Si-Young Lee – ADV Manga – 2004 – 2 volumes
I picked this one up because I enjoyed the author’s other work in English, Real Lies. This is almost nothing like that, but I also enjoy Korean fantasy manga, or what I’ve read of it. Sort of. Very few have finished in English. And actually, most of them start out kind of rough. Like this one.
The premise is great. Normal girl (Ji-Yoon) rebels against her parents when they try to force her into an arranged marriage. She flees into a strange theater, where a man forces her to buy a statue of a beautiful man. When she finally agrees to at least meet the person her father wants her to marry, when the man comes to the door, she is sucked into an alternate fantasy dimension and awakens in the body of a much younger version of herself. A strange pair of men, the elegant Lloyd and the arrogant Chopi, take her to a palace and start calling her Princess Isdale. They explain that she’s from their country, the country of dreams, and was sent to the human world as a baby. They’re under attack by the former king’s brother, and the current king, Lloyd, reveals that the traitor has two of the three royal treasures, and must be stopped so that Lloyd doesn’t die and Princess Isdale and Chopi can get their original bodies back.
Most of that is sort of… crammed into the second half of the book. It helps that there’s only three characters, and that all the action is restricted to the inside of the castle, though. There’s also the fact that the premise isn’t really that complicated, and there’s not a whole lot of detail included about Princess Isdale, Lloyd, and Chopi. It also helps that there’s something inherently pretty about the art in Korean fantasy comics. Lots of long hair and big eyes, draped clothing, and elegant-looking characters. I also like the idea that the world is created based on the wishes and dreams of reality, and I’m curious about how that may affect the story in the future. The character personalities come across fairly clearly, too. Lloyd is fairly submissive and not that interesting, but Chopi and Ji-Yoon are rather abrasive and tend to bounce their personalities off one another. It can be fun, but there’s not nearly enough of it.
Unfortunately, there’s more bad than good. The generic fantasy premise doesn’t really endear me to the book. Ji-Yoon seems to easily accept absolutely everything that’s going on, and after some brief discussion, she and Chopi decide to go after the villain, which… if they were going to do it anyway, I’m not sure why there was even the smidge of dramatic build-up that appeared. It’s kind of a waste when so much story is crammed into one volume. There’s also too little explanation. Who is Princess Isdale? Is she part of Chopi and Lloyd’s family, somehow? If not, why does she have the Queen’s Mirror, if they’re not married, and what country does she come from? Chopi appears to be inhabiting a dead body, what’s that like? And again, how do the wishes of humans affect the world they live in?
Two other factors work against it. As pretty as the character designs and clothing are, the backgrounds are a little bland and indistinct for being a fantasy palace. Also, there’s lots of strange and inappropriate humor for a story so serious, including lots and lots of breaking of the fourth wall, which felt super-weird in a story like this.
Not work seeking out, honestly. Apparently, it’s only two volumes long, too. ADV never got the second volume out, but something tells me there’s not a very neat wrap-up in the next volume, unless the villain drops over dead on his own. It’s a shame, because Real Lies was very good.