Tag Archives: Yen Press

Black Butler Volume 2

As high sciety’s social calendar opens up and the Season draws to a close, London is gripped by fear. Someone has taken to stalking women of the night and painting the town red…in their blood. But while the name on everyone’s lips is “Jack the Ripper,” the name on Queen Vitoria’s lips is Phantomhive. Summoned to London to clean up the mess created by this madman, young earl Ciel Phantomhive arrives with his extraordinary butler Sebastian, at his side to pour him tea, polish his silver, and …investigate a serial killer!

Buy Volume 2

By Yana Tosobo
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★½

The second volume of Black Butler starts off as light-hearted as the first. It opens by showing us a day in the life of Sebastian, as he deals with idiotic servants and a caprious master who off-handedly mentions that several orphans will be visiting…the next day. Sebastian’s internal dialog throughout this chapter is just hilarious as he tries to keep his cool with each new catastrophe interrupting his attempts to prepare for the visit. And his stress-reliever at like this is just awesome. Cats. He loves them, and where he comes from, they don’t have pets like cats. I love the image of the pets they do have. Even though I enjoyed the first volume, this chapter cemented Black Butler as a must have title.

Things start to get more serious after this chapter, as Ciel is called by “her” to look into the murders that have been happening in the East End of London, Jack the Ripper. It’s a slow build up as the search for him starts. Ciel’s aunt, known as Madame Red is introduced as is her friend, Lau, the British Branch Manager of the Chinese trading company Kong Rong. We also meet one of Ciel’s underworld contacts, a very odd man known as the Undertaker, a rather appropriate contact considering the case. Sebastian gets some payback here, as he engages in some misdirection that leads to Ciel being forced to attend a ball dressed as a girl as part of the investigation. He is a devil after all. The volume ends with Jack’s identity being revealed, and it’s quite a twist. There is more to the killings that just being random murders.

I’m still really enjoying Black Butler. There is still a good amount of humor, even without the comedy relief servants. The wicked humor between Sebastian and Ciel balances well with the darker drama that is growing in the series. And Sebastian’s moments with cats really make me smile. But when it get serious, it doesn’t hold anything back. Even though we don’t get to see the scene of the last murder, we can tell from Ciel’s reaction that it is truely horrifying.

There are some nice extras that round out the volume, including a bonus scene that shows Ciel’s “training” to act like a proper lady, a look behind the scene of making the manga with Toboso, and a picture of the cast as in a medical drama. And doctor just might be needed with the promise of a serious fight coming up in the next volume. I look forward to seeing Sebastian in action after the small glimpses we’ve gotten so far.

Tech Friday: Emerging Digital Strategies

Ignoring the digital world has finally become impossible for the comics world. Over the last several months, mostly after the debut of the Apple iPad, comic publishers have been announcing their digital plans for the future. The big two, Marvel and DC have put their faith in Apple and Comixology. releasing apps and titles through these platforms. At the New York Comic Con, two more publishers, more relevent to manga readers, have announced more of their digital plans.

Dark Horse Comics announced their digital strategy at their panel on Friday. Instead of going through Comixology, they are creating their own platform for selling their books. This strategy is supposed to be available across all platforms and on the web. For the iPad/iPhone, they will have an app that will connect to their platform, and therefore bypass the Apple censors. For the most part, I agree with Dark Horse’s strategy. Making their titles available on any device, be it a smart phone, computer or tablet is the smart way to go. With most American comics being in color, I can understand skipping the e-book readers such as the Kindle or the Nook. I think it’s funny though, that Dark Horse has turned around so fast. It was only a year or so ago that Michael Gombos, Asian director of licensing for Dark Horse was ridiculing the Kindle and requests for digital comics. As of now, they have no plans for their manga/manhwa titles to go digital. While I can understand the difficulty with manga, I wonder why they aren’t at least trying with their manhwa. Yen Press doesn’t seem to have any difficulty with their manhwa licenses in getting them online. And it could really help their manhwa books to make them available to a wider audience.

Yen Press also had some new digital announcements. At SDCC, they announced Yen Plus, their manga magazine was going online and would be available on the web, so any web-enabled device could read it, but it wasn’t available for download. This is understandable. The magazine is supposed to give people a chance to try out titles so they will be the collected books later. At NYCC, they announced their intention to release an iPad app and online storefront for the downloading of entire volumes of manga and manhwa. It is a completely proprietary platform, with the app being an iPad exclusive. For now, they are starting with their OEL and some manhwa titles (probably the ones already available in Yen Plus). Volumes will be priced at $8.99 which averages out to $1.49 a chapter. Kurt Hassler is said to have emphasised the importance of buying from the Yen Press store, to get leverage with Japanese publishers to show the value of digital distribution.

As much as I would like to support Yen Press and their digital distribution, I do subscribe to Yen Plus digital, I can’t say I agree with this new strategy. Both Dark Horse comics and Yen Press are using proprietary platforms, which I think is completely the wrong direction to go. An open platform that can accommodate as many readers as possible is the way to build an audience. Dark Horse is at least promising to be cross-platform so PC, Mac, and any smart phone running Android, iOS, or Windows Mobile that is web enabled will all be able to read their comics. And I thought Yen Press understood that, as Yen Plus can be read across platforms as well. Making their first download app, not just iOS, but aniPad exclusive is a big mistake. Walling the manga up in Apple’s dungeon isn’t going to get people reading it. The iPad may be selling well now, but it’s not going to be well enough to make Japanese Publishers sit up. A look at the way things are going with iOS and Android seems to be a repeat of the Windows/Mac  wars of 1990’s, and we all know who won that. With Apple trying to be more and more like Big Brother, it won’t be long before the shiny newness wears off, especially with Android tablets starting to come out, the first of which is the Galaxy Tab. Really, how can going with a platform that rejected more than 30% of manga submitted be a good thing.

Don’t lock manga up in the dark, dank dungeon of Apple. Let it flourish in the light of open platforms, or at least platforms that don’t care about controlling everything you see and do.

Pig Bride Volumes 1-3

While at summer camp, the young Si-Joon gets lost in the mountains. He a girl wearing a pig mask and follows her home. Bribed with food, Si-Joon agrees to marry her. Eight years later, the memory of that day has been more like a dream that quicly becomes a nightmare when the girl in the pig mask appears at Si-Joon’s door on his 16th birthday, ready to consumate their marriage.

By KookHwa Huh & SuJin Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★
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I first discovered Pig Bride when I picked up the inagural issue of Yen Plus, and was immediately charmed by it. This manhwa is a romantic comedy with elements of the supernatural and reincarnation. The series starts by emphasing the comedy more than the romance, but cunningly sneaks in the romantic elements as the series goes on. While the overall tone of the series is light, there are some more serious elements, that keep the title in balance.

Pig Bride is populated with quite a cast of characters. They are varied in their personalities and well-developed. Si-Joon, the male lead, is just a normal teenage boy who suddenly has the strangeness of a pig-masked fiancee thrust upon him, and acts accordingly. Mu-Yeon, the female lead, plays the already-in-love fiancee perfectly, following Si-Joon around and calling him ‘Milord’. But she isn’t ditzy or annoying. She is smart and skilled as well as sweet. She gets along well with Ji-Ho, Si-Joon’s best friend. Which is unusual, as Ji-Ho doesn’t seem to like the girls that try to get close to Si-Joon. He’s rather stoic toward Si-Joon’s situation, and seems to like Mu-Hwa, Mu-Yeon’s sister. Mu-Hwa is similar to Ji-Ho in some ways. Her expression rarely changes and she doesn’t speak much. But she has a great fondness for food, as when she sees Ji-Ho with a piece of Si-Joon’s birthday cake, she gulps it, the plate and Ji-Ho’s hand all in one bite. She does leave Ji-Ho his hand. She is very protective of Mu-Yeon, with ninja-like skills and a very big sword. Doe-Doe is Mu-Yeon’s rival for Si-Joon’s heart, though it isn’t much of a contest. Doe-Doe’s sweet and timid attitude is just an act that hides a greedy heart for Si-Joon’s family’s power and money. She doesn’t fool Ji-Ho who is always indifferent to her, and even icy at times. She is set up as a cruel and cold person, but quickly becomes more like comedy relief as she tries to get between Mu-Yeon and Si-Joon.

It’s the interaction between these characters that makes the comedy work so well. Si-Joon and Ji-Ho play well off of each other as reactionary and straight-man. Ji-Ho also has some good moments with Mu-Yeon, Mu-Hwa and Doe-Doe, though all are completely different. His cool personality makes him good to work with just about everyone. There are some classic romantic comedy moments, such as Mu-Yeon and Si-Joon getting stuck in a shower in the boys locker room as they hide from Si-Joon’s classmates, and when they are alone together Si-Joon mistakes a raccoon for Mu-Yeon’s touch. But these moments are rare, keeping the comedy fresh. The way Doe-Doe gets humilitated is both funny and imaginative, and shows the title’s ability to be more original.

As the story goes on though, it does start to get dark. An intergral part of the plot is the story of the Park Bride. Many years ago, there was a girl cursed with an ugly appearance, and wore a mask. She married a man and won his love, which lifted the curse and made her beautiful. Si-Joon and Mu-Yeon are the reincarnations of this couple. At first, the flashbacks/visions of their past lives are of romantic moments, but with the appearance of Princess Ki-Ryong, things start to get dangerous. She is also a reincarnation from the Park Bride story. She was an assassin sent to kill Si-Baek Lee, Si-Joon’s past life, and is intent on correcting her past life’s failure. To do so, she must keep Si-Joon from breaking Mu-Yeon’s curse. When her attempts to kiil him from afar fail, she appears in person to finish the job, and Si-Joon learns his true role in this game.

The art of Pig Bride just as light as it’s story. The characters are drawn well, and in proportion, with most of the detail going into their clothes and hair. The art can drift into the realm of chibis, but it fits the tone of the story perfectly, and they are very cute.

Pig Bride is a charming series with delightful characters, and a story that slowly builds up to its climax. Like a sit-com, it is filled with lots of funny situations that can be punctuated with a dramatic or romantic moment. I whole-heartily recommend this title.

Yen Plus September 2010

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.

You’re So Cool Volumes 5-6

I picked up volume 5 of You’re So Cool without having any idea what I was getting into. Reading random review copies from publishers can be hit or miss, but for me, it”s part of the fun of reviewing. A series that doesn’t look interesting from the back blurb or cover can turn out to be a diamond in the rough. That’s what You’re So Cool turned out to be for me.

By YoungHee Lee
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance/manhwa
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆
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You’re So Cool is about the tumultuous relationship between the seemingly perfect Seung-Ha, and clumsy, clueless Nan-Woo. By volume 5, their relationship seems to be stabling out, but personal issues in Seung-Ha’s life staying weighing down on him. After getting sick from walking in the rain, and a night of feverish dreams, he decides to leave everyone behind, including Nan-Woo. The stubborn Nan-Woo can’t accept his leaving and goes searching for him, which includes camping out in front of his house, telling off his family, and finally finding him where she then proceeds to beat him up. The series ends happily for both Seung-Ha and Nan-Woo, and the sub-plot of relationship between Nan-Woo’s uncle Jay and Hyun-Ho.

I wasn’t sure what to think of this series at first. I didn’t have the background of the previous four volumes to explain who everyone was and what their relationships were, but by the end of volume 5, I was able to work it all out. The quirky collection of characters that make up this cast is what eventually won me over, in particular, Nan-Woo’s mother. She’s a tough, no-nonsense type a person who doesn’t mince her words. She’s also rather violent. She kicks down doors and emphasises her words with her fists, though always in comedic rather than serious kind of way. But for all her violent tendencies, she really does care for Nan-Woo, so it was nice to see the more caring and rational side of her after the violent outbursts.

Nan-Woo is definitely her mother’s daughter, as she has her own violent moments, but her sincerity and conviction is hard to resist. Seung-Ha plays the jerk well, but doesn’t come off as one in these last two volumes. His personal problems mitigate any dislike I might have had for him if I’d read from the beginning. Jay was a mystery until the last volume. I spent most of volume 5 trying to figure out if he was a guy or a girl,and didn’t get any kind of confirmation until volume 6. His more gentle personality balances well against his sister’s, but he did come off as rather emo.

These last two volumes deal with Seung-Ha having to make the choice of facing his problems, or running way from them. I think Lee did a good job of showing his emotional turmoil, and how he comes to the decision that he does. He doesn’t make any reversals of personality, and the makes the choice that seems to make the most sense to him. Of course, it takes Nan-Woo to show him the error of his ways, and finally find the forgiveness that has evaded him for so long.

Lee does a good job at drawing bishonen guys. Seung-Ha and Hyun-Ho are especially hot looking. And as I said with the aforementioned Jay, it was impossible to tell if he was male or female. But since his gender was supposed to be difficult to tell, Lee gets props for it. The one thing I had a problem with, and actually fixated on for about half of volume 5 was the size of the characters hands. They are HUGE compared to the rest of the character’s proportions. Seung-Ha’s hands were as big as Nan-Woo’s head! I honestly didn’t think I would be able to get over that, but I found myself drawn into the story so much that I stopped noticing them. It was only when I went looking for it that I saw the size difference. The character’s eyes are overly large too, and for people who may be a barrier to checking out this series. Don’t let it be. This story is worth looking past these artistic styles.

Overall, I found the ending of You’re So Cool it be a good and satisfying one, and I didn’t even start at the beginning. I’m glad I took the chance to read it and didn’t let the art keep me from getting to the end. It proved to be an enjoyable read, with characters that are fun and funny at the same time. If you get a chance, and you like romances with quirky and some times violent characters, then definitely give this title a try.

Jack Frost Volume 3

Noh-A watches in fear as Omu strikes down Maru, the last offspring of the Unicorn. With the last obstacle removed and Jack fighting elsewhere in the forest, Omu seizes the Antler of the Unicorn. In an effort to snatch Noh-A’s immortality for himself, Omu plunges the antler deep into her chest. But as the sharp horn pierces her heart, Noh-A is greeted not by Death, but by life. Her real life–the life she had before she found herself in Amityville. Though she has longed to uncover the mystery of her forgotten past, nothing could have prepared Noh-A for what she sees…

By JinHo Ko
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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In a reverse of the first volume, there is more plot and less decapitation in this latest volume of Jack Frost. Noh-A finally learns the truth of her past. There are also glimpses shown of Jack’s inner turmoil. Is he unable or unwilling to go to his rest? Then it’s back to mindless destruction as the South District renews its attack on the North.

This volume picks up a battle left off in the last volume. During it, the purpose of the mirror image, or at least one of them, it is implied that there may be more, is revealed. But Omu thought would happen with his victory, doesn’t so much. Instead Noh-A’s power starts to awaken, releasing her past memories. She was followed by death since she was a child. Everyone around her, her family, friends, and even animals that she just interacts with end up dying. And just as an aside, why do cats always get the gruesome, on-screen deaths while dogs get the more merciful off-screen ones? Does this mean manga artists don’t like cats or that they do? Either way, I’d really prefer not see either. Anyway, Noh-A’s first awakening, again it’s implied there will be more, restores balance between Amityville and the real world. This disaster is averted.

Jack is in his own battle with Ji Hoon, the former wearer of Jack’s coat, which is made of the Devil Thread, and is what gives Jack so much of his power. During the battle Jack meets the Tailor of the Devil Thread, and seems so impressed by Jacks’ blood lust that he gives Jack a power up so he can end the battle with Ji Hoon. During the encounter it’s implied by the Tailor that it’s Jack’s blood lust that keeps him from resting, though after three volumes there is no indication where that blood lust comes from. I find the lack of motive bothersome. If there’s no reason, then Jack becomes a very dull character.

With the resolution of Noh-A’s awakening, the story moves on to introduce a new enemy from the South District. Siegfried is a computer genius. He attacks through others, and takes over Jin, who appears to be an android. Jin and Siegfried have a history. Jin left the South District and joined the North in order to kill him. Siegfried wants to kill Helmina, but then, who in Amityville’s other districts doesn’t? The volume ends with a cliffhanger and more mindless destruction to the North District.

I was hoping for an improvement with this volume, but unfortunately was denied. The revelations made throughout don’t really explain anything. There are still far more questions than answers about Amityville and the Mirror Image, but unlike other titles, like from say Urasawa, there’s no incentive to keep reading to get there. You might be curious about these things, but there’s no burning need to know. Maybe because the characters are average. There’s still nothing interesting about them, even after the glimpses at Noh-A and Jack’s past. There is still plenty of fanservice with Noh-A and Helima though. Even in her dying moments in the real word, Noh-A can’t get any dignity.

After two volumes, nothing has changed or improved in Jack Frost. It’s still a barely average title with no discernible direction. The fighting is still just for the sake of fighting and give the manga creator a chance to draw some exciting action. The potential that the story may have had is getting washed away in all the fighting.

Yotsuba&! The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

The Ranch wasn’t fun, hun? But maybe festivals will be less funner?! (Yotsuba’s playing opposites, ha-ha!) Yotsuba got uninvited to Fuuka’s School for a culr…a clart…a cultural festival! And she didn’t promise Yotsuba there wouldn’t be CAKE! Yotsuba doesn’t want a cake as biiiiiig as Jumbo, nope!! You won’t either, now would you?!

Yotsuba&! Volume 8
By Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Ratting: All Ages
Genre: Slice of Life
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

Yotsuba&! is another title that gets a lot of praise from manga bloggers. It follows the everyday adventures of adopted 5-year old girl Yotsuba. In this volume we see Yotsuba go to a school cultural festive, help pull a shrine for the town’s festival, get blown away in a typhoon, see a man’s bare backside, and pick up acorns.

The appeal of Yotsuba&! is in its main character. Yotsuba is cute. She acts just like a real 5-year old. Many of the things she said and did reminded me of my youngest daughter. I could not only see a lot of her in Yotsuba, but I could see her doing the same things! This volume had some good laughs. Some of them, such as Yotsuba seeing a man’s bare backside at the festival are funny because they are so true. A kid her age would act exactly like she does. Other moments are funny because you could see them happening even if they might not be possible, such as Yotsuba being blown away as she tries to walk from the neighbor’s house back home during a typhoon. Yotsuba has a good supporting cast of friends and neighbors, whose job is to react to Yotsuba being cute, one they seem to take to heart. The chapter at the cultural festival has Fuuka spending most of it trying to meet Yotsuba’s overblown expectations of cake.

Overall, I liked Yotsuba&! but I was not blown away by it. It had its moments that made me smile, but this title feels more like a “borrow” than a “keeper” . There is nothing objectionable in its content, and kids will no doubt find Yotsuba’s antics funny and may even relate to her on some level. Adults though will probably find more to enjoy in this series. It’s slow paced, with no actual plot. It’s just moments sliced out from the life of Yotsuba and people around her, so you could pick up any number volume and still enjoy reading it. I found I liked it more for the way it reminded me of my daughter at that age than anything else. Parents can reminisce about what their kids were like while adults without kids of their own can live vicariously through Yotsuba’s adventures. Yotsuba&! was written for an older audience, and in the end I think that’s who will take more from it.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
By Akira Himekawa
Publisher: Viz Media – vizkids
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Video Game
Price: $7.99
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Link’s friend Tetra is taken prisoner by a ghost ship, and Link falls overboard when he tries to save her. When he wakes up, he finds himself embarked on another fantastic quest! The discovery of the Phantom Hourglass sets Link on a journey to rescue Tetra, find the Sand of Hours and break the curse of the Temple of the Ocean King. Come aboard with Link for an amazing adventure on the high seas!

This title, like all the titles in this series are based on the video games of the same name, and features the more cartoon-ish version of Link that had gamers in an uproar about when the designs were first released. The Legend of Zelda games are action/adventure games that first started on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The Player controls Link as he goes on quests and fights monsters in order to save the Princess Zelda. The story of the volumes adapts the plot of the game Phantom Hourglass that was releases for the Nintendo DS.

Phantom Hourglass was a lot of fun to read. Being based on a video game, it has a simple premise. Link must fight the monsters, free the Spirits trapped in them and collect the Sand of Hours. Himekawa does a good job of adapting this into a fun adventure on the high seas while actually incorporating some of the gameplay into the story, such as when Link is in the Temple of the Ocean King, and his life is being drained away. Just like the player would have to, Link figures out that he has to stay on the purple spaces on the floor to get through. I thought these elements really added to the story and paid a nice homage to the original source.

The characters really give the story life. Link is your typical hero character, charging off into danger to fight any and all who get in his way. He’s portrayed as earnest and always willing to help anyone in trouble. Tetra is the damsel in distress, who like Link, dives headlong into danger, which is what makes her need saving. Linebeck is the anti-hero who helps out Link in order to get the treasure that’s supposed to be on the Ghost Ship, but by the end is changed into a more heroic character because of Link’s influence.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is written to appeal to kids 12 and under. The art is simplistic, but cute, giving it appeal to younger readers. Link is seen fighting monsters, which are turned into sand when defeated, and there is a scene with zombies, but there’s nothing really objectionable or scary in the volume. This is a great title for kids, and for any fan of the Legend of Zelda video games, young or old.

Rating: ★★★★½

Yen Plus: 2 Years Later

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.

This Week in Manga: 7/31-8/6/10

And the Con Goes On

It’s been two weeks since Comic-Con, but reports are still coming out with video and transcripts from the manga panels that were held that. While that might be bad (and stressful) for the writing and transcribing them, it a bonus for those us of who couldn’t go! Deb Aoki posts about the manga events on Friday and takes a closer look at the Yen Press announced titles. Comics Journal has video of the Manga for Grown-Up panel and Carlo Santos from Anime News Network talked with guest Moto Hagio. And yes, there will be more links coming. But if you couldn’t make it to the con, they will be worth it.

Stuck in SDCC’s Shadow

One week after SDCC was Otakon over on the East Coast, in Baltimore, MD.  There wasn’t a huge manga presence there in either publishers or journalists. Ed Sizemore of the Manga Worth Reading blog not only held his own panel on Anime Journalism, but he also did writes up on Manhwa at the con for Manhwa Bookshelf, and days Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Audio from his panel can be found here, a transcript from Anime Diet here, and a report from Animemiz on it. Otakon also had a spin-off con: Baltiport. Comprised of Otakon attendees who were stuck in the Baltimore Airport, the 5 hour impromptu gathering also resulted in a license announcement. Bandai Entertainment will be releasing the Code Geass spin-off manga A Record of the Strange Tales of the Bakumatsu Era: Code Geass. You just never know when or where a new con will pop up.

Digital Manga Roundup

Yen Press’ move of their magazine Yen Plus to the digital world has really had people talking. Deb Aoki had a Q&A session JuYoun Lee, the Senior Editor about the changes in the magazine and some readers concerns. Brigid Alverson of Robot 6 then took on Kurt Hassler, the Editorial Director and pressed for more, specifically about whether any of the Japanese titles such as Black Butler would be returning…. OneManga did indeed do what they said they would, and pulled all manga from the site by Monday morning. Manga Fox is still going strong as of this writing… BL Manga Kindle readers can rejoice as Animate USA puts up another round of digital manga from Broccoli and CPM’s former catalog. I’ll have my own review of the new Yen Plus this week, but let me just preface it by saying thank you Yen Press for making your site readable on mobile devices. I will be more likely to keep up with your releases than the others you use flash.

NYT Best Seller List

So, what does the New York Times list have in store for us this week? Starting with the hardbacks, the sparkly-vampires are getting their butts beat by guys with sparkly rings as Twilight vol 1 remains at #9, well behind several Green Lantern books. Over on the manga list, there’s been quite a shake up! Del Rey finally decided to release some books and 3 of the 5 top spots are filled by them. Negima! Magister Negi Magi vol 27 debuts at #1. Right behind it is the CLAMP title Tsubasa: Resevoir Chronicle vol 27 debuting at #2. Naruto vol 48 at least keeps a top 5 spot by coming in at #3, followed by Fullmetal Alchemist vol 23 at #4. Shugo Chara! vol 9 takes up the #5 spot with Ouran High School Host Club vol 14 falling another three to #6. Vampire Knight vol 10 takes #7, staying ahead of Megatokyo vol 6 which is now at #8. Debuting at #9 is vol 2 of the Spice and Wolf manga, and the apocalypse is averted as Black Butler vol 2 returns at #10.

NYT Best Seller: Second Opinion

The manga rankings have gone up over at Rocket Bomber. Let’s see how the top ten stack up:

1. Naruto 48
2. Fullmetal Alchemist 23
3. Ouran High School Host Club 14
4. Vampire Knight 10
5. Maximum Ride 1
6. Hellsing 10
7. Negima! 27
8. Naruto 47
9. Maximum Ride 2
10. Bleach 31

Only 5 of the 1o titles between the two lists are consistent. Four of the Viz titles and 1 Del Rey. Once again, the NYT list features more of the newly released Del Rey titles than RB. If you remove the Del Rey titles then the NYT would match RB’s top four. RB does have Negima charting, but it’s the only Del Rey title to make it to the list.  Maximum Ride and Hellsing continue to hold on in RB’s list, but not Black Butler or Spice and Wolf. They don’t show up until 22 and 48 respectively. If the RB list only gets its data from the three biggest sellers online and retail (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders), where is the NYT data coming from to skew their list so far toward new releases?

Manga For Your Ears

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

Spiraken Manga Review

This Week at Manga Village

What I’ve Been Reading

  • Paradise Kiss vol 2
  • One Piece vol 43-44
  • Natsume’s Book of Friends vol 2
  • Himeyuka and Rozione’s Story
  • My Cat Loki vol 2
  • Yen Plus vol 3 issue 1
  • Shonen Jump  September 2010

This Week in Manga: 7/17-7/23/10

Twitter This

The week started out with a bang, and just kept on going! Seven Seas started it off with license announcements on Twitter in anagram form with one clue. All three were guessed correctly by ANN and confirmed by Tuesday, the day of the last announcement. The three titles are ToraDora, Amnesia Labyrinth, and A Certain Scientific Railgun. Two of these titles have anime tie-ins, with ToraDora having already released its first disc earlier this month, and Funimation just announcing the license of A Certain Scientific Railgun at this past Anime Expo. Amnesia Labyrinth also has ties to a previously published work. Nagaru Tanigawa, who is the author of the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi light novels, is also the author of this series. Most of these titles came from ASCII Media Works, which Seven Seas seems to be mining. I’m definitely interested in Amnesia Labyrinth, and not just because it’s by the author of the Haruhi books, which I’ve enjoyed the manga of, but it’s also a mystery. And we can’t get enough of those!

One Manga Down, 1000 Manga To Go

Wednesday, One Manga, the top scanlation aggregator site on the web announced it would be taking down ALL manga, not just titles licensed/owned by coalition members. This was quite a surprise as visitors were greeted with a pop-up message explaining the situation before they even got to any titles. They intend to keep their forums up and running, but it remains to be seen if anyone will still come around with all the manga gone. Reactions to the shut down have been varied and quite frankly extreme in some cases, as a perusal of the comments section of the manga.about.com article shows:

I have not stopped crying since i heard about this yesterday.. what am i going to do from now on?.. my reason to live from one Friday to the next is now gone.. i am deeply saddened.

What am i gonna do with the 36 series’ that I’m curetly reading right now? Im addicted. At 13 I fail to see anything more important than manga right now.. I seriously feel like someone close to me has a fatal disease, and that person is slowly crawling to their death.

Yeah…okay. I love manga too, but it’s not the be all, end all of my life. I was disappointed when some of my favorite titles were cancelled thanks to Kodansha yanking them from Tokyopop, but the world didn’t end because of it. And the world won’t end now without One Manga or 1000 Manga, or any of the other aggregators that may go down. I know teens like to be melodramatic and all, but sheesh! It’s just manga guys!

What Goes Down Must Come Up

The same day that One Manga announces its demise, Square Enix announces a new digital manga store for NA and France.  The site will go live in the Fall, but a preview with the first chapters of Fullmetal Alchemist, Black Butler, Soul Eater and O-Parts Hunter (666 Satan) are available right now for download. They are also running demos at their booth at SDCC. This is an interesting development, since Square Enix doesn’t license to just one company here in the US. The four titles mentioned are split between Yen Press and Viz, but both manga publishers have said they are working with Square Enix in this endeavour. No price has been set yet, but it is nice to another publisher not only making titles available online, but to also be portable.

SDCC is Here!

That right, the San Diego Comic Con started this week. And it started off at a run. Wednesday is dubbed Preview Night, where the exhibit hall is open in the evening, and Vertical wasted no time in announcing a license and the first official one of the con. They will be releasing Lychee Light Club, by Usamaru Furuya, who is also the author of the highly anticipated 51 Ways to Save Her, which was announced at last SDCC by CMX, and cancelled before the first volume could be released. It’s a single volume and is about some students at an all boys school who create a robot to find beautiful women but run into a problem when the robot become sentient.

The first official day of the con brought more licenses. At the Bandai Entertainment panel, Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens was announced. Not too surprising, since it was a cult hit on the internet and the anime has already been released. Top Shelf, a comics publisher announced it would be releasing Cigarette Girl, a collection of short stories from an early artist of the gekiga movement, Masahiko Matsumoto. There were several manga related panels that ANN covered; Manga For Grown Ups, Best and Worst Manga 2010, and Manga: Lost in Translation.

Friday brought the Yen Press Panel, which had more new licenses to announce. Aron’s Absurd Armada, High School of the Dead, Higurashi: When They Cry: Demon Exposing Arc, and Otoyome-Gatari: The Bride’s Story. High School of the Dead is another no brainer as its anime was licensed and announced at Anime Expo. Fans were happy to hear about Otoyome-Gatari. It’s the new title from Kaoru Mori, the mangaka of Emma. It sounds like it with get the Twilight treatment with a hardback, larger size treatment.

Yen also finally revealed the fate of Yen Plus. It has its own website which has gone live with a beta. Most of the titles up right now are Yen’s original titles; Maximum Ride, Nightschool, Gossip Girl, and the first 2 chapters of Daniel X. Two Korean titles from the print magazine are there now, Time and Again and Jack Frost, and a special short story, Haunted House Call from the creator of Hollow Fields, Madeleine Rosca. There are no Japanese titles at the moment, but if you go back up one story you may see why for at least two of them. The cost will be $2.99 a month, paid by Paypal subscription, and will keep the last two recent issues available.  This is looking like a good deal and the reader on the computer isn’t bad. It’s not flash-based, so the reader may be friendly for mobile devices. Some have said that teens will be left out because of the online payment, but any parents who refuse their kids a $2.99 investment for them to read is doing them a great disservice.

Manga related panels included The Future of Manga with Jason Thompson and Dallas Middaugh was on Publishing Comics representing Del Rey. Del Rey didn’t have a panel at the show this year and with the news of Ali Kokmen, the marketing manager who did a lot of to get Del Rey Manga going being laid off, makes more real the speculation that Del Rey is winding down their manga division. Sony held a panel on their adaptation of the Tokyopop published manhwa Priest, and Moto Hagio had a focus panel where she was also presented CCI’s Inkpot award.

NYT Best Seller List

It’s that time again, so let’s look at what’s going on with this week’s list of  best sellers. And a check of the Hardback list shows…What?! No Twilight at #1? Who’s this green dude that’s taken the first three spots, leaving Twilight to come in at #4? Bahhhh.  Over on the manga list, Naruto vol 48 retakes it’s #1 spot from Ouran High School Host Club vol 14, which falls to #2. Vampire Knight vol 10 moves back up to #3 with Black Butler vol 2 right behind at #4. New comer Black Lagoon vol 9 debuts at #5 while The Last AirBender falls another 2 to #6. Black Butler vol 1 moves back up one to #7 while another debut, Inuyasha vol 50 arrivals at #8. Soul Eater vol 3 is another newbie arriving at #9 while One Piece vol 54 holds on but falls 7 to #10. Viz hold a majority of 6/10 on the list with Yen Press’ strongest titles holding 3/10. Black Lagoon is a surprise as a more adult title, but is very welcome addition. It would be nice to see more adult titles taking on the massive teen machines of Naruto and Vampire Knight.

NYT Best Sellers: Second Opinion

A lot of people question the New York Times Best Seller List for its accuracy. They never full explain where they get their numbers from, so there’s plenty of doubt about how real they are. One person to not only feel that way, but does something about it Matt Blind of Rocket Bomber. He compiles his own list and explains exactly where the numbers come from. So, here’s a comparison of the this week’s lists:

  1. Naruto vol 48                                                                                              1.  Naruto vol 48
  2. Ouran High School Host Club vol 14                                                    2. Ouran High School Host Club vol 14
  3. Vampire Knight vol 10                                                                              3. Vampire Knight vol 10
  4. Black Butler vol 2                                                                                       4.  Hellsing vol 10
  5. Black Lagoon vol 9                                                                                    5. Maximum Ride vol 1
  6. Last Air Bender                                                                                          6. Naruto vol 47
  7. Black Butler vol 1                                                                                       7. Maximum Ride vol 2
  8. Inuyasha vol 50                                                                                          8. Bleach vol 31
  9. Soul Eater vol 3                                                                                          9. One Piece vol 54
  10. One Piece vol 54                                                                                      10. Negima! vol 26

It’s an interesting comparison when seen side by side. The top three are the same, but Maximum Ride is missing from the NYT, and Black Butler is missing from RB. Interesting exchange, but from same company. Viz still holds 6 spots, while Yen is down to 2. Adult comics still get their representation on th RB with Hellsing, but there’s no Last Air Bender. It will be interesting to continue to do these comparison and see if/how things change between them.

This Week At Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Black Butler vol 2
  • Fairy Nagivator Runa vol 1
  • Dramacon vol 3

Review: Black Butler Volume 1

Just a stone’s throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria’s faithful servant…and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master’s wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London’s underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true…or at least, too good to be human…

By Yana Toboso
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre:
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

Black Butler had a strong fanbase on the internet before it was licensed by Yen Press, and a reading of the first chapter makes it easy to see why. Well developed characters, good humor punctuated by moments of drama, and an intriguing story draws you into Black Butler’s world, so that you are eager to stay.

The focus of this title is on Ciel Phantomhive, the 12-year-old Earl and his butler, Sebastian Michaelis.  Ciel is cool and aloof with a touch of smugness in his attitude, especially when dealing with adults. Even though he tries to act older, he is still a child, and would prefer to play games instead of studying. He is also not at all interested in girls, especially his betrothed, Elizabeth. As heir of the Phantomhive estate, he is not only Earl, but also the head of Funtom Corp, the biggest maker of toys and candy in Britain. It’s little surprise that the company has been booming since he took over. Sebastian comes off as very laid back. Not a slacker, just someone who doesn’t let anything get to him. He’s very efficient and takes his job as butler to the Phantomhive family very seriously. He sees to Ciel’s welfare, education, and when needed acts as a bodyguard. And he always wears a smile, that can seem warm, or smug, or even demonic.

Ciel and Sebastian play off each very well. Like a child testing the boundaries of a parent, Ciel likes to play with Sebastian, such as searching the ends of the earth to find someone who can defeat him in combat, or having him drink some poorly made lemonade. By the same token, Sebastian seems to enjoy needling Ciel a little, such as reminding him of the studying he would do if he won said combat, which of course, he does. But there is so much more to their relationship than just trading barbs. Sebastian sometimes acts the parent, as he teaches Ciel to dance properly, and Ciel does crave that attention, as when he asks Sebastian to stay with him until he is asleep. There is an underlying sadness to Ciel that we only get glimpses of, that is most likely related to the lost of his parents, even though it’s never mentioned. Later we learn that there is more to their relationship, and both are just their playing parts, like in some play. At least Sebastian is. For Ciel, despite what he knows about Sebastian, there may be some real feelings there.

While there are comedic moments between Ciel and Sebastian, it’s the staff of the manor that play up the laughs. They have no other job than comedy. They certainly can’t do what they were hired to do. Finnian is the gardener with a brown thumb. Mey-Rin is the clumsy housemaid. Baldroy is the Chef that can’t cook and Tanaka is the House Stewart who does nothing but drink tea all day. They mess up everything, and Sebastian then gets to come in and magically fix everything. Of course, none of them are too bright either, so don’t really notice that a lot of the things Sebastian does isn’t humanly possible.

Black Butler is just plain fun to read. It’s setting in the steampunk-ish world of 19th century England where there are video games, cell phones and cars allows for all the trappings of the 21st century in the Victorian era and attire. Toboso drops several intriguing hints throughout this introduction volume. Sebastian himself is a mystery as is how he came into Ciel’s service. But there is so much than that. What happened to Ciel’s family/parents? What is the “Covenant” between Ciel and Sebastian, and are the two events related? And what is the role of the Phantomhive as “watchdogs for the Queen”? That brings to mind elements of Hellsing another excellent, though not as pretty, title.

The art of Black Butler brings to mind Kaori Yuki, creator of The Cain Saga and Godchild. It may be that both have Victorian settings and bishonen leads, but I mean the comparison in a good way. I really enjoy Yuki’s work, so that made enjoying Toboso’s even easier. Sebastian’s shaggy mane works perfectly with the butler uniform, and Ciel’s eye patch, which changes with his outfit adds a sense of mystery to his already cute form.

Overall, this first volume of Black Butler is an excellent start to the series. It introduces all the pertinent characters and gives glimpses of what they can do, and some of what they are dealing with. It’s spent 19 weeks (as of this writing) on the NYT best seller list, several of those weeks at number 1, and is deserving of doing so. This is a volume to be read and re-read.