Shojo Beat Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2005
What They Say
Manga from the Heart! Packed with six brand-new shojo titles from Japan, Shojo Beat will bring you beautiful artwork and compelling storylines from creators such as superstar Yuu Watase! Shojo Beat will also bring you the latest in Japanese fashion, music, art, culture, and shopping--plus contests, how-tos, industry updates, interviews, and much more! So clear your schedule and get ready to laugh, cry, live, learn, and fall in love.
I've never been a subscriber of Animerica or any other anthology magazine. The mix of series was never enough to interest me, even though some of the ones in Shonen Jump did catch my attention.
However, I did decide to try out the first issue of Shojo Beat from Viz. The description of the series in the manga forum caught my eye and I wanted to try all of them out. And I'm glad I did.
Once you get past the logo, which actually looks good on the cover, Shojo Beat is actually an attractive magazine design-wise. It blends in well with magazines targeted to women. It's not as busy as Shonen Jump or Japanese phonebook counterparts. The solo character featured here is the first Nana from "Nana" with teasers to the stories inside.
I enjoyed the articles that were included with the anthology. Seeing the latest Japanese fashions, though I could never own or fit into them, was neat to read and it made me crave a green tea frappucino (trust me, those things are wicked awesome if you can get your hands on them.) My favorite articles were the ones detailing the history of the Shinsengumi (with lots of plugging of "Rurouni Kenshin," however no plugging of ADV's "Peacemaker Kurogane") and the one that tells the reader how they could recreate Nana's look that's on the cover. That article took some creativity and it's something I've wondered abstractly as I've seen some outfits I adored in certain series, but wouldn't know how to piece it together. Other articles include one on shojo sports manga (with a nod to shonen as well) and an interview with Yuu Watase.
A few of the series gets some gorgeous color pages. "Nana" has three, "Godchild" has two, and "Crimson Hero" has three. The color pages on "Nana" and "Godchild" have a glossy feel to them, but the one for "Crimson Hero" doesn't.
We're introduced to six new series, including half a volume worth of "Nana." Here's my take so far on the series:
Nana - I have mixed feelings about this one. It gets off to a strong start by introducing us to Nana Komatsu and her struggles to find a man to love. It culminates with her having an affair with a married man while she's still in high school, and the end of that affair putting a damper on her next attempt to find a relationship. The main problem with this series so far is that the 100 pages take us from Nana's high school graduation to spring a year later after she's completed a year of art school.
There's a lot of plot holes here that will probably be filled in at a later date, but the result is that Nana's next relationship doesn't feel believeable. While this is all a setup to get her ready to move to Tokyo, it feels like you're viewing snapshots of her life instead of getting the whole story. The result is a disjointed feeling. But, I was satisfied with the ending of the chapter and hope that the next will be a more cohesive storyline.
Absolute Boyfriend - I like this series so far. Yuu Watase's art style is a bit different from Alice 19th and I like the looser feel of it. The series concept is sort of a reverse take on Chobits, where Riiko winds up ordering a boyfriend doll of sorts through the Internet. This chapter pretty much gives us a sense of Riiko and what she wants in life. This is definitely a comedy, much like "Imadoki!" and it's enjoyable to read lighter fare from Watase after the heavy drama of "Alice 19th" and "Ceres: Celestial Legend."
Godchild - I started this one and wound up skipping it. It's one I may come back to at a later date. It's a twisted take on the Alice in Wonderland concept, and it looks interesting - but requires some serious reading in order to grasp everything that's going on here.
Kaze Hikaru - This is the series that I liked least in the anthology. The main problem is that the concept has been done before, and it's been done better. "Peacemaker Kurogane" is pretty much the same tale, but from a boy's point of view rather than a girl's, and you're pulled into the drama there more than you are with this story. The spunky sword-wielding heroine trying to make a difference concept has also been done before - Kamiya Kaoru in "Rurouni Kenshin." And Kaoru, overall, is a much stronger character than Sei (or Seizaburo) currently is. I'll give the second chapter a shot, but I'm not sure if this series will hold me.
Baby and Me - I had no idea what to expect from this series, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It's my favorite out of this entire issue. We're introduced to Takuya and his baby brother Minoru shortly after their mother has died and Takuya has to grow up quickly in order to help his dad take care of the baby. Minoru is absolutely adorable and I love the way he looks up to his big brother. Takuya's emotions are realistic as he works through having his new burdens. You can also tell the emotional effects on his father, as he does his best to play both mother and father to the boys.
Crimson Hero - This is the second series that surprised me. Like "Nana," I have mixed feelings and will see how things develop in the second chapter before making a final decision. Nobara is heir to a fancy ryotei (Japanese dining establishment) that her family has run for generations. But she doesn't want any of it - she wants volleyball instead. This chapter sets up the conflict between Nobara and her family, and the dynamic is quite different from other series that I've seen. We get into Nobara's love of volleyball and I'm interested to see how that carries over and if she'll be able to start building a girls' team to defy her mother.
I was pleased with every aspect of Shojo Beat and will definitely subscribe to it. The series spreads across a wide-range of interests and none of them are the same. It's a bit too early to say exactly which tankoubon I will purchase. More than likely I will be purchasing "Absolute Boyfriend" and "Baby and Me." "Crimson Hero" and "Nana" are in the undecided category while "Godchild" and "Kaze Hikaru" are in the "no" category.
And that's how a good anthology should be. It should give you a range of series to try - some that you will buy and others that you won't. And Viz even gives you a preview of the "Ultramaniac" manga and a DVD that contains the first episode of the anime. I definitely feel that I got my money's worth here.
Mania Grade: NA
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Text/Translatin Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left