published by Netcomics
Netcomics is a new publisher offering translated Korean manhwa (manga). They launched with a lot of titles at once; here’s a brief rundown of some of their offerings.
Not So Bad by E. Hae — The premise vaguely reminded me of Be Beautiful’s Embracing Love, in that both are boys’ love stories starring celebrities, only this one has no sex and only hints of a potential relationship.
A successful actor picks up a vagrant kid off the street. The kid’s just been robbed and beaten, so the star takes him home to give him a place to recover. Claiming he’s cold, the kid starts climbing into bed with the actor, leading the star to ponder his true feelings toward the kid.
The art is spare, with few lines and lots of white space, and the expressions are similarly minimalist, with androgynous lips and lashes. Most of the text is the actor’s narration of his internal monologue, questioning why he’s doing what he’s doing and expressing the emotions that aren’t visible in the art. The characters are two-dimensional, with little sense of lives outside the pure mechanics of what the plot requires, and during a couple of key scenes, I had trouble following the storytelling.
Boy Princess by Seyoung Kim — Another shonen-ai, this time with a fantasy touch. When the princess elopes, her brother dresses up as a woman to fulfill the arranged marriage with a prince of the neighboring kingdom. The young “princess” expresses an odd combination of hero worship, looking up to his husband as an older sibling, and love for him. It was barely this side of ooky for me, especially when someone reminds themselves “he’s just a child”.
The heavy shading, meant, I think, to indicate good looks, made everyone resemble either a zombie or someone incredibly sleep-deprived. There’s lots of intrigue, with various family members plotting for the throne. Shonen-ai isn’t “will they or won’t they”; it’s “when will they” (admit their feelings), so it’s pleasant to have some other ongoing plotlines to make the story a bit deeper, even if they’re all setup in this volume, with no significant occurrences. I’m not a follower of the genre, though, so perhaps I’m missing some of the nuances.
Madtown Hospital by JTK — As a change of pace, this is labeled a comedy for all ages. It’s slapstick, peopled by caricatures, with violence, gushing blood, and stupid attempts at jokes. I found it dumb and unfunny.
Can’t Lose You by Wann — A girls’ adventure story in which a poor student discovers she looks just like the pampered queen of the high school… but only after knocking her down and dumping kimchi all over her. It’s a good thing the characters make such a big deal out of the resemblance, because otherwise, I never would have noticed. All of the characters look vaguely alike, and these two don’t have the same features most of the time. Combine this with the exaggerations the artist uses to indicate emotion, and they could be stick figures for all I’m getting a sense of their looks.
The rich girl’s fiance’ (from a political arrangement) finds himself attracted to the poor girl after an identity misunderstanding. The heiress’ life has been threatened, so she hires the poor one to impersonate her, throwing her into more contact with the fiance’. This is a romance, but one with James Bond-like action and the occasional building-destroying bomb. The events are unbelievable, but the energy kept pulling me through the story. It’s hard to dislike the story of a poor girl given an temporary entree into the society she deserves because of her good heart and willingness to work hard.
Dokebi Bride by Marley — It’s Ghost Whisperer, the comic. Like her grandmother, Sunbi can see the dead, and they’re pretty gross-looking. She’s come to live with her father and stepmother, and she’s not getting along with them.
The majority of the book consists of flashbacks to Sunbi’s life as a child. Her grandmother introduced her to rituals and spirits and how to be a shaman, but she wanted the child to have a choice, whether to live among normal people or to accept a life with demons, a life that might not have much place in the modern world. The result is a young girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere and who has no one to protect her.
The characters have more weight and depth to them than in many other manhwa I’ve seen, due to the heavier inks and shading used. The detailed settings also contribute to a grounded reality that’s important to balance the spiritual side of the story. The grandmother’s village has been dying with her, so the story also alludes to the urban/rural divide and the loss of old ways. This is a very involving story that combines exotic (to Americans) origins with universal teen angst. It’s the best of the line.
More information and sample chapters for all of these titles are available at the publisher’s website.