Tag Archives: Yen Press

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
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.

Review: Tena on S-String Volume 2

For all Kyousuke’s resistance to Tena and her bossy ways, he seems to have settled in quite nicely to being a sort of househusband to her and the other tuners. But while Mezzo and Sopra have agreed not to collect Kyousuke’s viral notes, there’s no telling what might happen if he meets yet another tuner! So when Kyousuke runs into Arun, an elite tuner at the top of her class, could this spell the end of his musical aspirations…and his life?!

by Sesuna Mikabe
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romantic Comedy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

I love stories that relate to music in some way, but hate stories with obnoxious, bossy female leads, so I picked up Tena on S-String with guarded curiosity. I was very intrigued by the idea of tuners and seeing the music of others, but Tena is a complete turn off, and practically ruins every scene that she is in.

The protagonist of this story is Tena, an obnoxious, haughty, pushy, violent girl with no social graces. This is the character we as readers are supposed to want to read about and follow through a potentially long series? Sorry, I don’t think so. These kinds of female leads make me want to just put the book down and move on to something else. There is absolutely nothing to like about her, and I would certainly hope no one would want to be like her! She pushes Kyousuke around like a servant, which I think is supposed to be funny, but it really isn’t. She’s supposed to be a great tuner, but we don’t see her doing it. All she does through this volume is berate Kyousuke, go shopping and eat. And since she’s the lead, she’s of course falling for Kyousuke, but her pride won’t even let her be nice to him once, let alone think such a think might be possible. I couldn’t stand Tena in any of the panels she was in, and just grew to dislike her with every turning page.

Kyousuke, the male lead, isn’t as bad. He has aspirations to become a composer. But he’s surrounded by these viral notes, that if any other tuner discovered were around him, they would try to take away his freedom, or even his life to retrieve them. Tena and her fellow tuners Mezzo and Sopra help him hide from other tuners. Kyousuke is a nice guy, and good with household chores, but he’s pretty clueless when it comes to women. He doesn’t know how to talk to them in general. And he doesn’t notice Tena’s growing feelings for him, which only makes things worse for him.

But get the to parts where there’s no Tena, and this title is actually pretty decent. All of the scenes where Kyousuke is with Arun, at the theater and sightseeing were fun to read. Even though Kyousuke is Japanese and Arun is French, they can still communicate through the language of music, which in this case is French. I really liked Arun and the scheduled life she leads. Everything neat and orderly, every moment of her day is set in advance, and she keeps to the schedule like clockwork. Until she meets Kyousuke. Their time together starts to change her. I want to see more of her and Kyousuke together.

All of the mysterious talk of the “grand play” performance and finale is intriguing too. Even though it didn’t get a lot of mention in the volume until the end, I found myself growing interested in finding out more about what this “great play” is, and how it relates to Kyousuke. This part of the story has the greatest potential. If the title could concentrate on it and drop Tena completely, it would be a story a I would be much more interested in reading.

The art is fairly standard for a romantic comedy. A lot of attention is given to Tena and her constantly changing wardrobe. Clothes are what she spends the majority of the volume shopping for, since she just can’t wear the same thing twice! The character designs are all similar too, especially with the girls, but there are enough differences in dress and temperament to be able to tell them apart.

Overall, Tena on S-String is well done, as long as you like titles where the female lead abuses the male lead. Definitely check this title out, you won’t be disappointed. If not, borrow or trade for it and just read the non-Tena parts, which is about half of this volume. It’s still worth it for all those other parts.

Bunny Drop Volume 1

Going home for his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi is floored to discover that the old man had an illegitimate child with a younger lover! The rest of his family is equally shocked and embarrassed by this surprise development, and not one of them wants anything to do with the silent little girl, Rin. In a fit of angry spontaneity, Daikichi decides to take her in himself! But will living with this overgrown teenager of man help Rin come out of her shell? And hang on, won’t this turn of events spell doom for Daikichi’s love life?!

BUNNYDROP_1By Yumi Unita
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

When I first heard about this title, I didn’t think it would appeal to me. But, after seeing so many comments recommending it, I decided to give it a chance, and I’m glad I did. Bunny Drop turned out to be a well written story with engaging characters that evolve over the course of this first volume.

Bunny Drop looks at the lives of two people. Daikichi is a 30-year-old bachelor. He is the section chief at a clothing manufacturer, so he works longs shifts and has no social life, or prospects of one anytime soon. Rin is a quiet 5-year-old girl. She is shy around other adults, and is the daughter of Daikichi’s 80-year-old grandfather, essentially making Rin Daikichi’s aunt. At Daikichi’s grandfather’s funeral, his family is arguing over who should take in Rin, as no one knows who the mother is. Daikichi, disgusted by their attempts to push the child off onto each other, impulsively decides to take her in himself. Here is where the story really starts.

In order to properly care for Rin, Daikichi’s whole life has to change. He can no long live the life of a bachelor, working until late into the night, and leaving his porn magazines around. He has to keep the apartment relatively clean, learn to shop for Rin, find her daycare, and even transfer to another department at his job to get lesser hours. But the changes he experiences aren’t just external. Internally, he is changing as well. In order to care for Rin, his whole way of thinking has to change. He needs to think more like a parent. Slowly, he begins to understand Rin and her needs, such as helping her deal with the concept of death, and that he’s not going to die so soon as her father/his grandfather did. Helping Rin also makes him look at his life and health, which starts him thinking about the future differently.

This was a fantastic story. I really enjoyed it a lot. It was very touching in a lot of ways, with the way Daikichi reaches out to Rin, not knowing what he is getting into, and really tries to care for her without overcompensating. The characters and story are rendered realistically, making the whole title believable. There’s nothing weird or disturbing about the way the situation is presented. The changes in the characters occur gradually, naturally. Watching Daikichi’s adjustments from bachelor to “Dad” are both amusing and touching. It’s hard to put into words, but the whole volume just felt good to read.

The art suits the story very well. It’s has a mostly realistic look to it, with some weird faces showing up, but these are just moments of exaggerated emotion and well within the range of reality.

I highly recommend Bunny Drop. It’s a title that both men and women can enjoy and relate to. The characters are great and the situations have humor mostly because they are so true. Anyone who has had to get daycare on a moment’s notice can really relate to Daikichi’s predicaments. It’s well written, well drawn, and just plain a pleasure to read.

Review copy provided by Publisher

Review: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

TWILIGHT_1Written by Stephenie Meyer; Art and Adaptation by Young Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural Romance
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

I don’t care for the Twilight franchise. I didn’t read the books. I watched the movie, only because Rifftrax did such a great riff on it, but hated it in general. But surprisingly, I wasn’t repulsed by the graphic novel. It read like an average young adult romance, and the characters were typical of a shojo title. To quote my oldest daughter when I asked her why Twilight was popular with her friends, “Bella is a blank slate so anyone can be her, and the guys are all hot.” It was filled with lots of wish-fulfillment and angst, but it wasn’t the worse thing I’ve ever read.

This first volume covers the first half of the first book, Twilight.  It starts with Bella moving to Forks, WA, and ends with Edward’s sparkly-secret reveal. Everything else in between, was filled with days of Bella at school, being with her new friends, and, most of all, angsting over Edward.

I don’t have much to say about the story so far. Most of this first half had Bella and Edward thinking that the one hates the other. I can’t really complain about this too much. People tend to think like this when judging by action alone, and as awkward teenagers, of course neither would think to ask. Though, considering Edward’s age, I would have thought he’d be more mature, but then, the story might not appeal as much if he did. The other half is spent with Bella trying to figure out Edward’s secret, while Edward is just rying to figure Bella out. Of course she has to be different from all the other girls. While Edward is about as average as a modern-day vampire can get. He and his “family” only drink animal blood, want to live in peace with humans, and are angsty about their eternal life.

The art, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. Seeing Young Kim’s work made it easier to get through the story. The characters are drawn realistically. One of the things I really appreciate is how they DON’T look like the actors from the movie. I would have been easy to just cop-out and use their likenesses. I can’t say if their likenesses are anything like their described in the books, but they aren’t anywhere as hard on the eyes as the movie was. I also didn’t have a problem with font or unusual word balloon placement used in the book. It actually flowed fairly well once you understood it. And the font did add to the atmosphere of the book. I guess it also helps that I’m partial to flowing text.

Overall, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading Twilight, but it’s not something I would go looking for either.  It’s not a bad way to kill an hour or so if you’re curious to see what all the fuss is about. You can skip all the long-winded text and get straight to the story, and have lots of pretty pictures to boot!

This Week in Manga 4/17-4/23/10


Who’s Going Down?

ICv2 reports that manga sales will drop to below 1000 volumes for 2010.  The drop in sales was seen more in bookstores than in the direct market, and they speculate that shojo fans getting older, distracted by other things (Twilight) and lack of hit shonen anime is hurting sales more than scanlations.  Some of these elements make sense.  I can see the drop in sales from bookstores being more, since ordering through the direct market through Previews can often net you a 30% discount on many titles.  It’s my preferred way to buy.  And fans, male or female, have priorities shifts as they get older, especially in the 20’s, where kids become adults and must establish themselves in the real world.  I know that’s where I stopped collecting comics and watching anime.  Work and starting a family became much more important.  I wonder though how much the “Cartoon Network” effect really drove sales.  I can see it driving the sales for first volumes, but like the anime that they are based on them, once a series hits a lather, rinse, repeat cycle, no amount of TV promotion will keep a series selling.  Personally, I’m not concerned about the drop in available volumes.  There was too much coming out in 2007, and most of it was mediocre.  We’re just seeing the reaction to that as fans put their money with the good series.  I am concerned about some of the mid-level publishers who have gone silent.  They provide a good alternative to all the mega long, mega his titles.  I hope they can weather this economic storm.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

C2E2, a new comics and entertaiment convention in Chicago was this last weekend.  There weren’t any manga panels, but Brigid Alverson caught up with Dark Horse comics and asked about the CLAMP Mangaettes that were announced at SDCC 2007, and have yet to materialize.  The word?  They are “on hold”, while Dark Horse builds up their association with CLAMP through reprints of several of their older titles.    So if you were hoping for some new CLAMP, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  You won’t find it at Dark Horse any time soon.

Yen Plus Goes Paperless

Found via Twitter.  Yen Press announced it first through its twitter feed.  Yen Plus, their anthology magazine would be going digital.  Details are still sketchy, but the gist of it is that the last print issue of the magazine will come out in July, and then go to a digital distribution.  Current subscriptions to the print will be refunded, but there’s speculation that digital version will require a subscription, and not be free like the Viz Signature line from Ikki Comix.  This is an understandable move by Yen Press.  Manga magazines are more about promotion than making money, and going digital takes out a lot of the risk.  But I’m with a lot of the commentors on the blog post.  I prefer to read on paper than digital.  Digital just isn’t portable enough yet.  I can pick up a magazine and take it anywhere to read.  A digital version will need a device to read it on, and could greatly limit the audience that can read it.  We’ll just have to wait for more details.

More Scanlations on the iPhone/iPad

With the release of the iPad, software like Manga Rock is getting more and more attention.  This software for the iPhone/iTouch (and by default, the iPad), let’s you not only read scanlations from Onemanga.com, it keeps track of what your reading, where you left off, and let’s you download it to read later.  This isn’t the first app to appear on the Apps store as both Jason Thompson and Brigid Alverson have pointed out, and probably won’t be the last.  Publishers (US and Japanese) have to come to terms about digital distribution and get their official work out at reasonable prices before these apps become too entrenched.  One interesting thing I noticed about this Manga Rock app though.  It doesn’t allow access to some of the bigger release titles.  Commentors on the iTunes store have mentioned that there’s no Naruto or Bleach or Shaman King.  That makes me wonder.  Are these guys blocking licensed manga, or are the more popular manga reserved for the paid, “full version” of the app?  Any one with an iPhone/iTouch/iPad wanna drop the $1.99 to find out?

NYT Best Seller List

I didn’t think it would last.  Last week the list was dominated by One PieceThis week, nary a sign of the Straw Hat Pirates. Not one volume survived.  Oh well.  Let’s check in on Twilight.  Still #1 on the Hardback Comics list?  Yup.  There’s at least one thing you can count on.  Another? That Viz will hold the top five, starting with Rosario Vampire Season II vol 1 at #1 again.  Naruto vol 47 retakes it’s #2 spot, and Gentleman’s Alliance Cross vol 11 moves up to #3, while Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 4 falls back two to #4.  New Viz Signature title Dogs vol 3 debuts at #5, while Black Butler vol 1 moves back up to #6.  Inuyasha vol 47 debuts at #7, and Vampire Knight vol 9 returns at #8.  The only other non-Viz title, Soul Eater vol 2 returns at #9, and Bleach vol 30 rounds things out at #10.  Viz still dominates the list with 8/10 titles, but it’s not too surprising that it was a Yen Press title that helped keep them from taking the 9th again.  Yen doesn’t have the behemoth catalog that Viz does, but it’s got some titles with sticking power.

Manga For Your Ears

Sesho’s Anime and Manga Reviews

This Week At Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Legend of the Five Rings: The Crane Scroll 3
  • Mushishi Vol 1

This Week in Manga 4/10-4/16/10


More Simon and Schuster Sightings

The sharp eyes of Michelle Smith of Soliloquy in Blue has spotted some more manga listings on Simon and Schuster from Viz.  Two of them we already knew about; Grand Guigol Orchestra and Cross Game.  But then four new titles showed up scheduled to come out at the end of the year.  Kurozakuro is scheduled for November, and the rest, Kamisama Kiss, Psyren, Itsuwaribito are scheduled for December. I can’t say any of them really inspire me, but I’ve been surprised before.  I am saddened by the news of no sign of Story of Saiunkoku.  I loved the anime, and am so dying to read the manga!  Hopefully the new Kaori Yuki title, Grand Guigol Orchestra, will help to pass the time.

Del Rey Ousts X-Men: Misfits & Wolverine: Prodigal Son

The weekend ended with a bit of downer as news and confirmation of the cancellation of first X-Men: Misfits and then Wolverine: Prodigal Son came out on Twitter. This seemed to be surprising news as X-men: Misfits seemed to have sold fairly well, hitting the New York Times best seller list for a few weeks.  But the creators of both series say Del Rey cited poor sales as the reason for pulling the plug.  While I wasn’t all that impressed with the first volume of Wolverine, it was more from Wolverine overkill than poor writing or art.  Others have speculated that the Marvel/Disney buyout may have affected the licensing fees for the titles and made them unfeasible for Del Rey to continue with.  But, wouldn’t the contract remain in effect for the whole series?  Could the fees really be changed because of a change in owners?  Who knows if we’ll ever know the truth.  It’s not like Del Rey cares about the fans or anything.

Speed Up Done Right

Found via Twitter.  It seems Yen Press is joining the Speed Up Releases Race.  Volumes of Goong, a popular manhwa title will start coming out as two-volumes-in-one as of volume 9 (the next scheduled release).  This is a boon for fans of the series.  Volume 8 just came out while in Korea they are up to volume 18.  By doing the 2-in-1 omnibus speed up, Yen Press can catch up the series faster (presumably to reduce the need for scanlations), and fans can keep up with it with out the major payout of money and shelf space.  The 2-volume omnibuses will be less than buying two volumes regularly.  This is a responsible way to speed up a series without leaving so many readers being and in the dust.

DMP on your PSP

Digital Manga Publishing has teamed up with IDW to put their manga on the PSP, starting with their Vampire Hunter D manga.  I think this is terrific news.  The more platforms publishers reach out to the better.  And while the PSP hasn’t been the stellar gaming platform that Sony hoped it would be, fans of the platform has been putting comics on their devices for a while now.  And while DMP is the first to put manga in the official Sony Playstation store, Seven Seas has several preview chapters of their original titles formatted for the PSP.  You can direct download them from Seven Seas.

Sometimes It’s Nice to Just Be Asked

Last month there was a lot of talk/debate about scanlations and their effects on the manga industry.  Well, the Japanese have finally spoken out on the subject.  In the latest issue of Weekly Shonen Jump, there was a message to the fans, asking them to stop scanning its manga. A full translation of the message is available at the link.  One site has responded.  It’s a US site that provided raws.  Now whether they closed down because of a sudden change of heart or because they feared legal repercussions we’ll never know.  But, it is nice to see a company appeal to the fans better nature instead of heading straight to the lawyers to deal with a problem.

NYT Best Seller List

Here is a first for the NYT list.  And it’s not just about dominance.  Viz holds 9 of the 10 slots on this weeks list, and 5 of those belong to one series: One Piece.  That is quite an accomplishment for a series that usually only makes it to the list occasionally.   It’s also exceptional that all but two of the titles on the list are debuts.  But first, Twilight once again holds the #1 spot of the Hardback list.  Over in manga, Rosario Vampire: Season II vol 1 debuts at #1.  Yu-Gi-Oh! R vol 4, featuring the original cast, debuts in at #2. Naruto vol 47 stays in the top five by falling to #3, while another newcomer, Gentleman’s Alliance vol 11, the final, comes in at #4.  Spots 5-9 all belong to One Piece, in the order of Vol 40, Vol 39, Vol 41, Vol 43, and Vol 42.  Rounding off the list is that black suited gentleman of Yen Press, Black Butler vol 1 holding on to #10.  This is quite a nice surprise.  Naruto waves may have appeared on the list, but they were only three at a time.  One Piece is pushing five.  But it is also supposed to be an amazing arc, these volumes, all about Nico Robin.  Perhaps people are finally realizing how great One Piece really is.  It’s about time!

Manga For Your Ears

Manga Out Loud

  • Episode 6 Part 1 and Part 2 – Pluto Series Discussion with spoilers and special guest


Spiraken Manga Reviews

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Bunny Drop
  • Legend of the Five Rings: Unicorn: The Second Scroll

And Friday was my Dad’s 74th Birthday.  Happy Birthday Dad!

Jenny's Journal: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

Twilight v1By Stephenie Meyer;
Art & Adaptation by Young Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Romance
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Buy This Book

The book I’m reviewing now is called Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1. I think I regret reading this, and I may never touch it again after setting my eyes upon it. But hey, as long as I’m allowed to bash it for what it is, I’m cool. Anyways, let’s talk about what the story is about.

Continue reading Jenny's Journal: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

Review: Nightschool Volume 2

When Alex’s sister, Sarah, vanishes and all memory and evidence of her existence is erased, Alex is determined to get to the bottom of her sister’s disappearance.  What better place to start her investigations than the Nightschool itself?  But when she discovers that sneaking into the Nightschool isn’t as simple as it might seem, Alex enrolls as a student.  But is she prepared for what she might find?

Nightschool 2By Sveltlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★
Buy This Book

The action in this volume moves to the titular Nightschool as Alex is forced to enroll in order to find out about her sister’s disappearance.  We learn more about the school and it’s inhabitants as Alex goes through orientation and attends a class.  We also see more of the Hunters as well as the seer Marina, as they relax and train at home, and more clues about the broken seal mentioned in volume 1 are dropped.

In order to find her sister, Alex tries to enter the Nightschool, and is twice evicted, but not before meeting Ronee, another weirn that is somehow connected with the prophesy and Alex.  So instead, she has to enroll in the school.  Mrs. Hatcher, the Day Keeper is great, and I love the dragon hatchery that she has to take care of.  They are so cute!  Another possible clue is dropped about Alex’s past as her pencil hovers over a cursed check box.  Once enrolled, she starts to play detective, and gets a tour of the school as orientation.  The best scene though, was her in the Astral Training class and showing up teacher Mrs. Murrey.  I especially liked Alex’s astral making the origami, and the page with Alex sprouting the wings really made this volume.

Also in this volume we get to see the Hunters on their home turf, studying and training.  They appear to be home schooled in much the same way as Alex.  They seem to be like a family, with all the sibling rivalry and play that comes with it.  Daemon, their “teacher” continues to be a mystery, as he is shown to have a connection to a teacher at the Nightschool, Mr. Roi, who also seems to have a connection to the broken seal seen in Marina’s vision.  He also looks like someone you don’t want to make angry.  There is more background on the prophesy, but still no answers.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books continues to move at a good pace.  The clues about the prophesy, the mysterious hooded shades who keep appearing, and the Alex’s sister’s disappearance are dropped at a slow but steady rate.  It’s at just the right speed to keep readers interested and wanting to know more.  The next volume should definitely prove interesting as Alex and Mr. Roi seem destined to meet.  This title remains on my must have list and it should be on yours.

Review copy provided by publisher. Image © Yen Press

Bone to Pick

Last night, on my way home from work, I was listening to the ANNcast podcast, episode 28, the one with the interview with Kurt Hassler of Yen Press.  Near the end of the episode, they read off some questions take from fans on Twitter.  One of the questions was about license rescues.  Kurt’s response to it really bugged me.  He started going off about why fans think they (Yen Press) would go “trolling” for titles from other publishers.  The hosts of the show weren’t much better, basically likening license rescues to dumpster diving.

Really?  This is what Kurt Hassler and Yen Press think of fan requests and the titles they love and want to see completed legally?  Does he really think that fans consider Yen Press to be a dumping ground for lost titles?  Or could it possibly be, that fans respect what Yen Press does with their titles and are hoping to see a title they love, but wasn’t completed because the original publisher went out of business or cut back to their cash cow titles, completed with a publisher they know will do it justice?  Do they  really think everything published by other companies is just trash, and not even worthy of their consideration?  Because that is exactly how Kurt came off with his mini rant.  If he had just limited his answer to the statement he made AFTER the rant, I would wouldn’t have been upset.

We all have titles we love that weren’t completed for one reason or another, and wish for some knight in shining armor to riding in and save them.  That’s why they’re called license RESCUES, and not license trolls.  Try being a little more considerate of fans that are trying to do the right thing in seeing the titles they love completed in English legally, and not just resorting to the scanlations that were scorned earlier in the interview.