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Comic-Con '08: Yen Press Adds Cirque du Freak, More 4-Panel Manga

By July 28, 2008

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An early evening time slot pitted Saturday's Yen Press manga panel against the ever-popular Masquerade contest. As a result, the Yen Press crew presented their news to a half-full room. Nevertheless, their new manga and graphic novels offerings were full of promising titles that'll be vying for a spot on your bookshelf in 2009.

Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan, manga by Takahiro Arai - June 2009

Their marquee offering of the panel was also the one that was announced last: Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan with art by Takahiko Arai. According to one synopsis of the books, the stories are about "Two boys who visit an illegal freak show, where an encounter with a vampire and a deadly spider forces them to make life-changing choices." The prose and manga versions of Shan's bestselling novels have already sold 7 million copies worldwide.

The first three volumes of the manga edition will be released in early summer 2009 to coincide with the release of the Cirque du Freak movie, due out at the same time from Universal Pictures. Subsequent volumes of the graphic novels will be released quarterly.

"This is our first licensed title from Shogakukan," said Yen Press Co-Publisher Kurt Hassler proudly. To put this feat in context, it's helpful to remember that Shogakukan is a part-owner of VIZ Media. Yen Press' sister company, Little, Brown Book Book Group is the publisher of the Darren Shan novels, so it's this connection that helped nudge the manga into Yen Press' court.

Another trend in Yen Press' new releases is their growing line of yonkoma or four-panel manga series. Two new titles will join S.S. Astro and Shoulder A Coffin Kuro in Spring 2009:

GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class by Satoko Kiyduki - April 2009
From the creator of Shoulder A Coffin Kuro comes another adorable yonkoma manga series, this time it's set in an art school. According to Assistant Editor Tania Biswas, this story "follows the life of art students as they learn art technique and have colorful adventures."

Like Shoulder A Coffin Kuro, Geijutsuka will feature a mix of full-color and black and white pages interspersed throughout the book. "You learn about color theory as they do," said Biswas.

Ichiroh! by Mikage - May 2009
Yet another yonkoma manga offering originally from Houbunsha, Ichiroh! is about "a group of high school students who are taking exams, ready to move on with their lives," said Biswas. But two fail their exams, and must attend cram school to move past this speed-bump that keeps them from moving on to the highways of adulthood.

Other Japanese manga imports for Spring 2009 include:

Oninagi by Akira Ishida - April 2009
I missed much of the plot description here, but from what I gathered, it's about a young girl who is descended from demons, and she must, for some reason or another, fight for her life. "It's action-packed," raved Biswas.

Cat Paradise (Neko Ten) by Yuji Iwahara - July 2009
As the blurb on the slide put it, Cat Paradise is "a supernatural manga for cat lovers everywhere!" Originally released by Akita Shoten, Cat Paradise is about a girl who goes to a boarding school because its lax pets policy allows her to bring her cat with her. What she later discovers is that deep beneath the school buildings dwells a thousand year-old demon cat, who is bound to do what demons do -- attempt to destroy the world! It then falls to the human students and their cat companions to defeat this demon menace.

Toxic Planet by David Ratte - July 2009

This French import was originally published as three slim bande dessinée volumes, but the Yen Press edition will be collected in one volume. This release is significant because it will mark Yen Press' entry into online content delivery. Portions of Toxic Planet will be serialized online on the Yen Press website.

Hassler described Toxic Planet as "hilarious," which you wouldn't expect for a graphic novel about a world where the pollution is so rampant, people have to wear gas masks to survive. If you can read French and want to see for yourself, take a peek at the Toxic Planet website for a preview.

Step by Yanshu Yu - April 2009
The other full-color global graphic novel release for Spring 2009 is Step, a Chinese release originally from Xiao Pan. To paraphrase Biswas' description of the plot, Step is about a young orphan vampire who is taken in by a vampire hunter. But this foster parent's intentions aren't entirely honorable -- He intends to take his young charge's blood to make himself very powerful.

Kieli (novel) by Yukako Kabei - April 2009
On the light novel front, Biswas announced that Yen will be publishing the Kieli novels by Yukako Kabei. These novels about a young girl who can see ghosts and a near immortal soldier inspired the Kieli manga by Kabei and Shiori Teshirogi, which was released earlier this year.

Yen Press has already published the first volume of the Kieli manga, with the second and final volume to follow in the Fall. "The manga ended at two volumes because it was so violent," she said, "but the novels continue the story."

And while we've mostly been talking about coming attractions for 2009, what has arrived and made its debut at Comic-Con was the first issue of Yen Plus, Yen Press' new manga anthology magazine! Right out of the gate, Yen Plus is a hefty, double-sided dose of Japanese manga, Korean manhwa and original English manga.

One surprise was the announcement that two previously not mentioned manhwa series have also been added to the Yen Plus line-up and made their debut in the first issue. Senior Editor Ju-Youn Lee introduced the two Korean additions to the left-to-right side of the magazine.

Sarasah by Ryang Ruy
As Lee put it, Sarasah is "about a modern young girl who's desperately in love with a boy, but this boy really hates her. He accidentally pushes her down the stairs and she dies. But when this newly deceased girl shows up in the afterworld, she finds out that it wasn't her time to go yet, so the powers that be offer to send her back to the land of the living. Her goal for this second chance at life? Go back in time to make this boy fall in love with her."

It wasn't quite clear from the artwork or the first chapter in Yen Plus issue #1, but Sarasah seems to have a time-traveling element in it, as Lee mentions that a key aspect of the story revolves around pretty boys who were assigned to the archery unit in the army. "It seems they figured out that you don't put the pretty boys on the front line," laughed Hassler. "Make them shoot from a distance!"

The first collected volume of Sarasah will be available in July 2009.

One Fine Day by Sirial
The second manhwa addition to the Yen Plus lineup is One Fine Day, which is "a really cute story about a magician who has a cat, a dog and a mouse who also appear in the forms of children," said Lee. "It's a cute resting spot in the anthology."

Lee also mentioned that the tankobon (graphic novel volume) of this series won't be out until 2010, "because we're only featuring 10-12 pages in each issue of Yen Plus," so it'll take at least that long for enough chapters to appear to be collected as a graphic novel.

Look for a more in-depth review of the first issue of Yen Plus later this week.

Image credit: © Yen Press, © Darren Shan and Takahiro Arai, © Satoko Kiyduki / Houbunsha


July 28, 2008 at 1:21 pm
(1) Andrew Sherman says:

Just got Yen Plus and picked a random story: One Fine Day. Ugh! I hated it. Hope the rest is better.

July 28, 2008 at 11:41 pm
(2) manga says:

I agree with you on that point — One Fine Day isn’t my fave in this issue either. Jack Frost’s senseless gore kind of left me cold too. But so far I’m enjoying Nightschool, Maximum Ride and Nabari no Ou. I’m curious — anyone else have any opinions on the new Yen Plus line-up?

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