When it comes to manga and anime, it can be hard to assess just how the industries are faring. After the mediums had a boom in the 1990s, both manga and anime began to fade away from the western spotlight in following years. While anime has since comeback on an upswing thanks to shows like Attack on Titan and Dragon Ball Super, manga has still struggled to regain its footing with a worldwide market. And, now, one of the medium’s most popular magazines has hit a surprisingly low number of subscribers.
Recently, the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association reported that Weekly Shonen Jump had its circulation drop below two million for the first time in recent years. Between January and March 2017, the average circulation number hovered around 1.92 million. Back in October 2016, the magazine still had its circulation number above two million.
Weekly Shonen Jump is not the only magazine who saw a dip in circulation. Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine and Shogakukan’s Weekly Shonen Sunday also slid backwards. The first dropped by about 22,000 readers while the latter lost 3,600.
Back in 2007, Weekly Shonen Jump saw its readership dip under two million. While the magazine has had brief periods of growth, Shueisha’s publication has ultimately been on the downslide since 2006. At its greatest circulation, Weekly Shonen Jump’s readership was just over 6.5 million in December 1994. The magazine was bolstered thanks to titles like Dragon Ball and Slam Dunk.
For international manga fans, the numbers may seem confusing at first. After all, manga is still a popular fandom in the west, and it is very much that way around the world. Still, official avenues for manga consumption continue to dwindle. Weekly Shonen Jump has failed to grab onto a larger international audience due to its localized presence in Japan, but Shueisha has tried to mend that. Thanks to Viz Media, fans can buy translated editions of Weekly Shonen Jump digitally on a monthly or annual basis.
However, there is still a larger issue which international fans have when it comes to Weekly Shonen Jump. For many manga readers, they tend to prefer reading titles in volumes rather than by chapter. Weekly Shonen Jump is very similar to how Western comic book publishers releases individual issues each week. After a story arc is finished, a volume or trade paperback is released with the story compiled together. Both manga and comic book industries have seen fans turn to volumes in recent years when compared to weekly issues. So, if models like Weekly Shonen Jump want to grow its audience, the publications must find ways to reel back in readers who aren’t afraid to wait a bit to read a story all in one go.