Major Japanese manga publisher Shuesha has announced that they are entering the webtoon market with their own dedicated offering – Jump Toon – in 2024. In addition Shuesha has opened a competition to scout new talent.
— ジャンプTOON (@jumptoon_offl) May 30, 2023
While manga may be selling more than it ever has before worldwide, there have been concerns at home in Japan about the threat of webtoons – comics read vertically on smartphones. Already some publishers have been looking into ways to capitalise on the vertical scroll format – such as the in-development Bandana Comic service, a joint venture between Bandai, Bandai Namco Filmworks, and vertical manga production studio Echoes, expected to launch late 2023. But that is small potatoes when compared to Shuesha – the big daddy of Japan’s manga industry choosing to get involved.
Shuesha is Japan’s largest publishing company – it publishes magazines, books and, most famously, manga. It is the owner of Shonen Jump and the plethora of IP that has sprung forth from it, from Naruto to Chainsaw Man. For Shuesha to commit to creating its own vertical comics service in Japan could be an indication that the manga industry is taking the rise of South Korean webtoons as a serious threat.
On top of the announcement of the Jump Toon app, Shuesha has also introduced the Jump Toon Award, a talent scouting prize where the grand winner receives ¥1million (just over $7000) and is guaranteed to be serialised on Jump Toon, as well as the prize winning work published on Shuesha’s traditional manga digital exclusive service Shonen Jump+. Runners up will also receive prize money with the top two finalists getting published on Jump Toon – with no guarantee of series order. The application period ends August 31, 2023 with the results to be declared in October. Such awards have commonly been used in the past to scout for new creators in Shonen Jump and other traditional manga anthology magazines in Japan.
On the competition page (via Google Translate)
“Vertically-reading manga is now producing hits of individually-produced vertically-reading manga. Make it easy to read by scrolling down on your smartphone. That is the only element necessary for vertical reading manga. 4-panel manga is also a vertical reading manga. [We] think that a series of panels that are just cut horizontally is also a vertical reading manga. We look forward to your submissions that want to challenge new manga expressions.”
The inaugural Jump Toon prize will be judged by Jump Toon’s new editor in chief Takanori Asada – who has previously worked on hit manga One Piece and Bleach, as well as webtoon producer and distributor Red Seven Co’s representative director Lee Hyun Suk.
In the US there has been limited buy in on the webtoon format by traditional publishers. Marvel has incorporated the webtoon style into its Marvel Unlimited subscription platform under the Infinite Comics imprint. DC meanwhile has partnered with leading platform Webtoon to produce a number of series – most successful of which has been the weekly series Batman: Wayne Family Adventures. Archie Comics have done similar to DC, partnering with Webtoon to produce Big Ethel Energy.