So, recently the existence of the Manwha Creator Bank and it’s accompanying Facebook page has come to my attention. It’s a joint project conceived by Netcomics and Seoul Animation Center in an attempt to help promote Manwha in other countries. The basic idea behind the site is that it’s a catalogue of about 49 Manwha series, containing brief synopses and short previews for each one. Some of these titles were familiar to me as US reader while others are completely new and unheard of. They ran the gamut from slice of life drama, historical action, fantasy, horror and more.
Here are three of the titles that caught my eye..
Namhansansung – Created by Gaya Kwon, Namhansansung is a piece of historical fiction set during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592. I have to admit that I like the idea of a historical piece of fiction dealing with one of the various conflicts between Japan and Korea throughout the ages. While many are aware of Japan’s actions towards its Asian neighbors in the 20th century, this seems like it might give a bit of a glimpse at the deeper issues and length of the hostility between the two nations. On top of that Gaya Kwon’s artwork looks incredibly pretty, a bit stiff, yes, but still the brief preview had me wanting to see more and find out more about this tale and historical event.
3 Grams – Created by Jisue Shin, 3 Grams promises to to tell the story of a woman’s battle with ovarian cancer. The official summery says “This project was started with the intention of giving hope to those battling illnesses, but hopefully it will send a positive message to all the people going through tough times.” While a bit vague I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t interested in it in the same way I was interested in With The Light, it’s not a topic that’s usually covered in sequential art released in the US and seems more like something you’d see in a movie or novel, so the chance to see the material covered in this medium is one that intrigues and interests me. I have to admit that I’m rather fond of the simplistic looking artwork in the preview as well.
Green Smile – Created by Hyukjoo Kwon, Green Smile is a full color web series from Korea focusing on a young harp seal’s search for his mother after they’re separated following an encounter with hunters in the arctic. I have to admit that I’m something of a sucker for talking animal stories and the idea of Umbi, the young harp seal, looking for his mother kind of tugs on my heart strings a bit. The fact that it deals with seal hunters, whalers and more gives it a hint of social relevance that also appeals to me. The art in the preview does look awfully cartoonish but not enough to lessen my desire to see and read more of the series.
After talking about those titles I do feel the need to mention one other thing. This site really doesn’t seem to have been created with the fans in mind. Certainly potential fans can peruse the titles, look at the previews and then bug local publishers about possibly bringing some over, but the preview catalogues are clearly intended for licensing purposes. The previews are incredibly short, only a page or two at the most, and the entries include contact information for rights acquisitions and more. It’s certainly an interesting idea and there’s nothing wrong with attempting to promote your countries entertainment abroad but the short previews don’t do much more then whet your appetite for these series. The lack of press about it also makes me wonder how effective it’ll be, hence this entry being my attempt to help give it some attention and get some eyes on it. If nothing else the previews, summaries and story information should help give us an idea of how varied Manwha can be in both style and content.
by Naoko Takeuchi
Kodansha Comics, 244 pp
Rating: Teen (13+)
The second volume of Naoki Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon picks up right where the first one left off and it contains revelations and twists by the bucket full. The truth about Sailor Moon and her allies, Tuxedo Mask and more is about to be revealed!
Wow. I’ve seen some people mention that the second volume is full of twists and turns and they weren’t lying. The first volume was a little slow in places, introducing most of the cast and offering us only brief glimpses at the villains and what they’re after, but volume two is almost the exact opposite. The pacing picks up as truths are revealed and the Sailors find themselves whisked from one shocking revelation to another. Usagi’s character begins to grow and shows hints of a heretofore unseen inner strength that feels genuine. Her relationship with Tuxedo Mask develops and the revelations with that help to flesh out and explore the background and history of the world the story inhabits.
Naoki Takeuchi’s artwork still isn’t really my cup of tea. I recognize that she does a fantastic job at conveying mood and emotion through various screen tones, borders, lack of borders and more, but at the same time it’s just not my thing. So much of it seems to occur in a white space occupied by sparkles or blurry lines. While it does a good job at conveying the characters moods and reinforcing the atmosphere of the story it also causes it to feel a bit removed and ungrounded at times. There’s also a few rapid transitions that left me wondering if I had missed a page or two.
I enjoyed the second volume of this series far more then the first, despite my lack of love for the manga’s visuals. Naoko Takeuchi’s created an interesting and compelling world and I’m curious to find out more and see how the various dramas play out. As of now I’m definitely in for the long run.
Sailor Moon, vol. 2 is available now from Kodansha Comics.
Created by Wei Dong Chen, Illustrated by Chao Peng
JR Comics, 176 pp.
Rating: All Ages
Monkey King, Vol. 1, the first release from new publish JR Comics, is an adaption of the classic Chinese tale, Journey to the West courtesy of Wei Dong Cheng and Chao Peng. The opening volume kicks off with the birth and origins of the Monkey King, Sun Wu Kong, and chronicles some of his earlier exploits.
Monkey King’s story is incredibly fast paced, breezing along from one tale of Sun Wu Kong’s trouble making ways to another. It barely stops to breath and at times it feels very plot driven. Despite being the main character not a whole lot of time is given to exploring the ins and outs of Sun Wu Kong’s personality in this first volume. Events that seem like they’re meant to motivate and drive him are often depicted but then abandoned in favor of depicting more of his antics. The result is that there’s a lack of emotional resonance with these events. We see them occur but so little time is given to examining their affects upon Sun Wu Kong that it’s left up to the readers to fill in the blanks. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but going from tragedy to a silly scene of Sun Wu Kong causing chaos seems to undercut the emotional impact they’re meant to have on him. It’s possible that these will be brought up and discussed at greater length in the future, but right now they just seem to lack the oomph that they should have.
Visually the book is pretty solid. Chao Peng does a fantastic job at illustrating the various gods, demons and mystics that populate the story. The action scenes aren’t as decompressed as those of similar manga and most fights are over in a matter of pages. Peng does a great job at avoiding the pitfalls of making characters look too much alike and is quite good at conveying expressions and emotions through the faces of his characters. The backgrounds are always fleshed out and the book’s in full color to boot, making it a bit of a visual treat with plenty of interesting things to look at and get absorbed into.
Monkey King is an interesting creature. I haven’t really seen an attempt at getting Chinese comics published in the US since the ComicsOne days so it’s nice to see someone trying again. That said I’m not sure if this is the right way to go about doing it. It’s a fairly entertaining read but something about it is just lacking the “it” factor to really make it stand out from what else is on the shelves now a days. Still, it seems like a solid adaption of a Chinese classic and I’m tempted to hunt down another volume or two in the future.
Monkey King, Vol.1 is published by JR Comics and is available now.
Created by Kenichi Sonoda
Rating: Mature Readers
After nearly seven years Kenichi Sonoda’s Gunsmith Cats return to the printed page! The first two volumes of Gunsmith Cats: Burst see the return of all the familiar faces from the original series and promises a return to the same high octane action that made the first series such a hit! But after such a long time off can it possibly live up to the hype?
Yes and no. Gunsmith Cats: Burst starts off incredibly slowly, opening with several short stories that aren’t terribly memorable and in at least one case is just downright boring as it involves Rally spending about ten pages explaining the ins and outs of gun modifications to her partner in crime, Minnie May. While this might be fascinating for some people who are really interested in guns and gun modification, my interest in them begins and ends with how well they’re used in action sequences and the whole thing just about put me to sleep. Thankfully afterwards things begin to pick up and return to form as Rally finds herself involved in a convoluted mod plot to manipulate stock prices via terrorist attacks. While the villains aren’t quite as memorable as those of the original series, at least not yet, they manage to give the ladies of Gunsmith Cats enough trouble that we’re able to get some fun action scenes and stand off’s out of it. Still, it feels like it falls a little short of the insanity of the original series. In the second volume things continue their upward trend thanks to a lengthy tale focusing on Bean Bandit and a crazy looking cop obsessed with taking him down. While I do love seeing Bean in action and he’s ridiculously bad ass in the story it’s a little disappointing to see the most exciting and interesting tale of the first two volumes given over to Bean rather than Rally and company.
Sonoda’s art is a little shaky at times. There are a few times were the characters look a little stiff and awkward with their limbs looking a little off, stiff or bizarrely skinny here and there. His action sequences are still solid and entertaining but none quite live up to the reputation of the original series. Sonoda continue to do a great job at conveying motion and controlling the flow of time across the page, allowing him to churn some incredibly complex and speedy action scenes that are clear and easy to follow regardless of the number of people involved. And of course it wouldn’t be Gunsmith Cats without some fan service and elaborately detailed guns and cars and those are here in abundance as well!
If there’s anything wrong with Gunsmith Cats: Burst it’s that it feels like more of the same old, same old. None of the characters seem to have grown or developed a whole lot and the stories feel a bit rote and predictable at times. Still, the American manga market tends to be dominated by Shonen heroes, fantasy tales and more so despite it’s flaws and familiarity Gunsmith Cats: Burst manages to feel like a breath of fresh air and scratches that itch for contemporary action stories. And honestly? Sometimes more of the same can be like hanging out with an old friend and that’s definitely the case with this series.
Gunsmith Cats: Burst, Vols. 1 + 2 are published by Darkhorse and are available now.
Written by Ryo Suzukaze, Art by Akira Mutsuki, Translated by Jackie McClure
Tokyopop, 224 pp
Rating: Older Teen (16 +)
The tale of two Midori’s reaches it’s conclusion in the second volume of .hack//Cell by Ryo Suzukaze. The Midori of the real world lies stricken by an unknown disease desperately hanging onto life in her hospital room. Meanwhile the Midori of the World, the MMO, becomes aware of her true origins and searches out her reason for existing. The connection between the two is made clear as both Midori’s face their final fates.
Sadly this volume is a bit of a let down after the rather enjoyable first half. More of the story seems to take place in the real world and the origins of the World’s Midori just feels off. The connection between the two is revealed but feels oddly anti-climatic. Add in to this an extended period of time with the World’s Midori attempting to interact with the real world and the strange way with which everyone she encounters seems to accept her origins and existence with no problem and her existence takes on a weird every day feel despite it apparently not being an every day event. Still, the World’s Midori is rather compelling at times as she wrestles with the revelations of her existence and what it means to her as an individual. The rest of the supporting cast lumbers rather unremarkably with only Adamas showing some growth as he moves from coward into something that more closely resembles a traditional shonen action hero at times, albeit an unsuccessful one.
Akira Mutsuki’s artwork continues to be weird and ungainly throughout the book. Beautifully detailed pictures depict scenes from the book, the characters are clothed in elaborate and gorgeous looking costumes, and then they’re perched on unnaturally long and strangely deformed legs and you’re left wondering how they’re capable of supporting their own weight on those broken tooth picks. Still, there is something undeniably pretty about the artwork, even if it does border on the incomprehensible a few times during this volume.
I really wanted to love and enjoy this book but ultimately it just fell flat for me. The origin of The World’s Midori is weird and feels like a huge stretch and I didn’t really feel the ultimately resolution held together terribly well. Still, I’m glad I know how it ends if only to warn folks away from bothering with this series. In the end .hack//Cell starts off well but sputters to a fairly uninteresting conclusions with this second volume.
.Hack//Cell, Vol. 1 was published by Tokyopop and is available now.