Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Rapid Reviews - Takuhai

First up, the print version. The first copy of Tokyopop's free quarterly manga sampler Takuhai arrived on my doorstep the other day. It features a number of sample stories, some a little more complete than others. The biggest problem I had with the book was that the manga pages do not take up an entire page. There's a large, mostly blank, space around each page of manga with notes in it. This seriously distracts from the work. In addition, I couldn't help but think the manga pages would have all improved if they were a little larger... and it's not like they couldn't have spared the room on the page. I have to consider this book to have a fairly poor layout.

Now, the Previews themselves:

  • Bizenghast: I do believe that the entire first chapter of this was in the July 2005 on-line version of Takuhai, and although I was interested, the character designs bothered me a little. There is nothing in these pages that I haven't already read... only the notes on the sides which are moderately informative but sometimes cover up part of the artwork. The notes are intrusive enough that I had some trouble concentrating on the manga, even though I'd already read it. In any case, my opinion of Bizenghast didn't change with this reading. I'd like to see it in the library, but I'm still not inclined to buy it.

    After Bizenghast, there are a number of short articles, some of which cover things of interest (like the coverage of Ai Yazawa and the creation of Paradise Kiss). But after flipping through pages and pages of articles, I began to wonder if there was any more actual manga in the book. Luckily there was:

  • Sokora Refugees: Very short preview of this one, which is again one of the ones in the July on-line Takuhai. This one has different pages, though, and the side notes talk a bit about "fan service", although they don't explicitly define it. Again, it looks ok, but I'd wait for a library copy on this one.
  • MBQ: Finally a new one! Not a very good new one, but a new one nonetheless. This is a standard "woe is me" comic, like so many self-reflecting indie comics that bore me to tears. With only five pages in the preview, there wasn't a lot to judge it by, but what I saw was a boring rant against comic books. Whine whine whine. I'm not interested.
  • Van Von Hunter: Another on-line repeat. Still not interested, even with the better explanations of it.
  • I Luv Halloween: This is MUCH better now that I can read it. I think it went from "not interested" to a "maybe check it out from the library".

    At this point I reached the center point of the book and got to start over from the "back" of the book.

  • Legal Drug: Another new one. This one is by CLAMP, the group that did Cardcaptor Sakura. It's got pretty boys with ESP. I wouldn't mind reading it, but it would definitely be out of the library.
  • Tramps Like Us: A businesswoman takes in a homeless boy and makes him her pet. This one is just bizarre. Really bizarre. I think it qualifies as a not interested.
  • Lagoon Engine: Cute kids fighting demons. Looks like half the manga in Shonen Jump, only cute-i-fied. Not interested.
  • Sakura Taisen: Odd, but promising. The story involves an alternate timeline in which demon hordes invaded and the world has been fighting them off. I think this one would qualify as another library check it out book.

And that's it for the print version. Lots of articles, almost enough to make up for the deficiencies in the presentation of the manga itself. The explanations of the stories aren't too bad, either, although a few of them could have used a bit more set-up.

And now, the on-line version! This is the August 2005 samples. I reviewed the July 2005 Takuhai online here.

  • A Midnight Opera, V1Ch1: An apparently immortal goth rock star. I'm inclined to see where this one goes, but it is very intriguing. I'd call it another library issue.
  • Bizenghast, V1Ch2: The plot thickens! I'm enjoying this one, actually. It's not bad once you get used to the artwork. I still would call this a library issue, but I'm more inclined to check it out now than I was after reading the first chapter.
  • Dramacon, V1Ch2: Again, an EXCELLENT story. This one is a love story, and a convention story as well. I want to read more. This is great.
  • I Luv Halloween, V1Ch2: Strange, ugly, and depressing. No thanks.
  • Juror 13, V1Ch2: The mystery deepens from last month's installment. I'm not sure what's happening, but it doesn't look good for the "hero" of the piece. This is still on my library list.
  • MBQ, V1Ch1: A bit different than the self-referencing whine that shows up in the print version. I'm still not interested, but at least it's different.
  • Off*Beat, V1Ch1: This one is almost impossible to read due to the resolution. I thought my eyes were still pretty good, but I can barely read this one at all. I'd have an opinion if I had been able to understand it. But I couldn't. No rating.
  • Princess Ai, V2Ch2: Still not interested.
  • Psy-Comm, V1Ch2: Not bad. Not thrilling, but this chapter makes more sense than the first in a lot of ways. Still counts as a library check-out, though.
  • Shutterbox, V3Ch1: Very odd, and not in a bad way. This chapter turned out to be a long lesson on what "Goth" means. Intriguing. Another case where I'm not sure if I want to read it.
  • Sokora Refugees, V1Ch2: This appears to be missing something between the first chapter and the second, which makes it a bit confusing. In addition, this is another one that suffers from the low resolution. I'm still mildly interested, but not if there isn't something missing that explains things a bit better.
  • Sorcerers & Secretaries, V1Ch2: I'm liking this one more and more. It's a typical romance comic on one level, and much more on another level. It's not quite as compelling to me as DramaCon, but it's coming closer. This is one I wouldn't mind getting.
  • Van Von Hunter, V1Ch2: Definitely comedy. Nodwick does it better. Not interested.
  • War on Flesh, V1Ch2: Still zombie horror. Still not interested.

If you are signed in you can read the previous month's edition of each book, which was needed in some cases to remind me of what was happening. I cannot argue about the price of Takuhai, being completely free to the reader in both forms.

Between the print and on-line version there were 18 samples, one of which was completely unreadable to me thanks to the low resolution of the scans (Off*Beat). Of the seventeen I could read, two of them (DramaCon and Sorcerers & Secretaries) stand out enough that I would probably buy them. Another five made the "not interested" list, and the remainder I would like to see more of before making a decision.