It was always my intention that my reviews of the chapters from the magazines were to be short, but I haven’t done a very good job of that, so starting this month, I’m going to try to be much more brief about my impressions of the chapters. There’s no Daniel X again this month, the final Gossip Girl, a side story, appears. But you don’t want to hear about that, right?
A few weeks ago I gave Viz kudos for finally realizing there was a market for digital manga beyond the iOS platform. Their announcement of Vizmanga.com and tagline of “Buy It Once Read It Anywhere” seemed like a dream come true. Finally, I could start reading and owning digital manga. I thought Viz had really gotten the idea of “manga for all.” But after working with it, and seeing new announcements, I have come to realize the equality I thought I was getting didn’t really exist.
This month’s Yen Plus features a lot of changes. The most obvious, as it’s features on the cover is the debut of Soulless, another novel adaptation, but not by James Patterson. This one is by Gail Carriger with art by Rem. But with this addition, two other titles are saying farewell. Gossip Girl ends this issue as does the color edition of High School of the Dead. I’m not going to miss Gossip Girl, as I wasn’t even reading it. But High School of the Dead…well, I’ll give my feelings about that later. And you might notice something missing from this issue. No Daniel X. And no word why. Strange…
Soulless – This first chapter starts with some very nice color pages, as we are introduced to Alexia Tarabotti. She is at a party when she is attacked by a vampire, that doesn’t appear to be part of a coven, and has a run in with Lord Maccon, the head of Bureau of Unnatural Registry as well as Alpha of the local werewolf pack, and Professor Lyall. Her encounter seems to have attracted the attention of Countess Nadasdy, the leader of a vampire coven, so she goes to see Lord Akeldama, another vampire that she is on good terms with, for advice. I really enjoyed this first chapter, and absolutely love Alexia. I’m coming to appreciate stories set in Victoria London, and Rem’s art is a sight to behold. I think I have found my new favorite series!
Milkyway Hitchhiking – This chapter switches gears again, as Milkyway tells the tale of another “master” of hers. A cruel king is sending hunters out to bring back a creature with white fur. If they fail, they are killed. A new hunter is dispatched, a woman named Robin. But the creature turns out to be something Robin didn’t expect. Her perceived failure as seen by the King’s sorcerers makes the King decide to do the job himself. One again, Milkyway is ancillary to the story, acting more as narrator than wish-granter. This story is at least a two parter, so we’ll have to wait until next month to see where it goes.
Witch and Wizard – Whit gets the gang out of the jam the chapter ended on last month, and Wisty frees all the children in detention. A traitor is revealed in the resistance, but Whit and Wisty join their powers to defeat the warden and guards. The One Who Is The One then appears and taunts Whit with six prophecies supposedly about them before disappearing. I liked the action scenes with Whit and Wisty working together, and realizing it’s the adults who are scared of the children, and more importantly, of change. I still don’t like TOWITO. Not capturing or killing them now doesn’t make him a little good or grey. He’s still the villain.
Aron’s Absurd Armada – Aron and his crew return to port to exact revenge on Luthor and instead decide to go after the Crown of the Ant Queen. It was taken by Luthor as a gift for the King’s birthday, so they decide to the backway through some difficult mountains. Meanwhile we learn more about Aron’s parents and their relation to the Nelson family. While Aron and Luthor might have been friends, it obvious that his mother and Nelson is not. And like the rest of the cast, the King is just as odd.
Maximum Ride – The Flock is heading west, away from Itex, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone following them. An eerie sense of foreboding starts to settle over Max as rumors of a disaster coming starts to seem more real. Fang receives a message that one of the Flock is a traitor. They decide to go to a public place, a football game to see if they can draw their enemies out. They get spotted by members in the crowd, but still no Erasers. It really feels like we’re reading the climax of the story, as the impending doom seems to come ever closer. I am looking forward to see what that is.
Jack Frost – No-Ah is confronted by the new Iyel about emotion, and Siegfred is preparing to move out. Camilla has a plan as well, sending off her “pieces” to the Pillar of Solomon. Meanwhile, inside the Pillar, we are introduced to Beelzebub, another busty woman, and her master Solomon himself. Still not much going on, and really, I’m not feeling any anticipation for what’s probably supposed to be a big fit. I really wasn’t impressed with Beelzebub stripping and prostrating herself in front of Solomon either.
Highschool of the Dead – This final preview chapter starts at the airport where unaffected people are trying to escape, and sniper Rika Minami is clearing a path for the planes to take off. Meanwhile, Saeko, Saya, Kouta, and Shizuka decide to leave the school van and meet up with Takashi and Rei, who are trying to reach one of the bridges to cross into town, but the military has them all blocked off. They meet up with their friends, and Shizuka tells them she knows a place nearby where they can stay, as it’s getting close to nightfall. While all of the fanservice is really annoying, I can’t help but be interested in Takashi’s narration, as he talks about how this zombie apocalypse is changing him and his friends. And while the color is nice, if I continue to follow this series, it’ll be in the black and white.
The Innocent – Johnny is helping Joshua find his sister, and takes him to where women are trafficked. They don’t find her, but Johnny’s powers continue to grow, and he is able to speak to the man responsible for his sister’s injuries, Frame. Johnny continues to skirt the rules, making his point without actually hurting anyone. He finally figures out where Joshua’s sister is, but Frame has sent to Whirl to the lawyer Rain, and he gets there first. I’m still finding this series to be interesting, but not engaging. It seems to be devolving into a typical action title, but the mysteries of Whirl and Angel, and why Johnny can keep doing things he’s not supposed to keeps me reading.
K-On! – The chapter of K-on! isn’t the usual 4-koma, but typical manga chapter. The girls take a break from practice, and Ritsu and Mio’s past is revealed. It’s not a bad story, and if K-On! had been more like this, I might have liked it more. I’m finding I’m not fond of the 4-koma format.
Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba tags along with Ena to Miura’s house, which is in a tall apartment building. In the elevator Yotsuba tries to press all the buttons, but Ena warns her off. At Miura’s home, they see Miura’s picks from her trip to Hawaii, and trade souvenirs, but then Yotsuba makes a most surprising discovery in Miura’s room. The scene in the elevator was cute.
Next month, the mag stays down one story, but Gossip Girl keeps going with a bonus chapter. Hopefully that really will be the last! And there’s no Daniel X scheduled next issue either. Hopefully, there will be some word on it next issue. It is the Patterson book I like the most, though I think I’m in the minority. But, what else is new?
This week Digital Manga Publishing announced that their manga, starting with Vampire Hunter D, would be available on the digital comics site, Comixology. At first this sounded like good news, until I saw the pricing. Each volume on Comixology will cost $9.99. This is only about $3, or 23%, off the print pricing. That didn’t seem like a very good deal to me, so I went looking around at other sites DMP has put VHD up on and checked the pricing.
Viz finally made their big announcement. The new digital platform that they are making their manga available on that will expand their audience is….iOS for iPhone and iPod/iPod Touch. This is a “new” platform….how? The iPad is nothing more than an overgrown iPod Touch. The first apps for the iPad were iPod apps with a new resolution (mostly). So for Viz, porting over their iPad manga just meant a change of resolution, and maybe some touch up here and there. But that doesn’t make it anything new or exciting. They are still courting the same audience. While this will give them a small boost as people with only iPhone/iPods will now have access to their manga (a large number being teens), it’s not really expanding it like an actual platform jump would.
In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, Viz vice president Alvin Lu said the reason for going in this direction was:
It’s a natural extension obviously, being as that we’re on iOS with our iPad app. It broadens our reach with mobile devices significantly, also obviously. For the fans who graciously requested the app be made available on a more widespread device—this is a step or two in that direction.
It’s certainly not a step up. This more like a step to the side, something that Viz is very good at and has done before. I hope they don’t try and call this an “evolution”, because going from one device to another on what is essentially the same platform isn’t evolving. It’s treading water at best.
I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised. But when Viz spoke last month about going to a new platform I thought (and hoped) that would mean something non-i, non Apple. I should be used to the disappointment I am met with time and again. I had a much rant-ier post I was going to do, but I’ve toned it down a lot. I guess I just had my hopes up way too high. I’ll try to be more jaded with the next announcement.
Is putting out apps for the Android easy? Maybe not, but you know what? The things that aren’t so easy are usually the ones that end up really being worth it.
Viz Media has really embraced digital publishing in the last few months. Ever since they announced their iPad only app, they have been releasing new volumes practically every week. They now have over 100 volumes from their Shonen Jump, Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump Advanced lines available for download, mostly from older well-known titles such as Dragon Ball/Z, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Vampire Knight , Otomen, and Ouran High School Host Club. They have also started dabbling releasing digital content before or in the same month as print releases, with Bakuman and Blue Exorcist.
It’s the valentine’s issue, with pink cover and all, but there isn’t a lot of loving going on. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to love about the chapters. Gossip Girl takes a break, and instead we get a short story from the artist, HyeKyung Baek. I certainly don’t mind the switch-up. On to the manga.
It’s a new year, and that means another new series in Yen Plus! Yeah! And it’s about a cat! Double yeah!! More on that later. But first, we’re six months in with Yen Plus being on-line. For the most part, things have been running smoothly. This issue was the first time I ran into any problems, and they were minor. First, it took a week after payment for the issue to go up, so it wasn’t available until the middle of January, but the holidays could be blamed for the delay. And I did have some trouble reading the issue, but those technical issues were taken care of quickly, and I could read the issue just fine the next day. Kudos to Yen Press for their quick response!
MilkyWay Hitchhiking is not only on the cover, but also starts the magazine this month. It’s in full color, with a nice water-colored look to it. It starts by introducing Milky Way, a special cat with a coat pattern on her back that looks like the Milky Way galaxy. She is able to make wishes come true. Her first wisher is a male cat named Sarah. He wants to be human for one day, or at least a few hours. Milky Way grants his wish, to which Sarah the proceeds to paint her black, and leaves her with his owners, a rich boy who doesn’t even recognize that Milky Way isn’t Sarah. Over the rest of the chapter, we learn how Sarah came to the boy’s home and why he wanted to be human for the day. Sarah’s past is kind of sad, but the whole story ends happily, for Sarah anyway. Milky Way still needs to get that black paint off.
Witch and Wizard continues Wisty’s and Whit’s ordeal as they are interrogated by a self-righteous classmate, a weasely type of boy who gladly joins the new regime for the power it gives him. They have the typical trial for a totalitarian society, with verdict already decided, but being a “humane” totalitarian regime, they will be held in prison until they are 18 before they are executed. The chapter ends with the revelation that Wisty and Whit’s parents escaped, so there might still be hope for them to get out. My jury is still out on this one. I’m probably going to need at least a volume to decide on this one. I know giving the villains so much power just gives the heroes more incentive to overcome them, but when they get too much it seems unrealistic, and I just don’t care for that.
In Aron’s Absurd Armada, the ship needs supplies, so Aron and Robin are sent out to get them, since Robin isn’t on the poster, and without his wisp of a mustache (forcibly taken) Aron is unrecognizable. Of course, it turns out to be a disaster. Then we get to meet Aron’s parents, who each have very different impressions of their son, with Victor’s being the more realistic. One of the things I love about this title is MiSun Kim’s ability to set up a serious looking scene and then turn it on its ear into something ridiculous and funny. What makes a lot of those scenes funny is because they are true to the characters.
Jack Frost finishes the fight between Hansen and Kay as well as Jack and the regenerator. Kay threatens to kill all of Hansen’s new friends, and Hansen responses with a new power that turns his gun into something closer to a canon. He gets Kay, and in his final moments, Kay tells Hansen he just wanted him to get over his grief, and now that he has, Kay can rest in peace. With the drama over, Jack makes short work of the regenerator. During it though, another part of No-Ah’s mirror image power awakens which seems to sync with the Pillar of Solomon. And it seems we will finally be seeing someone from the East District. It was nice to see Hansen finally get some closure, though the whole thing with Jack pretending to be dead was just too obvious. I’m still waiting for this title to make sense other a showcase for violence and fan service. I guess I’ll be waiting a little longer.
In Daniel X, Daniel gets an intergalactic email with one heck of an attachment; a whole bunch of gadgets to help make Daniel’s alien hunting easier. Now with a van full of electronics that can analyze an object’s component parts and where those parts come from to cloaking the van so they aren’t seen, Daniel goes after Number 6 and Number 21, who is working as a director for Number 6. Daniel tracks Number 21 to a small TV station transmission tower. Daniel X is still a lot more fun than Witch and Wizard. I can’t say anything about Maximum Ride, since I haven’t read it for ages, but I don’t miss it either. I wonder what the demographics for each series is, and if that is what makes the difference? At any rate, it’s nice to have a sci-fi series amid all the fantasy and cute girls.
Yotsuba&! has some playtime in this month’s chapter. She pretends to make dinner and breakfast, and then she and her father go to the park where they swing on the swings, kick off a shoe to see who’s can go the farthest, and then have a race to see who can get their shoe back first. Yeah. Can someone please explain the appeal of this title? I am really not seeing it. Is it a kid thing? Do you have to like kids to appreciate it? Or is it a living vicarious thing? I’ve only been reading for the last 6 months, and I still don’t see anything appealing. There’s no way I could do 9+ volumes of this.
K-on continues on its merry-go-round as it’s summer break again, and the girls do the exact same thing as they did last time. Tsumugi has a summer-house near the beach which is bigger than the last one, but not really the “big one”. The new responsible girl, Asuza, gets sucked into playing around more than practicing, so nothing gets done. There’s more struggling to get through mid terms for Ritsu and Yui, and study sessions end up with manga reading instead of studying and Mio giving Ritsu a study guide so she really doesn’t have to do anything. If you’ve read one volume of this title, you’ve pretty read the whole thing. Unless you like to look at pictures of cute moe girls, there’s nothing here.
Milky Way Hitchhiking is a great title for the magazine, and Yen got a real win in getting it. It’s got the potential to be an all ages title and being a cat title only makes the win more epic! Let’s hope for the win for the Japanese side. It needs it badly now.
Yen Plus finishes up the year with a new title and a new announcement. When Nightschool ended in September, a lot of people were disappointed. They were going to miss reading Svetlana’s story. Two months later, and Svetlana returns, not with more Nightschool (sadly) but as the artist on the third James Patterson series to be serialized in the magazine, Witch and Wizard. And then, in the “Next Issue” section, there is an announcement that only Yen Plus subscribers will see. Starting in January, Yen Plus will debut another new series, that is also their first simultaneous serialization. MilkyWay Hitchhiking is a new manhwa by Sirial, the creator of One Fine Day. It’s about a cat with a pattern on her back that looks like the Milky Way galaxy and the many wonders she discovers. It looks very cute, is in full color, and features a cat, so it’s already got a lot going for it. I can’t wait!
Witch and Wizard starts out the magazine, with a pretty dramatic scene of the heroes about to be hanged. It then flashes back to how they got into that situation. Not my favorite story telling device, as it’s been overused on TV recently. A new political party has taken over and is instituting new laws that make magic, real or imagined illegal. Our heroes, Whit and Wisty seem to have some of these magical powers and they and their family are taken into custody. There’s a lot of water throwing, and interrogation in the first chapter, and the reader in kept in just as much the dark as the characters. I don’t know if I like this series or not yet. The smugness and seeming absolute power of the bad guys is making me lean toward a no, but I’ll give the series a few more chapters before I decide definitively.
Aron’s Absurd Armada finally ends the confrontation between the pirates and the marines, but not before Ronnie makes an enemy of the leutenant…by falling on Dorothy’s chest. The pirates get a wanted poster that makes Aron happy. Ronnie gets a huge bounty and ONLY DEAD, while Robin is cut out, and Gilbert and Anton are officially identified. I’m still loving this title and will follow it all over the seven seas!
Daniel X jumps right back into his alien hunting, and decides to go after #5 on the list. Because he did so well taking out #6…. Anyway, he’s sticking to LA, as #5 hangs out in Hollinswood (Hollywood), making movies by forcing people to act and then killing them. Daniel is usually one step behind in this chapter, running into him at an S-Mart and gets a “screen test” to be the star in #5 next picture. The story is still being set up, so I don’t have much to say about it yet, but #5 isn’t really impressing me like #6 did. I did like S-Mart reference. I don’t suppose a guy from housewares with a chainsaw for hand will come to his rescue…
In Jack Frost, Hansen finally has to face his past and his brother. It takes Lucy sacrificing himself to get his gun to finally snap him out of his daze and get serious, which is where the chapter ends. Jack is still being used as a pin cushion, and I hope he’s just biding his time. Because, if he can be so easily contained by some big guy with some spikes, then he doesn’t deserve his title. Or is he just waiting for No-Ah to be threatened before he can level up again? Either way, Jack is a disappointment. Now that Hansen has his head in the game, maybe this part of the story can finally go somewhere.
Yotsuba&! is still at the Hot Air Balloon race. Yotsuba goes for a ride in one of the balloons, drops her teddy bear, plays with a bamboo dragonfly and ends by sliding down a hillside and ignoring the race they came to see. It’s just more the same. Cute if you like the series, boring if you don’t care for Yotsuba or kids being kids in general.
K-On! has the pop music club worrying about new student orientation, both for performing and getting new members. They do get one, Nakano Azusa, a girl with a lot of musical background and enthusiasm that is quickly snuffed out by the rest of the members, and teacher advisor. She is welcomed into the club with a pair of cat ears. I’m still feeling ‘meh’ about this series. I really don’t see what so funny or cute about it.
I’m really happy to see Yen Plus getting some new titles for the new year. Milkyway Hitchhiking sounds like a lot of fun and kid friendly, and it’s good to see Sveltana’s work, even if the story isn’t rocking me yet. But it’s really the Japanese side that really needs some help. Yotsuba&! and K-On! have their audiences, sure, but it looks pretty pathetic, especially when compared to the more varied OEL/Korean side. Something with some real action would be good. Something with good action and story would be even better. Yen has to have something in their catalog now or upcoming that can help this side rise up to at least meet the Korean/OEL side.
Finally there is some news this week. It’s not a lot again, but it’s pretty juicy! We have license announcements from a surprising source, an online manga store opening, and some publishers throwing their weight around. And then there are the regular features of the NYTBSL, podcasts, and a roundup of what happening at Manga Village.
It’s the 4th issue of the digital version and the third subscription issue. The monthly payment has been very smooth so far, and is a good reminder for me when the new issue comes out, as I am bad at remembering/checking for these things. I really need an RSS feed to keep me up-to-date, something Viz should think about. I’d be more of a regular at their site if I had a reliable reminder. The Editor’s letter brought about some bad news, as the last chapter of Time and Again appears in this issue. JuYoun talks about some of the reservations that existed for a very Asian title like Time and Again, but it won over the editorial staff, and hopefully a lot of readers. I know I really enjoyed the karmic theme. I didn’t find it unrelatable, despite the different mind set. I enjoyed it just for that reason.
Aron’s Absurd Armada – This is my favorite 4-koma at the moment. We learn more about Nelson’s background and family, and as usual, things aren’t what they seem, and the sailors get the wrong impression. It’s very well done and very funny with the reveal. His story is told as a tradition manga, so there are only a couple of 4-koma panels, that end up getting Ronnie’s goat as Robin is forced to fend off Nelson’s half sister from trying to arrest Aron. This title is probably the most fun and funniest title in the magazine.
Daniel X – Daniel is saved by Blaleen, who turns out to be his grandmother. He is then introduced to the rest of his relatives in a large family gathering. He also learns more about his parents, and where is powers may have come from, as well as his friends. Daniel then goes on the offensive, and takes care of Seth in a rather imaginative if not disturbing way. Not a way I would want to go, but you can’t say he didn’t ask for it. With Alpar Nok free, Daniel is also free to return to earth, and to continue his alien hunt. I’m still enjoying Daniel X. Daniel is a great character, and I do like the interaction with his friends. This is becoming my reason to continue reading the magazine.
Time and Again – It is lamentable to have to say good-bye to this series with this, the last chapter. There has been war in Luoyang, and Baek-On and Ho-Yeon return to the city as they continue their wanderings. There Baek-On spots a boy that seems different than the others. But once again, things aren’t quite what the seem. The title ends with Baek-On reaffirming his resolution to remain alone in the world, and continue to walk the path of grudges going against no one but him. Ho-Yeon reaffirms himself to protect Baek-On’s path, and they continue on alone, together. It’s as happy an ending as this title can get, but it’s still a satisfying ending. I’m really glad this title was released, and I will miss it dearly.
Jack Frost – The look back at Hansen’s past continues as Hansen and his brother try to fight off Avid the vampire. Hansen is bitten, but Agathe saves him. The same can’t be said for Kay and Agathe. Hansen comes out the only survivor, and learns that the bodies of his friend and family are never recovered, and he is made the head guidence counselor of the West District. So now we know all about Hansen’s past, but who knows if it’ll help any with the present problem of dealing with someone who shoots just like Kay, and could very well be Kay reanimated. I can’t say I really cared about Hansen, and seeing his tragic past hasn’t really changed anything. Sigfried is mentioned a lot in connection with the Avid and is starting to shape up to be Helmina’s rival in Amityville. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait before he actually shows up not no just be the puppetmaster behind the strings he’s been up till now.
Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba give a tour of her house to the neighbors who end up cleaning up for her and her father, and then they all go out to the country to see a Hot Air Balloon competition. Yotsuba spills more coffee, gets dirty and waves to the Hot Air Balloonists as they rise up. Yotsuba is cute to most people, but having lived with a girl like her in so many ways (ie my youngest daughter), these stories are more ho-hum to me. Everyone else can gush over her. Watching her just make me tired.
K-On! – Second verse is the same as the first. It’s like a repeat of the first chapter, as the Pop music club is threated to be shut down again by the student council for not doing anything. So they decide to hold a concert at new student orientation. Mio freaks out about singing in front of everyone, again. Yui has to study for midterms and then forgets how to play the music they’d been practicing, again. Their advisor dressing them up as maids, again. It’s just the same plot points used over and over, and it’s frankly getting monotonous. The cute girl thing just isn’t enough for me.
With Time and Again gone, the magazine goes down to 7 titles, with no indications of anything new being added. I really hope Yen Plus doesn’t start down the path that Shonen Jump did for so long, of just being a stagnant collection of titles with only short story/previews that only give momentary relief from the monontony. As it stands, there are only two titles I really care about; Aron’s Absurd Armarda and Daniel X. Once again, the Japanese side holds no interest what so ever, just like when the magazine first started but for different reasons. One good Japanese title and a new good Korean title would be a marked improvement. As it is, for $2.99 I’ll keep subscribing, but not enthusiastically.
In the news this week: manga print on demand, more details on DMP’s Digital Manga Guild and the changes in Shonen Jump, a possible manga portal for English readers, news stories from Japan, and all the rest of the usual features. Continue reading This Week In Manga: 11/06-11/12/10