Netcomics: Dokebi Bride, Can’t Lose You, Boy Princess, Not So Bad, Madtown Hospital

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.

Not So Bad cover
Not So Bad
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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 cover
Boy Princess
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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 cover
Can’t Lose You
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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 cover
Dokebi Bride
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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.

16 Comments

  1. Your summary of Not So Bad made me roll my eyes. I’ve read quite a bit of yaoi and shounen-ai (scanlations, mostly), and that basic plot (Seme finds Uke starving/freezing/bleeding on the street; takes him in and looks after him while claiming not to be after sex; they have sex anyway) comes up again and again and again. It’s the shounen-ai equivalent of “two fight scenes, a chase and a weird villain”.

  2. I had no idea that was so generic. Are there a lot of pretty boys starving on the street in Korea? Makes it sound like America circa mid-1930s movies, only boys instead of girls.

    (And should I be spelling shonen-ai with the U?)

  3. Kevin Lighton


    (And should I be spelling shonen-ai with the U?)

    I’d assume thatthis would also apply to shonen/shounen, but “shonen” isn’t as common a reference to a subset of pornography. (And “shônen” is another reasonably common method of indicating the lengthened “o” that has the advantage of being less likely to be mispronounced.)

  4. Thanks for the link — that reminds me of the note in the first issue of Shojo Beat, where they acknowledged that properly, they were missing the circumflex, but that they chose the simplified spelling for brand purposes.

    And shonen-ai isn’t porn, not the ones that I’ve seen. Yaoi could be termed that, but not shonen-ai — I thought that was the distinction?

  5. Am I the only one that thinks everyone in Not So Bad looks like Michael Jackson after all the plastic surgery. Very creepy.

  6. I’ve noticed, in the Korean comics I’ve tried, a tendency to create VERY pointy chins that can be a bit distracting. That might be why Dokebi Bride was my favorite — the style wasn’t so typical of the other manhwa I’ve seen.

  7. Johanna, it is not just the chin, but the shape of nose in that particular manhwa. No one seems to have a complete nose.

  8. And shonen-ai isn’t porn, not the ones that I’ve seen. Yaoi could be termed that, but not shonen-ai — I thought that was the distinction?

    From what I’ve seen, there are different camps using that the different terms with different meanings. It’s been infuriating trying to figure out the specific meanings of the terms.

  9. Kevin Lighton


    And shonen-ai isn’t porn, not the ones that I’ve seen. Yaoi could be termed that, but not shonen-ai — I thought that was the distinction?

    Sorry, I wasn’t quite clear enough there. Shojo can refer to a porn genre, while shôjo doesn’t (which is why this was the first place Viz acknowledged elongated Japanese vowels), but I’m not sure whether the equivalent usage of shonen is common enough to make it worth making the shonen/shônen distinction (the latter being the one in shônen-ai).

  10. Ah, thanks for the language lesson.

  11. Thanks for the summaries! I’m personally have read many manga. I also read a few manhwa like Boy Princess, which I loved. Gosh I loved that manhwa.

    Anyhow, to me, those people who posted before were extremely critical and rude, and I would like to say that if you’re giving out false info, DON’T LEAVE A COMMENT. There. Shoune-ai can be spelt with the “u” or without the “u”, it’s just a Japanese thing. And Shounen-ai does not contain hard-core sex. Also, Korean manhwa have their own style, and they are unique. STOP saying that the style looks like Michael Jackson after surgery. Now, let’s see, can YOU draw a complete perfect manga or manhwa? Nah-uh, I don’t think so! So there, stop being so rude and respect the style. I actually like the style for Boy Princess.

  12. Thanks for commenting, but I don’t think anyone was particularly rude before. I also don’t think that you have to be able to draw in order to comment on how effective or well-done the drawing is (good thing, too, since it’s been a while since I last painted).

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the titles and the reviews.

  13. Well, I guess so. ^^ I’m gonna try and calm down, I guess? But it’s just that when I hear someone say “OH this and that look like Michael Jackson” it kinda gets me annoyed, coz they ALWAYS say that over and over. Yea.

    Well, that’s true….lolz, but I don’t think they should make their comments too harsh, coz it is a bit mean, i guess? ^^

    Maybe I’m being a bit too sensitive because I’m Korean? I dunno. Well, anyways, the reviews were cool.

  14. I suspect you have a lot more knowledge of the subject than some, which may be why you’re seeing subtle distinctions that may not be as obvious to those less familiar with the genre/works.

    And yes, it can be frustrating the 100th time you’ve heard the joke. :)

  15. I’ve read all of the manga mentioned above and I have to agree with your reviews. Dokebi Bride is the best by far when it comes to a refreshing style and story plot.
    Boy Princess disturbed me for several reasons. I didn’t like the art because the guy not only seriously looked like a girl, but acted like one. What’s the point in him being a boy when being a boy doesn’t come into play at all? They should have gone ahead and made him a girl. The story would have been that they just switched sisters which going by the story plot would have worked just as well.
    Like it’s title, Not so Bad wasn’t so bad…but it could have been much better. At least the uke looking one didn’t behave all submissive or brattish, but then again there wasn’t much of a romance going on either.

  16. ChiChiBlanche

    uh… i think the original reviews are a tad harsh?? i mean i really loved the first “Can’t lose you.” I’ve read the second “Dokebi Bride” (haven’t found the first one yet ^^) and i liked that, too.

    well as far as i knew shonen-ai and yaoi were pretty much the same thing?? but i don’t know that much either… and i’m not really interested in reading shonen-ai, either…

    pointy chins? well japanese manga does that too, it’s all up to the individual style of the artist. I also totally agree with Haru, i don’t see why people are so critical when it’s unlikely they can do better.

    But maybe i’m just too much of a manhwa/manga fanatic to be picky?? who knows.

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