It’s obvious that I primarily focus on Yuri here at Okazu, not because I don’t read and/or watch anything else, but because there’s still very few people who blog on Yuri at all and pretty much no one who brings my particular perspective to the table. In fact, I do watch and read any number of series without Yuri (no, really, I do!) but I don’t tend to talk about them here. However…
Yen Press was kind enough to send me a copy of Yen Plus, their new manga anthology magazine (thanks Yen!). As a business model, I find it both encouraging and interesting. If I understand correctly, the intention is to run five chapters of a story in the magazine – one collected volume’s worth – then when it goes to tankoubon, move it out of the magazine and replace it with a new story. The idea being that by then, you’ll know if you want to follow the series or not. It’s not quite the same impetus as a new chapter every month eternally in a magazine followed by collected volumes, but it’s a step in that direction. Also interesting is that Yen Press chose to put the Japanese manga stories in the book reading right to left, and Korean and English stories left to right – something that I considered doing for Yuri Monogatari 5 as well, but chose not to. (The decision for not doing so was based primarily on my outreach to non-manga fans, especially lesbian comics fans. They are not used to right-to-left reading and with so many other learning curves for them to deal with when reading ALC anthologies, like honorifics, I felt that it would simply be asking too much of a non-manga-reading audience. In case you wondered why we flip the Japanese stories…)
Now, normally, I wouldn’t bother reviewing this volume because there is no Yuri (except in one advertisement for what sounds to be a brutally unfunny series with a great title, Alice on Deadlines) and because every other reviewer in the manga-verse has already reviewed it. But, I couldn’t help but notice that as I read it, I pretty much *disagreed* with every other reviewer in the manga-verse about the stories. In fact, the stories I liked, no one else seems to, and the stories everyone else raves about, (notably “Pig Bride,”) I didn’t like at all. So I decided to review this, just to put out a completely different point of view on things.
Starting with the left-to-right side:
“Maximum Drive” does not seem to have garnered much enthusiasm from reviewers. I’m not a big James Patterson fan, and yay the heroine seems to be a “cute lil’ urchin” so you can guess that I really don’t care what happens next. But. In and of itself, it didn’t seem that bad. The art’s aesthetically pleasing and easy to follow. Whether the story ends up being interesting, we’ll have to wait and see.
Unlike most reviewers, I quite liked “Nightschool” and didn’t really see the problems that most people felt it had. Too much setup, too many characters at once…neither of these bothered me. It’s true that Japanese manga tend to parse out the character introductions a few at a time, rather than dumping them all on us at once, but I found it refreshing to see a pile of players, rather than thinking we had teams established, but oh, wait, there’s a new bad guy/good guy/MOTD. This was one of the few stories I might care to follow.
Okay, I just do not know what everyone sees in “Pig Bride.” I found it cloying, predictable and utterly tedious. (Not to mention insulting to women who are not model-types.) The fact that the hero is a grade-A asshole neither surprised me nor pleased me. I’m just not seeing the charm.
The same goes for “Sarasah” – it read like a typical josei-style romance in which the horrible girl likes a horrible guy and horrible things happen. It instilled in me the same feelings of murderous frustration I felt upon reading Peach Girl. Dear straight women – what the hell is entertaining about reading/watching women being complete idiots and being abused by men?????? I just do not get you or your desire to watch women being treated like crap. UGH.
“One Fine Day” is an adorable little cartoon about the adorable little animals that live with some guy and the adorable little things they do in their adorable little girl avatar forms. I hate it, but it wasn’t the comic’s fault. I just hate kids and cats. And cute things. If you like kids, cats and cute things, it will be a very enjoyable story.
Everyone has already talked about “Jack Frost” and mentioned how violent it is, etc, etc. I didn’t mind the violence, but the disembodied head reagrding her own upraised rear end was a tad gratuitous, I felt. Violence does not put me off usually, but the story wasn’t compelling. I prefer my homicidal maniacs to be women.
Over to the Japanese side:
“Soul Eater” was dreadful. I want that time back.
I was all ready to dislike “Nabari no Ou” but amazingly, didn’t. Sean said that he felt that the lead was okay, but the premise was meh. I liked the premise, but thought the lead was meh. lol I like Aizawa and the Nindo club advisor – and I kind of liked the thought that, as stupid as they seem, they are actually right on top of things. Ninja stories are okay by me, too, as long as we stick to basics. No Naruto-esque techniques need apply. Above all, I really liked the end of the chapter and would very much like to know what happened.
“Sumomo Momomo” was also dreadful. I want that time back and the piece of my soul it took away as I flipped the pages.
I ran into a bit of a bind with “Bamboo Blade.” I *know* it becomes a totally awesome story later on, but for the first few chapters, we’re forced to watch the idiot teacher being an idiot. If I did not already know that BamBlade turned awesome, I’d probably never read another chapter after these two. (And it seemed obvious to me that chapter two was included so we could bask in the wonderfulness that is Tama-chan. I bet that they realized that if they only ran chapter one, everyone would not give a damn about the series.) But I do know it becomes awesome, so I’ll probably stick it out and start reading the collected volumes from Volume 2 on.
“Higurashi: When They Cry” was not a series I enjoyed in Japanese. I was not at all surprised that I did not enjoy it in English. I know I’m in the minority with this opinion, but there’s something very unpleasant about this series from the very first page/panel/seconds of anime, that makes me cringe. It wasn’t the violence – it was the lack of caring about the violence. There’s no meaning in it. It’s just a means to a very heavy-handed set of messages. So, I’ll pass.
Technically, I think Yen did a very excellent job. Everyone else thinks so too, so no surprise there. And everyone else has commented on the kind of “random audience” issue that one runs into with stories of such variety, so I won’t belabor that.
The outcome is that there are two stories of the eleven total that I genuinely enjoyed and one that if it was going to run long enough in the magazine, that I know I would enjoy. There were three that I’d be willing to give a little more time to and the rest I found utterly without merit. In general, that’s enough of a “okay” percentage for me to get a magazine. So, I’ll try another issue or two and see how it goes. However – and this is key – I, like most other reviewers am not sure if this magazine something that I would bother subscribing to. And there, more than anything, is the big hurdle Yen will have to confront in 5 months. Is the variety of the stories going to bring more people in, or put more people off. Tune in at the beginning of 2009 to see! In the meantime, I recommend to Yen the technique Japanese manga magazines have of finding out which series people like and do not – insert postcards with marketing questions (age, location, etc,) and which series you like best and least. These get sent in for the possibility of prizes, so the company gets a running commentary on which series are the most and least popular. This might be moot if they are planning on moving stories out of the magazine after five issue, but also might serve to help them decide what *kinds* of stories are doing the best.
Thanks again to Yen Press for the copy of Yen Plus – and by all means, do NOT make your decisions based on my opinions. Get your own copy and tell me in the comments field what you think!