Today, somewhere between 20 to 30 manga magazines are being published every week in Japan. Among all these magazines, the circulation of SHUKAN SHONEN JUMP, SHUKAN SHONEN SUNDAY and SHUKAN SHONEN MAGAZINE sums up to as much as 6,387,321 copies in only one week (weekly average calculated from the total annual sale of 2005) making clear they are the most popular manga magazines in Japan. This number alone is surprising, but you cannot forget that this is merely the sales of three magazines out of about 30, pointing out the fact that the total manga market is much larger. Considering the circulation of comic books on top of weekly magazines, approximately 120 million manga are being published in one month. Comparing this number with 120 million, the Japanese population, the influence and the rootage level of manga in Japan is rather appalling.
How have these three magazines managed to win through fierce competition and climb up to the top of such a huge industry? Wouldn't one be able to find out the position of manga in Japan by studying the reason?
I hear many people especially non-Japanese are surprised to learn that half century ago manga was referred to as something sleazy which only children read. I will not go into this deeper at the moment, but anyway, there was a time when manga had been looked down upon even in Japan which today is widely known as a manga country.
SHONEN SUNDAY and SHONEN MAGAZINE made their launch in the same year during such days, and SHONEN JUMP soon joined in with the two in 1959. During those days when the three magazines were still young, the most circulated was SHONEN SUNDAY. It is not too difficult to guess the reason why.
In the early history of manga, it was SUNDAY that had the blessings to host the works of Tezuka Osamu aka the 'God of Manga'. Having Tezuka not only brought SUNDAY's publisher the boon of his accomplishments, but also allowed them to take possession of all his fellow manga artists from Tokiwaso (an apartment Tezuka shared with many other artists) such as Fujiko Fujio and Akatsuka Fujio. Thus, by just printing the works of the God of Manga and his fellow artists, SUNDAY gained explosive sales. This, is the beginning of SUNDAY's tradition, the artist's-style-oriented production of manga in Japan.
MAGAZINE on the other hand attached more importance on the actual process of manga production similar to film production, in order to survive the days of weekly manga. That is to say, the establishment of efficient and effective groupwork. With the slogan of "Manga as a groupwork" (shudan sagyo to shite no manga seisaku) editors presided over the entire process disabling the artists to create pieces in their unique styles. Needless to say, this management style provoked antipathy of many prominent artists, making them strongly feel like their styles being disregarded.