Saturday, September 1, 2012

Commentary: Monthly Comic Alive

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Monthly Comic Alive, 500 yen, 1070 pages.
According to the wiki entry, Alive started in 2006. It's one of the few magazines that still tries to push the page count up over 1000 (Afternoon made a big deal about breaking 1000 pages in one issue some years back, but they scaled down again to focus more on the more popular titles). Past stories have included D-Frag and Kampfer.  It's a seinen title, meaning that the stories are aimed at young adult males. Genres mostly revolve around fantasy and school life, with a much heavier than normal emphasis on young girls and reader service.  No overt sex, though.  For western readers, it's probably rated PG-17.

Other titles that may be recognizable to western readers are:

Iris: Zero
The Familiar of Zero, Chevalier
Infinite Stratos

There are a few freebies in this issue, including a short story booklet for Kono naka ni hitori, imoto ga iru! (My Little Sister is in this Group), and a second booklet with female character art from some of the other titles in this magazine.

I wouldn't say that Alive is bad or particularly ignorable.  It's just that there's nothing here I want to read, and it took me a week to get the interest up for writing this entry after reading everything. As usual with this kind of magazine, there's 20 color pages of advertising and self-promotion at the front.  This then flows into a color reader service splash page for the first chapter of a new series, Blade Dance, by Issei Hyuoju and Yuu Shimizu. It starts out fairly generically with a pushy young witch-type out seaching for a magic sword, accompanied by a boy photographer that occasionally saves her life but more often ends up seeing her naked by accident.  Decent character designs and artwork.  Too early to say anything about the story.

Girls und Panzer has a simplistic character design, and seems to be set in an early 1900's western town. A group of school kids maintain the tank in the town center.  This one also just started, and is now on chapter 2.  By the Girls Und Panzer Projekt.

Kono naka ni hitori, imoto ga iru!, by Hajime Taguchi, is based on a light novel about a boy attending a mostly-female school.  His sister, from whom he was seperated at birth, apparently goes to the same school.

Nonnonbiri, by Atto, is up to chapter 34, but there's nothing describing it in English.  In this chapter, 3 girls out at a cabin in the snow try to decide how to kill the time. One goes into sniper mode, throwing snowballs at the second, and the third teams up with the sniper to pretty much annihilate their victim.  Good backgrounds, but the character designs are just a bit off in the facial features.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (I have few friends), is another light novel adaptation, this time by Yomi Hirasaka.  The story is pretty straight-foward - a group of school kids that lack social skills create a club for the purpose of making friends.  Of course, their personalities clash all the time.  Fairly decent artwork, with light airy character designs.  What caught my eye about this one, is that when the fireworks they plan to shoot turn out to be a dud, they turn into caracatures of the Simpsons.  Haven't seen that kind of thing done before.  It's cute, once.

I'll mention IS (Infinite Stratos) here.  I saw the anime in Tokyo a couple years ago.  Typical harem fantasy with one inept boy in an all-girls school for mecha fighters.  Naturally the boy turns out to be subconsciously skilled with the mecha, and out-performs the girls that the mecha were specifically designed for.  So consistently over the top as to become boring.  The females in the manga version have chins so sharp you can cut with them.  On the other hand, the manga ended with this chapter, as the hero runs with his love interest in his arms, and every other girl in the school flying their mecha and trying to kill him.

Corpse Party, Musume, by Mika Orie and Makoto Kedouin. This is a spin off from the original Corpse Party "survival horror adventure" video game.  It's basically horror porn, with characters getting locked in a haunted school and dying horrifically one after the other.  Most victims then become possessed and take part in the killing themselves.  Very cute character designs are a jarring contrast to the gore.

The Sacred Blacksmith, with art by Kotaro Yamada, is based on another light novel, by Isao Miura. Female knight in a fantasy world accompanies a talented blacksmith on adventures. Slightly above average art, generic fantasy storyline.

Summary: Alive does have a number of titles that western readers may have already encountered, either through the anime or video games.  But there's little here for me.  Average artwork and stories, lots of reader service, but nothing overly compelling.  I had been following the fan scanillations of Iris: Zero, but I haven't seen new chapters in months, and it looks like it may have ended by now.  Lots of 4-koma gag strips parodying the other titles, some freebies.  Not really recommended.

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