20 Apr, 2009

Evyione: Ocean Fantasy, Vol. 1

By: Connie C.

evyioneBy Kim Young-Hee
UDON Entertainment, 200 pp.
Rating: 13+

In a reversal of the traditional “Little Mermaid” fairy tale, while on a ship celebrating her 18th birthday, Princess Evyione’s ship is struck by a monster and she is saved by the King of Ledent, a merman who falls in love with her. While Evyione lives the life of a commoner in the city she finds herself in after the accident, the King strikes a bargain with a witch to get two legs in order to live on land in exchange for his voice, which “all ears bend to hear.”

This volume took me completely by surprise. I could not get over how well absolutely everything was working here. I was expecting it to be… well, a pretty simple retelling of “The Little Mermaid.” The gender reversal was enough of a hook for me. But the atmosphere, combined with the wonderful artwork and time period the story is set in, really put this heads and shoulders above most other shojo fantasy. The setting is fictitious (I believe it was called Emvonia, or Pierre Ledent), but most of the setting, history, and clothing seem to be inspired by 18th century France. The plot sticks pretty close to the original fairy tale, and this volume ends after the King’s transformation, right as Evyione happens across him.

The character development is really only just getting underway. The King is by far the most interesting character, but he’s also the biggest enigma at this point. We don’t really know how he feels about being king, or even what his name is, but we know he’s bored with his life and quite taken with Evyione. Developing him without any dialogue will be a challenge, but it should make for a very unique read. Evyione is also on something of a quest to find herself, but she’s going about it much less directly than the king is. She’s a pretty strong character who feels comfortable standing up for herself and making decisions on her own, which is great since she could just as easily be a damsel in distress. Well, she is a damsel in distress, and that happens more than once, but she at least has a backbone.

The art is very, VERY pretty. A lot of attention is paid to Evyione’s wardrobe, which is in the height of 18th century French style. Her wigs and dresses are lovingly rendered with a lot of detail. Even the men’s clothes look lovely. Sadly, nothing aside from King and Eedgar, the Witch, is glimpsed of the underwater world, but both of them are rendered very beautifully, with a lot of flowing detail (which is sort of remarkable since neither of them are wearing clothes). The character designs are also quite good, and while some of the designs begin to run together, I like the way the faces and hairstyles are drawn quite a bit.

This is an absolute must for anyone who liked Bride of the Water God. I never thought there could be a retelling of “The Little Mermaid” that I liked as much as I like this volume, but the mood, style, and air of romance and tragedy that are established in the first volume are absolutely wonderful. This was among my favorite first volumes last year, and nothing has broken my heart as much as the delay for volume two. I hope the series hasn’t been dropped, but it also seems like the type of release that might fly under a lot of people’s radar, so spreading the word about it can’t hurt.

Volume one of Evyione: Ocean Fantasy is available now.

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