Thu, 22 October 2009
Magazine review of the second part (The Korean and OEL titles) of the Yen Plus December 2008 issue. First up in this issue is an interview with Ryukishi07, the creator and author of Higurashi, and Karin Suzuragi, the artist of the Higurashi manga.
Now on to the reviews:
Sarasah by Ruy Ryang, Chapter 5:
Ari, (or should I say Ji-Hae) has finally found the ancestor of Seung-Hyu, and boy is he naked! No, don't worry, it's just because he's bathing in a pond. She looks away in embarrassment, and when she turns around, he's disappeared. She and Mita frantically begin to search for him in the nearby town without knowing his name or anything. Does she find him? Well, let's just say by the end of the chapter, Ari ends up in bed with him.
I'm still really liking this series and all the mysteries that come with it, even though Ari dressed as a boy brings up all the cross dressing cliches you can think of.
My Grade: B
Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh & Sujin Kim, Chapter 5:
Si-Joon's life becomes more complicated when his parents not only approve of his "marriage" to Mu-Yeon, but actively work to have them consummate it! The thing is that a priest has told them that if the couple doesn't get married Si-Joon could die within a year. His parents, not wishing him to come to any harm, have decided to move things along by allowing Mu-Yeon to move in... and even sleep in Si-Joon's room. We also get to see another side of Doe-Doe, Si-Joon's love interest, and you just be shocked to learn what she is really like.
The art is beautiful and wispy and the laughs are good in this 5th chapter. Si-Joon reminds me a lot of Koushi from Sumomomo, Momomo because he appears to be fighting a losing fight against his destiny. Both characters are trying to escape the environment they are in, but you sense that their fates are inevitable. But the fight is what makes them funny. The clever twist of making Doe-Doe have an evil side also makes the title more interesting.
My Grade: B+
Legend by Kara and Woo SooJung, Chapter 1: "The Thousand Year Old Legend":
The Bulkirin is a creature that was summoned by a selfish king to fulfill a wish. Pretty soon, more and more people asked for wishes. In fact, so many asked that the Bulkirin went crazy and turned evil, destroying 50% of humanity. It took a hero brandishing the "seven blade sword" to bring the monster under control. The tale opens long ago with a young boy named No-Ah Joo confronting the man that kidnapped his sister, only to be asked about the seven blade sword which has been broken into pieces. Flash forward to modern times where a young 15-year-old girl named Eon-Gyo Sung has visions of the sword while she is daydreaming in class...
Well, this preview chapter did its job. Color me intrigued. Reading this intro to the series got me interested and is definitely going to motivate me to buy the first volume. I do get the sneaking suspicion that it's gonna turn out to be in the Inuyasha mode though. I bet Eon is going to meet the reincarnation of the No-ah character and they're gonna travel around the country looking for the pieces of the sword, all the while being hounded by the guy that kidnapped No-ah's sister. The excellent art will probably make up for that though.
My Grade: B
One Fine Day by Sirial, Chapter 7: "Typhoon in a Tiny Teacup"
No-Ah gets a letter in the mail stating that an old friend (enemy?) is coming by for a visit. Apparently it's a childhood friend whose magic has unpredictable and sometimes dangerous results. We find out that Mr. and Mrs Raspberry, the walking talking birds, were actually human at one time before the friend cursed them! No-Ah decides to take off before he gets there, leaving his "pets" behind to fend for themselves.
Why is this title even being printed? It is so horrible and meaningless. Did Yen have to make some sort of backroom deal where they had to agree to print it. It is truly the worst Korean or Japanese title I have ever read. It did get a nano-bit better with the arrival of someone who might actually be bad to contrast with all the creampuff characters in the title.
My Grade: D
Night School by Svetlana Chmakova, Chapter 5:
Sarah is acclimating herself a little better to her position as she negotiates a deal with Ronee, the unofficial school boss to get a Night School yearbook printed. Things aren't all good though, as Sarah is led down a magical staircase that might just wipe her from existence.
This is the first chapter of Night School that has actually looked finished. There aren't too many open panels with character dissolves like earlier installments. Too many times Chmakova's work suffers from poor panel layout and laziness. She seems to be trying to experiment but the pages come out jumbled and messy. It seems like she is getting better though. As for the story, it's almost as cluttered and confusing as Jack Frost. You have all these characters and factions running around, but none of the mythology of the world has been set out. The effect of this that the "who", "what", "why" questions are currently unanswered. And then you have dumb froo froo, like vampire parents getting upset about the yearbook because their kids don't show up in photographs. Hopefully, the disappearance of Sarah makes this title better.
My Grade: C+
Maximum Ride by James Patterson & Narae Lee, Chapter 5:
Max is taken in by Ella and her mom. Ella is the kid she saved from gang members a couple of issues back, which got her shot. Fang and Nudge are still waiting for Max to catch up, not knowing that she is wounded and staying with Ella. They decide to go find her but are detoured when Nudge finds out her own mother may be nearby.
Ok, this seems to be the most lackadaisical and incompetent rescue ever. Poor Angel. Who knows what horrible tortures she is going through back at the School? Well, actually, we do know, but her "family" doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get her back. Max gets shot helping a stranger. Fang and Nudge take a detour to look for Nudge's mom. It just doesn't seem like anyone is in any hurry. Angel will probably be dead or mutated even further by the time they reach her. It's pretty bad when you have to admit that a blind guy and a fart challenged kid have taken the most action in the series.
My Grade: C+
Jack Frost by Jinho Ko, Chapter 5: "Genie and Hansen"
While Jack Frost battles Blood Pirate Avid in a duel to the death, Noh-A (decapitated as usual) and Hansen have to take on Avid's "meals". His meals are the zombies that are produced by his bite. They only have two driving urges: to obey Avid's will and to eat human flesh! Hansen is going to have to take on a whole army of the undead, all the while juggling Noh-A's head.
First up, the story sucks on this title. No idea what is going on STILL. But I can understand one thing. A dude battling for his life against hungry zombies! I get it-- dude with gun shooting undead. So since the story was brought down to dog level I could deal with it. Hopefully, some day Ko will throw us a bone.
My Grade: B+
Sun, 11 October 2009
Yep, I'm still catching up on Yen Plus. Basically, I will be breaking the review for each issue down into two parts: The Japanese first, and then the OEL and Korean section.
Higurashi When They Cry, Chapter 5: "Isolation"
Keiichi is becoming more and more paranoid. You would too if your sweet friends seem possessed at times by a demon and strange murders had occurred and someone put needles in your food! Keiichi's conflict lies in the fact that most of the time his best friends seem like the cute girls he has known for the past few months, but every once in a while, when he asks about the town secrets, their eyes change and they start talking with weird voices. He even starts carrying around a baseball bat for protection.
I would say that Higurashi stands heads above all the titles in this magazine with its mix of moe and its never-ending sense of dread and suspense. I watched the first dvd of the anime version a while back so I know how this ends, but the weirdness and horror of the story still packs a powerful punch. I look forward to the undiscovered country beyond this first arc.
My Grade: A
Nabari No Ou, Chapter 5: "Attack"
Raimei has led Miharu and company to her home village of Fuuma to consult with the ninja master Kotaru Fuuma, only to find it under attack. The Iga Grey Wolves are conducting a raid to steal Fuuma's "Forbidden Art Scroll", which they believe will aid them in capturing the Shinra Banshou. It seems to be their lucky day as that very person falls into their hands! On their side is a particularly dangerous individual named Yoite who appears to be able to cut his enemies in two just by pointing at them!
I must admit that the earlier chapters of Nabari No Ou were a little too girlish for my taste, especially with Miharu being such an emo brooder with no apparent interest in his special status. But for chapter 5, my hat is off to Yuhki Kamatani, who lets loose a can of whoop ass in the action sequences of this chapter. The art was just incredible and her choice of angles right out of film just blew me away. It's not just that the artist didn't shy away from blood. It's her mastery of pace that captures your eye, pushing you through pages with insistence. Great work.
My Grade: A+
Soul Eater, Chapter 2: "Remedial Lesson (part 2)"
The two teams of Maka/Soul Eater and Black Star/Tsubaki have a dubious distinction in common. They were supposed to have claimed the souls of 99 humans and one witch. Their current soul count combined: ZERO! So they've been given a remedial mission which they must complete or face expulsion from the DWMA. They must take the soul of Dr. Franken Stein. Yes, that's right, get it? "DR. FRANKENSTEIN". Problem is he's very powerful, being the former partner of Shinigami-Sama's Death Scythe. Both sets of partners will have to attain a higher level of cooperation and skill if they hope to defeat the evil scientist.
The early installments of this series left me at a complete loss. Atsushi Ohkubo kept on jumping from character to character each chapter and never really got a story going. I had no idea or context in which to place them so it was starting over with the plot over and over again. Starting last issue, he started bringing the cast together and laying down at least a semblance of a story arc. But the lack of a sensible plot is what makes this the weakest title in the Japanese half of Yen Plus. It does seem like the title is getting better. Good enough to buy the tankoban version, the first volume of which should be out as I write this? Not sure on that point. I'm probably gonna skip it for now. I will say this. Ohkubo's art is very unique and cool, with its absurd expressionistic surrealism, but not enough to sell me on Soul Eater as a whole.
My Grade: B
Sumomomo Momomo Chapter 4: "Dinner, A Bath, Or Me"
This chapter serves mainly as exposition, as Koushi's dad explains what the "Heavenly General's War" is all about and why Koushi and Momoko's marriage is so important to the future of Japan. Apparently, there are two large martial arts bloodlines, East and West factions, in Japan that have been fighting for centuries, like the Capulets and Montagues. Koushi and Momoko represent the two sides. It is believed that their union could finally bring about peace. But to do this means that Koushi will have to get involved in a world that he wants no part of.
Don't really have a lot to say about this chapter since it was mainly informational, but there is an extremely funny exchange between Momoko and Tenka at its beginning that made me laugh. I enjoy this title.
My Grade: B
Bamboo Blade Chapter 9: "Kojiro and the Day He Gave Up the Shinai of His Heart" & Chapter 10: "Kojiro and Bento"
With the acquisition of Tamaki Kawazoe, Kojiro still needs one more girl for his Kendo team (even though one of them, Saya, has rarely shown up for practice). When Tamaki kicks Kojiro's ass in less than a second during a practice match, it sends him into a funk, wondering how he has come to be so out of form. He also finally gets around to buying his new team some decent equipment for the big match against his rival, now a month away.
What can I say, I am a sucker for a manga or anime that features characters dwelling in poverty or at least struggling to make ends meet. That's what really got me hooked on Cowboy Bebop back in the day. They always seemed to have enough money for rice or noodles but never enough for meat. And featuring a poor teacher as the main protagonist in Bamboo Blade is even more laser sighted up my alley. Kojiro is not putting this Seven Samurai-like team together to fight for the honor of Kendo. He's doing it so he'll be able to eat! It's just so inherently funny. I really like all the characters and the humor as well. The weakness comes in the art, mainly in the kendo fights. They tend to be hard to understand and I had difficulty differing between the fighters and exactly what blows they were landing. It's rather unfortunate but the matches, at least in terms of presentation, seem to be getting better.
My Grade: B+
Sat, 3 October 2009
I was fully behind Yen's efforts at starting a new manga anthology a little over a year ago and I still do respect them immensely for continuing the magazine. But I have to admit I did not make it past the first issue initially, even though I have continued to buy every edition every month. So I finally decided I needed to get caught up. I started over again with the August issue and will continue reading until I get current. This review will only be for the American and Korean titles. I will be sure to include the Japanese side of things next time.
Jack Frost Chapter 4 by Jinho Ko:
Four chapters in and I still don't know what the hell is going on in this title. This chapter, Jack and Blood Pirate Avid continue their duel to the...uh, death? Or are they already dead? And of course, Noh-A gets her head cut off again. I have no idea what the plot is or what Jack is or what the Amityville school represents. The only saving grace in the earlier chapters was the constant frames of Noh-A's butt in the air.
My Grade: D-
Nightschool Chapter 4 by Svetlana Chmakova:
Alex snuck out of the house and took down some Hunters but has no memory of how she did it. Maybe it has something to do with the Darth Maul cowled figure she envisions. Meanwhile, back at school, Sarah has to deal with a vampire Casanova and a teacher who threatens to destroy the campus during his classes.
I don't like this series very much. The whole day/night school human/non-human thing has been done to death. The art is really good in some panels, but lazy or rushed in others. Chmakova has the bad habit of dissolving the the bottom of her panels instead of drawing them. Or using giant splash pages with very little detailed art on them. Most of her characters look the same, as if she copied them from the members of Coldplay. It is better than Jack Frost, and is fairly entertaining, but I would never buy it as an individual manga volume.
My Grade: C-
Maximum Ride Chapter 4 by James Patterson and Narae Lee:
Ok, to start off, I think James Patterson is a talentless hack. Is that too strong? Should I edit myself? Angel is being subjected to experiments that are really torture sessions as her "family" is on the way to rescue her. That's Fang and Nudge. Max got taken down by a bullet last issue. The spotlight, unfortunately, falls on two of the dumbest characters in the series: Iggy and Gasman.
Iggy is blind but likes to work with explosives. Let me repeat that, Iggy is blind but fancies himself an expert with explosives. And then you have Gasman, or Gazzy, who farts all the time, or maybe he's really pooping in his pants. Regardless, he's one of the most scatalogically disgusting little toads I've ever encountered in a manga. I was hoping Iggy would cut the wrong wire and blow them both up!
Lee's art is pretty good. It's unfortunate that the source material is so bad. Like Night School, this series has gotten better, but I doubt it will ever rise above mediocrity. Lee's art is having to carry the title.
My Grade: C-
One Fine Day by Sirial, Day 6:
Mr and Mrs Raspberry, a married couple that happen to be walking talking dwarf birds, come to visit No-ah. His pets take the opportunity to get into trouble.
This series is a big waste of space and trees. We could save so much oxygen if One Fine Day could be extracted from Yen Plus. Awful. Just awful. Boring nothingness.
My Grade: F-
Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh & Sujin Kim Chapter 4
Si-Joon is having a hard time trying to figure out why every girl at school wants him. Uh, would it happen to be that your family is rich and politically well-connected? Lady Park comes for a formal visit and Si-Joon's parents seem to be in on the plan to consummate their "marriage".
I really like Pig Bride. The art is suitably wispy and shojo-like with a Korean spin. The characters are attractively designed and unique. I am very curious to see if Lady Park is actually ugly underneath her mask. I suspect that she isn't. But it's cool while it remains a mystery. While Pig Bride seems to be romantic comedy, it also gives you a sense of suspense with wanting to know how things are going to work out. This is one of only two titles that I like enough to buy the tankoban volumes.
My Grade: B+
Sarasah Chapter 4 by Ruy Ryang:
Ji-Hae, or should I say "Ari" is on her own in a time she doesn't belong to. Her mom is so worried about her sanity that she has confined her to the house, forbidding her to leave. Ji-Hae escapes, but doesn't have a clue as to how to find the ancestor of Seung-Hyu. And the little jerk dog creature, Mita, is kicking back, refusing to help her in her quest.
When this title started, I really hated it. Ji-Hae seemed more like a psychotic stalker than a love struck teenager and I found her a bit creepy. Then we had to get past the whole trip to the afterlife scene. But now that she's been thrown back in time, I think I am finally getting behind the story and beginning to like it. I'm very curious to see this supposed horrible event that has driven a wedge of hate between Ji-Hae and the object of her affection in our present time. The art is standard shojo style, if a little better than the average Japanese titles that fall under that category. This is the other title I will buy the tankoban version of.
My Grade: B+