Shōnen Jump’s Guiding Principals For All Its Series

Shonen anime tends to have a lot of tropes and cliches that are called out by the community and made fun of. Concepts like the value of friendship and never giving up are good ideals, but they’ve been presented ad nauseum throughout popular series. It can also be frustrating to see a series where the stakes are set high, but everyone comes out alive and no dire consequences are suffered. There’s no way of knowing just how many anime this applies to, but it might be better understood through Weekly Shōnen jumps creed.

Friendship, effort and victory represent Shōnen Jump’s guiding principles. They are found in one form or another in just about all of their manga. It sounds monotonous, but it’s led jump to become one of the best-selling manga magazines in Japan. Not only that, but many individual series published under jump have become smashing successes by following these very principles. As generic as they may sound, something about them is working. Here’s a look at each of these principles and how they’ve shaped not only jumps greatest works but also anime and manga in general.

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The Close Bonds of Friendship Bond Heroes

Perhaps the most prevalent of Shōnen Jumps principles are friendship. The idea is simple; people who surround themselves with friends and loved ones will find greater satisfaction in their lives. In most cases, friendship becomes a source of power for the main character. In battle manga, it often involves combining powers into one ultimate attack or the main character’s friends using their powers to support and improve their own fighting capabilities. Having strong allies who can provide necessary support can mean the difference between glorious victory and shameful defeat.

Friendship can also take the form of teamwork. Working separately, even a group can’t do much, but if they coordinate their efforts to achieve a common goal, anything’s possible. Each person in a group has their strengths and weaknesses; by covering each other’s weaknesses, people can achieve things that they could never do alone. Working together is a fundamental theme in sports manga like Kuroko’s Basketball and haikyuu!!, where the main cast has to learn to play as a team. Whether it’s a classroom full of students (Jigoku Sensei Nūbē), an alliance of Heroes (My Hero Academia), or a paramilitary unit (Demon Slayer), like-minded people aiming toward a common goal is bound to produce excellent results.

Friends are also important for providing emotional support. When something bad happens, one can be put into a despairing headspace that makes thinking clearly or moving forward difficult (Hunter x Hunter). Good friends will help one to get out of this negative mental state and move past it (Naruto). They can also take a slightly less proactive role by cheering characters on from the sidelines and reminding them who they do everything for (Yu-Gi-Oh!). Once all of this happens, the receiving party can feel free to return the favor (Blue Box). Friends caring for each other like this is something everyone needs in their lives, whether they think they do or not.

Naturally, the antagonists of jump series will often view friendship as a weakness. They have a cynical mindset where the only way to get anything out of life is to manipulate everybody and trust nobody (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind). They’ll lose because they either don’t have faith in others or don’t have anybody worth fighting for (Dragon Ball Super). While the antagonist relies mainly on their own strength to win, the protagonist gets their power from their friends.

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Effort Defines a Hero

Effort is a little harder to define as a trope because it takes many forms. Perhaps the most common form it takes is hard work. Whether this means physical training (dragon ball), studying (Assassination Classroom), or refining a skill (Akane-banashi), the point is that one has to put a lot of time and labor into something in order to get good or excel at it.

In some manga, the effort a character needs to get good is left off-screen. This could be done for several reasons. If the manga is more about comedy than action, the character may start overpowered so they can blow through enemies easily and continue to focus on humor (Mashle: Magic and Muscles). In many modern manga, the protagonist will start the manga with plenty of experience so that the story can progress faster (Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Sama). Similarly, if the story has a big enough adventure element, the characters may blow through most enemies so that more focus can be placed on the worldbuilding (Toriko). While starting the story so strong sounds contradictory to the theme of effort, the fact remains that most of these characters did work hard to reach that level. However, if a character wants to truly excel at something, which most of them do, they’ll have to put in a lot more effort than they already have. Many characters need training arcs to deal with the ongoing and upcoming challenges. It’s also why the phrase “get stronger,” and all its variations echo throughout jumps manga collection. One must always strive to be better than one already is.

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Improvement is another aspect of effort that’s emphasized in jump. No matter how good one is at something, there will always be room for improvement; there will always be harder challenges to overcome and greater enemies to fight. And it’s not something that stops, either; life is an eternal struggle against new challenges (Bleach). Keeping up with those challenges means continuously progressing and developing without growing rusty or stagnant.

Effort also means never giving up in the face of adversity. Those who are knocked down but can get back up must do exactly that (Saint Seiya). It also means being willing to push forwards toward one’s goals no matter how difficult or daunting it is or how many people say they can’t be achieved (One Piece). One who puts in enough effort will eventually find a way to succeed and grasp it.

Victory Is Effortless For A True Hero

The idea of ​​working hard to achieve one’s goals leads to the third and final theme of shōnen jump, victory. if it’s a jump series, one can usually expect things to turn out well for the main characters. They’ll have overcome all obstacles, accomplished all their dreams, and had a good time doing it.

Of course, this also leads to many of jumps stories feeling too positive for some. If a series promises high stakes and doesn’t end with major losses or at least a pyrrhic victory, then audiences might feel cheated. However, that’s just how the magazine functions; even darker stories like Hunter x Hunter and Chainsaw Man will inevitably have something of a happy ending. if jump had too many stories with darker outcomes, it would clash with the positive vibe the magazine is meant to give off. At the end of the day, it’s all escapist, wish fulfillment fiction.

Are Shōnen Jump’s Principals Overused?

For what it’s worth, presenting themes of friendship, effort, and victory has churned out many successful series. In jump alone, manga like Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Demon Slayer, the “Big Three” of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach have all consistently flaunted these ideals and achieved financial and even mainstream success. The same can be said for many other series published by jump, including Saint Seiya, My Hero Academia, Black Clover, Dr. stone, and Jujutsu Kaisen. There are also all the shonen manga that aren’t published by jump but still follow their formula, including Fullmetal Alchemist, Fairy Tail, The Seven Deadly Sins, Soul Eater, and fire force. The real number of series that have been shaped by this mold is immeasurable. Whatever can be said about all these series, the fact that they all made it big following roughly the same formula speaks to its potency.

Shonen manga may seem repetitive and even derivative sometimes, but they’re just adhering to Shōnen Jumps core theme. if a jump manga feels like it’s too leaning too far into these concepts, one should keep in mind that it probably has more to do with the magazine than any one writer. Furthermore, these principles, on top of being wise words to live by, have been the foundation of many a great manga in the past. In any case, a truly good jump manga will manage to bring its own unique flair and thus capture the hearts of readers anyway.

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