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

INVU Book 4

by Kim Kang Won

INVU Book 4 cover
INVU Book 4
Buy this book

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.

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 Book 1

by Sora Omote

Metamo Kiss Book 1 cover
Metamo Kiss Book 1
Buy this book

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. It’s 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 Book 1

Story by Jake T. Forbes; art by Chris Lie

Return to Labyrinth Book 1 cover
Return to Labyrinth Book 1
Buy this book

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.

Similar Posts: Glitter Kiss § Labyrinth § *Paradise Kiss Books 1-5 — Recommended § Peach Girl Book 1 § Deux Yaoi: A Sampling — Kiss All the Boys, Take Me to Heaven, Two of Hearts

11 Comments

  1. 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. :) Anyway, I have a blog for RTL with various musings and previews and such at http://www.gobblin.net

  2. Thanks for taking my comments in such stride! I appreciate your update on plans for book two — it sounds like it will be worth taking another look. (I hadn’t realized that had come out already — and I definitely didn’t realize I was that far behind!) Your blog is hilarious, thanks for sharing.

  3. James Schee

    I’m glad to hear that Sarah has a bigger role, as the entire book I kept waiting for her to even show up. I may look at volume 2 now.

    Wow INVU, 5 years is just so long that I wonder if I could pick up the story again. Especially since I sent the previous volumes out to some reviewer who as hesitant as I was about manga at the time.:) :)

  4. Sarah’s in the first book, although she’s near unrecognizable (she’s got that hip girl with glasses and short hair look). INVU: yeah, yeah, I don’t have them any more either. Goodness knows where they went!

  5. James Schee

    I keep meaning to rent the movie, just to refresh my memory of the original story. I mean there has to be a reason that I really liked that movie, beyond it featuring Jennifer Connely who was pretty.:) (how sheltered was I? I had no idea who David Bowie was at the time)

  6. [...] her take on vol. 14 of Tramps Like Us and vol. 11 of Hikaru no Go, and she posts brief reviews of vol. 4 of INVU, vol. 1 of Metamo Kiss, and vol. 1 of Return to Labyrinth. Showing that you can compare almost anything, Matt Blind posts a dual review of Manga Sutra and the [...]

  7. I’m eagely awaiting for volume 3 to come out for Return to Labyrinth.

    These books are picking up along similar lines that my imagination left off!!
    Brilliant!!

    What exactly is the ETA??

  8. Glad you’re enjoying them, Tara! ETA for volume 3 is fall. I hope to keep the momentum going so that volume 4 will have less of a wait.

  9. [...] beginning in March 2009. The number of volumes in this series is yet to be determined, according to Return to Labyrinth writer Jake Forbes, who broke the news at his blog. He goes on to say: Each story will feature [...]

  10. [...] be seen again, but there are some exceptions: Rebirth, King of Hell, and (most exciting to me) INVU volume 5, which is due in [...]

  11. [...] that’s still running. It started in 2003, when the first three books came out, with book 4 following four years later, and then after another two years, here we are. INVU Book 5 [...]

Leave a Reply