Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Shojo Beat Vol1 #1

Congratulations to Viz for putting together a great package of girls comics from Japan. Over three hundred pages of girls manga for $5.99. Let's not quibble, it's 6 bucks, but it's 6 bucks well spent. The leadoff story alone is 100 pages long. 100 pages. 6 dollars. It's a bargain compared to American comics without a doubt.

I bought it for my wife, but I certainly enjoyed it myself. Much more than Shonen Jump, also published by Viz. I buy Jump for my 10 year old son and he loves it. It's his favorite read and at six bucks it keeps him occupied longer that a movie would. I don't read it though. It's the usual kid stuff you see on Cartoon Network and I've had my fill of that. Shojo Beat is a little more fun. Many of the stories give you a truer, if very melodramatic, sense of Japanese culture. Sure it's from the perspective of a 17 year old girl, but what the hell?

I haven't made it through the entire book yet, it actually takes some time to read these stories, but here's a breakdown of what I've read so far.

Nana by Ai Yazawa Nana is by far my favorite series in Shojo Beat. Weighing in at 100 pages in it's debut you get a good solid chuck of story and a great intro to the main characters. Nana is a boy crazy highschool student in a small city who can't figure out why her relationships don't pan out. Her latest, a married salaryman, has just been transferred to Tokyo and she is in crisis. She's a ditz, no doubt about it, but she's also appealing. Nana gets an A.

Absolute Boyfriend By Yuu Watase Anyone familiar with manga in North America probably knows who Yuu Watase is. She's the creator of Fushigi Yugi, The Mysterious Play, one of the most popular manga and anime series to make it over here. Absolute Boyfreind is not one of my favorites by her, that would be Imadoki, but it's fun. It's basically a girls take on Video Girl Ai. Riiko thinks she is a loser with the boys. See any pattern here? After an encounter with a weird guy she goes on his web site and orders a boy, thinking its some kind of blowup doll. It's not. Absolute Boyfriend gets a B+

There's something I should make clear here. These comics are not for little girls. Put plainly, there is sex. And more sex. So far there hasn't been anything graphic in the stories and Viz will probably keep it fairly tame, but this is definately for teens and older. There is a rating on the cover indicating just that. You have been warned.

The last story I read is Godchild by Kaori Yuki. It's a semi goth murder mystery set in 19th century England. The main character of the series is the mysterious Lord Cain who seems to be a supporting character until he steps forward and solves the mystery. I assume this will be the pattern of the series. We experience most of the actions through this eyes of another character who is in distress. Lord Cain steps in and saves the day. Godchild in my least favorite of the series I have read so far, but it still gets a B.

That puts me a little more that halfway through this issue. There are still 3 series left to read. Kaze Hikarem a samurai drama, Baby and Me and Crimson Hero which is a complete unknown to me. I plan to sample them over the next few weeks.

Viz has done a great job here with this book and I hope it's a huge success. I would love to see them do a monthly sports manga for men. Most of the manga that have made it over to North America are chosen by fanboys for fanboys. There is an incredible variety of material available to be translated in to English. Here's hoping Viz will tap into that.


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