A new challenger appears in the magazine market! As opposed to the Otaku USA and Anime Insider field of journalism, Yen+ is tackling that other crowd, the comics magazine, that is solely controlled by Viz with their Shonen Jump and Shoujo Beat magazines. So, they've got a bit of a battle to fight with the readership.
As opposed to the typical shonen and shoujo fare that is packed into the early-teenager marketed Viz titles, Yen+ is a mix of titles aimed towards the older teen market. With a wide variety of titles, Yen+ has made a bit of news in the magazine world with this title. But the question is: how does it hold up? Is it going to be worth the $8.99 sticker price/$50 subscription rate? Does it taste good?
All those questions, and more are after the jump.
Yen+ is truly different from Shonen Jump and Shoujo Beat. While it's still filled with Yen Press' titles, they make sure to put a huge amount of variety into the magazine. Currently, there are eleven titles running: five manga and six OEL/manhwa titles. We'll get into how each one stacks up in a bit. Besides that, there are just a few two-page articles highlighting some of Yen+'s titles that are coming out in volume form. And that's about it.
When I first saw the list of OEL/manhwa titles in the manga, and that it'd be taking up half the magazine, I groaned. I don't want to pay for this imitation manga! Give me the stuff, straight from Japan. So, I read through the OEL/manhwa section in the hopes of getting it done with first. By the time I finished the magazine, the OEL section became my most-looked forward to section.
On the OEL/manhwa side of things, the six titles break down as such:
Maximum Ride by James Patterson and NaRae Lee. A group of teenagers are on the run after they've been treated to science experiments and now have wings. The evil corporation that's done this to them have sent out "Erasers," big hulking Blanka ripoffs, to chase down and capture the "angels." While the dialogue was a bit generic and the art for the Erasers made me laugh, I'm willing to check this title out for a few more issues to see where it goes.
Jack Frost by Jinho Ko. Noh-A Joo just moved to a new school that seems a little off. Trying to ignore it on her first day, she ends up decapitated. As her head sits there on the ground, she's watching two badasses duke it out. Apparently this is a reoccuring dream she's been having. Except it's going on beyond what she normally dreams of. While gorey and a little fanservice-y, Jack Frost is one of my three favorite titles in the OEL/manhwa side of things, and a must-read for me.
One Fine Day by Sirial. This series is simply cute. It focuses on a man and his dog, cat, and mouse who live with him. The animals go between being a dog, cat, and mouse and just being little kids wearing cat and dog ears. The art style is more sketched out and relaxed, but comes across nicely for this title. In the midst of several of the action titles in Yen+, One Fine Day is a clear shoujo title for those who aren't interested in seeing high school girls pine for the pretty boy. I'm going to keep reading this, but I know it'll come off as boring and uneventful for some.
Sarasah by Ryang Ruy. Now here's another shoujo title -- this time, one of the plainer girls at school won't give up on trying to get the prettiest boy in school to go out with her. She's been trying for a year and a half, with no luck. For me, this title was a bit stereotypical -- the girl ends up with something serious happening to her, and the guy is going to feel guilty about it. The art style isn't in my range of likes, but some might prefer it. I'll read it, but it's just one of those extra stories that comes with the magazine.
Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh and Sujun Kim. As a young boy, Si-Joon Lee ran off into the mountains while at a retreat. While he was starving, he promised to betrothe a girl wearing a pig mask in return for food. Years later, he barely believes that it happened. But when he wakes up on his 16th birthday, he finds the girl in the pig mask awaiting him. It's a bit of an odd series, but it looks like it'll have some potential and I'm looking forward to where it's going. Another on my "do want!" list.
Nightschool by Svetlana Chmakova. A mix of comedy, bad omens, and a bit of action, Nightschool is shaping up to be something interesting. Nothing is laid out completely yet, but it involves a magical school that takes place after the building's day school has let out. I'm hoping for this series to turn out well, and when I read through it, I was rather excited. The characters' faces are more gaunt, and remind me slightly of Red Garden. It might be a turn-off to some, but I'm really enjoying it. Another hearty recommendation.
As for the manga side:
Higurashi: When They Cry by Ryukishi07 and Karin Suzuragi. Before diving into the manga, all I knew was that kids were killing each other in as gory a way as possible. Well, reading the manga was definitely creepy, too. The slow buildup to what I assume to be violent murders has me hooked, and I really can't wait for the next issue to keep going with this story.
Bamboo Blade by Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi. Essentially, it's about a women's kendo team. Gia had been raving about it for a while, and really, I can't help but love it, too. The art style is nice, and it's about girls playing sports -- one of my favorite genres (not in any sort of perverted way, mind you).
Sumomo mo Momomo by Shinobu Ohtaka. Sumomo mo Momomo is one of those anime that I checked out simply because of it's inane premise: in order to keep her martial arts bloodline strong, Momoko wants to create the world's strongest title. So, she goes off to bother Koushi for a child, the son of her father's friend. Koushi gave up martial arts for law a long time ago, and is a total weakling. The manga is ecchi and a little moronic for my tastes. I'll continue to read this, just so that I'm getting the most out of my magazine -- but don't expect to see the individual volumes of Sumomo mo Momomo on my shelf.
Nabari No Ou by Yuhki Kamatani. Ninja? Believe it! I can't really summarize this from just the first chapter and do it much justice, but here's a quick shot: it's a story about ninja, except set in a much more realistic world. The anime was rather popular, so I'm interested to see where it goes.
Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo. Some people had to naysay the Soul Eater manga because they went ahead and watched the anime. But I'm enjoying the manga just fine. While the story seems to be one of those "Collect X amount of items," the art is what you're reading Soul Eater for. Character designs are unique, and practically every panel is something to stop and stare at for all the little details. Definitely one that I'm going to be looking forward to reading.
So now that all the title descriptions are out of the way, how does the volume stack up as a whole? Essentially, it's a mixed bag. While there will be four titles that you'll love, there are going to be a few that you're just not going to be interested in reading. While you're not getting a bag full of shonen or shoujo titles with fairly similar plots or themes, you're getting a greater mix of things, which is Yen+'s true strength. I'll get mystery with my shonen, cuteness with my fanservice, and panty shots with my ninja. There's not much more that I could ask for.
In the magazine's design itself, there are a few things I wish they'd fix. I'd appreciate it if they could include a table of contents on both sides of the magazine (the OEL/manhwa side is left to right, while the manga side is right to left) so that navagation would be easier (in lieu of different colored pages for each comic). Also, instead of putting all the ads right in the front, offer ad space in between manga chapters. I know, you get to sell those as "cover page ads," but it's kinda boring to just skip through all of those. Finally, I would like to see some articles that aren't just pimping out Yen Press' latest releases, as much as I'm interested in those.
Finally, for the taste...
The manga doesn't have an acidic taste that you might notice when eating Shonen Jump or most of the regular Japanese manga magazines. The lack of that acidic taste makes it rate higher than normal in my book. So, on that standard, a definite buy -- better yet, subscribe and save yourself a bunch of money.