Shojo Beat Finds Its Groove

Shojo Beat, the sister anthology magazine to Shonen Jump has been going through a lot ofsbcover30.jpg changes lately. Of the six manga that started the magazine, only two remain. The rest were graduated out for one reason or another. But, with the line up they’ve got now, I think the magazine has finally found a good balance of titles that really make it shine.

To start off the December issue of Shojo Beat, we are treated to a preview of a new manga; High School Debut. Reading the short description didn’t enthuse me to the title. A girl just starting in high school wants to get a boyfriend, so she finds another guy to coach her. Blah. I really wasn’t interested in another “girl wants boyfriend like in manga” story. But, as usual, I read the preview anyway, and was pleasantly surprised. Haruna, the heroine, wasn’t too annoying in her pursuit to bag a boy. But it was Yoh, the boy who knows just what a boy will like in a girl, that really endeared me to this preview. He has a sharp tongue and really doesn’t care what people think. He reminds me a lot of Kiri from Beauty Pop, another character that I just love. I think if I didn’t already have so many titles to read this would be a good one to pick up.

Haruka – Beyond the Stream of Time – This is chapter 3. I wanted to give it a couple of chapters before making a judgment. After this chapter though, I definitely like it. I love stories set in the past, and this one is in the Heian period. Akane and two of her male friends, Shimon and Tenma have been pulled back in time by a demon, Akram. It seems Akane is the chosen Priestess of the Dragon God, and must lead the people in this ancient time against the Demon Clan that wishes to destroy them. This is a shojo with a lot of bishonen surrounding one girl, though not necessarily because they are infatuated by her. This series is based on a computer game and is part of a genre called Neo Romance. La Corda d’Oro is also from this genre, another series I really like. So, I’m expecting good things from this. The art is nice, and the guys are hot, always a good combination.

Honey and Clover – I heard good things about this series for a while now. Those lucky enough to be able to read Japanese had lots of praise for it. It’s a slice of life mixed with romance. The main characters are all art students at an art college. It begins by introducing a Yuta Takemoto, a sophomore architectural student new to the dorm as well as Hagumi Hanamoto, the cousin of Professor Hanamoto, who is friends with the members of the dorm. Yuta is immediately taken by the small Hagumi, but so is Shinobu Morita, a senior who’s been at the college for 6 years, and still seems no closer to graduating. This story is intended for an older audience, so there isn’t any angsty drama going on. It’s college students dealing with college type problems; classes, homework, work, money, food, and relationships. It’s a good cast, giving a variety of situations. There’s no saving the world or anything. Just a nice slow pace to watch the world go by. I really enjoy this one too.

Sand Chronicles – This series won the 2005 Shogakukan Manga Award for Shojo, so you would have high expectations for it. So far, it’s been living up to that expectation. It’s about a girl named Ann uekusa. The story is told like a flashback, as she is remembering this time in her life. Her father left her and her mother after acumulating a large debt, so they are forced to return to Ann’s grandmother’s home. Ann’s mother, unable to take the pressure of living there and with her mother commits suicide and leaves Ann in her grandmother’s care. Ann, a city girl, now has to get used to life in the country, where everyone knows everything about everyone, and things are done very differently. Like Nana, which is told in the same narrative voice, it’s easy to get sucked into this story. The mangaka really knows how to pull the reader’s emotional strings, making you really start to care about the characters, and feel what they feel. As much as I hate to be seen crying over a manga, this one has succeeded to get some tears out of me so far. It’s a great story.

Of the remaining ongoing titles, only Crimson Hero still holds some interest for me. As much as I don’t care for sports manga or high school dramas, this one is able to balance the two to such a point that I don’t mind reading it and sometimes actually enjoy it. You can check out my review of volume 7 here. Nobara has gone off to learn from Ryo, who she believes is on Central Sokai’s volleyball team. It turns out he’s been playing beach volleyball, but he still takes Nobara in and tries to help her get better. But it’s not her technique that’s the problem. She’s got some heavy emotional baggage that’s keeping her down… Vampire Knight started out a mess and hasn’t improved with time. Intrigues are abound now with Yuki being sucked in (literally some times). Everyone has a chess board and Yuki is their favorite pawn. And now the story ends with a surprise that really anyone could have seen coming from miles away. Read at your own risk. Absolute Boyfriend, besides Crimson Hero, is the only other title left from Shojo Beat‘s debut. This six volume story could have, and should have been told in just 3. Riiko is annoying and wishy-washy. I didn’t like her from the start, and nothing’s changed. She’s finally chosen who she’s in love with (after 30 chapters) and it’s the wrong choice (imho). But, of course, Kronos Heaven has to continue to interfere and try and take Night back. Thankfully, this series is nearly over. Volume 5 is out in January, and Volume 6 will be out in May. Hopefully, this spot will be filled with a decent series that won’t make me go “uhg”. Shojo Beat has been doing good so far, I hope they keep up the trend.

I don’t read a lot of the articles in the magazine, because they aren’t aimed at me. They are aimed at a much younger audience. There’s the occasional article on culture that will catch my interest, or some of the manga spotlights I’ll like. But I really read it for the manga. Being an anthology means there’s going to be some titles I like less than others, but on the whole, Shojo Beat is a great buy. And you never know, you be surprised that something you thought you wouldn’t like actually turns out to be your new favorite!

9 thoughts on “Shojo Beat Finds Its Groove”

  1. One of the things I like best about Shojo Beat is that the “lifestyle” articles seem appropriate for teenagers. Unlike so many other girls’ magazines, Shojo Beat isn’t encouraging fourteen-year-olds to pester their parents for expensive designer clothing or bags, nor is it bombarding them with Cosmo Jr. dating tips. I would have been all OVER those “make a handbag from an old book” articles when I was in high school!

  2. Yeah, it’s the absent of the “Cosmo Jr.” stuff that keeps the magazine just palatable for the “old lady readers”. I would have been all over the cooking, fashion and craft ideas when I was in high school too, when I had the time and money to do those things. I would just like to have a bone tossed to me every once in a while. πŸ™‚

  3. I also initially rolled my eyes at the High School Debut preview, but like yourself found that it actually was not the same old same old and upon the arrival of volume one I was thrilled. It is genuinely funny. Passing it along to my 17 year old daughter met with the same appraisal. Definately a shojo that has promise.

    Crimson Hero is the story that I have to tear into first to find out what comes next. For all the shojo high school sports dramas that have been dropped on us, this one actually talks about the sport and the reader gets sucked into wanting to know what will happen next for our favorite characters.

    Sand Chronicles and Honey & Clover are delightful additions and I am hopeful that whatever replaces Absolute Boyfriend, it isn’t so hard on the eyes as Vampire Knight…

    **I’m still weeping that they removed God Child and when a gothic theme returned to the pages it was another highschool drama, with dreadfully over fussy art and ….well you said it best….a mess.

  4. I wasn’t too thrilled that they took out Godchild either. The only thing that really kept me reading after that was Nana. I’m glad I waited it out. I’m actually kind of hoping that they serialize Fairy Cube, another Kaori Yuki series that Viz licensed. It’s only 4 volumes, so I can only hope that it will take Absolute Boyfriend’s place.

  5. Fairy Cube would be a nice…so long as they don’t do what they did with Backstage Prince ~ publish all but the last chapter or two… and then suggest you go buy the manga…. (not that you knew that until after the 2nd and last volume arrived).

    I did buy the manga because I enjoyed the story, not because they were leaving it a cliffhanger ~ but it annoyed me enormously that they would pull that kind of sales tactic on us. Bad form SB, bad form.

  6. I didn’t know they did that! I must have missed that or blocked it because I didn’t believe anyone could be so greedy. Guess I was wrong. πŸ˜› I really don’t need to buy more manga, but I’ll need to see how the series ends…

    And if they do pull that with another series, SB will be hearing from me!

  7. Judging by the release schedule for Fairy Cube (volume 1 in May and 2 in August) I would guess that it will /not/ be getting serialized in Shoujo Beat.

    Titles that are tend to have a longer period between volumes, like Crimson Hero volumes 7 (December) and 8 (due in May).

  8. Yeah, they need that time to run them in the mag before putting them in the GN. But the countdown’s started in SB for Absolute Boyfriend, and there hasn’t been any hints dropped anywhere as what will replace it.

    At least, I hope they replace it, and not just drop the books down to 5 titles. That would suck even more.

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