Review: Yen Plus Volume 1 Issue 1 OEL/Korean Manhwa

Yen Plus
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Anthology
Price: $8.99

Picking up where I left off last post, the OEL/Korean side starts out with lots of ads, mostly for Yen Press and related, as well as some other company ads.  Since this is the side that read like normal for Americans, they probably thought they were best placed here.

Maximum Ride – Based on a series of YA novels, we first meet Max, the eldest of several children, who are not siblings but live together.  The man that took care of them, Jeb Batchelder, had disappeared, leaving Max to watch over the younger kids.  They seem to live out in the middle of nowhere, up in the mountains somewhere.  After meeting all the kids, they go out to pick wild strawberries.  But they are attacked by a group of men that look very wolf/dog like, that Max calles Erasers.  Max and the kids instantly sprout wings, but they are beaten by the Erasers, with Max beaten the worse, and it ends on a cliff hanger.

I had an overall favorable impression of this one.  It’s definitely got me wondering what’s going, and it’s an adaptation, so it’s starting out slow.  The art isn’t bad, and for an OEL is actually very good.  It’s one to watch.

Nightschool – The chapter starts with Mrs. Hatcher, a teacher at an as-yet unnamed school chasing three girls out.  Just as they leave, Mrs. Hatcher casts a spell, and a black circle appears on a large mirror.  A woman steps out that is introduced as Madame Night Principal.  Mrs. Hatcher is a Night Keeper at the school, who is waiting for a new Night Keeper to arrive for training.  The trainee is Sarah Treveney, who after much prodding from her younger sister Alex, gets up and ready for work.  For some reason Alex can’t go to school with the other students.  Sarah leaves for work, and then we are introduced to another teacher with his own group of students standing atop a building.  They are Hunters, hunting what, we can only guess.  A few more scene switching between the hunters and Sarah, and we know something bad is coming and is some how related to Alex.

I was looking forward to reading this story, having enjoyed Dramacon so much, and for the most part I did enjoy this first chapter.  But Sveltana tries to stuff in too much into this first chapter, leaving the reader with a lot of head scratching, and wondering who are these people and what is going on?  The main characters aren’t as clear cut as they should be.  The art is great though.  You can see a real progression from her first volume of Dramacon to this chapter.  I’d buy volumes of this series.

Pig Bride – Si-Joon Lee Ran is the spoiled son of a politician who has been sent to a camp in the mountains while his parents are away on business.  Si-Joon causes all sorts of problems and runs off into the mountainside.  There he meets a girl washing clothes in stream, and her face is covered with a pigs mask.  Her mask falls away at the sight of S-Joon, and then runs away.  He chases her with the mask, where he learns the legend of the Pig Bride and becomes her groom.  Jump 10 years later, and Si-Joon is in high school about to turn 16.  He thinks his experience in the mountains was just a dream, but he soon finds out it was all too real.

I love stories about myths and legends, and this title fits right in, with the legend of the Pig Bride.  I enjoyed everything about this chapter.  The characters were great.  Si-Joon as a brat was funny, and the Pig Bride’s masks are great, as she has different ones for different emotions.  The art was great too.  Anyone that thinks Korean artists are inferior needs to get slapped upside the head with this book.  I loved every part of it, and it was this title that convinced me I had to get the next issue.

Sarasah – This title is told in the first person, as we follow a girl who’s not too pretty with glasses as she obsesses over a boy at school.  Even after being rejected, she keeps trying to win him over.  When she takes a birthday surprise too far, he finally looses his temper and tells her off.  She tries to apologize, following him to the stairs.  She reaches out to him, but he dodges, and she falls down the stairs to her presumed death.  In the last few panels, the narrative changes to the boy, Seung-Hyu Shin and ends.

While the girl’s stalker-like obsession with Seung-Hyu is kind of creepy, this title intrigues me.  We are given the impression that the girl, Ji-Hae is the main character, but with her death at the end of the chapter, it seems that it is really Seung-Hyu who is the main character, and he has some secret.  The cliff hanger ending on this title just sucked me in.  The art is okay, with Seung-Hyu looking a little too pretty for my tastes, but overall it isn’t bad.

One Fine Day – This chapter starts with a dog, cat and mouse watching a woman making cookies.  As we move in closer, the dog, cat and mouse become more human like until they are like people, but with cat and dog ears, and the mouse looks like a little boy in a costume.  And through out the two chapters, we see the animals switch from human to animal shape.  This title is a slice of life series, gving us glimpses into their lives with No-ah, presumably their owner.  In the two chapters, we watch them make cookies and then cat and dog (no names given yet) go to try and get medicine for No-ah who has come down with a cold.

Many people will probably not like this series, but it’s quickly become one of my favorites.  Cat, Dog and Mouse are very cute in both their human and animal forms.  And no matter which form they are in, they still act like the animals they are.  It’s a really fun and sweet story.  The art is nicely done even though I had some problem figuring out what gender No-ah was.  I’m looking forward to more animal cuteness.

Jack Frost – The first few pages of this title seemed to have been run originally in color, and come out nearly black in this black and white publication, making nearly everything impossible to see.  Noh-a Joo has just transferred to Amityville Private High School.  She’s only in class for a few minutes before her head is sent flying across the room is killed except for one boy who seems happy for the gore.  There is a battle going between different districts, and it seems “Nasty Smile” as Noh-a has named him, is the champion for the north district.  Noh-a’s decapitated head watches the fight, which she believes is a dream that she will wake up from, but by the end she finds it isn’t…

The inclusion of this title helps ramp the magazine’s age rating to Older Teen, not just with the blood, but with more fan service.  Noh-a’s body is slumped on the floor with her backside in the air, showing off her panties.  Even she comments it looks like she’s “practically begging for it”.  If not for this whole scene, this title feels very similar to Hellsing.  “Nasty Smile” seems to be more than he appears, surprising his opponent.  This might be a good thing, or it might not.  If the fan service like this continues, it will kill any joy I get from the action.  But it bears reading more to know for sure.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall, I do think Yen Press has put together a fairly entertaining anthology.  A few problems I have with it though.  First and formost, is the complete lack of a title page for each chapter.  I know this was the first issue, and those pages were taken up by congradulatory art by the creators of each title, and a few titles had some bonus extras.  But, because this was the first issue, it would have been nice to have gotten some kind of introduction as to what each title was about.  Something short like the descriptions you find on the back of manga.  I should not be struggling to figure out what every title is about, especially when every title doesn’t give you enough information in the first chapter know.  I don’t know how it’s done in Japan, that is one think I do like in Shonen Jump/Shojo Beat.

My only other problem is one that I can have with all anthologies.  The chapters are too short!  I don’t want to be left on such sheer cliffhangers!  Okay, so, it’s not so much of a problem, as my own selfishness, but, with eleven titles every volume, that means there isn’t going to be a lot of room for multiple chapters.  And not every title has a nice, tidy 4 chapters per volume, which would make a quarterly release schedule of volumes.  But, we’ll just have to wait and see how things go.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

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