Tag Archives: Yen Press

Yen Plus January 2011

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.

Tena on S-String Volume 3

As Kyousuke and Tena go about their contentious daily lives in Japan, they’re blissfully ignorant that something’s afoot at the tuner headquarters in France. And whatever it is, it’s starting to make the world a much more dangerous place for Kyousuke with his sought-after soul score! Though he’s managed to avoid detection by other tuners, like Arun, thanks to the gadget bestowed upon him by Mezzo and Sopra, it’s not long before his good luck charm runs out, landing him in a whole mess of trouble with tuners he’s never seen before! Will Tena be able to save him from a life as a tuner test subject, or will Tena need saving too!?

Buy This Book

By Sesuna Mikabe
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romantic Comedy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

This volume is a marked improvement over the last one. There is a lot less emphasis on Tena, and more attention given to the  Tuner plot and Kyousuke.

The focus of this volume is on Kyousuke. His musical abilities goes beyond technical skill. He can read people and see what kind of music they may need. When he, Tena and his students go to a hospital for some musical therapy for the patients, Kyousuke changes Tena carefully planned mellow score to a more upbeat one, cheering the patients up rather than just entertaining them. More is revealed about Kyousuke and his “viral” notes as well. As expected, he loses the ring that Mezza gave him to hide his viral notes. He soon learns though, that he has a tuner power like Tena. He is a Life Tuner. He can drastically change a life score, not just adjust it as most tuners do. Somewhere in his past, his power was suppressed. Now, Kyousuke wants to find out about his power more than ever.

The Tuners and their “grand finale” plot is on the most as well. More of the High Command of the tuners is revealed, but there was still very little information given on what is going on. Why are tuners needed all over the world WITHOUT knowing anything other than notes need to be captured? There is a very conspiratory feel to this plot. The High Command is planning something the rank and file know nothing of. The tidbits of information leaked in this volume only adds to my curiosity.

Kyousuke gains a harem of sorts, with many of the women seeming to have a relationship with the higher-ups. We already know about Arun being the sister of Lord Chord, but in this volume we learn that Mezza has a sister who is the head of covert ops for the tuners, and has been spying on Mezza. Arun’s connections come in handy though, when the group has to leave Japan, and head to France.

The biggest problem with this volume is again Tena. She is jealous of “elites” like Arun and hates them all. She has a serious chip on her shoulder against them for some reason. She throws a tantrum when Arun is impressed with Kyousuke’s ability to make good food on a budget. She came real close to giving Kyousuke up to some tuners that found him in exchange for the recognition she would get from the higher-ups. It was just another reason to NOT like her.

Overall, this was a better volume of Tena on S-String with more story and less Tena being a brat. Arun is still more interesting and makes a better lead to Tena as far as I’m concerned. I am curious to find out more about Kyousuke’s power and past, so I will give this series one more volume.

Yen Plus December 2010

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.

Bunny Drop Volume 2

As the impromptu dad and his charge learn to adapt to both one another and their very new living situation, Daikichi is plagues by thoughts of Rin’s mother. Who is she? Why has she been quiet all this time? Hot on the trail after discovering a modem at the old man’s computer-less abode, Daikichi plays detective in a search for answers. But elementary school enrollment, extracurricular activities, and other parental obligations wait for no man, so when the day of confrontation with the mysterious Masako arrives, will Daikichi be prepared?!

Buy This Book

By Yumi Unita
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★½

Rin has been with Daikichi for 6 months now, and both seem to have settled into their new situation. Daikichi’s demotion to the warehouse has him interacting with more parents than the single guys in the sales department. Rin is finding more acceptance from Daikichi’s immediate family and starts to open up to them more. But it’s Daikichi’s obsession with finding Rin’s mother that’s the focus of this second volume.

I really enjoyed watching Daikichi’s continued adjustment to parenthood. In his new position in the distribution department, he has other parents to interact and commiserate with. The stressing over extracurricular activities, preparing to start elementary school are all things parents deal with, so seeing Daikichi stumble through them is a familiar feeling. I loved the scene at Rin’s graduation ceremony, where Daikichi is the only one there without *at least* one camera. Though, he read through Rin’s Mother-Child Health Record, and even commented on how thorough the mother was in filling it out, so it was odd that he would have to ask about immunizations. It did make for a good panel for the dirty looks he got from some of the other mothers.

Most of this volume though, was about Daikichi’s search for Rin’s mother. He has a hard time understanding why she hasn’t tried to get Rin back. When he finally meets her, the answer is rather shocking to him. She chose her career over raising Rin. Choosing to continue working while raising a child is a decision a lot of women must face, as we do see in the volume with Kouki’s Mom trying to juggle work with Kouki just as Daikichi does with Rin. Daikichi’s mother tried working after having him and becoming pregnant with his sister Kazumi, but was forced out by the company she worked for. But Masako takes things a step too far by not even trying, and convincing Rin she isn’t her mother. Masako’s whole attitude toward it though seems a little extreme, and it’s hard not to agree with Daikichi’s reactions. But it probably is the best for Rin to not be with her. Children only do better with their parents when they care. They will always flourish with people who truly care for them, and there’s no doubt Daikichi cares for Rin.

Bunny Drop continues to be a great title that is charming while being very relatable. Daikichi fumbles though his sudden parenthood just as well as a parent that’s been raising their child all along. He struggles through the same choices and decisions, and even parents from the beginning have doubts about their abilities to raise their child properly. He makes good decisions though, and respects Rin’s feeling, perhaps more than actual parents might. I continue to recommend this title highly.

Yen Plus November 2010

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.

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: ★★★★★
Buy These Books

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: ★★★★☆
Buy These Books

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.