PopCultureShock >

Manga Reviews: Yen+ Magazine

Posted by: Erin F. on August 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Mini-reviews of: Soul Eater, Nabari No Ou, Sumomomo Momomo, Bamboo Blade, Higurashi When They Cry, Maximum Ride, Nightschool , Pig Bride, Sarasah, One Fine Day, and Jack Frost

Yen+, Vol. 1

Published by Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen

yenplus1.gifOne thing I was looking forward to at San Diego (besides a color copy of Faust, which wasn’t ready yet) was the first issue of Yen+ magazine from Yen Press. The publisher was just giving them away, a palette load per day.

On the surface, there are a few major differences between Yen’s magazine and Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat. Unlike the colorful tints of Shojo Beat, the magazine uses entirely black inks, making it a little hard to find the chapters you’re looking for.

Second, there’s the price. $9.99 per issue with a year’s subscription clocking in at $49.95. Ouch! Shojo Beat sets me back just $34.99 per year (or $5.99 in stores), but then, it has about seven titles to the Yen+‘s 11. I would almost sooner pick up Yen+ on the newsstand than shell out $50 at once… maybe if it was two easy payments of $25?

The third major departure is the inclusion of OEL and manhwa titles. The magazine reads left-to-right with English and Korean titles in the front and right-to-left with Japanese titles from the back. In the middle is a “Stop!” page with instructions. The table of contents is a little hard to find – I’d like to see the contents listed in both the “back” and the “front” if possible.

The fourth significant difference is that Yen’s magazine is rated “Older Teen”. Skewing older than Jump (Teen) but about the same age as Beat (Teen Plus), Yen+ is filled with panty shots, nipple-less breasts (Soul Eater) and at least one decapitation. I didn’t notice the age rating at first and was kinda surprised. I wonder how librarians will shelve this one…?

Yen+ includes translation notes pretty consistently after each chapter – Thumbs up!

The final great big difference between Yen+ and Shonen Jump is that heretofore Jump showcases licensed anime tie-in titles on the front cover. Yen+ features five manga titles which all have related anime series, but only one of those anime series is currently available on DVD in the U.S. The others (except Higurashi) have not had an announced solicitation by American companies, and are, as of this very moment, widely available from your usual gray-market fansub websites.

When Jump launched in the States (2002) this seemed like the natural order of the universe – first the anime gets imported, then the manga. Now, in 2008, the anime import market is collapsing awkwardly in on itself, and in this post-manga-boom universe the manga is more likely to be imported before the anime. In some cases (The Wallflower, S.A. Special A, Suzuka, and others) manga titles debut in the States just before the anime airs on TV in Japan, so properties appear on the market post-scanslation but pre-fansubbing.

Let’s take a look at the titles:

SOUL EATER By Atsushi Ohkubo

    Currently airing on TV in Japan to the tune of a 51 episode show, 17 episodes have aired to date to the delight of anime bloggers around the world. At the Yen Press panel and at the booth fans asked the most about Soul Eater. According to Kurt Hassler the anime is in the middle of a vicious bidding war.

    Chapter one introduces us to Hermione-look-alike Maka and her human/weapon named Soul, who can transform between human-form and the form of a scythe. Maka and Soul are attempting to eat their 100th soul – the soul of a witch, so Soul can become “The Death Scythe”.

    One doesn’t really read or watch Soul Eater for the plot so much as the interesting design sense. For example, the ever-present crescent moon grins with a bleeding mouth. And by “art design” I might mean “fan service” – we get to see Hermione’s panties and the witch’s [huge, nipple-less] breasts a few times.

    Soul Eater isn’t really for me, but I like to keep up with what the kids are into nowadays. I’m not watching the anime any time soon, but I’d read this if I subscribed.

NABARI NO OU By Yuhki Kamatani

    What if there were ninjas, like, in real life?! Miharu Rokujo is aggressively recruited to join the school Ninpo club by a classmate and one of his teachers. Miharu has no interest in ninjitsu, but he just might have tons of secret awesome powers inside him that he’s not aware of yet. Plus, he might have to join, since people are out to kill him.

    This title gets bonus Erin-points for having the protagonist’s family own an okonomiyaki shop. I super-love okonomiyaki (maybe I’d rather read food manga than ninja manga). Doe-eyed Miharu is cute enough – for your doujinshi!

    Seventeen episodes of the 26-episode anime series have aired in Japan so far.

SUMOMOMO MOMOMO by Shinobu Ohtaka

    Based on the pun “Sumomo mo momo mo momo no uchi” – “Plums and peaches are part of the peach family,” all 22 episodes of the Sumomomo Momomo anime aired in 2006 and 2007.Momoko Kuzuryuu and Koushi Inuzuka are the heirs to two martial arts families. Momoko’s father tells her she can never master her family’s ultimate technique on account of being a girl – she must focus on giving birth to a strong offspring instead! Momoko takes this to heart and sets off to make love to Koushi, son of the rival martial art school. Koushi, however, is not interested in karate – he’s studying to be a lawyer.

    I am extremely amused at the way Koushi quotes stalker laws to Momoko and quotes extortion laws at his bullies. However, we not amused by Momoko’s many panty shots, since she looks quite young. It’s clear from Momoko’s reading of sex ed text books (in the middle of a public street) that she’s not really sure what sex is.

    So far I was more entertained by the first chapter of the manga than I was by the first episode of the anime series.

BAMBOO BLADE Story by Masahiro Totsuka, Art by Aguri Igarashi

    I try to avoid netspeak in this forum, but seriously, “OMG GIRLS KENDO SPORTS SERIES!” The focus is on the coach, a starving teacher who makes a bet that if his girls’ team can beat a rival coach, he’ll win free sushi for a year.I badly want to read about girls sports teams – especially crazy sports like kendo. However, if this turns out to be some kind of moe harem thing I’m out. It better not be to kendo what Suzuka is to track and field!

    The 26 episode anime series started airing in 2007 and wrapped up last March. This means one thing: The entire series is available as one convenient batch torrent.

HIGURASHI: WHEN THEY CRY story by Ryukishi07

    Higurashi started off as a visual novel game and has since been spun-off into light novels, drama CDs, two anime TV series totaling 50 episodes plus a few OVAs, and a live-actiton film in Japan. The first of the two anime series, “When They Cry,” is available on DVD Stateside. Higurashi may not be the most hugely popular anime title, but it is the most recognizable title in Yen+.Transfer student Keiichi moves to a sleepy small town where he happily attends the equivalent of a one-room school house with a bunch of cute girls. In fact, the girls are a little too cute, all hardly more than moe-stereotypes, making Keiichi the heir apparent to what would be a harem series – that is, if the town wasn’t hiding a sinister secret!

    It’s my understanding that Higurashi is some kind of ultra-violent murder mystery. If that’s the case, I would like more murder mystery and less harem antics.

Flipping the magazine over, let’s look at the other titles:

yenplus2.gif MAXIMUM RIDE Story by James Patterson, Art by NaRae Lee

    Based on the best-selling young adult novels by James Patterson, Maximum Ride is about a group of science-experiment run-away teens who are 2% bird, meaning they have wings. The youngest of the group, Angel, gets kidnapped by wolf-human Erasers in this well-drawn adaptation.The characters are designed well, but I couldn’t get over the dialog or the character’s names. Angel? Fang? Seriously? Fang?

NIGHTSCHOOL By Svetlana Chmakova

    When I heard about the premise of Dramacon author Sventlana’s next title, I was worried it sounded too much like Vampire Knight – both are about schools with a night class of vampires. I really don’t like Vampire Knight, although I know it has a ton of fans. Fortunately Nightschool appears to have a little more depth to it from the first chapter.Svetlana has not altered her style from Dramacon, and many of the characters are reminiscent of her previous serious.

    Nightschool seems very ambitious and adventurous, with a huge cast. I wonder how many volumes it’s scheduled to run, and I wonder if Sventlana will be able to keep up with such an ambitious schedule.

PIG BRIDE By KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim

    When Si-Joon was a child, he wandered into the mountains where strange out-of-time characters in Korean dress force him to marry a little girl wearing a pig mask. The girl allows Si-Joon to escape but vows to return on his 16th birthday. Cut to present day, when Si-Joon is a hottie 16-year-old who believes his mountain adventures were just a dream – until the pig bride shows up!

    I really like that Pig Bride centers around a [supposedly] traditional Korean folk tale. I was drawn to Dokebi Bride because of it’s Korean-ness, and Pig Bride delivers on the Korean front, except with better art and paneling, and it’s a comedy. I look forward to seeing where it’s going with this.

SARASAH By Ryan Ruy

    Unannounced before SDCC, Sarasah is another Korean title. Ji-Hae has been stalking her crush Seung-Hyu for a year and a half, and things are getting out of hand when Seung-Hyu accidently shoves Ji-Hae down the school stairs, ending her life. The chapter leaves off with the death of the protagonist, but I learned at the Yen panel that after her untimely death Ji-Hae is given a second chance at life two years in thet past wherein she vows to make Seung-Hyu fall in love with her rather than kill her.

    The art reminded me a little of the DramaQueen’s DVD or Boy Princess from Netcomics, with thick black eye lines and smudgy lips. I liked Ji-Hae as a crazy love-sick stalker, and I’m intrigued by the plot. The title seems like it’s a romance strictly for girls, which is a little weird in the same magazine as Soul Eater.

ONE FINE DAY By Sirial

    From weird to weirder, One Fine Day is an incredibly cute yet abstract story about a wizard with a pet dog, cat, and mouse who often appear as children wearing animal-eared pajamas. I don’t think we learn the man is a wizard in this chapter – I’m quoting the Yen panel. Maybe he’s not a wizard. Look, the point is, they eat some cookies.

    It’s hard to say what’s going on in One Fine Day because it’s a sledgehammer of cute to the face, knocking out all critical analysis skills and narrative comparison. I still haven’t really recovered.

JACK FROST By JinHo Ko

    The polar opposite of the previous title, Jack Frost is a dark tale told primarily from the perspective of a girl’s severed head in this chapter. Transfer student Noh-A Joo thinks something is really wrong with her new very dimly lit school and creepy classmates at Amityville High, and as she is decapitated after introducing herself, she feels vindicated that she was right. Something is weird about this school!

    The chapter wraps up with something about a vampire fight and a lot of panties. The severed head chick survives! I’m sure it’ll be a big hit with teenagers. There’s a Hellsing gun rip-off! I wouldn’t avoid the next chapter.

Volume one of Yen+ is available now.

del.icio.us Digg Facebook Technorati StumbleUpon TwitThis Yahoo! Buzz

14 Responses to "Manga Reviews: Yen+ Magazine"

1 | Michelle Smith

August 1st, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Avatar

Thanks for the thorough review! This line cracked me up: “Look, the point is, they eat some cookies.”

2 | Erin

August 3rd, 2008 at 12:26 am

Avatar

“It better not be to kendo what Suzuka is to track and field!”

…You have no idea how much that sentence disturbed me. Simply because, having seen both Suzuka and Bamboo Blade in their animated form, the two series could not be more different. I never, ever would have put the two of them in the same category. No moe harem, no ridiculous angst-filled drama (at least not until the anime-original plot kicked in), and just all kinds of wonderful. It’s more slice-of-life than it is a sports anime/manga, but that doesn’t mean it’s not awesome.

3 | Miki

August 4th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Avatar

Really….? The guy in One Fine Day was a wizard?

I was under the impression that when we’re in the pets’ point of view, they become children and so we get to understand them. When we switch to the guy, they become pets who obviously can not talk. And some of the weirder antics were the pets’ imagination (like the viper wine). It was the only way for it to make sense to me, because the pets’ forms kept changing.

This one’s super cute and fun, even though I can’t understand half a thing.

4 | gia

August 5th, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Avatar

I’m with Erin-of-the-comments: you have nothing to fear for Bamboo Blade. If the anime is any indication, the focus swaps to the girls themselves in short order.

Also, I’ve talked with a few people about the wiiiiide variety of titles in Yen+, as you mentioned (Soul Eater, Sarasah, One Fine Day, Jack Frost!). I think it could make the magazine tougher to market, but personally I really enjoy it, as I have a wide variety of tastes. What Yen’s done is made a magazine that pretty well guarantees that anyone who picks it up will probably like at least ONE title (though they’re likely to dislike one as well– in my case, I like all of them except Higurashi).

And then they made it so that the only (legal) way you can get those series is through the magazine; the collected format won’t come out until the magazine’s published enough chapters. That’s a fact I’m less than excited about but am kind of writing off as an unfortunate necessity, at least for now.

5 | Erin F.

August 5th, 2008 at 6:26 pm

Avatar

@Miki: Maybe he’s not a wizard? I was going off my notes from Sunday at Comic Con.

@Erin: I didn’t really think it would be like Suzuka, but I really, really want to read a track and field manga that is really about track!

@gia: I agree that the magazine’s diversity is an advantage in the American marketplace. At the Shojo Beat panel there was a big show of hangs when the editors asked if readers preferred diverse themes in the magazine.

6 | Jack

August 6th, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Avatar

I Liked the korean/OEL side, but I highly disliked the japanese side. Maybe it’s because the korean/OEL side was abundant with romance and flowers and cookies, while the japanese side was full of testosterone.

7 | Harry

August 10th, 2008 at 12:24 am

Avatar

I personally have a copy of Yen+ (that I picked up today at the bookstore) and I am greatly impressed with it. I have seen a majority of these titles before they became main stream in the U.S. and I think this is an excellent balance to have for a magazine.

I am impressed with the Korean side but I was amazed at how Yen was able to get the rights to Higurashi, Soul Eater and Sumomomo, Momomo simply because they seemed to be instant hints. In a way I think the Japanese otaku crazed culture were responsible for this event but I look forward to more issues of this magazine.

Also to note. It is about time Viz media got some competition again and I am happy Sqaure-Enix was willing to step into the moment. I was sad when they destroyed Raijin comics but we all knew a weekly comic would not work in the U.S. because of the size of our country. I simply hope Yen+ is successful because I am getting sick of everlasting comics like Bleach, Naruto and Crimson Tide get all this buzz when equally good comics receive none unless someone advises someone to look it up. I look forward to every issue. I also look forward to convincing someone else to buy them will I read! Anything to save the price!

8 | Krys Mitchel (last name not important)

August 16th, 2008 at 3:53 am

Avatar

Nice comments. The line ” Look, the point is, they eat some cookies” made me laugh too. It’s something that me and my friends would enjoy. It’s also the way I sometimes talk. I really like yen+. It’s so awesome. I’m not even shy of buying it and am waiting with anticipation for the next book. Keep up the great work.

9 | Paige

August 21st, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Avatar

For the names in Maximum Ride they not really weird. Maximum Ride is a book, that (it doesn’t say this) but after the escape the facility where they were created they chose their own names which they never had before.Duh Duh Duhhhh

10 | arielle rowson

August 31st, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Avatar

I love this magazine! its the best magazine in the world!

11 | madison

September 1st, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Avatar

i love this magazine i loved higurashi, sumomo momomo, soul eater, MAXIMUM RIDE, SARASAH, pig bride, one fine day, and jack frost.

12 | ashley

November 24th, 2008 at 6:54 am

Avatar

i really really like the pig bride and nabari no ou!! it keeps my heart pump in excitement… squeekes in delight!!!

13 | ashley

November 24th, 2008 at 6:58 am

Avatar

hey can anyone tell me where can i read the pig bride online??

rather than buying this magazine (:-o)

14 | ashley

November 24th, 2008 at 7:03 am

Avatar

jack frost reminds me hellsing a lot!! it seems that the characters were just like identical twins.