Shounen Jump Addiction: Watching One Series For More Than 10 Years
Shounen Jump anime series are an ambiguous creature. They are the most popular anime ever created and are enjoying immense fan bases. On the other hand they are infamously filled with fillers, can be repetitive, are stretched across hundreds of episodes and at times suffer from low production quality. I’ve been watching Naruto for ten years now. I can’t stand fillers and have lost my passion for ninja action a long time ago. So how come I still watch Naruto and am enjoying it?
When One Piece started its broadcast way back in 2000 little probably thought it would become such a monster of a series, with over 500 episodes and counting. Two years later Naruto came along to stand side by side with One Piece and start a massive run of its own. When Naruto started in 2002 it had a really cool premise and was visually appealing enough to get me and my friends hooked. Years have passed and most of my friends have abandoned this anime for various reasons. There are many reasons to drop Shounen Jump series midway. They are full of nasty fillers that don’t contribute anything to the plot, usually the plot advances very slowly, there are other (less megalomanic) series out there craving your attention, and we are talking about long long shows here. Even a perfect show can run you down in the span of ten years, and Naruto isn’t that perfect. Let’s face it – most people who watch Shounen Jump series and enjoy them are subconsciously making a long time commitment to one show, an investment they won’t always look upon favorably in the future.
Of course regardless of any discontent we might have with them Shounen Jump series are still the most popular anime series out there. Long shows could not be sustained without loyal fan support and strong sales. So obviously series like One Piece and Naruto are at the top of their game and in an entire different league. Furthermore while I can’t exactly say every episode in Naruto made me squeal in delight here I am today, ten years after its initial airing, still watching it. I found myself fascinated by this fact and decided to search for the reasons which lead me to keep watching this series for so long. Below are the most prominent truths I found about this little “addiction” of mine.
The power to make everything exciting
I’m an open person who tends to give any series a chance. As such I seldom give series labels, regardless of their genre and target audience. But in the case of Shounen Jump series (that is, anime based on manga published in Shounen Jump magazine) one very obvious distinction can be made: These are series tailored to consume your time, their longevity countered with the never-ending burst of energy they contain. Whether it be the usual optimistic hero, an engrossing world to journey in or a plot that you find utterly mind-blowing; You will find things to draw you into Shounen Jump series and get addicted. It’s amazing how similar the core of all Shounen Jump series is, and yet they have proven themselves to possess a winning formula. One that others have mimicked and will continue trying to mimick. It has been said that shounen series can make any mundane chore an exciting journey full of discoveries and action. I can attest that this saying is the absolute truth. Whether it is a series about making pastries (Yakitate Japan) or a series about making Shounen Jump manga (Bakuman) the shounen genre has a way to captivate you and make you enjoy some things in life you never thought you would. Naruto is not different in that respect. The plot can be quit disappointing at times, but as long as the series continues to make skillful use of its shounen attributes it will continue to fascinate and draw people in.
A climax for the ages
You can say a lot of bad things about the progress, repetitiveness and conservativeness of Shounen Jump series, but when they reach a climax they deliver in spades. Unlike short series Shounen Jump series offer multiple climaxes. In fact each fan might consider a different moment or arc as the climax. Usually it’s an important battle between a hero and a villain. For me the battle between Naruto and Pain during the Pain arc of Naruto Shippuuden is THE climax of the series, the one I will remember and talk about even after the series ends. And I have such fond memories from other Shounen Jump series as well. That scene from Dragon Ball where Tao Pai Pai kills a officer from the Red Ribbon army with his tongue and the scenes in which Goku defeats Piccolo with only one arm (all his other limbs were broken) will remain engraved in my memory for many years to come. That is the power of a perfect, and sometimes insane, climax.
A place to return to
A Japanese friend of mine once told me he is addicted to One Piece because “it makes my wishes come true.” Although I haven’t yet had the pleasure of enjoying a Shounen Jump manga or anime as immensely as my Japanese friend I do find Shounen Jump series to be a stable place I can always return to. Like I said before I watch a lot of anime all year long. Series begin and end each season, and every time they do I need to get used to new characters, a new plot and a new timeslot. It isn’t that much of a hustle to do all that. But as the years pass and the seasons change the fact that Naruto is always there makes it an alluring “distraction” to other series. If I watch this series I don’t need to get used to new things. I already know these characters, have watched enough to know where the plot is heading and, most importantly, know what to expect and will not find myself disappointed by the end of the season . This quality in Naruto (and most other Shounen Jump series) is both a merit and a demerit. You don’t always want things to remain the same, and I do sometimes wish for an earth-shattering change in the scope of the series, but I have other series that offer me that. I always know what to expect from Naruto so to me it became a sort of safe bet. Even though it will never turn my world upside down it entertains me and will not disappoint me in the long run. So even when I tire of it and “spread my wings” into other genres and other stories I do so knowing I can always jump right back into Naruto and pick up from where I left off.
A beginning with a true ending
There’s nothing as disappointing as watching a long series only to be given an open ending with an invisible underlined sentence proclaiming “to be continued in the manga!”
If I wanted to read the manga, I’d read the manga. But whenever I invest (yes, invest. Not waste) time in an action series I’d like to see it to its real end. Realistically speaking this isn’t always financially possible for the studio and the published behind the series. But Shounen Jump is different. That magazine has the power to make this happen, no matter how many seasons and how many episodes might pass until the ending finally arrives. Sure, they use foul things like fillers with inferior animation to compensate the longer runtime, but as the viewers we are entitled to the choice whether or not to watch these fillers. And believe it or not, some series can make their fillers substantial to the plot. Just look at series like 1999s Hunter x Hunter. That series relied very little on fillers and used them so wisely I bet you never even knew you were watching them unless you already read the manga. So yes, longevity comes with a price. But I’d rather have fillers to deal with (or pass on) and have a complete series rather than having to migrate to a black and white format with no animation halfway through a series.
A comfort watch
Ninja’s who jump from tree to tree, Pirates who sail the seven seas, a goofy bunch who collect dragon balls; Sometimes you need a simple action-flavored series to take your minds off from the more complicated things in your life. Or perhaps you’ve just finished a very serious anime and want some mindless entertainment? Either way Shounen Jump series are here to provide you with easy to follow flashy entertainment. It might not win the Oscar (which is way overrated by the way) but not everything you watch must be exceptional or esoteric just to be appreciated. A smart person knows how to enjoy the little things in life. And that includes that seemingly insignificant yet rewarding Shounen Jump series you’ve been watching every once in a while.