Shojo Beat, the sister anthology magazine to Shonen Jump has been going through a lot of 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!