October 21st, 2007 by Katherine Dacey-Tsuei Bookmark this post
This week’s shipping list consists of just eleven titles, so I’ll dispense with the formalities and simply urge you to pick up Bride of the Water God, a lovely new manwha from Dark Horse. If you’ve enjoyed The Antique Gift Shop, Dokebi Bride, RG Veda, or Shirahime-Syo, I’m confident that you’ll swoon over Water God’s beautiful artwork and unabashedly romantic story. Folktales not your thing? Look for the final volume of VS. (CMX), a melodrama set in the cutthroat world of classical music, or the fourth volume of Train + Train (Go! Comi), a shonen story set on board… a train. I wasn’t wild about the first installment, but after reading Brigid Alverson and David Welsh’s positive assessments of volumes two and three, I’ve been persuaded to re-board Train + Train and see where it goes.
If you’re planning to use this week to catch up on interesting titles that you missed the first time around, take a money-saving tip from Manga Life reviewer Lori Henderson, who directs bargain-conscious otakus to the DrMaster Manga Outlet, “where you can get books for $2 a piece!” As Lori notes, many were published by the now-defunct ComicsOne, so you won’t find volume 21 of Naruto at the Manga Outlet. But there is hidden treasure just waiting for the patient browser. On my most recent visit, I stumbled across bargains—volumes 1-19 of Iron Wok Jan!, volumes 1-2 of Lunar Legend Tsukihime—manhua galore—volumes of Shaolin Soccer and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon—and hard-to-find classics—select volumes of Junji Ito’s Tomie, Crayon Shin-chan, and the short-lived 888. If nothing else, a visit to the Manga Outlet will give you fresh material for your very own Overlooked Manga Festival. For further details, visit Lori’s blog.
REVIEWED THIS WEEK:
SHIPPING THIS WEEK:
Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend, Vol. 2
Art by Kim Byung Jin, Story by Kim Sung Jae
The first volume of Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend promised an action-packed story with a healthy dose of political intrigue and supernatural thrills. Although the plot was a little difficult to follow, and the time period uncertain (some characters dressed like medieval knights, others like extreme sports enthusiasts), the artwork was tight, and the basic premise—exiled son struggles claim to his father’s throne—solid. Volume two, on the other hand, is a frustrating slog. I’m not sure I could actually summarize the plot because I have no idea what happened or who did what. Much of the inter-clan warfare depicted in volume one seems to have taken a back seat to a confusing story arc involving a husband-and-wife team of zombies who capture and torture Chunchu for reasons never satisfactorily explained. (The couple that slays together stays together, I guess?) As impressed as I’ve been with Dark Horse’s other manwha selections—Banya the Explosive Delivery Man, Bride of the Water God, Shaman Warrior—I can’t recommend this frantic, convoluted mess to anyone but a die-hard action junkie looking for a fix.
Volume two of Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend is available now. To read a short preview of volume two, click here.
Hanami: International Love Story, Vol. 2
Art by Sun-Jae Park, Story by Plus
If you needed any confirmation that Hanami is a love story told from a teenage male perspective, consider the following plot development in volume two: Joonhoo, eager to please his girlfriend Sae-un, agrees to buy a cell phone so that the two can talk every night. But Joonhoo can’t afford minutes unless he gets an after-school job. So what does he do? Joonhoo starts swabbing the floors at a burger joint that’s staffed by three gorgeous young girls. And, despite his best efforts to resist temptation (and the fact that Joonhoo isn’t exceptionally smart, handsome, or funny), one of the girls begins to show an interest in him.
I can forgive Plus such moments of male wish fulfillment because there’s a fundamental sweetness to Hanami that offsets some of the groan-worthy moments in the narrative. For all his ineptitude, Joonhoo is a decent kid; Sun-Jae Park does a nice job of showing Joonhoo’s obvious affection for Sae-un through body language and reaction shots, while Plus cooks up plot twists that reveal Joonhoo’s chivalrous side. The story sometimes succumbs to shonen cliché—is there a comic aimed at fourteen-year-old boys whose hero doesn’t walk in on a cute girl as she changes her clothing?—but includes great running gags and a memorable cast of supporting characters, from Woonghoo, the president of the B.P.R.C. (that’s short for Babe Patrol Research Center) to Hena, a bespectacled cutie who could K.O. Laila Ali with a right hook.
King of Thorn, Vol. 2
By Yuji Iwahara
If you’re still feeling a twinge of nostalgia for the first season of Lost—when polar bears and unseen monsters prowled the island, the Others were a figment of the Frenchwoman’s imagination, and the hatch had yet to be opened—you may find solace in the pages of Yuji Iwahara’s King of Thorn. Equal parts Lost, Andromeda Strain, and Jurassic Park, this gripping sci-fi thriller pits a small but diverse group of human beings against dinosaurs, killer plants, and a disease that turns its victims to stone.
The initial outbreak of that disease—known as the Medusa virus—is what sets the story in motion. Unable to stop Medusa’s spread, officials resort to a lottery, awarding winners the chance to be cryogenically preserved until a cure is found. But something goes awry in the interim, and the winners awaken prematurely to discover the facility in shambles and overrun by hungry, Jurassic-sized lizards and vines. As they attempt to escape, several members of the party—especially Marco, a tattooed tough guy—prove just a little too knowledgeable about their surroundings, leading the rest of the group to question both their true identities and role in containing (or creating) the Medusa pandemic.
In trying to describe what makes King of Thorn such an entertaining read, I found myself typing such stock, action-movie-review phrases as “pulse-pounding action,” “a non-stop thrill ride from start to finish,” “gets its hooks into you and won’t let go.” And cliché as those sentiments are, they do an adequate job of describing the energy and skill with which Yuji Iwahara executes chases, fights, and escapes (especially when big, hungry monsters are involved). There are some genuinely exciting set-pieces in volume two that tap the same vein of horror as Jaws and Jurassic Park; Iwahara, like Steven Spielberg, reminds us that no matter how civilized we become, that primal fear of being hunted is always with us.
Much as I enjoyed the man-on-monster scenes, I found the characters rather generic. Most are stock action-movie types: the amoral hero, the smug politician, the fiercely protective mother. With the exceptional of Kasumi, a frightened, mournful girl whose sense of survivor’s guilt is palpable, none of the other characters command our sympathy, leaving a gaping hole in the story whenever she isn’t present. Iwahara is beginning to rectify that problem in volume two, providing back stories for two key players, and spending more time with characters who initially seemed like expendables. Here’s hoping that Iwahara continues to develop his cast further in volume three; I want to feel a few shocks of “Oh no he didn’t!” and “I didn’t see that coming!” before I reach the end of this entertaining six-volume series.
Volume two of King of Thorn is available now.