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Recently I started to seriously read digital manga in Japanese by utilizing their free-reading (立ち読み: read while standing) feature for some first chapters. Then I realized that some serieses use furigana on all kanji, and the rest only on some difficult/rare kanji.

Furigana on all kanji

  • Air Gear

    furigana on all kanji in Air Gear

  • Attack on Titan

    furigana on all kanji in Attack on Titan

Furigana on some kanji

  • Kaiji (furigana on itazura)

    1 furigana on Kaiji: itazura

  • Mushishi (furigana on igyou and mushi)

    2 furigana on Mushishi: igyou, mushi

So, who decides the usage of furigana in a manga? Is it the author's preference, or is it decided by the publisher?

Note: in this case, it's about furigana used for standard reading, not on its artistic usage/alternative reading/pun.

  • Additional case: on one manga that I forgot the title currently, all kanji inside the dialog box has its furigana, but the kanji used on a sign/building doesn't. – Aki Tanaka May 30 '17 at 0:37
  • I believe it's essentially determined by the media the the manga is original published in. Just like how the content of the manga needs to be age appropriate to for the target demographic, so does the use of furigana. Any one not in their teens is going to have difficulty reading manga without it. – Ross Ridge May 31 '17 at 7:56
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Ross Ridge's comment is correct.

Each manga magazine has target audience. It's usually categorized into 6 sections, by ages and gender: 少年 (boys), 少女 (girls), 青年 (youngs), レディース (ladies), 女性 (female), 男性 (male).

Boys and girls are "officially" targeted for elementary school students. Youngs and ladies are for the teen.

For boys or girls category, like Jump, "magazine" or Sunday, they always use furigana. Publisher enforces it and doesn't allow furigana in furigana (example: using kanji 二律背反 as furigana to ジレンマ (dilemma), because the kanji also needs furigana). In your example, Air Gear and Attack on Titan came from "magazine", they always have furigana.

For Youngs category, they use furigana for difficult kanji only or the first time it's used. Kaiji is published in Young Magazine and Mushishi is published in Afternoon and both are ok to not include furigana.

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    It just meaning can't use kanji in furigana. In shonen manga, can't add furigana "二律背反" to text "ジレンマ". becase can't add furigana to furigana. reverse is fine: add furigana "ジレンマ" to "二律背反". – kumagoro Jun 3 '17 at 5:13

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