I’m looking at four title launches Tokyopop has coming out in June. (All prices in U.S. dollars.)
Takeru: Opera Susanoh Sword of the Devil Volume 1 is a standard format manga title, which means 192 pages for $10.99, their new price point. (But it’s selling at 20% off on Amazon, which puts it at $8.79. That may be why they shifted from $9.99 — under $10 books don’t get discounted as much as over $10 books do, so even though the cover price is more, the customer may end up paying less while feeling like they got more of a deal.)
The paper is flimsy, rough newsprint, and the cover also feels lightweight. The story is about an epic quest to find a magic sword to “restore balance” to the land. In other words, a common story type in manga, with nothing obviously setting it apart from many other tales, although the characters are attractive. It’s due out June 9.
Out a week earlier, on June 2, is Samurai Harem: Asu no Yoichi Volume 1. This is also 192 pages, also newsprint, but it’s $12.99 (which means Amazon has it at $9.55). Is the two-dollar raise because it’s got a Mature rating? I’m speculating that either the age restriction limits the potential audience, so a higher price is needed, or the company feels they can get more money out of an older customer.
As to the content, the first story page includes two different panty shots, a cleavage panel, and a dripping wet huge-breasted girl. That’s pretty much the purpose of the series, right there, although there’s some plot about country samurai boy coming to the city where he studies at a school with four hot girls and no adult supervision. I admire the back cover copy writers, who say, “Bushido, babes, and battle … in the great tradition of classic fanservice manga.” There are boob grabs, naked fantasies, panty shots, and panels filled with nothing but breasts. If you’re the audience for this, you know it, and yes, you probably will pay an extra $2 for it.
Tokyopop already knows that yaoi fans will pay more for their pleasures, which is why the Blu imprint starts at $14.99 (or $10.19 at a 32% discount). Gakuen Heaven-Nakajima, due June 16, is an alternate take (the author calls it a “parallel universe”) on the previous Gakuen Heaven manga in which new student Keita winds up with a different one of his fellow students at an all-boys school.
Yet for the same price as a standard-sized yaoi title, $14.99, you can get Gravitation Collection 1, a double-sized re-release of two previous volumes under one cover (also out June 16). Both for size and for content (it’s the best read from this bunch), this is definitely your best value. Just ignore the back cover, which promises a “gorgeous” collection — it’s the same thin cover and newsprint paper as the other books — and “hot exciting extras” (four sketchy head shots of characters).
Gravitation is shonen-ai (more dating, more hints, less sex than yaoi), and it’s soapy fun. Boys want to be rock stars, and the ride is quite emotional, especially when an older writer tells the wannabe singer exactly what he thinks of his lyrics. Portrait of a young man obsessed as a result.
The art is what I think of as 80s style. Not because it’s overdrawn or “girly”, but because it’s all big chins and poofy hair on top of the head and it reminds me of Boys Over Flowers. It’s a real page-turner, easy to zip through and plenty to enjoy in this big hunk of book.