Yen Plus has settled into its groove nicely, and this issue is smooth running all the way. Another interview starts things off for the magazine, and it's as good as the last. This time there's a talk with the two creators of Black God to accompany the generous preview provided at the end of the right to left section of the magazine. Once again it's Jason Thompson asking the questions; topics covered are artistic influences, differences between manhwa and manga storytelling styles, methods of targetting a Japanese audience, and techniques of drawing awesome fight scenes. The afterward comments are back, this time with the very funny touch of having the staff drawn as characters from different series featured in the magazine. Good Shrimp Art comics finish out the extras. But you're here for the stories, aren't you? Here's how they go.
LEFT TO RIGHT
This one continues strong and even enlarges on the supernatural element we had hints of in the first chapter. The highlight of the chapter is a showdown between the bride and the ninja on one hand and a magically summoned monster on the other. It looks like the hero has made himself enemies. As if I needed any more reasons to be intrigued. This is a beautifully drawn, well written series that I have high hopes for.
ONE FINE DAY
The series gets the luxury of two chapters in this issue, one following Pig Bride and one following Sarasah, but I'm going to deal with them both under this heading for simplicity's sake. If you give a mouse a piece of strawberry candy...you'll get a short but sweet little story at the very least. And how do you go on a picnic when the human in the household is asleep? The second episode may be the funniest yet, and the better of the two here. I think this series is winning me over in it's pleasant, relaxed, generous kind of way.
I like the way this installment begins; but I have reservations about the direction it takes toward the end. Watching the flock divide into a rescue party to go after angel and a second group to hold down the fort - and possibly defend it, if worst comes to worst - makes for good reading. But when Max tries to break up a fight that really isn't her concern, it feels like the story is going off the rails. I hope this incident ties into the main story somehow. Otherwise it'll come off as the addition of pointless drama to a series that was doing all right with the real sort.
The third chapter of Sarasah is the "getting to know you" kind. Ji-Hae spends most of her time trying to figure out where (and when) she is and adapt to her new life - which is apparently one of her old lives. But before that she does some of the getting to know you bit with her new guardian spirit. Too bad he seems to be uninterested in guarding a human. I still haven't quite gotten over how quickly this series has turned itself around. The heroine has a self-awareness that kicks in just a moment too late, and her recoveries are pretty fun to watch.. I've found myself looking forward to what's around the next corner in this one. And a big thank-you to the editors for providing transaltion notes right where we need them the most.
Looks like things are starting to heat up. Our first all-out vampire battle, and not a bad one, either, results in a stepped-up pace and a deeper look at the situation the night-time world exists in. The last chapter made me think this was a story that would take its time to build. This one made me wonder if the stakes (ha, ha!) should be that high so early in the game. I'm also unsure if I like what the heroine has done up to now - which is next to nothing, really. But it's probably too early to say. So far, so good, anyhow.
Hoo-boy. The third chapter of Jack Frost opens with an action scene that it doesn't resolve, instead choosing to play tricks with us. The bulk of the allotted time is spent on exposition. But exposition is no good if nothing actually gets explained, and the explanations raise more questions than they answer. What kind of world are we in? A high school. The high school is divided into four districts, and the districts are at war with each other. We don't know why. The school "is as large as a country in the human world." How big is that? Countries can be any number of sizes. Okay, so what power does the heroine have apart from immortality? On one page, a character answers the question: "nothing." On the very next page, the very same character says she has "the most important power in all of Amityville." The chapter ends in the middle of the same fight it began with. It's the most pointless flashback I've seen in a long time.
RIGHT TO LEFT
Well, I asked for some real kendo, and this installment of Bamboo Blade gave it to me. The focus this time shifts from teacher to recruit. We delve into Tamaki's past as Kojiro tries to find out just what makes her tick so that he can formulate his ultimate recruiting strategy. As it turns out, her strong sense of justice is the key - and it leads her into a duel with the club bully. Says one character: "she always did like stories with heroes." You and me both, sister. You and me both.
Okay, so it looks like Soul Eater really is going the continuity-free route. Given how bad this chapter is at making sense, that was probably, if not a good move, at least a less bad one. There is a measure of creativity this time in the shapeshifting handguns that can even use each other as weapons if need be; that much I grant. But when the hero holds them upside down and fires them with his pinkies, that negates a lot of the effect. (Anybody who's ever fired a pistol can tell you how riduculous this is.) But everything else is as bad as it's always been. The action scenes aren't exciting at all. They're just sickening, like watching somebody gut a squirrel. The fan service makes you want to retreat into a monastery. Everything about Soul Eater feels wrong.
NABARI NO OU
The mood is lighter in this chapter, mainly due to the enthusiastic but not entirely bright Samurai girl who adds herself to the cast. I think the one thing holding me back from liking this series more is that it keeps throwing terminology and faction names at you without explaining entirely what they mean. It keeps me from being as involved as I might be. The overall plotline is clear enough, but a lot of the finer details are hard to make out. I have a moderate interest just the same.
The last chapter of Sumomo Momomo had me worried about the direction the series was taking. That was silly of me. Because, as this month's chapter proves, Sumomo Momomo is a series that can pull off whatever it feels like doing. The opening scene features the best use of a trash can in ilustration that I've seen in a long while. And there's no going down from there. It turns out that Momoko and the assassin have a past connection that Koushi has unwittingly disturbed. There can only be one remedy: a duel to the death! Koushi's finely honed negotiation skills divert this into another avenue that is at the least less dangerous. Or is it? With Higurashi taking a more serious turn, this side of the magazine needs a good out-and-out comedy to balance it out. This one looks like it's unstoppable.
The rest of Keichi's extended conversation with the detective that straddles this chapter and the last is Huguashi's defining moment. Up until that point I hadn't know quite what to make of it. Now it's become a compelling blend of murder myster and campfire ghost story. The art shows an incredible talent at work. The contrast between the charm it's shown all along and the cold dread it strikes for the first time is not easy to compare to any series I've read recently. I'm dying to know what secrets wait to be revealed; but at the same time, I'm frightened of them. This series just became a page turner.