Sunday, September 9, 2012

Commentary: Monthly Rival

I mentioned 2 weeks ago that Japan's anti-video piracy law is supposed to go into effect in October, making it crime to knowingly download copyrighted movies and games.  I don't know if manga is included in the law, or how it impacts using images for review purposes.  In any event, it's expensive to keep buying these magazines, and I've pretty much commented on every shonen or seinen title that I want to.  There are a few publications like Wai! and fellows that look to be short story collections, the Manga Times variants that are nothing but 4-koma gag strips, and Golf/Samurais/Heroes that specialize in just one subject - all of which I've decided to not include in this commentary series.  I may pick up a copy some day just out of curiosity, but for right now I'm going to wrap up this series and move on to something else.  And this brings me to the last magazine, Rival.

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

Monthly Shonen Rival, 580 yen, 770 pages.
There's pandering, and there's pandering.  AKB-48 is a huge franchise right now, and at least one manga - AKB49 features this all-girl J-pop group.  So naturally, any other manufactured all-girl J-pop group that wants a similar shot at fame is going to try to copy AKB-48's tactics.  A semi-hot-at-the-moment group is Momoiru Clover Z (Pink Clover Z, sometimes also called MomoClo). Not only do they get the cover spot this month, but they feature in a gag manga called Momo Pro Z.  The manga is largely 4-koma, and each singer is characterized as her stage persona (e.g., bossy, shy, etc.  Much like the Spice Girls were.)  The artwork's pretty good on the whole, but if you don't like J-pop, there's not much point to reading this one. The one freebie this time is a tear-out booklet with little write-ups for each of the singers.

(Momo Pro Z)

Otherwise, Rival is a shonen publication, with stories aimed at boys up to high school age. The artwork is above average, but the character designs all follow the same basic patterns as you see in Shonen Jump.  Genres include sports, fantasy, SF and fighting. Past titles include:

Monster Hunter Orage
Blazer Drive
The iDOLM@STER Break!

Interestingly, Moyashimon and Hajime no Ippo Gaiden both appeared in 2008 as one shots. The wiki entry states that Emma also appeared here, but the entry for Emma itself says that it ran in Enterbrain's sister magazine, Comic Beam.

Titles of interest:

(Honto ni atta! Reibai Sensei)

Honto ni atta! Reibai Sensei, (It Really Exists! Spirit Medium Teacher) by Hidekichi Matsumoto. Kibayashi, a teacher that specializes in the occult and exorcisms, has a hard time dealing with normal daily life.  Cute character designs, and some occasionally really scary artwork.  In this story, one of the other teachers and two students go out to a haunted railway tunnel to take photos for a ghost-spotting contest. They encounter Kibayashi, who is just out visiting graveyards during her day off, and ask her to have the ghosts materialize for the photo. Problem is, the spirits are too friendly, so Kibayashi is asked to have them behave more like "real" ghosts. At the same time, mosquitoes start biting people, and Kibayashi's swollen, rash-filled face is horrific enough as to win the photo contest.

Samurai Ragazzi, by Tatsuya Kaneda. Edo-era fantasy about a boy from Kyushu that wants to travel the world and collect information for his encyclopedia. Decent artwork, cartoony character designs, silly story.  But some of the girls are cute.

(Kurenai no Ookami)

Kurenai no Ookami to Ashigase no Hitsuji (The Crimson Wolf and the Shackled Sheep), by Seishi Kishimoto. Seishi is the twin brother of the creator of Naruto, and artist on O-Parts Hunter and 666 Satan. I disliked the endings of O-Parts and 666, so I'm hoping that Seishi does a better job this time. The premise is that people generally hide their aggressive side (wolf) under a passive exterior (sheep's clothing). Ayame Akatsuki is a girl that has the ability to draw out that aggressiveness by punching people with a silver knuckle (brass knuckles, but made of silver), and she wants high school student Yoichi to be her "sheep". Possibly silly concept, but very good artwork and character designs.

Doll's Folklore, by Tasuku Karasuma. The sole survivor of a serial kidnapping-murder case can now see evil spirits. Called "dolls", these spirits are the result of people's strong emotions.  The survivor gets wrapped up in an anti-doll organization and ends up as a power user in a fight against dolls.  Cartoony character designs, but some interesting enemies and good artwork.

Imasugu Click!, by Takeru Nagayoshi. 4-koma gag series about a household with a robotic dog. I found this title amusing mainly because of the introduction of a robot mouse that gets caught in a mousetrap drawn to look like a power outlet.  Silly designs and jokes, and some unique ideas.

Summary: The majority of Rival is aimed at a younger audience, and doesn't appeal to me (there's a limit to how many Dragon Quest-style manga I'm willing to wade through).  But I do like Reibai Sensei, and I'm willing to give Kurenai no Ookami and Doll's Folklore a try.  Mildly recommended.

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