I’ve spent the past few days down with a nasty cold, one of the worst I’ve had in years. Nausea, coughing, slight fever, weakness, the works. As a result, reviews have been thin on the ground. So I figured that, since I’m *already* ill, what better time to take a look at the August issue of Monthly Comic Alive, from the folks at Media Factory?
Usually whenever I go into NYC I try to get a different manga magazine to try out. Lately I’ve been limited as they’ve stopped carrying some of the really obscure ones, and the choices seem to be limited to the old classics – all the big 3 shonen, Morning/Afternoon/Evening, Big Comic/Original/Superior/Spirits, and Young ______. The remainder, down on the bottom shelf of Kinokuniya’s seinen section, tend to be what I call ‘media tie-in boobie magazines’, where the manga caters to people who like franchises and fanservice. Here you’ll find Kadokawa’s Shonen and Young Ace, for example, or Shonen Gahosha’s Young King Ours. And Champion Red goes here, despite its lack of tie-ins, by its sheer skeeziness.
Media Factory is in general known as an anime company first and foremost. In 1999 they started to put out a manga magazine Comic Flapper, which is still running, and was the home of Dark Horse’s incomplete series Translucent. In 2006 they noted the growing otaku market and started Comic Alive, which oozes otaku from its every pore. I picked up the August issue with trepidation. I mean, look at this cover.
So, knowing I was in for a rough ride, I started to glance through the contents. Let’s see…
It needs to be said, if you want to know what the current otaku kinks are, Comic Alive is a great place to go. Catgirls are in here, of course. As are maids. A lot of maids. Panties, of course. Gotta have lots of underwear. And of course lots of nudity as well. There’s also witches, mainly as half the magazine seems to be fantasy of some sort. Fans of current anime series will find a lot of this familiar, as many of these are current animes, past animes, or future animes. Sacred Blacksmith. Zero no Tsukaima. Sasameki Koto. Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. MM! Maria Holic. Stein’s Gate. In addition, a good number of those I just mentioned are based off of light novels or games, making it even more franchise bait. And a few of them have ‘side stories’ running in other magazines from other companies.
As I wrote short notes about each chapter I read, one thing kept coming up over and over. ‘Ecchi fantasy’. Not porn, of course, as that would require anyone actually getting lucky, which isn’t going to happen here. But… well, I could probably write a synopsis that would fit 75% of Comic Alive’s stories.
“Kenji, a nondescript ordinary guy, is going to school at Elite Academy, where he finds he is one of only 10 boys in a school almost entirely populated by girls. One day, he discovers that he is the bearer of an awesome power (magic/swordsmanship/being really nice, delete where appropriate), but one that can only be used if he gains power by earning the love and/or affection (really, rubbing against him will do) of at least five different 13-16 year old girls of varying personalities and body types, as long as you have one girl who’s flat-chested and angry and one who is buxom and seductive. Of course, Kenji is a nice guy, so these girls have nothing to fear. As the series goes on, he will come up against bigger villains and more girls, all of whom fall for him and most of whom he meets when he walks in on them changing, or in the shower, or hell, when they wake up naked in his bed. What’s Kenji going to do? How can he possibly decide which girl is his true love and which he just needs to use their affection to power himself up? Especially as he represents so many readers, none of whom will agree. (He’ll probably end up with the angry girl, but let’s hedge our bets and do a side-story in Shonen Ace where he doesn’t.) Soon to be a new anime in the Fall of 2012!”
There are a few bright spots. Sasameki Koto may be a bit more serious than it once was, but its relatively realistic look at a budding yuri couple is a breath of fresh air amidst all the panty shots elsewhere in the magazine. Likewise Himawari-san, another low-key series with a dash of yuri. I was also quite pleased with Suugaku Girl, which is apparently in its third incarnation, and is designed to teach difficult math concepts through the power of moe cat-eared girls. It has some service, but not a lot, and seems to be pretty dedicated to teaching its math (at least from the one chapter I read).
But really, the thing that struck me most about Comic Alive, a magazine devoted to being the go-to point for otaku who like to read more of the same, it’s that there were 4 different series that had 4-koma comedy spinoffs later in the magazine. Zero no Tsukaima, Mayo Chiki, Infinite Stratos, an Aria the Scarlet Ammo *all* have cutesy superdeformed 4-koma series to keep milking the same thing. Presumably as if they had to rely on series that weren’t part of a light novel/manga/anime/game franchise, it would be a very short magazine indeed.