The third issue of Yen Plus online doesn’t have many changes. Night School is gone (sob), but we do get a Halloween treat from Svetlana Chmakova. There aren’t any tricks though as nothing else has changed in the magazine. While there are only two Japanese titles, they are long ones!
Just before the Labor Day weekend, Yen Press sent out the announcement that the new issue of Yen Plus was available and subscriptions were being accepted. I immediately forked over my $2.99. At that price, and with no bulky magazine to take up more space I don’t have, it’s totally worth it. Just as I do with Shonen Jump, I will be giving a brief report of the chapters each month. I will not be reading Maximum Ride or Gossip Girl though. Neither story interests me. If this were the print mag, I might page through them because they were there, but online, I have no problem with just skipping them. Even without reading those two titles, Yen Plus still beats out Shonen Jump with a total 368 pages, most of which are manga chapters and not news on anime, video games or card games. Already a big plus for me! It also keeps it’s origianl format of a side “A” and “B”. The “A” side is for the Manhwa/OEL titles and the “B” side is for the Japanese titles.
First up is Jack Frost, a title I haven’t been impressed with over the last three volumes. But, since I’ve read that much of it, and it’s in the magazine, I’ll keep up with it, and see if anything improves. This chapter shows the aftermath of Helmina broadcasting the whereabouts of the Lost Lake and the Pillars of Solomon to all of Amityville. Of course, the guardians of Lost Lake aren’t too thrilled with the revelation, since now they are a target, but the man in charge, Mr. Fury, believes that Helmina has something in mind. Whether that’s a good or bad thing…well we’ll see. Meanwhile, Jack has another challenger who wants to take him on, and he’s assisted by someone Hanson says should be dead, Ridicule of Samiel. This chapters follows the routine that Jack Frost seems to have set up. Talking heads, panty shot, fight; lather, rinse, repeat. It would be nice to see that routine shaken up a bit. Many less panty shot and more plot?
Nightschool ends in this issue with the last two chapters. This makes me sad since Nightschool is one of the draws of Yen Plus for me. I love Alex, her astral, and the whole set up of the world. Yen has promised more Nightschool stories, but they can’t come fast enough for me! After the reveal of who was responsible for releasing the Sohrem last chapter, Daemon, Mr. Roi and Madame Chen then have to figure out how to stop the Sohrem, remove them from their hosts, seal them away and reverse all the damage that was done to the world. No small feat mind you. But between the three they are able to do this surgery on reality and give the story a happy ending. I’m glad. I like Alex’s sister Sara and am happy that she’s back, dragon hatchlings and all. Please come back soon!
I think Aron’s Absurd Armada is starting to grow on me. This month featured Ronnie, the girl they rescued last issue. Everyone thinks she’s a boy though. She shows off her knowledge of the sea and sets the ship’s course to intercept her ship. Some of the strips are pretty funny, such as when Anton lets Ronnie go down to the wreck of her ship by herself, because he knows what she’ll find. Actually Anton and Gilbert strike he as the two smartest people on the ship. It’s a good quick read.
We get another two chapters of Daniel X this month. His attempt to get to Ergent Seth isn’t going well, as Ergent is always one step head of him. He tries to warn Daniel off a few more times through some cats, but he won’t back down, so Ergent shows him what he’s really up against, and it doesn’t go well for Daniel. The new love of his life, Phoebe, doesn’t go the way he planned either. A captive of Ergent, he is whisked away with the other of Ergent’s captive children and taken to his home planet, Alpar Nok. It’s nice to see that Daniel isn’t invincible, though Ergent’s ploy was a little cliché to say the least. Though, I do like Ergent’s design. It’s not everyday you see a horse in a suit. With a scar. It will be interesting what Daniel’s real home planet is like and how he’s going to get away from Ergent.
Time and Again is one of the titles that made subscribing worth it. In this month’s chapter, we get to see into Baek-On’s past. Thoughout the series so far, we have seen Baek-On’s regrets regarding a girl and what he did to her. This chapter shows who the girl is and what she meant to Baek-On. But it’s not all love and roses, otherwise Baek-on wouldn’t be on the path that he is. Once again it has to do with reincarnation, and an animal spirit’s desire for revenge. Hunters should be careful lest their kills start coming back to get them. Animals do not fight fair. This was the best chapter of the magazine, behind Nightschool. It was rather heartbreaking to finally see the truth.
Yotsuba&! is one of the newest titles to the magazine as well as one of the first for the Japanese side for the digital edition. In the chapter, we see Yotsuba have a nightmare and try to create a schedule. Then she and her father go shopping at a mall, and she finds the perfect teddy bear. Frankly, Yotsuba&! isn’t a draw for me. The series is nice, and I did find the chapter with Yotsuba going through the teddy bears and checking them for huggability cute. But I’m not enamored by Yotsuba’s cuteness. I’ll read it, but it’s not a must have for me.
The first debut title for Yen Plus’ digital edition is K-On! This is another 4-koma series about a high school girl,Yui Hirasawa, who can’t decide on what club to join, so she joins the pop music club, not realizing it’s a band. She can’t play an instrument, but she gets talked into staying and learning to play guitar by the other members so they can keep the club going. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this title or not. I’ve heard a lot about it online, but my tastes don’t always run with the crowd. But so far, I do like it. Yui is fairly typical for a high school student, not knowing what she wants to do. And the way she gets convinced to stay was well done. I also like Tsumugi. She is really nice, but also really rich. The way she gets the guitar discounted for Yui was funny. I will definitely keep reading this one.
This issue wasn’t bad for a first pay issue. The transaction was easy through paypal. I had access immediately after paying. It’s next issue that gonna be a deal breaker for a lot of people probably. With Nightschool gone, even for me the only must read title is Time and Again. The rest I can either take-or-leave or I like, but not really like. The Japanese side really needs a few more titles, and something with some action would be nice. I was excited about Yen Plus before when it had Black Butler and Hero Tales in it. Without a really good anchor though, I don’t see this lasting very long, even with the $2.99 price. Hopefully Yen has some titles in the pipe that they are just waiting for approval on.
It was starting to become a tradition for me. Going to San Diego Comic Con and by Saturday afternoon, stopping by the Yen Press booth and picking up the anniversary issue of Yen Plus. I didn’t go to SDCC this year, and by the same token, Yen Plus wasn’t given out this year. It had gone digital, with a free preview available until September 9th, so I am still able to do my annual One Year Later post.
So, what’s changed in the move from print to digital? First off, the August/Preview issue has no Japanese-licensed titles in it. It’s all Korean/OEL manga. Compared to the last two years, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I didn’t care for the Japanese offerings in the premiere issue, but there was definite improvement by the 1st anniversary (namely Black Butler and Hero Tales). But the Korean/OEL side still held sway over me, so having this issue be mostly that didn’t bother me.
One of the things about going digital that might not be as Yen Press planned is how much easier it is for me to skip over the titles I don’t want to read. In print form, I would generally start at the beginning and read through all the chapters, whether I really liked them or not. I’m going through every page, whether I’m actually reading them or not. I’ll skim the things I’m not all that interested in, but that usually ended up with me reading the whole chapters anyway. This meant I gave titles I wasn’t too interested in more of a chance, because I’d at least read them. With the digital version, I had no problem just skipping past Maximum Ride, a title I have read chapters from and didn’t really care for, and Gossip Girl, one I haven’t even tried to give a chance.
Actually, my reading of the this issue had me skipping all around, something I don’t think I’m going to do again. The way the digital magazine is set up is identical to the print version, with articles and ads interspersed between chapters, and as I prefer to read print, this made the flow of the digital version much easier to get into. It felt like the print magazine on the screen which is an experience I prefer. So, let’s take a look at the chapters I did read.
This title continues to be a strong anchor for the magazine. Even though I haven’t read vol 3 yet, reading this chapter made me want to go out and get it. The sohrem and their hosts, Alex and Ronee had been captured and nearly had the power sucked from them by Night Lords, but they are rescued by Marina also a sohrem host, and some of the Hunters. The person responsible their capture is also responsible for breaking their seal. He is caught when things don’t go according to plan and turns out to have an interesting connection to Mr. Roi, who had sealed the sohrem away in the first place. Very good chapter that kept the action and story going.
This is a new title based on another series by James Patterson. It’s got a sci-fi feel to it. As this was the debut of the series, we get to chapters to introduce Daniel and his special powers. He can change his shape as well as create people and things out of thin air. And not just holograms, real, flesh and blood people with independent thought and memories. The story has Daniel going after Most Wanted #6, Ergent Seth, who is currently in Malibu, CA, working in the film industry. Daniel enrolls in a local high school as a cover and is distracted by a girl, Phoebe. Meanwhile Ergent Seth strikes, and there’s a cat in his house. The story has me intrigued, so I’ll keep reading it. The characters are interesting too, and the art is really nice. I’m taking to this one much better than Maximum Ride.
This story is a one shot by Madeliene Rosca, the creator of Hollow Fields, a OEL series published by Seven Seas. It’s about a young girl, Catherine, who is learning to be a Ghost Hunter, like her father. One night when he goes out to work, the police come looking for her father, but Catherine decides to take on the haunting herself. With her book, lantern and bell, she pieces together what’s really going on. It’s a cute story with a funny ending. I don’t know that I’d want to see more of these characters, but more from Rosca would most certainly be welcome!
This is a color 4-koma, or comic strip, series. It’s about a rich, spoiled young man who decides to become a pirate. His only crew is Robin, a guard from Aron’s estate that will do anything for money. He is a good fighter, and quickly increases the crew after a show of force when another pirate ship tries to take them over. It’s cute and funny, in the way that clueless leads who beleaguer their smarter subordinates can. It’s good for a quick read, but it’s not anything I would want to keep for the long run.
I’ve read the first three volumes of this title and it’s still just as awesome. This is the best of the manhwa titles. Baek-On Ju is a traveling exorcist who is accompanied by Ho-Yeon Won, his bodyguard. The tales in this title are mostly episodic, with Baek-On being presented with a problem, and him solving it without making a bit of trouble for Ho-Yeon along the way. The overarching stories in this title have to do with the main characters past. This chapter relates to a past wrong Baek-On committed and can’t forgive himself for. It’s an emotional chapter as are most of the chapters dealing with him. It’s an excellent read, and a series that is easy to jump into at any time.
Not a great title, but one of the originals from the magazine’s beginning. Jack Frost is a horror title that likes lots of gore and panty shots, but not so much on plot. This chapter has the North side recouping from an attack from the South Side and Helmina and Jack scheming for more fighting. And a new character Avid decides to going to battle to take on Jack Frost for title of most powerful in Amityville. I’m not sure why I keep reading Jack Frost, for all the lackluster writing and characters and fanservice, but I think I’m being hopelessly optimistic for a real story to come out. Well, since it comes with the magazine, I guess I’ll keep following it. Just on the off-chance it surprises me.
The reading experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I’ve tried Yen Plus out on three different monitors. My 19″ LCD at home, 17″ CRT at work and my 4.3″ HTC HD2 phone. All the regular manga chapters looked good on all three screens. Yes, surprisingly, even the HD2 was readable. The popout window made everything crystal clear, and zooming on the HD2 worked well. The only problem I had was with Aron’s Absurd Armada. The only way to be able to clearly read this title was by going Full Size in the popout window, and even then I was scrolling up and down and back and forth on the screen, especially on the 17″ monitor at work. It’s enough to give one carpel tunnel! So Yen, even if it’s on a desktop computer, Zoom is a necessary option, especially with a 4-koma where the windows are smaller and the text gets lost in the background. The reading experience needs to be at least as good as the print, in that it shouldn’t feel like work for me to read the pages. If I have to get closer because of my eyesight, that’s one thing, but if it’s blurry even then, then the problem is on your end.
Other issues I had were also minor, such as a page “sticking” in Daniel X. The previous page appeared twice, but after going out and going back it fixed itself. And some screentone just doesn’t work online. If you want to go blind, just view the Jack Frost chapter. The plaid screentone used through most of it is painful.
I like the navigation bar on the side for chapters and the pulldown menu at the top that also lists the articles. The side bar is only available in main browser window. If you go to the popout window, you will have to use the pulldown menu. There is a minor page turn animation as you flip through the magazine which you can do with a click on the page. It will take you back and forth through the magazine, though jumping chapters was easiest with the side bar. There are arrows at the top that will also control page turns, but the most ideal would be arrow keys on the keyboard.
And as for archiving, I don’t think that’s necessary. The digital magazine is for marketing. To make an archive available would be the same as saying “Don’t buy the books, just read your manga here for super cheap”, and I don’t think that is Yen Press’ intention. Now, I could see them selling digital copies of the books when they come out at a discount for Yen Plus subscribers. Maybe as a bonus for being a subscriber. But I don’t see a reason for Yen archiving the issues themselves. I did once, but with years of Shonen Jump and the thought of digging them out to read One Piece doesn’t make it worth it. I would rather buy the collected books than try to read a series through the mags.
Overall, this first version of a digital Yen Plus isn’t bad. Neither is the price. At $2.99 a month, I don’t mind paying to read even just the three titles I enjoyed the most. It’s still a good deal as far as I’m concerned. And with more on the way, Yotsuba!& has been hinted at, there is a lot of potential here. I think I’m going to stick it out this time and see how it progresses.
YEN PRESS LAUNCHES THE ONLINE VERSION OF YEN PLUS WITH A FREE TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION THROUGH AUGUST
NEW YORK, JULY 27, 2010 – It was announced Friday at San Diego Comic-Con that Yen Plus, the monthly manga anthology from Yen Press, is now available online at yenplus.com. And for a limited time, Yen Press will offer free access to the August issue from now through September 10th.
Yen Publisher Kurt Hassler said: “It’s no secret that there is a huge demand for the digital delivery of manga content. Our responsibility as publishers is to grow and change both with the industry and the readers to meet that demand. Relaunching YEN PLUS in a digital format is our first major step in that direction, and as we look at expanding the selection that the magazine has to offer in the coming months, we look forward to not only hearing from our existing readers but reaching out to new audiences as well.”
Each issue of Yen Plus includes the latest installments of popular manga such as Maximum Ride, Daniel X, Nightschool, Time And Again, and more. A new online edition will appear on the first Tuesday of each month.
Subscriptions will cost $2.99 per month (sales tax may apply), and members will have access to the two most recent issues of the magazine. Each month the oldest issue is removed and a new issue is added, so readers always have access to fresh new manga.
Yen Press, founded in 2006, is the manga and graphic novel imprint of Hachette Book Group. For additional info, visit www.yenplus.com
I wasn’t impressed with the initial release of Yen Plus when it debuted last year, but the last couple of issues of the second volume has really started to turn me around. I really enjoyed this latest issue, quite a bit more than the latest Shonen Jump. The issue starts off with an editorial about light novels and how and why the covers have been different than the original releases. It’s a reason that makes perfect sense for a publisher; appeal to a wider audience. Pure and simple. Maximum Ride was missing again this month. The artist, NaRae Lee, has been sick. I don’t mind Maximum Ride. It’s a good title, just not for me, so I didn’t miss it all that much.