6 Manga Magazines Published by Kodansha and Their Best Works

Kodansha is a Japanese privately-held publishing company headquartered in Bunkyō, Tokyo.

Kodansha is the largest Japanese publishing company, and it produces the manga magazines Nakayoshi, Afternoon, Evening, Weekly Shōnen Magazine and Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine, as well as the more literary magazines Gunzō, Shūkan Gendai, and the Japanese dictionary Nihongo Daijiten. 

Kodansha was founded by Seiji Noma in 1910, and members of his family continue as its owners either directly or through the Noma Cultural Foundation. 

1. Weekly Shōnen Magazine

Weekly Shōnen Magazine or Shūkan Shōnen Magajin is a weekly shōnen manga anthology published on Wednesdays by Kodansha, first published on March 17, 1959.

The magazine is mainly read by an older audience, with a significant portion of its readership falling under the male high school or college student demographic.

According to circulation figures accumulated by the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association, the magazine’s circulation has dropped in every quarter since records were first collected in April–June 2008. This is, however, not an isolated occurrence as digital media continues to be on the rise.

It is one of the best-selling manga magazines. By March 2008, the magazine had 2,942 issues, having sold 4.55 billion copies, with an average weekly circulation of 1,546,567. At an average issue price of ¥129 ($1.29), the magazine had generated approximately ¥590 billion ($5.9 billion) in sales revenue by March 2008. In addition, about 1 billion compiled tankōbon volumes had been sold by March 2008.

Jason Thompson stated that it is “more down-to-earth, as well as just a tad more guy-oriented” compared to Weekly Shōnen Jump and likened this magazine to “more like something you’d find in the guys’ locker room.”

The Weekly Shōnen Magazine achieved success in the 1970s and subsequently had increased sales. As a result, it became the top-selling manga magazine in Japan of its period, appearing popular amongst many otaku.

But the position was later occupied by Weekly Shōnen Jump, when this competitor was born in 1968, knocking Shōnen Magazine off the top spot. Shōnen Jump had begun to circulate and dominate the manga magazine market. This started from the 1970s and continued throughout the 1990s, owed mainly to Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball.

In the middle of the 1990s, Shōnen Jump suffered the loss of Dragon Ball, as the franchise had come to an end in 1996, and thus lost much of its readership.

Shōnen Magazine had now made a comeback in October 1997, regaining its original position as the top-selling manga magazine of its day until this was brokered in 2002.

Currently, the two magazines have competed closely in terms of market circulation. Sales of the two magazines now remain very close. Circulation has dropped below two million. 

In a rare event due to the closeness of the two magazine’s founding dates, Weekly Shōnen Magazine and Weekly Shōnen Sunday released a special combined issue on March 19, 2008. In addition, other commemorative events, merchandise, and manga crossovers were planned for the following year as part of the celebrations.

Others include Shōnen Magazine, published by Kobunsha of the same Kodansha group. Shōnen Magazine famously serialized Tetsujin 28-go, the first mecha anime from July 1956 to May 1966. 

Best manga:

  • GeGeGe no Kitarō by Shigeru Mizuki
  • Ashita no Joe by Tetsuya Chiba, Asao Takamori
  • Hajime no Ippo by George Morikawa 
  • Rave Master by Hiro Mashima
  • Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle by CLAMP
  • Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura
  • Ace of Diamond by Yuji Terajima
  • Rent-A-Girlfriend by Reiji Miyajima
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets by Negi Haruba

2. Nakayoshi

Nakayoshi, meaning “Good Friends,” is a monthly shōjo manga magazine published by Kodansha in Japan.

First issued in December 1954, it is a long-running magazine with over 60 years of manga publication history. Notable titles serialized in Nakayoshi include Princess Knight, Candy Candy, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. The target demographic for Nakayoshi is teenage girls.

Roughly the size of a phone book (hence the term “phone book manga”), the magazine generally comes with furoku, or small gifts, such as pop-out figures, games, small bags, posters, stickers, and so on.

The furoku is an attempt to encourage girls to buy their own copies of the magazine rather than just share with a friend.

It is one of the best-selling shōjo manga magazines, having sold over 400 million copies since 1978. In the mid-1990s, Nakayoshi retailed for 400 yen and had an average of 448 pages.

The estimated average circulation of Nakayoshi at this time was 1,800,000. Its circulation peaked at 2,100,000 in 1993. In 2007, its circulation was 400,000.

During the 1990s, then editor-in-chief, Yoshio Irie attempted to move the magazine away from “first love” stories and introduced several fantasy manga such as Sailor Moon.

During that period, Nakayoshi pursued a “media-mix” campaign, which involved close coordination of the magazine, anime productions based on the manga, and character merchandising. Nakayoshi is also published on the 6th of each month.

3. Weekly Young Magazine

Weekly Young Magazine is a Japanese weekly anthology magazine published in Tokyo each Monday by Kodansha. The magazine was started on June 23, 1980 and is targeted at the adult male (seinen) demographic. 

It was published bimonthly (under the title Young Magazine), on the second and fourth Mondays of every month, until switching to a weekly publication in 1989.

The chapters of the series that run in Weekly Young Magazine are collected and published in tankōbon volumes under the “YoungKC” imprint every four months.

The magazine usually features color photos of pinup girl gravure idols on the cover and first few pages of each issue.

Since December 9, 2009, Kodansha has published a monthly sister magazine, Monthly Young Magazine, a retitled makeover of their previous publication Bessatsu Young Magazine, which had published a total of 36 bimonthly issues during its existence.

Best manga:

  •  Akira by Katsuhiro Ōtomo (1982–1990)
  • Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor by Masamune Shirow (1991–1996)
  • Initial D by Shuichi Shigeno (1995–2013)
  • xxxHolic by CLAMP (2003–2011)

4. Afternoon

Monthly Afternoon is a Japanese monthly seinen manga anthology published by Kodansha under the Afternoon line of magazines. The first issue was released with a cover date of January 25, 1986.

Afternoon has spawned many successful seinen manga series such as Oh My Goddess!, Genshiken, Blade of the Immortal and Big Windup!

It is part of Kodansha’s “1day” series, which also includes the magazines Morning and Evening. A spin-off magazine, named good! Afternoon, started publishing on November 7, 2008.

5. Evening 

Evening is a bi-weekly Japanese seinen manga magazine published by Kodansha, aimed at adult men. 

It is printed in black and white on newsprint and saddle-stapled in B5 format, and retails for 380 yen. Circulation was reported by the Japan Magazine Publishers Association at 115,617 copies in 2015.

Best manga:

  • Inuyashiki by Hiroya Oku
  • Deathtopia by Yoshinobu Yamada

6. Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine

Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine is a Japanese monthly manga magazine published by Kōdansha.

The magazine was started in September 2009 as a spin-off of another Kōdansha magazine, Weekly Shōnen Magazine.

Best manga:

  • Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
  • ×××Holic by Clamp (moved from Weekly Young Magazine)
  • Aho-Girl by Hiroyuki (moved from Weekly Shōnen Magazine)
  • The Heroic Legend of Arslan by Yoshiki Tanaka, Hiromu Arakawa
  • Tomodachi Game by Mikoto Yamaguchi, Yuki Sato 

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