Creators: PLUS, Sung-Jae Park
Publisher: Dark Horse
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genres: Comedy, Romance
RRP: $9.95
Hanami: International Love Story v1
Reviewed by Craig Johnson

Seventeen-year-old Joonho Suk just had the best day of his life. He finally got the guts to ask out his big crush, Sae-un, and she said yes!! But after floating home on cloud nine, he found... his family packing up to move to Seoul?! Now tossed into a big new city, lovesick for the girl still in Suwon, Joonho runs into weird characters at every turn. First, there's the young girl who speaks a strange language and has enormous strength, then a wayward cat causes another - Hanami - to wipe out on her bike! She's okay, but Joonho might not be once her massive grandfather shows up and thinks he's to blame! Hanami's sweet nature quickly charms Joonho, and he discovers that his new school, including a self-styled blonde Casanova, is already abuzz over his cute Japanese neighbor. But what about Sae-un? And what on earth is the Babe Patrol Research Center?! Discover a completely entertaining read and one of the most popular comics Korea has to offer.

I don't know whether to be entertained or annoyed by this book, I think I'll just settle for an amused bemused for now until we see how it plays out. On the face of it, it's a fast-moving teen school romance-comedy book, with weird situations being thrown our hero's Joonho's way from which he just sort of bounces off wondering what the heck is going on.

The basic plot - his family moves to elsewhere in Korea just as he plucks up courage to ask a longtime crush out on a date (she says yes), and then encounters some weird and wonderful foreigners (i.e. they're Japanese) are his new neighbours - except he can't understand them when they speak Japanese and just grins like a loon. Three girls of differing ages, plus their ferocious grandfather...Hanami of the title is the same age as Joonho, and attends the same school.

At this point I should mention there's a cute kitten too, and that really sells the book. It's really, really cute. I mean it: really, really, really cute.

The way the Japanese characters speak Korean (i.e. English in our translation) is very stilted, but although it reads like a mistranslation it could be more subtle than that, just representing the problems that a native speaker in one language has in sounding natural in a non-native language. You can see the bemusement: the Japanese's Korean's translated in English badly, but this may be a mistranlation or a deliberate mistranslation. It feels like the latter, but there are a couple of other mistranslations in other parts of the dialogue too...but these may just be mistakes. AAArrrrrggghhhh!

Add to confoundment by chucking in David Bacon, an English guy who presents himself as the cousin of David Beckham ... and a thin, quiet girl at school who packs a punch ... and the pervo head of the Babe Patrol Research ... and that everyone at school fancies Hanami ... and that she has a secret boyfriend ...

...the feeling is that everything (including the kitchen sink) has been thrown into the mix and the creators just want to see what lands where: it's confusing at times, illogical most of the time, but pretty entertaining throughout.

21 August 2007
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