I’ve already written about Astra Lost in Space, and how Viz has licensed that series and releases it for free. That’s a series that has been originally running in Shonen Jump Plus in Japan, and Viz has been releasing a few other series from that site as well. Today, instead of focusing on just one series, I figured that I would give a brief overview of all the series Viz has licensed from Shonen Jump Plus, as well as listing a few unlicensed series I think they should pick up.
This is a bit of an odd one, because they started releasing this for free even before they started releasing things for free. Like, almost a year and a half before. I guess this was their test run, and it went well? Either way, they’ve been releasing this one for a while, and it’s still going strong. Actually, it’s the only series where you can get the chapters for free on Kindle / Comixology in addition to their website, and they’re yours to keep forever. Not all chapters are still free though, since volumes 1-4 have already been published by Viz. You can find them here.
I haven’t read / watched the original Boys over Flowers, but from what I can tell, this is basically the same thing with new characters. Kind of like what WWW.WAGNARIA!! is to WAGNARIA!!, I suppose. It takes place at the same school as the original series, which is run by the “Correct 5" now that the “F4" have graduated. Oto Edogawa is a girl who suddenly became poor, but needs to hide that fact lest she get kicked out of the school. Cue romantic drama. This series is simultaneous with Japan and all chapters that aren’t yet compiled in a volume are available (except for chapter 28).
Let me just put in a little plug for Astra Lost in Space again. I’ve already gone over it in much more detail elsewhere, but it’s worth mentioning again. This series is ~ 1 chapter behind Japan and all chapters are available.
This is one of those strange slice-of-life stories, where instead of just watching normal life, we see normal life plus one odd thing, in this case a penguine. Yes, here we have a story about a girl who finds an emperor penguin in her fridge one day, and proceeds to go about her life treating it as just a new pet, while also keeping it a secret from the neighbours. Bonus points for being in full-colour. This series is ~1 chapter behind Japan and all chapters are available.
Then we’ve got élDLIVE, which Viz just started releasing in advance of the anime airing this season on Crunchyroll. This is actually one of the series that has been running in Shonen Jump Plus ever since the very beginning, back in 2014. Viz has only released 2 chapters at the time of this writing, so plot details may be a bit scarce here. Our protagonist is Chuta Kokonose, a boy who has a voice in his head. Various things happen, and he ends up getting invited to join élDLIVE, the space police. Oh, and the voice in his head is actually an alien that lives in his body. That’s about all I’ve got for you so far. Also in full-colour, actually, though more of a faded, watercolour style. This series is... something like 7 volumes behind Japan right now, with only 2 chapters available.
So, I’ve only been able to find evidence of the first chapter coming out, back in last February when the series premiered in Japan. It was a Jump Start! series, and I guess not enough people filled out the readership survey for it so Viz decided not to keep going with it or something? Which is too bad; but maybe now that they’re releasing the other series listed above, they can try again in their free catalogue. It seems to be doing fairly well in Japan, with the 2nd volume just being released back in November, and an audio drama from Kiku-Jump, too. I haven’t been able to read this myself, so I can’t provide much more than the boilerplate description Viz gave and the Fandom Post review. Seems like it’s some sort of survival-horror series. I’d read it. Maybe it’s something like King’s Game: Origin (available on Crunchyroll Manga in full), where normal people are forced into a horrible situation with lots of death. This series is 19 chapters behind Japan at the time of this writing, and that gap will probably continue to grow since no chapters are available on Viz now.
But why stop with just these five series? Shonen Jump Plus has a whole bunch of series that have yet to be licensed by anyone, and Viz clearly has the in. I’ve been following a few series as they’ve been released in Japan, so here a few suggestions that I have for some new, exciting series for Viz to expand their catalogue with. (Bear in mind, most of these series don’t have much in the way of presence on the English part of the internet, so I’m kind of guessing at any names or titles I translate. And maybe some plot details. I’m not very good at Japanese, so I’ll try to stick to what I know for sure).
This is a particularly interesting series, if only for the way it came about: this is the published form of the winner of the 1st Shonen Jump Plus Rensai Grand Prix competition. You may know that Japanese publishers love to run contests for people to submit their work to (even Kyoto Animation has their own contest), and the winners will get to be published. For this contest, the grand prize winner will be paid and will get at least one volume’s worth of manga published (180 pages, specifically). This series has had its one volume published already, and it’s still going, so I guess that means they’re happy with it. The winners of the 2nd Grand Prix should be announced within days, since they’ve listed mid-January on the website. I was actually paying enough attention that I was able to “read” and vote on the series they were letting the public decide on during this 2nd edition. I don’t remember all the series, but I do recognize one of the finalists as being about a girl who is also a refrigerator. But I digress.
Back to this manga. The basic setup is that this is a few years in the future, and VR technology is now popular. This part I’m really fuzzy on, but I think there is a whole VR world, and in that world a group of people formed “The Party” and worked together to take down the Demon King. Now, several years later, members of The Party are being killed off one by one in the real world, and the FBI is trying stop the murderer.
The person most likely to be called our main character is Noel, an Amish girl whose father was “Dagonheim”, the Sage of The Party. The series opens with his death, which causes Noel to join up with the FBI team investigating. Their first target is “Zero”, the Thief of The Party, and thus their adventure begins.
The body count in this series is nothing to sneeze at, and no one is safe. Especially not members of The Party since they’re, you know, assassination targets. Also, Noel is the least pacifistic Amish person I’ve ever seen. The art’s nice and clean and easy to understand, and the character designs unique enough and easy to tell apart from each other. I have to say though, reading a series in a language you don’t really understand does give you a healthy appreciation for how bad info-dumps are, and sadly this series does tend to rely on them; there are quite a few scenes of characters just standing around explaining things to each other. Which, when you can’t really understand what they’re saying, means you miss a lot of key plot points.
Basically, this series is super intriguing to me, what with the murder mystery component, and I just want to be able to read it in English. It’s released weekly-ish, and 18 chapters have been released in Japan as of this writing. The first volume was just released in Japan back in November.
I opted to give this the name of the novel it’s based on (and the name that vgperson uses), but technically the name is I Sold off My Lifespan for 10,000 Yen a Year, which basically tells you the premise right there. A man lives a lives a meaningless existence, failing to have achieved any of his childhood dreams. One day he’s so broke that he decides to follow the rumours to a shop that says they’ll buy your lifespan. They evaluate his pathetic life and deem his time on Earth as worth only 10,000 Yen per year (or about $85 USD right now). Since he’s hopeless anyway, he sells it off, leaving himself only 3 months. They assign him an observer to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid, and now he must make peace with his life.
Yeah, this series is a bit of a downer. The original novel is by Sugaru Miaki, who seems to write a lot of stories in a similar style to this one. vgperson seems to be a pretty big fan, and is also the only reason that I can understand what’s going on in this story. The story of a man failing to find any real meaning in his life is definitely depressing, but I’m really hoping that it’ll end on some life-affirming note (I haven’t read the novel, so no spoilers).
The art’s good, though I do feel a bit bad for the artist who basically only ever gets to draw faces that are either emotionless or sad. Actually, one thing about the art that I’d like to give special attention to is how it’s used to drag the pace down. As you could probably guess by the summary, this is a slow, contemplative series. Not a lot of stuff happens, and it’s all heavily focused on human interactions. But instead of just showing panel after panel of dialogue or even inner monologue, every now and then the artist will just give us a break from all that with a few pages of nothing but backgrounds. Not only does this give us a break from all the words, but it also gives us time to stew on what’s just been said. This is a pretty heavy series, and it wants us to think about what’s on the page, so the background shots give us that opportunity.
I’m not sure if Viz has any slow, melancholy series like this, but I feel like it would be a good addition. It’s released monthly, and 6 chapters have been released in Japan as of this writing.
This is one of the series with no information that I’ve been able to find, so... have some more guesswork, I suppose. The main character of this fantasy series has a name that sounds similar to Reese, and he has a fairly simple goal: learn resurrection magic so he can bring someone back. It might be his girlfriend or something, I’m not 100% clear on that. In any case, there’s also a component of the story that’s somewhat similar to Who Killed the Sage?, where a murderer who steals peoples’ faces is on the loose and the royal guard is trying to track them down. Anne, a guard, arrests Reese for thievery before finding out that he has the ability to eat magic and can use the taste of it to identify people. Thus, their crime fighting adventures as guard and prisoner begin.
This is the newest series on this list, but it’s also the one that I’m most excited for each week. There’s a lot of potential here with the fantasy/crime setting, and they’re obviously setting something big up behind the scenes that will pay off later. Reese and Anne have great chemistry together and let’s be honest: wizards solving crimes together sounds like the coolest thing ever. I’m not entirely sure how this is all going to fit together; it kind of feels like the series is still finding its feet and trying to decide how exactly it wants to present itself. The Reese from the prologue is a very different Reese from the rest of the story so far, and I’m not sure how the two will be reconciled since it almost feels like it belongs in a completely different story.
I don’t have much to say about the art here, aside from the fact that it looks good and every now and then they turn some panels into colour when magic is being used, which is a neat effect. It also isn’t afraid to show the crime scenes and corpses. Not enough to feel disgusting or excessive, but it is unsettling to see faces removed and framed or bodies hanging inside of a pentagram. If you’re super sensitive to the occult or religious imagery, be warned though. Demons are real in this world, and some of the black magic that goes on in this world is a little similar to the black magic of our own world, with goat heads and pentagrams and the like making an appearance.
Overall, I’d say this is a pretty exciting story that moves along at a nice brisk pace, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going next. It’s released weekly, and 6 chapters have been released in Japan as of this writing.
Bonus Round: Black Night Parade
This is kind of cheating, since this isn’t actually a Jump Plus series but is instead in Young Jump, but they did put the entire first volume on Jump Plus for free just before the print release (like they do with many series, actually), so I’m counting it. Really, I just wanted to include this series because it’s by the author of Arakawa Under the Bridge (available on Crunchyroll Manga in full) and it’s topical, since we just had Christmas. Hino Miharu is a man working a dead end job at a convenience store on Christmas Eve, and he hates it. After his boss yells at him and he realizes that his obnoxious co-worker has a pretty girl to spend the evening with, he goes to sulk and a food stand.
Unfortunately for him, this food stand is run by the black Santa Claus (the one who gives bad children coal and pig intenstines), who promptly kidnaps him and takes him to the North Pole to work. There he learns that the red Santa Claus (who gives good childern presents) is dead, and the black Santa has taken over. Together with the strange cast of characters already working there, Hino must now prepare for next Christmas. The “red Santa is dead” will probably be super important later though.
Now, I haven’t read the author’s other work, Saint Young Men, but this series is basically Arakawa Under the Bridge but set at the North Pole and Christmas themed. Hino plays the straight man role just as well as Kou did, and of course has his own quirks, but even the side characters feel like they would fit in under the bridge. I particularly like Boushi-san, the North Pole’s training mascot, taskmaster, and actual hat with legs (“boushi” means hat, FYI). With hat-children that poop out complete 3DSs. It’s a wonderfully “Wha...?” moment like the ones that defined the entire run of Arakawa Under the Bridge. As you might expect with having the same artist/author, the art resembles Arakawa’s as well, especially the reaction faces.
Sadly, I have not been able to read anything but the first volume, which is why it needs to be licensed! It’s published on Young Jump, and as of this writing, 1 volume has been released in Japan.
There are a bunch of other series currently running in Shonen Jump Plus too, but these are the only ones that I’ve been able to read from the beginning. If you’re a fan of nudity and fanservice, Harem of the End is the most popular series on the app (and just published its second volume on New Year’s Eve). Fire Punch and Adam the Astroboy are popular in the action category, or there are spin-offs for My Hero Acadamia and Kuroko’s Basketball. There’s a whole wealth of completed series too, like Dead or Animation or Magical Pâtissière Kosaki-chan, the Nisekoi spin off that took over part of an episode of Nisekoi:, the second season of the anime. And one-shots galore.
So, Viz, keep up the good work, and don’t miss out on this chance to beef up your free catalogue.