Yen Press App: the future of manga

Source: Yen Press

I have yet to hear back from the Yen Press App developer I emailed with interview questions, but I might as well dabble out my thoughts while it’s still fresh for this post.

The iPad app was released mid-January and allows users to download popular manga titles for $8.99 a pop. I was surprised they cost only $1 cheaper than most paperback copies, but perhaps that will be something they change once more publishers release similar apps.

There’s also not a lot of variety in the number of titles to choose from, but they do have some of their newer titles on hand. The app is free to download and opens up to a pretty simple but interesting design. The top third of the page has three manga covers featured and bottom part consists of a list of titles. You can switch this bottom part between “new releases” and “fun stuff” pages, which list the manga title, cover image, description and  price.

The “fun stuff” consists of free downloads mainly authored by Yen Press staff members about their office adventures. It’s pretty cute and offers an inside view of the staff. All of the “new release” titles can be previewed for free, which is a definite must if your expected to pay $8.99 per download.

You can also view your account information, downloads, and give the developers feedback on a separate page of the app, which is pretty handy if you want to go back and read one of the titles you previously downloaded.

I ended up buying “The Clique v1” (read my review below) and enjoyed the virtual experience. Every page was clear and easy to read, and you can switch between single and double page view by turning the iPad. I could scroll through the pages with ease, but had a hard time at first locating the “touch area” that would take me back to the main menu.

I’ve read manga scanlations on my laptop and iPhone plenty of times before, but the experience and portability of reading on an iPad is unmatchable. It’s fun, clear and an easy way to expand your manga collection without taking up room on your shelves.

Sadly enough, I had to return the iPad I checked out from the J-school last week. If I win the lottery or have a spare $500 in my pocket dreams, I would love to invest in an iPad of my own. I definitely see the Yen Press app as the manga reading experience of the future, and I’m excited to see what the publishers will bring next.

Ways to improve: cheaper manga titles/a monthly subscription fee to access as many titles as you want, more options and a review/comment forum for readers to leave their opinions of what they just read.

Liz’s rating: ★★★

Gossip Girl Manga Preview… Better than show

I had to turn the iPad I checked out from the journalism library in on Friday so I took some time to check out the free manga previews on the Yen Presa app. Most of the previews seemed strange, so I decided to take Gossip Girl v1 for a test drive. I’m not a big fan of the show so I was curious to see what the manga adaptation would be like… And I won’t lie, I was hooked and disappointed that they ended on such a cliffhanger, but I wasn’t so keen on paying $8.99 for another comic.

The story follows popular girl Blair on her quest to be the best–best looking, richest, most loved. The story begins with her 16th birthday party in the upper eastside NYC with only the finest booze and most beautiful high school friends at her side. Her big rival/ex-bff, Serena, tries to crash her big day by sneaking in the back with her hot but nerdy boy toy, Dan. Blair is obsessed with being a bride, and daydreams about her big day with her equally dreamy boyfriend.

The story is pretty cliche but the art was trendy and intriguing… It definitely had more of a sophistication than the show. I would definitely like to finish this volume… Maybe I’ll have to rethink my cheap ways.

Manga’s bitchiest friends form “The Clique”

I recently checked out an iPad from the journalism library to test out and review the new Yen Press app. I’m working on the review for MangaLife.com and am still waiting on the developers to get back to my interview questions, so I thought I’d take this week to review the title I read on the app: The Clique v1.

I was originally intrigued after read Penny Kenny’s review on ML, and after scrolling through the unfortunately small download choices, I decided I might as well give volume 1 a shot. The manga is an adaptation of Lisi Harrison’s popular Young Adult novel that follows new girl Claire in her quest to fit in with Massie and her fab four posse. After a financial downturn, Claire’s dad moves the family from Florida to LA to move in with his old best friend, Massie’s father. The rich Block family welcomes the Lyons with wide arms… well, everyone but Massie. After sizing up Claire’s “dated” wardrobe and personality, Massie decides to sabotage her chance of making friends at their wealthy prep school and make her life a living hell.

Fastforward through scenes of Claire getting red paint smeared on her white pants by Massie’s group, Claire getting revenge, fashion discussions, secret betrayals, etc. etc. And only one cute guy, I mean like, what? Are you serious? OMG. I never went through high school being in that type of crowd, so reading about it makes me ill.

I’m also not a big fan of Amerimanga, especially “Gossip Girl,” totally-too-cool-to-be-true storylines that literally gag me with a spoon. Well, metaphorically. The Clique had moments that made me chuckle, but for the most part, I was groaning at the cheesy dialogue and situations. Claire really should be a sympathetic character, but the LA lifestyle gets to her head quick enough and she’s almost as bad as Massie. I’m guessing the novel is very much for young adults, because the immaturity was almost too much to bear.

Sorry Clique, I like my manga original and Japanese. That’s the way it should be! However, I wouldn’t oppose to seeing a manga version of the Hunger Games, but that’s a whole new story!

Liz’s rating: ★★

Review: Bamboo Blade v5

The last time I read Bamboo Blade I wasn’t completely sold on the series, mostly because of the campy dialogue and painfully long kendo matches. Bamboo Blade v3 tries to target teen women readers, but doesn’t venture out of the stereotypical shonen “fight, talk, fight, talk” storyline. While Bamboo Blade v5 still struggles to deliver an engaging plot early on, the side stories, quirky characters, and shorter kendo scenes make this volume more entertaining and less forced.

The story resumes with Muroe High’s spunky girls’ kendo team prepping for the national tournament. With the team still short a member, Azuma is coaxed into temporarily joining for a practice meet against Seimei High. The matches are lighthearted and Muroe kendo instructor Toraji jokes around with his old friend, Tadaaki, who strictly coaches Seimei’s team of rising stars. Once the girls begin sparring, Tamaki’s amazing talent inspires both teams, and Azuma once again feels at home with her bamboo blade and kendo uniform. The girls move on to nationals and pump themselves up for their first match against a well-known cheater, the captain of Toujou High’s kendo team.

Again, the kendo practice scenes take up one too many panels. There’s an entire four pages of fighting with no dialogue, which might be exciting if it was an epic final battle, not an innocent practice match. I also cringed a bit when Toraji started reminiscing about his own kendo days and speaking about his failures as an instructor. His cheesy revelations were more cliché that inspiring, and I was left shaking my head and skimming a few pages.

While I understand a manga about kendo is going to feature a lot of kendo, I still believe Bamboo Blade could make it more interesting by adding in dramatic dialogue or something along those lines. The part where Azuma gets comically beaten up by her inexperienced sparring partner, for example, made me chuckle, but didn’t last long enough to make the rest of practice more readable.

However, when the focus shifts to Tamaki and Azuma, the practice becomes much more appealing and exciting to the female crowd. When Tamaki takes out a girl in three seconds and Azuma dodges her competitors with lightening speed, you too will feel like you can swing a bamboo shinai with accuracy and stealth… Most likely not, but these girls are very empowering for us athletically challenged readers! Tamaki still lacks personality, a major problem I had with v3, but thankfully her backstory isn’t featured as much in v5, and when we do see her, we get to see what she does best: kicking butt.

My favorite part of this volume? The comedic timing is just right. Most of the side stories featuring sly photographer, Reimi, made me laugh out loud thanks to her creepy (often doomed) plans to photograph Miyako. Kirino, Sayako, and Miyako are also a silly trio—each has a glaring personality flaw (greed, envy, and vanity, respectively) that easily creates awkward situations we all can appreciate. If v5 had more of these moments in the beginning, I probably wouldn’t have minded the practice scenes as much. But after trudging through pages upon pages of kendo sparring, the hilarious scenes serve more as comedic relief than as a seamless part of the storyline.

In the end, Bamboo Blade v5 isn’t the greatest sports manga, but it’s still enjoyable. The girls are tough, eccentric, and know how to wield their shinais, so what more can you ask for? I would still prefer more of a shoujo sports read like Crimson Hero, but if you’re getting tired of the romance genre, test drive Bamboo Blade for the action, a few laughs, and an inside look at the complex world of kendo.

Shinmoedake Volcano Erupts

Just saw an AP story about a volcanic eruption in southern Japan. The Shinmoedake volcano first erupted last Wednesday, but the recent blast was reportedly five times larger. Residents of Takaharu weren’t ordered to evacuate–how crazy. Let’s pray for their safety.

It seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new natural disaster devastating parts of the world I really want to visit.