Manga magazines are a tough sell; from Raijin to Pulp to Animerica to Shojo Beat, the publishing landscape is littered with noble experiments that lasted for a few years and then sputtered out (while remaining, it must be said, much beloved by their readers).
So you have to applaud the publishers of the new manga magazine GEN, although it seems like their marketing is a bit off. GEN bills itself as “Indie Manga from the Tokyo Underground,” but in the first issue, at least, it’s more like straight-up genre manga. “Underground” suggests Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s dark, sad stories, or the grotesque horror tales of Suehiro Maruo. That’s not GEN; instead, it offers a quartet of serialized stories that fall more or less into standard manga genres: There’s a fighting manga, one about an alien in a high school, a historical manga that looks like it will include some fighting action, and a ghost story. The stories aren’t bad, and the art is quite good, especially in Mask, the historical manga.
In an interview with Julie Opipari of Manga Maniac Cafe, GEN editor Robert McGuire says the manga in GEN are all created by doujinshi (self-published) artists. Doujinshi can be pretty “raw” (McGuire’s word), but these manga are all PG-rated; if there’s an adult aspect to them, it’s that they are more thoughtful than your standard boobs-and-battles manga.
GEN is published both as a downloadable PDF and a print edition. The first issue is available for free download, and the second issue is $2.99; the print edition is $9.95. The publisher seems to regard the print version as a collectible and the digital edition as the one most people will read. I read it on my iPad, which worked fine, except that the pages swipe Western-style, from right to left, but read Japanese style, from right to left as well. The magazine reads best in landscape mode, as it is presented in two-page spreads. It’s definitely worth a look; the inside may not match the marketing, but it’s still a solid read.
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