by Kim Kang Won; adapted by Soo-Kyung Kim
published by Tokyopop; $10.99 US
At this point, I’m reading this series out of nostalgia, since it’s the oldest manga series I’m collecting 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.
Goodness knows that the story isn’t worth six years of patience. The events are stereotypical soap opera, and the characters are types instead of three-dimensional. There’s the good girl who can’t cope with her crush on a more experienced boy, the troubled beauty in love with her teacher, and the wannabe model whose father bans her from his house for keeping her tryout a secret. Everyone “talks” in screaming matches or passionately dramatic declarations.
The art can be ridiculously exaggerated, and not in a reasonable way. Instead, perspective is off, so characters grow a foot among panels on a page or their head is too small for a too-long torso or their extended limbs would look better on a giraffe. The adaptation text is clunky as well, whether it’s bad grammar (“I had no idea it was one of your customer’s clothes!”) or just flat to the ear (“I was going to break the news like that!”).
So why am I still reading it? Well, at this point, why not? Between the two pages of story and character information and the familiarity of the plots, it’s easy enough to keep up with the series, even with the extensive delays between volumes. And it’s a relatively cheap fix, with only one book every few years.
Of more substance, I have a fondness for Hali and Hajun. She models as a way of escaping her mixed-up home life, where she has to pretend to be her dead brother in order to prevent her mother from going insane. (In this installment, that subterfuge quits working.) She’s good at it because most of her life has been spent pretending to be someone else.
She clings to her teacher as someone who cares for her as herself, and their feelings for each other still seem realer than anything else in the book. He knows something about her situation, since his family gave him away to be adopted by an important political figure. The obstacle between them, their age difference and his responsibility for her, will be taken care of relatively quickly just by waiting for her to graduate. They’re already ready for each other, unlike the other pairings, who are emotionally immature.
I also like Jae Eun, the fannish young lady who cosplays and draws yaoi, even though her conflicts are similar to those in Genshiken, where they’re more developed. I’d like to see more of her story, even though I know she’s comic relief, which is why the others take up much more space. She and her baker crush seem to have the best chance of actually succeeding together … but I think a later revelation may affect that.
(The publisher provided a review copy. INVU 5 will be released on November 3.)