Tag Archives: Yen Press

This Week’s Manga: April Showers

This Week's Manga

Clay Lord 1 Lots of titles debuting this week. Kodansha starts out with two new titles. Let’s Dance A Waltz is by Natsumi Ando, the mangaka of Kitchen Princess, and the recently ended Arisa. I have yet to read an Ando title, though Kitchen Princess is on my “someday” list, but I’ll definitely give the first volume of this series a try. Your Lie In April was Kodansha’s last announced license of 2014. It’s a music title that has been compared to Nodame Cantabile, which was only partially published by Del Rey back in the day. I’m looking forward to giving this volume a try as well. Seven Seas has two debuts as well. 12 Beast is another monster girl title, and is by the same mangaka as their runaway hit Monster Musume.  I expect this title to do just as well, I just won’t be experiencing it first hand. Clay Lord: Masters of Golems is much more my type. It’s a fantasy with plenty of adventure and competition.

DevilIsAPartTimerV1_Prose_TPYen Press is the serious player this week with four new light novels and 2 new manga debuting. Yen On gets a big push with Devil is a Part-Timer, Kagerou Daze, No Game, No Life, and Log Horizon all debuting their first volumes this week. No Game No Life and Log Horizon has seem a bit of hype from fans, but Devil is a Part-Timer is the one I’m most interested in. I don’t know why but the thought of a demon lord working in fast food just sounds really funny to me. Of the new manga, the title I’m looking forward to the most is of course Puella Magi Tart Magica. This time it’s a magical girl from the past, so I’m looking forward to how the historical setting works. Also out this week is the final volume of Tena on S-String. I never thought this title would ever be finished. Before its return in December, the last volume was released in 2010. That volume finished well enough that it could have been the end, but there is a proper ending now, which I’m looking forward to reading.

Full List per Diamond Distributors

KODANSHA COMICS
Let’s Dance A Waltz Volume 1 GN, $10.99
Your Lie In April Volume 1 GN, $10.99

SEVEN SEAS ENTERTAINMENT
12 Beast Volume 1 GN, $12.99
Clay Lord Masters Of Golems Volume 1 GN, $12.99

VERTICAL
Witchcraft Works Volume 4 GN, $12.95

VIZ MEDIA
Vagabond Volume 37 GN, $9.95

YEN PRESS
Akame Ga Kill Volume 2 GN, $13.00
Barakamon Volume 4 GN, $15.00
Devil Is Part-Timer Light Novel Volume 1 SC, $14.00
Inu X Boku SS Volume 7 TP, $11.99
Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon Novel Volume 2 SC, $14.00
Kagerou Daze Volume 1 GN, $13.00
Log Horizon The Beginning Of Another World Light Novel Volume 1 SC, $14.00
No Game No Life Light Novel Volume 1 SC, $14.00
Puella Magi Tart Magica The Legend Of Jeanne D’Arc Volume 1 GN, $13.00
So I Can’t Play H Volume 1 GN, $13.00
Spice And Wolf Novel Volume 14 SC, $13.00
Sword Art Online Progressive Volume 2 GN, $13.00
Tena On S-String Volume 7 GN, $30.00

Yen Press at Sakura-Con

YenPress_logoEaster weekend was a busy one for conventions. On the east coast was Anime Boston, and on the west coast, Wondercon was held in Southern California and Sakura-Con up north in Washington State. Manga publishers split up to cover the anime cons, with Yen Press taking Sakura-Con.

Yen Press has already been busy this year with the manga and light novel announcements, and their appearance at Sakura-Con was no different. They stuck with just manga licenses this time, announcing a whopping 13 titles to be released in either print of digital.

YowamushiPedalStarting with print manga, one of the biggest announcements and surprise was Yowamushi Pedal. This is not only a sports manga, but also a long running series, currently at 39 volumes, features that tend to make publishers shy away from a title. Yowamushi Pedal though is already fairly well-known among Western readers. The anime was streamed by Crunchyroll, and fujoshi have been obsessing over the manga for a while. The story is about Sakamichi Onoda, an otaku whose passion for figures and anime was so great that he would ride his bicycle 60-miles round trip to Akihabara to shop there. His bicycling skills get him into competitive bike racing. I’ve seen plenty of references to Yowamushi Pedal on my Twitter feed, but I never knew what it was about, nor had much interest in finding out. Now, I think I’d like to check it out. It will be published in 2-in-1 omnibuses.

MonthlyGirlsMonthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun is another manga that fans have been clamoring for. The anime was also streamed by Crunchyroll, and quickly became popular with viewers. It is about high school girl Sakura Chiyo, who confesses her feeling to classmate Nozaki. Nozaki mistakes her as a fan of his shojo manga, and ends up recruiting her to help him with it. The series is at 6 volumes and is just as much about creating manga as it is a rom-com, so there’s little wonder it was popular. This is a title I’ve been waiting and hoping would be licensed, and figured it was just a matter of time.

SakuraNoHimegoto Sakura no Himegoto is a short two-volume shojo. It is about a girl, Aoi, who comes from a prestigious family, and Kei, a boy with a mysterious background. Thanks to a debt Aoi’s grandfather owes to Kei, Aoi is stuck repaying it as she gets pulled into a master-pet relationship with him. While this is a short story, it doesn’t hold a lot of interest for me. I don’t care for the master-pet/rich girl under poor boy’s power plots that seem to pop up in shojo manga lately. I will probably give this one a pass unless some of my fellow bloggers rave about its virtues.

DragonsRiotingDragon Rioting is another titles I think I can do without. It centers around Rintaro, a boy who has been diagnosed with a disease that could kill him if the gets too sexually aroused. So, what happens to him? He gets accidentally enrolled in an all girls school and has to deal with the three “Dragons”, the three girls who control the school. If the cover wasn’t enough to make me back away, the “getting sexually aroused could kill disease” certainly did. There are five volumes out that will be passing up.

AldnoahZeroAldnoah.Zero Season One has a lot more potential. It also has an anime. It is a sci-fi mecha series about a hypergate to Mars being found on the moon. Colonists to Mars discover advanced tech on Mars and form an Empire that declares war on Earth. The Moon is destroyed in the war, creating a debris field around the Earth. Martian fighters set up bases in the debris field and a truce is called, until 15 years later the life of Vers Empire Princess is threatened and the Empire declares war again, intent on taking Earth this time. This title sounds really interesting, and fits historical context really well. It has three volumes out so far that I’m looking forward to reading.

HanadaKunOn the digital side, 8 Square-Enix titles that have not appeared in English previously were announced. Handa-kun is a spin-off of Barakamon, another Yen Press title. It is about Sei Hanada, a second year high school student and calligrapher. His is admired around his school for his cool charisma, but he thinks everyone at school hates him. It is three volumes so far. I want to check out Barakamon before I pass any judgement on this title, but so far it sounds like it has potential.

Today’s Kerberos is a title I’ll give wide berth. It a harem comedy, a genre I rarely find funny. Chiaki is a boy who no longer feels joy or fun after a childhood incident. His traveling father sends him a gift. Inside is a girl who calls herself Cerberus, and has three personalities. She vows to protect Chiaki from all harm. It’s currently three volumes and is ongoing. This will be an easy title to pass up.

Shut-In Shoutarou Kominami Takes on the World is a senien series about shut-in Shoutarou Kominami who, instead of getting the allowance he was expecting from his mother, gets a note telling him he’s been cut off. Shoutarou hasn’t left his place in months, but must now go out into the world and get a job. The series is complete in three volumes and sounds interesting. I’d be willing to read the first volume.

Servant X Service is a 4koma as well as being another senien. This slice of life comedy follows the staff of the Health and Welfare section of a ward in the fictional city of Mitsuba, Hokkaido, and their everyday hijinks in the office. It is complete in 4 volumes. I’m really intrigued by this series. It seems to be aimed at an older working person like me.

UnknownUnknown is a supernatural shonen action series. It follows Ox and Ivan, a pair of “wisemen”, who collect “wisdoms” that are too powerful and too dangerous in the wrong hands. The series is complete in 4 volumes, and is a title that would like to check out.

When a Magician’s Pupil Smiles is about Ouka Namae, a boy devoid of emotions. He must learn what it means to be alive, and to feel. The cover art work and hint of a mystery makes this a title I’d be willing to check out. It is complete in 3 volumes.

The Royal Tutor is about Haine, a newly minted Royal Tutor ready to get to work. But he’s in for more than he expected when his new charges, four princelings are more interested in testing his patience than their knowledge. This series could be interesting, but I don’t know. I’ll have to read the first volume to see. It is ongoing and there are 3 volumes out so far.

ScarletEmpireScarlet Empire is a time-bending historical, martial arts shonen. Souzou Sagara is the leader of the Sekihoutai in the Bakumatsu era. Kotetsu Miyasaka is a kendo student in the modern era aiming to be at the top with his younger brother. These two men are connected by the red string of fate as their struggle to protect and change their prospective worlds transcends time. Key words historical and martial arts are enough to pull me into this series enough to check out the first volume. It is at 3 volumes and going.

While no release dates were given with these announcements, I think we can expect titles to begin coming out in late 4th quarter or early next year. The digital titles could come out even sooner. Hopefully Yen Press will update their site with direct links to the digital titles. The easier they make it for reader to find, the quicker they’ll make the sale.

TodaytsKerberosShoutaroKominamiServantxServiceTheRoyalTutorMagiciansPupil

More Yen Press Manga Licenses

Yen Press-On LogoAt the beginning of March, Yen Press announced three new manga via their Twitter feed. They had teased the announcements in February and finally ended the suspense with the official announcement on March 1.

rgd1The first title they whipped out was Rose Gun Days Season One. This is another series by Ryukishi07, the creator of the visual novel games Higurashi When They Cry and Umineko When They Cry, both of which Yen Press has licensed and published the manga adaptations. Rose Gun Days is another visual novel game adaptation. This time, the story takes place just after the end of World War II. Devastated and defeated, the Japanese government accepts the allies’ reconstruction plan. Japan begins to recover, but the United States and China taken control through the local governments. Chinese and American immigrants flood in, making the Japanese a minority in their own country. Rose Haibara works at Club Primavera, helping out her countrymen. Leo Shishigami is an repatriated soldier with a reputation with the ladies. Everything begins to change when Rose and Leo meet in the spring of 1947. This series is different from Ryukishi07’s other works, as it is more of an action romance. The first season is 4 volumes long, and the first is scheduled to ship in the fall. I like the sound of this series. It looks like it will be a nice change from the mystery and horror of Higurashi and Umineko.

Fina FantasyThe second volume picked up was Final Fantasy Type 0 Side Story: The Reaper of the Icy Blade. This is a prequel to the video game Final Fantasy Type 0 for Playstation Portable. The story takes place nine years before the events of Final Fantasy Type 0. It follows Kurasame Susaya and his time as a student at the magic academy Peristylium Suzaku and as a member of the “Four Heavenly Kings of Suzaku.” The series is five volumes with the first volume scheduled to ship in July. The release of the remastered game coming out this month, hype for the series should build up to a nice launch in the summer, where fans hungry for more will want to pick it up. I don’t know if I’ll be one of them. I’ve never had much interest in the Final Fantasy franchise.

horimiya1 The third series was a confirmation, no doubt from an early solicitation by Amazon. Horimiya is a spin-off of the 4koma manga Hori-san to Miyamura-kun. This manga follows the same basic premise of the original. Hori is a pretty and popular girl at school. Miyamura is a glass-wearing, introverted boy. But both have another side to themselves that they don’t want to get out. Hori is actually a laid-back, family oriented girl, while Miyamura is a handsome boy with pierces and tattoos. When they discover each other’s secrets, an unexpected friendship develops. The series is currently at 6 volumes and ongoing. The first volume is slated for release in October. I haven’t found a shonen rom-com that I like as of yet, but this series looks like it might have potential. It’s at least worth checking out.

Just over a week later, Yen Press is back with two more titles to announce, a light novel and manga. This has become a norm for Yen Press, to get both the light novel and manga adaptation. Well, almost in this case.

mahoukaIrregular at Magic High School is a light novel series that started in 2008. It takes place in a world where magic is recognized as a technology rather than the occult or lore. The story follows Tatsuya Shiba, an underachieving student, as he tries to navigate school life at the National Magic University First Affiliate High School where he is looked down upon by the higher performing students except for his sister Miyuki, who might more than sibling love for him. The series is still ongoing and the 16th volume will be published in Japan in May. There is also a 2014 anime series which was licensed by Aniplex America. Yen Press will release the first volume in October.

honorThere are a few manga adaptations of this series, but the one that Yen Press licensed isn’t the usual retelling of the main story. Mahoka Koko no Yutosei is a side story that focuses on Miyuki’s viewpoint and experiences of the events that take place in the main story. This is an interesting choice for Yen Press. Instead of having the two titles compete against each other, the manga and light novel compliment each other, giving two different perspectives of the same events. This can actually be pretty cool. The Gundam Seed Astray manga did this with the main Gundam Seed story and it worked out really well. The manga is at 5 volumes and ongoing. No date was announced for the manga, but it will probably be in October as well. I don’t know if I’ll be picking up either of these titles. I’m not a fan of the “more than sibling love,” but I might check out the manga. If I like it, it might be worth checking out the light novel.

This Week’s Manga: Demon Magica

This Week's Manga

Demon From Afar 2 Kodansha and Seven Seas Entertainment are back this week, but their selections just aren’t speaking to me. Kodansha is top-loaded with titles I have no interest in. I gave up on Vampire Cheerleaders a while ago, even though that interest was mild at best, and I lost track of the Alice In the Country Of… awhile ago. So, I leave it to Yen Press again to spark my interest and they do a pretty good job this week. Second volumes of Demon From Afar and Love at Fourteen are out this week. The first volume of Demon From Afar felt like a prologue, so I’m curious to see where it goes in the second. Love at Fourteen is a pretty cute romance, so I can’t wait to see where things go in volume 2.

Puella magi Oriko Magica ExtraYen Press is releasing a few new titles as well that I want to read. I unexpectedly really enjoyed the first Puella Magi Oriko Magica series, so I’m really looking forward to reading Extra Story. I love the glimpses at alternate universes the spin offs give us. I’m curious about Devil is a Part-Timer. I think the idea of a Demon Lord having to work as a part-time employee could be fun. I’d also like to read the first volume of Karneval. It sounds intriguing with a touch of mystery. Angel of Elhamburg is by Aki, the same creator as Olympos, a title I loved, so I have high hopes of enjoying this one as well, even if the premise is less than cheerful.

Full list per Diamond Distributors:

KODANSHA COMICS
Air Gear Volume 33 GN, $10.99
Genshiken Second Season Volume 6 GN, $10.99
Sankarea Volume 11 GN, $10.99
UQ Holder Volume 4 GN, $10.99

SEVEN SEAS ENTERTAINMENT
Alice In The Country Of Joker The Nightmare Trilogy Volume 3 GN, $13.99
Vampire Cheerleaders In Space And Time GN, $12.99

YEN PRESS
Accel World The Twilight Marauder Novel Volume 3 SC, $13.00
Accel World Volume 3 GN, $13.00
Angel Of Elhamburg Volume 1 GN, $18.00
Are You Alice Volume 8 GN, $13.00
Big Hero 6 Manga Volume 1 GN, $12.00
Bloody Cross Volume 6 GN, $11.99
Demon From Afar Volume 2 GN, $18.00
Devil Is Part-Timer Volume 1 GN, $13.00
Disappearance Of Nagato Yuki-Chan Volume 7 GN, $13.00
He’s My Only Vampire Volume 2 GN, $13.00
Karneval Volume 1 GN, $20.00
Kingdom Hearts The Novel SC, $16.00
Love At Fourteen Volume 2 GN, $15.00
Puella Magi Oriko Magica Extra Story GN, $13.00
Soul Eater Volume 25 TP, $13.00
Sword Art Online Fairy Dance Volume 3 GN, $13.00
Sword Art Online Progressive Novel Volume 1 SC, $14.00
Triage X Volume 9 GN, $14.00

Bloody Cross Volume 1-5

Tsukimiya is a cursed mixed blood. Half angel and half vampire, she is shunned by both angels and demons. The only way to rid herself of the curse is to drink the blood of a pure demon, but they are had to come by. Hinata is another mixed blood looking for the same cure. They finally find in it in Tsuzuki, a candidate for godhood and must collect God’s Relics during the current Crusade in order to attain it. Satsuki, a fallen angel, has the same goal. In between the two sides is the human organization Arcana, who has their own ideas about godhood. Tsukimiya finds herself tangled up in the web all these groups have woven, when all she wants is to live a long and normal life.

Bloody Cross Volume 1-5
Bloody Cross 1By Shiwo Komeyama
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Action
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I had my doubts about Bloody Cross. Considering the publisher, both here and in Japan, I feared this series might have a heavy male gaze aspect to the art. I wasn’t wrong. Sadly that isn’t this title’s worse problem. I decided to give it a try after seeing some positive comments about the banter between the two main characters, but that would only matter to me if I actually liked or cared about them.

Bloody Cross 2Tsukimiya is the protagonist of Bloody Cross. It’s her story that’s being played out as she encounters and has to deal with all the other characters she crosses paths with. She is desperate at the beginning. Her curse is nearly up. She has to find a pure demon to dispel it. She lets Hinata in, thinking he was an angel who would help her, not another mixed blood that would betray her. This seems to be her major weakness, especially with Hinata. She trusts the wrong people, or even if she doesn’t trust them, they still get the upper hand on her. This really shouldn’t be an issue. Trusting should be seen as something good in a character, but it doesn’t completely work for me with Tsukimiya. She’s a capable fighter and puts her talents to the best use, but she isn’t too smart, so her trust seems to come from just not knowing better. I found this really frustrating with her and Hinata, and her “attraction” to him just felt wrong.

Bloody Cross 3Betrayal seems to be the theme of this series, because that is what all the characters do to each other. The first time a character is introduced, it usually ends in someone getting stabbed in the back, sometimes literally. Every single character in this series has an agenda, and will use everyone else to reach it. Even the angel god candidate Tsuzuki betrays Tsukimiya and Hinata the first time he works with them. No one does anything out of some good will. There is always a hidden motive behind everything. As a reader, I found it very disturbing to not have someone I could put even an ounce of faith in. It’s hard to call anyone an antagonist, since everyone seems to be one. Arcana and its head Izumi, who plots to become god in the next crusade, is no better than Satsuki, the fallen angel, and even allies with him at first.

Bloody Cross 4Then there’s the overwhelming male gaze. Tsukimiya is only one of two females in the series, and she is of course very well endowed. And because she is usually the braun to Hinata’s magic, her clothes area always getting torn. Whether it’s to reveal her cursed mark on her breast, or just for some touching from a oogling Hinata, Tsukimiya has to have her shirt split down the middle, and it’s left that way for several chapters, until the next time.

Bloody Cross 5The art is very typical of a Square Enix title with the girls beautiful and big-breasted, while the men are hot and slim. The action isn’t so bad. Tsukimiya’s use of her vampiric powers is good as she uses it to sniff out lies (usually too late), and controls her blood like a remote blade. Hinata is at least competent with his magic, being useful even after he’s pulled another back-stabbing. If there was a character I could like, the closest would be Hanamura, the demon attendant of Tsuzuki. He’s very much the butler type, very polite, organized, and a great cook. But he only stands out because everyone else is so terrible.

I can’t find much good to say about Bloody Cross. I can’t really recommend it either. The story isn’t badly written or drawn. The characters are just so unlikable. The mangaka even said as much in one of the afterwards. I deal with enough unlikable people in real life. I don’t need them dominating my leisure as well. If you like constant betrayal and characters you can’t like or trust, then pick this one up, otherwise, just give it a pass.

8th Manga Taisho Awards Announced

Manga TaishoBack in January, the nominees for the 8th Manga Taisho awards were announced. This year there are 14 titles, and again, there are several titles manga readers will be familiar with. Koe no Katachi, A Silent Voice has been announced for print from Kodansha Comics, and was streamed digitally on Crunchyroll. Maho Tsukai no Yome, The Ancient Magus’ Bride has been licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment, and Boku no Hero Academia, My Hero Academy has just been announced by Viz Media to run simultaneous with the Japanese releases. The rest of the nominees include Innocent, Osama-tachi no Viking, Kakukaku Shikajika, Kasane, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Kodomo wa Wakatte Agenai, Dimitri Tomkins, Blue Giant, Houseki no Kuni, Ballroom e Youkoso, and Boku dake ga Inai Machi.

nozakikun01Several of these titles look interesting, the problem with most them being they are seinen. One of the titles that isn’t and should be a no-brainer for license is Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. This comedy series follows Sakura Chiyo who tries to confess to her crush Nozaki, a shoujo manga artist, but instead he asks her to help him with his manga. The anime of this series was streamed here and was well received. It’s from Square Enix, so Yen Press really needs to get on licensing this one!

Ballroom e Youkoso is one of those unusual sports manga that might make it here, especially with the popularity of Dancing with the Stars. The story follows middle school student Fujita Tatara who has no goal in life until he is saved from some delinquents by a mysterious man. He leads him to a dance studio where Fujita becomes inspired to join in dancesport. This shonen could be the one to break the sports manga curse. This is from Kodansha.

housekinokuni01Innocent is a historical series about an executioner during the French Revolution, while Osama-tachi no Viking follows a genius hacker and a spoiled rich kid who join forces. Blue Giant appears to be about a school-aged jazz musician who plays the tenor saxophone. All three of these are seinen titles that Viz would have to be convinced to look at. Houseki no Kuni, Kingdom of Gems is a fantasy series about a new life form known as Gems who have to fight to keep from being made into decorations. This seinen series is from Kodansha.

Since three of these nominees have already be licensed, there’s a good chance some of these others will be too. I was pretty good with predictions last year, when the two titles I highlighted ended up getting licensed, so I hope at least a couple of the titles I mentioned will get the nod.

The Manga Taisho Award nominees are nominated by bookstore staff in charge of their stores manga section. Manga titles released in 2014 and that are under 8 volumes are eligible for nomination. There will be second round of voting that will decide the winner, and will be announced later this year.

 

Spice and Wolf Volume 1-6

Lawrence Kraft is a traveling merchant, going to towns and villages, making deals for items to barter and sell. While passing through the village of Pasloe on day, he picks up a stowaway on his chart; Holo the Wisewolf, the Harvest Goddess of the village. The villagers no longer need Holo, and she wishes to go home, in the north. She and Lawrence strike a deal, and they begin their adventures together on the trip north.

SPICEWOLFm_1Spice and Wolf Volume 1-6
By Keito Koume
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $12.99/ea
Rating: ★★★★☆

Spice and Wolf is a series that started out as a light novel and was adapted into both an anime and a manga. After the anime was favorably received by fans, Yen Press licensed both the light novel series and manga. There was a bit of an uproar when the first light novel came out, because Yen Press had chosen to use a cover that would appeal to Young Adult readers more than to anime fans. To appease the fans, Yen Press offered a book cover with the original cover art on it. I’d heard reviews of the first light novel, and while the idea of a series that looks at economics sounded interesting, it didn’t seem to translate as well in practice. After receiving some copies of the manga for review, I gave in and read the first six volumes.

SPICEWOLFMANGA_2Spice and Wolf takes place in a fantasy world similar to late middle ages Europe. There are kings and knights, and a church stretching out its influence to wipe out all “pagans.” There is also a lot of commerce. As a merchant, Lawrence is always on the lookout for a chance to make a profit, so the stories focus a lot on economics and trade. If you’re looking for swords and battles this isn’t the manga for you. If you aren’t interested in the finer details of currency speculation or identifying counterfeit coins, then this title might not be for you either. Honestly, this title nearly lost me after the first volume. It was very slow-moving and the all the economics made me wonder if anything was going to happen. The action started to pick up in the second volume, relieving some of the tedium of the first. But what really grew on my were the characters.

SPICEANDWOLF_3Kraft Lawrence is a traveling merchant. He is always on the move and always looking for something to buy or sell to make a profit. He is young and has been traveling for 7 years. His dream is settle down and own a shop in a town somewhere. He is kind and perhaps a little too soft-hearted when dealing with people, but in business, he is very shrewd, though sometimes becoming overconfident, which puts him into some serious trouble in volumes 4-6. He is also quite likable. He has a dry sense of humor, and easily trades barbs with Holo.

Holo is a little more complex. She is literally a giant wolf and has lived for hundreds of years. She was already old when she settled in the village of Pasloe. Her age, strength and wisdom does make her haughty at times, and she can be vain as she is constantly grooming her tail. But, after years of being alone and disregarded by the village she protected, she is also very lonely. If she fears anything, it is being alone again. I wasn’t sure how to feel about Holo at the beginning. Her haughty attitude did start to sway me toward disliking her. But when she stopped trying to be superior and opened up a little to Lawrence, I started to like her more. She often speaks in an old-fashioned dialect and has her vulnerable moments, which endeared her to me.

SPICEMANGA_4It’s Lawrence and Holo’s relationship that really made this an enjoyable series for me. It builds slowly, as they get to know each other. Just like in any relationship, they have their misunderstandings, but they work them out. Their feelings for each other grow though they both think a relationship wouldn’t be possible. But that doesn’t stop Holo from getting jealous of Norah, a young shepherdess they meet on the way to the town of Ruvinheigen. Lawrence has his share of young men to ward off as well. I really enjoyed the sweet moments between Lawrence and Holo, such as when Holo asks Lawrence to say she’s important to him. It only lasts for a few panels before she laughs it off, but it is a heartwarming moment nonetheless. It’s all of these little moments that really made me want to keep reading the series. I’m torn as to whether I want to see them eventually get together. I think they make a great couple, but at the same time, I like them playing the unresolved tension game as they keep their feelings to themselves.

SPICEWOLFMANGA_5There are all kinds of adversaries for Lawrence and Holo to face as they work for their profit, but the one that is a constant through these volumes is the Church. It appears to be based off the Catholic Church of the late Middle Ages, with all its power, and burning pagans at the stake. Fortunately, they don’t have power everywhere, as there are towns where it doesn’t wield any, but in the ones it does, it’s pretty terrible. Norah, the shepherdess introduced in volume 4, appears to be an orphaned girl who works for the church. But the more she works and succeeds, the more she is seen as a witch and comes under suspicion. And the fact that she works for the church, keeps people away so she can’t live a normal, happy life. I’ve never cared for religion, and this portrayal of it just reinforces my feelings, since this isn’t just written for the drama. Religion has really done and endorsed such things, and sadly still does. I did like how Lawrence is a pragmatist about religion. He doesn’t seem to believe in it, but he knows the rules enough to play along so as to keep him out of trouble and keep him trading. Even with Holo in tow.

SPICEWOLFMANGA_6This series is rate M for mature, has a warning label for “Explicit Content”, but really, all it has is some nudity. Holo, as a wolf, doesn’t give a second thought about going around with no clothes and really the only thing shown are her breasts. I didn’t mind it, and think the warning label might be overkill, since all the nudity is done in a non-sexual way. But, this is the United States, with its over reactive, puritan views of nudity that have to be hidden away from teens, while violence is perfectly acceptable.

It took a volume to for the art to grow on me. It’s the big eyes that took awhile for me to get used to. You’d think as a long time manga and anime fan, I would be used to “big eyes”, but really, there is such a variety of that look in manga, and Koume’s was different from what I was used to. I really liked Lawrence’s design, and he and Holo together make a cute couple. Holo in her wolf form is quite impressive as well. She has some jaws that you do not want your head between.

Once Spice and Wolf stopped lecturing and starts showcasing its charming characters, it became a very entertaining series. I don’t mind the economic elements sprinkled here and there, but the when it over does it, it’s easy to lose interest. If you can get past the slow-paced first volume, there is a lot of fun and action to be enjoyed.

Volumes 4-6 provided by the publisher.

This Week’s Manga: Yen Again

This Week's Manga

Secret_V1_FINALNo matter how I look at it, it’s Yen Press’s fault I’m not caught up reading manga! Look at all these omnibuses that are coming out from them this week. Goong, Ubel Blatt, Umineko When They Cry, and Until Death Do Us Part. I can’t keep up with regular releases, as it is, and with so many omnibuses, my TBR pile just looks worse! There is one non-omnibus title from Yen Press I’d like to check out; Secret Vol 1. I haven’t read Judge or Doubt, but I’m considering giving Secret a try. It looks like it will have more of a mystery element to it than just a psychological thriller. Also new this week from Yen Press is Akame Ga Kill. I know a lot of people have been looking forward to it, but I’m gonna pass on it. It screams harem, with the one country bumpkin guy surrounded by hot girl assassins. I just don’t see the appeal of these harem comedies.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel 3The other publishers aren’t helping much either. Kodansha releases three titles I do enjoy, though My Little Monster and Noragami sit a little higher on the pile than Missions of Love. Seven Seas has the third volume of Arpeggio of Blue Steel, a title I keep bringing up, but still don’t own a volume. If only it was available digitally. I feel the same about Viz Media’s Resident Evil prequel series. Seven Seas has been talking about some changes to their digital strategy. I hope it’s an expansion from Comixology as well as of licensed titles.

Full list per Diamond Distributors:

KODANSHA COMICS
Missions Of Love Volume 10 GN, $10.99
My Little Monster Volume 6 GN, $10.99
Noragami Stray God Volume 3 GN, $10.99

SEVEN SEAS ENTERTAINMENT
Arpeggio Of Blue Steel Volume 3 GN, $12.99
Magical Girl Apocalypse Volume 2 GN, $12.99
Zero’s Familiar Chevalier Volume 4 GN, $12.99

VIZ MEDIA
Monster The Perfect Edition Volume 3 GN, $19.99
Resident Evil Volume 2 GN, $12.99
Terra Formars Volume 4 GN, $12.99

YEN PRESS
Akame Ga Kill Volume 1 GN, $13.00
Black Butler Volume 19 TP, $13.00
Goong Volume 17 The Royal Palace GN, $25.00
No Matter How I Look At It It’s You Guy’s Fault I’m Not Popular Volume 6 GN, $13.00
Inu X Boku SS Volume 6 TP, $11.99
Kingdom Hearts 358 / 2 Days Volume 5 GN, $12.00
Melancholy Of Suzumiya Haruhi-Chan Volume 9 GN, $13.00
Milkyway Hitchhiking Volume 2 GN, $30.00
Secret Volume 1 GN, $13.00
Sword Art Online Progressive Volume 1 GN, $13.00
Ubel Blatt Volume 1 GN, $20.00
Umineko When They Cry Volume 4 Alliance Of The Golden Witch GN, $22.00
Until Death Do Us Part Volume 8 GN, $25.00

Zoo: The Graphic Novel

Animals the world over are setting their sights on fresh prey–man. Only biologist Jackson Oz has recognized the patterns in the escalating chain of violent attacks by animals against mankind. And these incidents are just the prelude to something far, far more terrifying. Now Oz is in a race against nature to try to warn humanity about the coming catastrophe. But is it already too late?!

Zoo: The Graphic NovelZoo
Written by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge; Art and Adaptation by Andy MacDonald
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Thriller
Price: $25.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Yen Press has enjoyed a decent success with James Patterson-penned books, and Zoo: The Graphic Novel takes that formula and moves it up to the next level with a title in a deluxe hardcover format and story that could have been ripped from the headlines. While the story brings up some very interesting ideas, that doesn’t keep it from stumbling here and there.

Zoo follows evolutionary biologist Jackson Oz, a man on the fast track at Columbia University until he throws it all away for a pet theory that no one believes. HAC, or Human Animal Conflict, is the theory that different animals around the world were becoming hyper-aggressive toward humans. With little to no support, Oz is on his own, but when male lions start hunting humans together, other scientists start to take notice. It takes a long time to gather evidence and get people’s attention, but it isn’t until pets are affected that it’s really taken seriously.

Zoo is a science thriller, in the vein of Jurassic Park, and is much more thriller than science. It takes a lot of time to build up, as Oz races between Africa, Washington DC and New York, trying to get people to listen to him. Once he finally does get both the scientific community and government to support his research, it’s still another 5 years with no real answer in sight. The tension continues to grow, with the attacks becoming more frequent, and Oz having to keep going to meetings to keep convincing government officials the problem is real. It finally hits home when HAC reaches our own pets; mainly dogs. Presumably cats too, but they are never shown.

All of the attacks and posturing takes up most of the volume. The science is relegated to a small part near the end, but it’s really the most interesting part. Environmental change is responsible, just not in the way no one was expecting. It’s not global warming, but it does relate to the increased use of petroleum products and cell phone radiation. Humans are not only affected by the change in a way similar to the animals, but they are also responsible for it.

Here’s where I start to have problems with the story. The first reaction to the news is a typical knee-jerk military “bomb everything” solution that does nothing to solve it. When the solution is finally given, and it seems to work for 5 days; just 5 days, everyone just assumes the emergency is over and it’s back to business as usual? Really? People are shown what works and they just throw it out after less than a week because it’s inconvenient? I found this twist in the part down right problematic. I know people can be dumb, and there will be people who don’t want to be inconvenienced, but I think this part just crossed the line in underestimating people.

The other problem I had was with the subplot. Oz was caring for a chimpanzee, Atilla, he rescued from a lab that was experimenting on him. Oz spends all of his time running around the globe, and completely ignoring the “wild” animal in his own apartment that was starting to display the same symptoms. He blames himself for his ex-girlfriend’s death at Atilla’s hands, and well he should, though not for the reason he thought. Atilla is shown torn between his relationship with Oz and his instincts. If Oz had just paid him a little more attention, he may have seen the signs earlier, and Oz may even have been able to help him find an answer. Instead, the ex-girlfriend is offed for the new girlfriend to become wife and mother, so Atilla can show he still cares for Oz near the end.

The art is in black and white and more realistic in its renderings. The attack scenes are fairly graphic, though there aren’t too many body parts left strewed around. At least no intestines are shown hanging out. A nose does get spit out. The presentation is very well done, with the book being over-sized, and the paper a heavy gloss.

Overall, I did enjoy Zoo. It was a good thriller with some fascinating science behind it. Oz takes the typical stance that science isn’t to blame, but thankfully also doesn’t look for anywhere else to point fingers. He lays it right out that humanity is to blame for their problems, but the end seems to imply we won’t learn from our mistakes, and I think that’s the wrong stand to take.  Humanity’s strength has always been to learn and adapt, and even if it means two steps back before a step forward, we would find a way.

Yen Press New Manga and Light Novel Licenses

Yen Press-On Logo

On Friday Yen Press announced new licenses for their manga and Light Novel lines through their Twitter account. There are a total of 8 titles; 3 Light Novels and 5 manga, but two of those are adaptations of the light novels. Still, that is a lot of content to commit to in 2015.

RustBlasterThe first manga announced was Rust Blaster. This was the debut work of Yana Toboso, the creator of the very popular Black Butler series that Yen Press also publishes. The story follows the most unvampire-like vampire Aldred and a human transfer student Kei. They meet by chance at a vampire academy, but there meeting wasn’t just an accident, it was fate. The one volume series ran in Square Enix’s G-Fantasy. There was no release date announced. Vampires are really my thing, but at one volume I’d be willing to give this series a go.

homura-revenge homura-tamuraThe next two manga titles are from the Puella Magi Madoka Magica series. Puella Magi Homura Tamura is a slice of life 4 koma comedy series. This spin-off is based on the main manga series by Magical Quartet. It ran in Houbunsha’s Manga Time Kirara Magica and there is one volume available. Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura’s Revenge has both Homura and Madoka traveling through time. This series also ran in Houbunsha’s Manga Time Kirara Magica, and is complete in two volumes. No release date was announced for these titles. I will definitely be checking out these titles. I love the Puella Magi * series and spin offs. The 4 koma sounds especially fun.

blackbulletBlack Bullet is a light novel series that also has a manga adaptation. The series follows Rentaro, a boy growing up in a world where an alien parasite, Gastrea, has killed most of the human population. Rentaro is a high school student living near Tokyo 10 years later. He is a member of the Civil Security, and with his childhood friends Enju Ahari and Kisara Tendo, fight against the Gastrea, using the special powers they gained by being infected by the virus at birth. The light novel series has seven volumes and is ongoing, while the manga adaptation only went four volumes. It also had an anime adaptation which was licensed by Sentai Filmworks. No release dates were announced for either format. I can’t say this title sounds interesting to me. I’m not big on post apocalyptic titles.

Strike the BloodStrike the Blood is another light novel series with an ongoing manga adaptation. This series is about Yukina Hirameki, an apprentice “sword shaman.” She was selected to watch over, and possibly hunt, Kojou Akatsuki, the “fourth-progenitor”, a vampire from legend that is said to be the strongest and will bring disaster to humanity. Armed with a powerful anti-progenitor spear, she goes to Itogamijima, a demon city located in a special zone to find him. There are eleven volumes of the light novel and the manga has five volumes. No release dates were announced for either format. I’m not seeing any fireworks with these titles either.

DurararaThe last light novel series announced is one that we’ve been waiting to hear about for a while. Durarara is a manga series that Yen Press has been releasing for a while. It is based on a light novel series, and so far the manga has only adapted 3 of the 13 volumes currently out. But now, we won’t have to rely on the manga adaptation since Yen Press has FINALLY announced the light novel series! Of all the light novels that have been announced for the YenOn line, this is the one series I am most excited about. I fell in love with Durarara after the end of the first manga adaptation, and now do not want to wait to read more. This is so exciting and the best news that Yen Press could give. The first novel is scheduled to be released in July, 2015.

That’s quite a windfall to start the new year with. Yen Press is fully behind their YenOn line, and Durarara could be their cash cow that helps carry the rest of the line. All of the titles announced fit perfectly with their catalog, so no fan will be disappointed.

Secret Manga To End in April

Secret_V1_FINALIt was announced in the second volume of Secret, a psychological horror series by Yoshiki Tonogai, that the series would end in the third volume, scheduled to be released in Japan in April. The series, like Tonogai’s other two titles, Doubt and Judge, is about people trapped in a situation where they must root out a perpetrator to escape.

Secret puts six survivors of tragic bus accident to the test. Three of them are murderers. They all have one week to discover who the murderers are. These three must then show remorse for their crimes and find a way to atone for them, or evidence of their sins will be given to the police. But when everyone has a secret, it isn’t easy to know who to trust.

Tonogai, who contributed to the series Higurashi: When They Cry, seems to be have been strongly influenced by its psychological horror and mystery aspects, as all three of his titles involve these elements. Reception of Doubt and Judge has been mixed here in the West, with Judge just edging out Doubt.

Yen Press, who licensed Doubt and Judge, also licensed this series, and has been simulpubing the individual chapters digitally beginning with chapter 7. I couldn’t find them on the Kindle, but they did show up in the Nook store for $1.99 each. The first volume will be released this month in both print and digital, with the digital pricing being a very reasonable $2.99. If you were curious about this series, this is definitely the way to go.

This Week’s Manga: It All About the Yen

This Week's MangaDemonFromAfarV1_HC It’s the day before Christmas and Yen Press decides to flood the bookstores with their new releases! Don’t they realize most of the money is gone by the 24th? How am I suppose to not only keep up with my favorite regular releases, but also pick up the new ones?! Spice and Wolf Volume 10 comes out this week, and as soon as I get volume 7 I will binge read to catch up. That’s how I got hooked in the first place, binge reading volume 1-6, so another binge can only be a good thing. While not a regular release, it is one that is good to see return. Tena on S-String hasn’t had a volume released since 2010, where the first arc ended, but nothing was resolved just yet. It returns this week in an omnibus 2-in-1, starting up a new arc. I wasn’t enamored by the series, but I grew to like the characters well enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing how the next arc starts.

SpiceAndWolfV10Manga_TPOf the new releases, I do have some interest in the new light novel series A Certain Magical Index, and I wouldn’t mind seeing if Milkyway Hitchhiking read better as a volume instead of serialized, but the two new titles I’m looking forward to  Demon From Afar volume 1 and Love at Fourteen Volume 1. Demon From Afar is by Kaori Yuki, a creator who I have had more hits than misses with. It’s another series that deals with magic, demons and betrayal, but to be honest, I just can’t get enough of her work! I’m thrilled Yen Press was able to get this! Love at Fourteen is another title about teens finding first love. While these titles tend to bittersweet and melodramatic, they are teens after all, I do see some of the appeal to them. This one adds a level of maturity to its leads, which thankfully is just a facade to teens looking for answers.

 Full List per Diamond Distributors:

SEVEN SEAS ENTERTAINMENT
D-Frag Volume 3 GN, $12.99

YEN PRESS
Accel World Novel Volume 2 The Red Storm Princess SC, $13.00
Accel World Volume 2 GN, $13.00
Are You Alice Volume 7 GN, $13.00
Barakamon Volume 2 GN, $15.00
Bloody Cross Volume 5 GN, $11.99
Certain Magical Index Light Novel Volume 1 SC, $14.00
Demon From Afar Volume 1 GN, $18.00
He’s My Only Vampire Volume 1 GN, $13.00
High School DxD Asia And Koneko’s Secret Contract GN, $13.00
Is It Wrong Try Pick Up Girls In Dungeon Novel SC, $14.00
Kingdom Hearts II Volume 3 TP, $19.00
Love At Fourteen Volume 1 GN, $15.00
Milkyway Hitchhiking SC, $30.00
Pandora Hearts Odds And Ends GN, $35.00
Soul Eater Not Volume 4 TP, $13.00
Soul Eater Volume 23 TP, $13.00
Spice And Wolf Novel Volume 13 Side Colors III Novel SC, $13.00
Spice And Wolf Volume 10 GN, $13.00
Sword Art Online Fairy Dance Volume 2 GN, $13.00
Sword Art Online Volume 3 Fairy Dance Novel SC, $13.00
Tena On S-String Volume 6 GN, $30.00
Triage X Volume 8 GN, $14.00