a staple of the manga industry for almost seven decades. Generations have grown up reading it, thrilling to the adventures contained within. It’s no surprise the comic has been such a persistent success story – poring through old issues of Weekly Shonen is like turning the pages of manga history. The publication is littered with works by luminary creators – Shigeru Mizuki’s supernatural Spooky Ooky Kitaro; Kazumasa Hirai and Jiro Kuwata’s Eightman, the world’s first cyborg superhero; a whole wealth of work from the “King of Manga”, Shotaro Ishinomori, including Skull Man, Kamen Rider and Cyborg 009; Go Nagai’s Devilman; Tohru Fujisawa’s Great Teacher Onizuka; the list is nearly endless.

Unlike its upstart rival, Kodansha’s anthology often skewed towards an older audience, offering a broader range of content as a result. Though Shonen Jump overtook it in sales and exposure by the mid 1990s, Shonen Magazine has consistently featured some of the best received and fondly remembered series.

Shonen magazineIn fact, Hiro Mashima’s career as a manga creator has been entirely at the legendary title. His debut work, Groove Adventure Rave (better known as Rave Master in the UK and US) premiered in Weekly Shonen Magazine in 1999. A globe-hopping story of superpowers and a quest for mystic stones, the story ran consistently until 2005, racking up 296 chapters and spawning a 52 episode anime series in the process. After a year off, Mashima returned in August 2006 with the first chapter of Fairy Tail which, at 270 chapters and counting, is looking to smash the 34-year old artist’s previous record.

Between Mashima’s works, sci-fi street skating strip Air Gear and a fictionalised manga based on the hyper-popular girl group AKB48, Weekly Shonen Magazine is on the rise again and the people in charge no doubt have their eyes on reclaiming the top spot once more. Naruto, Bleach? You’ve been warned.

Fairy Tail Part Two is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment on 21st May.

Fairy Tail and Japan's Shonen magazine


Fairy Tail Part 2 (episodes 13-24)

was £29.99
Across the Fiore kingdom, wizards join guilds and make their pay by filling magical needs - but one guild has a reputation as the roughest, rowdiest, most dangerous of all: Fairy Tail!
In the midst of a mission to break the curse over Galuna Island, Natsu and the gang face a band of deranged mages trying to resurrect the monstrous demon Deliora. Gray's determined to put the freeze on the sinister plan in a frigid battle with a rival from his past - even if it takes his own life!
Back in Magnolia, the city becomes a warzone after sorcerers known as Element 4 destroy Fairy Tail headquarters and kidnap their beloved rookie, Lucy. A bone-crunching, skin-charring fight between fire and iron erupts when Natsu squares off against another Dragon Slayer wizard!



K the Anime Music: angela

Paul Browne on the pop duo with multiple anime connections
K’s stirring theme song ‘KINGS’ comes courtesy of J-Pop duo angela. Consisting of vocalist Yamashita Atsuko and multi-instrumentalist Hirasato Katsunori (aka KATSU), angela are a familiar name when it comes to anime theme tunes.

Time Travel in Anime

Paul Browne rewinds from Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower into the past
In the latest Naruto film The Lost Tower, the title character and his comrades embark on a mission to capture Mukade – a missing ninja who has the ability to travel through time. Mukade’s plan is to travel into the past and take control of the Five Great Shinobi Countries. During the battle with Mukade, Naruto and Yamato find themselves hurled back twenty years in time. Will Naruto and his friends be able to return to his own time? And will their actions in the past save the future?

Fairy Tail: Phoenix Priestess

Anime’s answer to the summer blockbusters
This is the perfect summer blockbuster movie, as well as a textbook example of how to do a spin-off feature just right. Modern-day Hollywood could learn a lot from Phoenix Priestess, even as it sticks to lessons from an older version of the American Dream Factory.

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence

Jasper Sharp on Oshii's Innocence abroad
Mamoru Oshii’s unashamedly esoteric sequel to his earlier global crossover Ghost in the Shell lent the most credibility to claims for anime as ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’, when it became the first animated film from Japan to be entered in competition at Cannes.

The magnificent 47 Ronin

Stephen Turnbull asks what (if anything) went wrong with the 47 Ronin?
When T. H. White’s great Arthurian fantasy The Once and Future King was first published the New York Times described it as “a glorious dream of the Middle Ages as they never were but as they should have been.” A very similar comment would not be inappropriate to describe the strange world of old Japan conjured up in the movie 47 Ronin.

K the Animation

Andrew Osmond keeps calm and carries on
The start of an action anime series is often a bewildering experience, dropping the viewer into a whirlwind of unfamiliar folk having very big fights. K’s like that, but luckily the main character starts the show as baffled as us. Yashiro Isana is a bit different from the standard schoolboy hero

Podcast: A Dingo Stole My Anime

Studio Ghibli, tattoo removal and the San Diego Comic Con in our 26th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements to discuss last week’s Studio Ghibli, the San Diego Comic Con, upcoming releases, and your questions from Twitter and Facebook. Includes an inadvisable impersonation of Meryl Streep, commentary track shenanigans, and Jerome’s skateboarding stunts.

Rocksmith's Japanese Stars

Tom Smith on the downloadable J-rock gods in Ubisoft’s game
As part of the DLC catalogue for Ubisoft's guitar ‘game’ are six of quite possibly the biggest names in rock from Japan, each covering a very different base.

Keiichi Hara Interview

Andrew Osmond talks to the director of Shin-chan and Colorful
As the eleventh Japan Touring Film Programme heads through Britain (see here for venues and here for our write-up), we took the opportunity to speak to the director of the anime entry, the feature film Colorful. Keiichi Hara has been working in anime for thirty-odd years, gaining experience through working with two of Japan’s most popular kids’ characters, Doraemon and Crayon Shin-chan. He then graduated to his own projects, and is now a freelancer who pushes at the boundaries of what anime can be.

Eureka Seven Ao

Kicking it old-school, with giant robots
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.
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