Tokyopop Takes: INVU 4, Metamo Kiss, Return to Labyrinth

Metamo Kiss volume 1 cover

INVU Volume 4

by Kim Kang Won

I was a bit concerned, since the previous books came out five years ago, that I’d be lost trying to pick the series back up. Surprisingly, I wasn’t. I jumped right back into this high school drama (the only Korean manhwa I follow). The “story so far” page was a big help, but it could have been much improved by including captioning the art shots with the character names.

INVU volume 4 cover

The storylines are easy to grasp but very addictive. One girl has a crush on her teacher; another has a love/hate friendship with a boy who’s full of surprises. It’s a chick flick. And as with so many of those, the writer has to be saying “thank goodness for alcohol”, since it’s a terrific device to get the characters to be honest with each other and justify making revelations.

Near the end, we check in with the other two main characters: Spunky fangirl Jae Eun is crushing on her baking teacher, so she draws yaoi about him that he discovers. Ambitious Rea has a photography audition that turns into the most stereotypical situation in the book. The nice guy she wrote off for not being fashionable saves her from a masher, only to ruin the outfit she borrowed by accident. I think I saw that movie in the 80s.

I was surprised that this wasn’t a conclusion to the series, but I’m glad, since I want to read more. Only I hope it doesn’t take another five years!

Metamo Kiss Volume 1

by Sora Omote

Metamo Kiss volume 1 cover

A boy swaps bodies with a girl. She’s on her way to a date with her crush, so he winds up going as her. Metamo Kiss is a goofy little story, but then it turns out that the boy’s family all have this power, and she’s a kind of soulmate, and the crush is really the boy’s brother… With each chapter, the premise gets more complicated. It feels as though the author is just throwing in whatever she thinks of to keep things going. It’s a bit wearying to the reader, to keep up with it all, not to mention unfair in introducing previously unsuspected drama with no groundwork. The resolutions to the situations can be just as much pulled out of the hat, while the art is busy and requires some attention to figure out at times. The writer’s note says this is her first book, an unsurprising revelation.

Return to Labyrinth Volume 1

Story by Jake T. Forbes; art by Chris Lie

Return to Labyrinth volume 1 cover

I was looking forward to this sequel because I loved the movie so much, but I think that’s also what got in my way. This doesn’t have the charm of Henson puppetry or the appeal of David Bowie as the Goblin King or the imagination of the film. I missed the movement; this just lays there on the page. The images are competent, although the character design is generic, but there’s no sense of flow, of action happening between the panels.

This book picks up years after the movie, focusing on Toby, who’s grown into a teenager. Unbeknownst to him, the Goblin King has sent goblins to watch over him, which means that his wishes get granted, often in destructive ways. The back cover description spoils the end of the book, that he turns out to be the heir to the realm. (The story doesn’t end so much as stop, just as everything gets introduced.) So we have here another example of a boy who doesn’t realize how significant he is to the fate of the world, a common manga convention.

I don’t think starring Toby was a good choice, although it makes sense from a licensing perspective. Flat as Sarah might be at times, she was a character we watched develop over the course of the film, and her choice at the end to accept the changes of maturity was a poignant one. Toby was just a plot device, the thing of great value she had to fight to recapture. Perhaps they felt that her story had been told, but I have no connection to him as shown here. Plus, on a personal level, it takes the story from a female focus to yet another teen boy finding out how important he is. I’m just not that interested in reading that kind of story; it’s too common.


  • Thanks for looking at Return to Labyrinth — I’m always glad to read people’s responses. I know it’s tough to ask for a second look if someone isn’t grabbed with the first volume, but Chris and I made great strides in the second volume and address some of the points you bring up. The biggest lesson I learned from my first full-length graphic novel is to get the setup done quicker so that the complications that I have to say “check out volume 2 to see!” would have been in chapter 2 instead. In retrospect, the reveal at the end of volume 1 would have been the end up chapter 1. The longer arc is trying to subvert the boy-savior story – hindsight and all, should have hinted more of that earlier too. :)

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