30 Aug, 2008

Manga Minis, 8/29/08

By: Katherine Dacey, Chloe Ferguson and Michelle Smith

Whether it was Hillary Clinton’s historic speech at the Democratic Convention or John McCain’s selection of a female running mate, we felt inspired to post a girl-centric installment of Manga Minis. This week’s column looks at shojo and seong-jun titles from Go! Comi, Tokyopop, Viz, and Yen Press including volume two of Cy-Believers, volume two of Goong: The Royal Palace, volume eight of staff favorite Love*Com, volume one of Rolling, and volume one of Vidia and the Fairy Crown.

Cy-Believers, Vol. 2

By Shioko Mizuki
Go! Comi, 200pp.
Rating: 16+

The second installment of Shioko’s Mizuki’s Cy-Believers is, if nothing else, a stellar example of bad transitioning and plot rehabilitation. The first hundred or so pages cruise along amiably through situational comedy until, out of seemingly nothing, a curveball last chapter manages to scare up some drama, tension and secrecy that presumably will bridge the series into future installments.

Which begs the question: why spend two and a half volumes treading water only to suddenly try and ground this airy, gag strip-eqsue comedy in something of substance? Almost the entirety of the volume is given over to yet more comedic, meanderingly pointless episodes involving everygirl Rui and her attractively nerdy compatriots until the arrival of Rui’s creeper of a father provides an excuse for change. And change it does, as suddenly everything is not as it seems, otherwise known as time to air some family laundry—a much-needed plot development, to be sure, but also one hell of a right turn for the series. The art style, however, remains hopelessly mired in the same ambiguous toned world of its predecessor, showcasing Mizuki’s ability to sketch characters but not backgrounds well. Granted, Cy-Believers is no longer a plotless wonder, but do you really need two volumes of filler to get there?

–Reviewed by Chloe Ferguson

Goong: The Royal Palace, Vol. 2

By Park So Hee
Yen Press, 200 pp.
Rating: Teen (13+)

Goong: The Royal Palace unfolds in an alternate version of present-day Korea, one that still boasts a Windsor-esque royal family. The story focuses on commoner Chae-Kyung, a high school student who marries the next in line to the Korean throne. Just as Diana Spence did in real life, Chae-Kyung discovers that being a princess isn’t glamorous, as her day-to-day life is filled with palace intrigue, onerous civic responsibilities, jealous classmates, and an indifferent husband who’s in love with someone else. (At least Crown Prince Shin is a babe.)

Though the plot is an amalgam of familiar soap-opera conventions—romantic triangles! hot younger siblings! disapproving mother-in-laws!—the story has surprising depth, showing us the emotional toll that public life exacts on the young couple. The characters, too, are developed beyond their plot functions into flawed, interesting people. Chae-Kyung, for example, is a refreshingly honest, outspoken heroine who tries to please her new family while struggling to preserve her sense of self, sometimes committing egregious faux pas in the process. Another plus is the artwork: it’s flat-out gorgeous, with considerable attention devoted to ancient ceremonial costumes, not to mention the contemporary fashions. (None of the characters shop the sale rack at Old Navy.) The characters’ bodies are somewhat stylized, but are a little softer and more languid than the norm for seong-jun manhwa, adding to the artwork’s sensual appeal. Pair those beautiful images with a compelling plot and boatloads of romantic tension, and you have the recipe for manhwa crack. Highly recommended for shojo and josei buffs of all ages.

–Reviewed by Katherine Dacey

Love*Com, Vol. 8

By Aya Nakahara
Viz, 216 pp.
Rating: Teen (13+)

Risa and Outani are finally going out, but she’s uncertain about how she’s supposed to act around him now. She’s got this preconceived notion of what a girlfriend should be, and internally beats herself up each time she fails to live up to that ideal. It helps some when Outani sets aside his natural reticence and introduces her to people as his girlfriend, but he still hasn’t articulated exactly why he loves her, and she’s having a hard time imagining what he could see in her.

Later, Outani’s neighbor, Mimi, finds out he’s got a new girlfriend and is furious. The beautiful and tall middle schooler has harbored a crush on him for years, but abandoned hope because she thought he only liked tiny girls. A lot of Mimi angst follows, and while it’s creditable that Risa sympathizes with her plight, the way this new character suddenly dominates the story is rather irksome.

Eventually, though, I realized that her purpose is to solidify the main couple’s relationship. We see that she really poses no threat to them at all, that Outani’s feelings never waver, and that he and Risa really are made for each other, rough edges and all. Having fulfilled this destiny, may she now go quietly away.

While this particular volume didn’t focus on the leads quite as much as I would’ve liked, it still excels at depicting the insecurities and awkwardness of this period in a relationship. That’s no surprise, since Love*Com has nailed many other aspects of first love. I’m sure it will continue to do so in the volumes to come.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

Rolling, Vol. 1

By Ji-sang Sin and Geo
Tokyopop, 192 pp.
Rating: Older Teen (16+)

It’s not difficult to get admitted to Bright Free High School. They’ll take anyone, even other schools’ rejects, and theoretically whip them into shape with strict rules that exceed even the military’s notions of discipline. This volume introduces the four students and one freeloader who are sharing a dorm room. Episodic adventures ensue.

I’ve seen this kind of premise before, but usually in a way that incorporates character moments in with the fun. Rolling doesn’t do that; it just sort of drifts along with no point or direction. Honey and Clover, for instance, might use the chapter about the ramen shop opening up across from campus to highlight the students’ insecurities and romantic woes. In Rolling, the main point is: how come Il-yong always gets an egg?

The back cover also hints at possible romantic involvement between the characters, but this never quite materializes. Two characters are particularly cuddly with each other and some sudden personality transplants (a character shown in chapter one to be logical is suddenly inane by chapter three) allow for a nude laundry scene, but there’s no real shonen-ai to speak of.

When all is said and done, Rolling is bland. We’re given no reason to care about these characters or to find their escapades interesting.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

Vidia and the Fairy Crown

By Haruhi Kato
Tokyopop, 192 pp.
Rating: All Ages

Like Kingdom Hearts and Kilala Princess, Vidia and the Fairy Crown features familiar Disney characters and settings—in this case, the fairies of Never Land—in brand new adventures. The manga itself takes its cue not from Disney’s animated Peter Pan film of 1953, but a more recently launched line of spin-off novels and straight-to-DVD movies based loosely on characters from J. M. Barrie’s 1906 novella, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Given the source material, it’s not surprising that most Never Land fairies are wholesome and domestic, blessed with talents such as doing dishes, folding laundry, and making other people clap. The lone exception is Vidia, a dour creature whose primary talents are flying fast and talking trash about the other fairies—two qualities that immediately endeared her to me, but make her an outsider in Pixie Hollow. When the Queen’s crown goes missing, the other fairies scapegoat Vidia, accusing her of stealing it. Vidia then teams up with the impossibly sunny Prill to clear her name, retrieve the Queen’s tiara, and teach the other fairies a lesson about tolerance.

Older readers will find the material predictable, as the mystery unfolds in the same manner as a typical Scooby Doo episode, with every clue’s significance explained in painstaking detail. Parents, too, may find the story wanting, especially its retrograde gender roles—surely Disney could have updated the material to include fairies with talents outside the kitchen and the washroom. Seven-to-ten-year-old girls, however, will adore Vidia and the Fairy Crown for its button-cute artwork and fantasy elements, though many of them will prefer the prissy Prill to her saucy, black-clad counterpart.

–Reviewed by Katherine Dacey

2 Responses to "Manga Minis, 8/29/08"

1 | swanjun // soliloquy in blue » Blog Archive » Love*Com 8 by Aya Nakahara: B+

November 4th, 2008 at 10:47 am


[...] I reviewed this volume for Manga Recon’s manga minis feature. You can see the result here. [...]

2 | swanjun // soliloquy in blue » Blog Archive » Rolling 1 by Ji-Sang Sin and Geo: C

November 4th, 2008 at 10:49 am


[...] This manhwa was pretty blah. You can find my review for Manga Recon here. [...]