The second volume of Yen Plus keeps the ball rolling in a big way. The standout feature in this issue is a five page interview with Svetlana Chmakova, creator of Nightschool and Dramacon. The interview is conducted by Jason Thompson, who asks good questions and receives interesting answers. Topics range from the usual "how you got started" type of questions to more nitty-gritty subjects such as how an editor can help a series to the differences in plotting an ongoing story as opposed to a one-shot. This will be a good read for anyone who likes this sort of this sort of thing. Other features include a bonus page each after the Nightschool and Maximum Ride chapters, a spotlight on new releases for Yen press, a longish preview of the Moon Boy manhwa, brief but entertaining afterwards from the staff, and some pretty funny four-panel "Shrimp Art" comics. (You'll know where the title comes from once you read them.) And of course the right-to-left side of the magazine continues to provide translation notes at the end of each chapter.
But the big question is how the content stacks up. The short answer is "even better than the first issue." The longer answers follow, conveniently marked under their respective headings.
LEFT TO RIGHT
Nightschool still isn't far along, and it's difficult to see where this is going exept along the most general "supernatural thriller" lines. But I like the way it's shaping up and teasing me along. Slow buildups can lead to an excellent kind of story, and Nightschool may just be that kind of story.
Building faster than Nightschool, Maximum Ride really takes off (no pun intended) in this chapter. The kidnapping of Angel leads to a good chase scene as well as an opportunity to fill in a few blanks about where these kids came from and how they got together. I think this is going to be a fine, suspenseful series.
Wow. Now this is more like it.
I didn't care for the first chapter of this at all, but I'm grateful for whatever impulse it was that kept me from writing it off completely. Sarasah is easily the "most improved" award winner in this side of the magazine. In one swift chapter it has vaulted dangerously close to Pig Bride as my favourite in its class. The story takes the "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" route and gives the heroine another chance to be loved by sending her back to live in a different body. I've always loved this kind of story anyway; but the way it's brought to life here, from the vision of the "other side" to the setting she's dropped into, struck a deep chord with me. Sarasah is a series I'll be keeping both eyes on, beginning now.
ONE FINE DAY
Sweetly surreal, eccentrically kind - somehow this series got through to me in a way that it didn't the first time. Whether this was because I let the back-and-forth child/animal switching confuse me last time, or because the story itself was more to my liking, I don't know. Whatever the cause, I got something nice out of the whimsical combination of cooking and magic, and the consequences of trying to combine them when you're a novice at both. I can feel this one growing on me.
This one isn't. My reaction to this chapter is the same as the last one, except that things aren't making sense now. The first chapter was simply a nightmare and therefore couldn't be confusing: it was just stuff happening. But as soon as the plot starts the artist seems to be hopelessly at sea. So instead of just going "yuck", now I'm going: "Yuck. Huh? What are these people doing? EEEW."
RIGHT TO LEFT
NABARI NO OU
A significant step forward is taken plot-wise, but Nabari No Ou hasn't completely won me over yet. The story is interesting to a certain extent - the question is whether it can support development on the scale that it seems to be gearing up for. It has competent abilities in the action department that could keep it going even if the plot oversteps itself. I'm ambivalent about the hero's indifference. Conceptually it was an interesting move. I'm just not sure if it is working as intended or not. Not bad overall; but I'm still at the "wait and see" stage.
The only thing I can say in favour of this chapter of Soul Eater is that the fights show a little more creativity. But it's still a mess. This time the characters are different, except that the boy looks and acts just like the boy from last time, and his shapeshifting weapon looks and acts just like the witch from last time. So it's all the same even though it isn't meant to be. We get dropped into what (I think) is an entirely new situation with no explanations, so I'm not sure what the point of this series is. And I don't think I'd like it even if I did.
After slogging my way through swamp Soul Eater I turn with relief to the series of Su and many Mos. (After an eye-rolling first page, that is.) This one is still as good as I remembered it. The story doesn't really have a lot of substance, but it's funny enough that that won't matter. Good gags are good gags, even if they're ultimately just ways to show up the substitute gym teacher. The ending gave me pause, however. Was playing the assassin card at this stage really the right move? Then I decided that if the artist can pull off this chapter, he can pull off whatever he wants to do.
The pace of the story gets dialed back a bit in these two installments, but this series continues to be a real treat for me. The supervising teacher gathers intelligence on the prodigy he's trying to recruit into the kendo club - you can't build the team around somebody who hasn't joined up yet. Meanwhile the club captain tries to break in the first-years with limited success. I always feel perfectly secure in this artist's hands. The series moves from plot development to character moments to comic relief with perfect assuredness. Now we just need to get some real kendo going.
An uneven start but a moderate recovery are the order of the day. Higurashi has good laughs and considerable charm (once it gets past the opening scene, anyway); but I'm not sure it's really working yet. Still, a lot opens up on the mystery side of things. I'm intrigued to a certain extent. I'm just not sure "like" is quite the word for how I feel about it. Higurashi is now (Sarasah having made its move) the series I'm least sure about in both senses. I don't know where it's headed, and I don't know if it's going to be good when it gets there.