Yen Plus – One Year Later

anthology13a-210x300It’s been a year since Yen Press debuted their manga anthology magazine Yen Plus.  I picked up the first issue at SDCC and reviewed it in two posts, one for each side.   I wasn’t thrilled with the Japanese side, and really enjoyed the Korean/OEL side.  A look at the second issue re-enforced those feelings.  It’s been a whole year, and at SDCC this year Yen Press had their anniversary issue, so I picked it up again.  I wanted to see if the magazine had improved over the year.

One improvement to the magazine was the addition of “What Came Before” pages.  They were a big help since I hadn’t read any of the titles for over a year.  Though, more characters descriptions along with the brief plot description would have been helpful.  The ads stayed on the Korean/OEL side, and are still all of Yen Press and other lines from Hachette Book Group, mostly of YA books.  Not an improvement really, just an interesting observation that they aren’t using outside ad money.  There was only one column, The Otaku Pimp, which seems to have been printed late, since in the column he’s talking about it being Spring and Golden Week.  Still, It wasn’t bad.

The biggest different from a year ago is that some of the titles have been swapped out.  On the Japanese side, Bamboo Blade and Higurashi: When They Cry were taken out and replaced with Hero Tales and Pandora Hearts.  This issue also debuted their newest title, Black Butler, bringing the Japanese side up to 6 titles.  It started with only 5.  On the Korean/OEL side, Sarasah was taken out and replaced with Time and Again, and Nightschool was given the month off for this issue.

My initial feelings about the original titles haven’t changed.  I still don’t care for Soul Eater or Sumomomo Momomo, and Narbari no Ou only slightly piqued me interest.  But it’s the new titles that I was really curious about, especially Time and Again and Hero TalesBlack Butler also piqued my interest from all the talk about on the net.

anthology13bBlack Butler – This title debuted this issue.  It is set in Victorian England.  Ciel Phantomhive is the young head of the Phantomhive family.  He is looked after by Sebastian Michaelis, Butler to the Phantomhive family, who has four assistants; the head stewart, chef, gardener and housemaid.  All by the Head Stewart are incompetent.  They try to help Sebastian prepare for an important meeting, and instead muck things up, leaving Sebastian with trying to fix it all, which he does in a miraculous few hours.  I enjoyed this first chapter.  Ciel and Sebastian’s relationship has a great, almost competitive feel to it.  I really liked them.  The clueless help left me puzzled though.  They just seem to be there for either comedy relief or plot complications.  More chapters are needed for a full evalution of this title.  Would Trade For.

Pandora Hearts – This is the third chapter of this series.  Oz has seemingly be condemned to the Abyss.  He is trying to get his bearings and find a way out.  He is attacked by a “Chain”, a creature that wants to eat his soul, but is saved by B-Rabbit another chain.  She wants to make a contract with Oz so she can escape the Abyss.  Oz agrees and they do escape, though Oz is left unconsious to be found by his friends and B-Rabbit is no where to be seen.  This is another series that seems to take on some of the Alice in Wonderland elements.  B-Rabbit is also known as Alice, and the Abyss is a strange, topsy-turvey world, like going down the rabbit hole.  On the whole, I wasn’t all that impressed.  Maybe if I knew more about the characters.  Good Way To Kill An Hour or So.

Hero Tales – This is the seventh chapter of this title, with the first collected volume coming out in October.  Taitou, Laila, Ryuukou and Housei have made it to the Capital, and see it in squalor.  Taitou, angered by what he sees, runs off to see the Emperor so he can “Smash his face in!”  He sneaks into the palace an meets a noble, telling him why he is there.  The noble turns out to be the Emperor Taigi.  Taitou expresses his frustration (pounding the table instead of Taigi’s face) and finds the Emperor in agreement, but helpless.  They pledge to help each other before Taitou is chased out of the palace.  This title is co-created by Hiromu Arakawa, the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, and not only has her art style, but humor and drama.  I’ve been waiting for this title and this chapter didn’t disappoint in the least!  Must Buy.

Over on the Korean/OEL side, Maximum Ride was a chapter of fluff that was cute, but the title’s just alright to me.  Pig Bride introduced a great new twist that makes want the first two volumes even more.  One Fine Day was it’s typical dose of cuteness, and Jack Frost was rather interesting with plenty of fighting.  The new title, Time and Again, sounded interesting and was another title I was interested in reading.

Time and Again – Baek-On Nim is a wandering exorcist, and Ho-Yeon Won is his bodyguard.  In this seventh chapter, a callous lord has commanded for poison to be poured into a lake to watch the fish die.  But he kills something else that comes back for revenge.  A Kyoryong comes back and starts killing indescriminately.  Baek-On thinks he knows the solution, but it doesn’t turn out so easy.  He and Ho-Yeon are saved by Soo-Kyung Nim, and Baek-On gets a lesson in humility.  This was nice long chapter with a complete story, which I enjoyed very much.  It’s a period piece, which I love, and the characters are interesting enough that I want to keep following them.  Must Buy.

On the whole, Yen Plus remains a good way to sample titles from Yen Press, but still doesn’t warrant a subscription from me.  The Japanese side remains too uneven.  The Korean/OEL is still the stronger of the two sides.  It’s even now, at 6 titles on each side, but that keeps the releases of graphic novels slow, since it’s only one chapter per title.  So it’s 4-6 months before there’s enough for a GN to be released.  And that’s weakness, especially for some of the more popular titles.  And as much as I want to see Yen Plus split up into to mags at a cheaper price, I can see why Yen Press won’t do that.  The Korean/OEL side, which is stronger with girl-friendly titles, would never survive on it’s one and would probably got the way of Shojo Beat.  It’s just sad that good titles like Pig Bride have to rely the fanboys of Sumomomo Momomo to keep an audience.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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