This is the second part of my review of Yen+ magazine, the August through December 2008 volumes. In part one I introduced the magazine and reviewed the two American titles, Nightschool by Svetlana Chmakova and Maximum Ride by James Patterson and NaRae Lee. Here in part two I’m reviewing the four Korean titles and in part three I’ll be reviewing the five Japanese titles.
Yen+, Volume 1, Issues 1-5
August through December 2008
Subscription rate: $49.95/12 issues
My favorite surprise of Yen+ was discovering the absolutely adorable One Fine Day, written and drawn by Sirial. The only all ages title in the magazine, One Fine Day is the story of Nanai the dog, Guru the cat, and Rang the mouse, who are pets of a young wizard named No-Ah. What is especially cute about the series is that the animals are only animals half the time, the other half they are drawn as little boys (Nanai and Guru) and a little girl (Rang), though it did take some reading to figure out what gender everyone was as Sirial’s art is rather nondescript in that regard.
Sirial has a loose, sketchy style of art which sophisticates this gentle, slice of life series, making just as appropriate for younger readers wanting a silly story and older readers, even adults, looking for a touch of whimsy. The cuteness might still be a bit much for some, but luckily for those readers the stories are usually interspersed throughout the American/Korean section of Yen+, so that they don’t overwhelm any of the other titles or become cloying in their sweetness. As this series won’t be released until 2010, I’ll have to wait awhile to see it in book form, though, which is a shame, but makes sense as each chapter in the series is fairly short and so it will take some time to get enough for an entire book.
There are two Korean romance/adventure/fantasy titles in the magazine, but they are different enough to being distinctly interesting. My favorite of the two is Pig Bride by KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim. It is the story of a spoiled young man who has no memories of an incident that happened when he was eight-years-old. He was lost in the woods and was found by a woman who betrothed him to her daughter—a girl in a pig mask. Now that the young man, Si-Joon, is a teen, the young woman has returned to consummate their marriage, causing a host of problems for him.
Even with the slightly sexy storyline and occasional violence, Pig Bride is appropriately rated Teen. It is a funny story that seems to be heading in a very interesting direction. Not only does Si-Joon’s engagement cause problems for his wealthy parents, it also enrages a classmate of his, Doe-Doe, a beautiful girl who is delicately sweet to the boys and unbelievably evil to the girls. The humorous melding of realism and fantasy helps this story catch hold of its readers. As is common in many Korean girl comics, the title features very pretty boys and many characters with eyes bigger even than in Japanese titles. But the art also includes a lot of interesting cultural details and flows smoothly over the page, easing the reader into the tale.
The other romance title is Sarasah by Ruy Ryang, which is slower paced than Pig Bride, but which also deals with issues of misplaced love and self-esteem. It too is rated teen for some language, violence, and mild sexuality. Ji-Hae has a terrible crush on Seung-Hyu, but he violently rejects her, causing her to fall down a flight of stairs. She ends up in the afterlife, where she is given the chance to go back in time to change her destiny, which might afford her a chance with Seung-Hyu.
Ryang’s tale could be insulting and demeaning, but Ji-Hae is such a plucky character that you can’t help but feel for her. Her story is only beginning in these first five chapters and seems like it won’t be quickly wrapped, but readers who like time travel/historical/adventure/romance/fantasy stories should be captivated by this one. The only problem with having both Sarasah and Pig Bride in the same collection is that the art for both is very similar. To the untrained reader or to a reader only reading month to month in the magazine, this causes the two to blend together in the mind. But that is a minor complaint that probably won’t bother too many readers.
Since all of the other titles on the American/Korean side were rated Teen or All Ages, I was caught unawares when I got to Jack Frost by JinHo Ko. It is rated older teen for violence and language, but I feel that sexuality should have been a component of that rating as well. The violence is extremely graphic and the first chapter has two-thirds page shot up the skirt of a girl who was just decapitated. This combination of fan service and gruesome decapitations continued and made for uncomfortable reading, especially as there didn’t seem to be much plot to tie it together.
Basically it is the story of a girl, Noh-A, who attends Amityville High, where the students and teachers are constantly fighting and killing one another. She is especially prized because her blood allows her and others to heal. I like the idea of including an action title in the mix, especially after all of the romance titles, but this was a poor choice to combine with the other titles which were stronger in plot, but less mature in content. This is one of two titles in the magazine which hold me back from thinking it is a great collection and which make me wonder if the magazine would even be appropriate in a high school setting. The other is on the Japanese side and I’ll discuss it in part three.
This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Yen Press.