Lee Si Young – ICE Kunion – 2006 – 1+ volume
Okay, I have no idea how long this series is. It’s numbered as a first volume, and the author speaks of the “series” continuing, but ICE Kunion never released a second volume, and when Yen Press took over, they didn’t release a second volume, either. I’m pretty sure they continued and finished all of ICE Kunion’s series, and this one’s definitely not the worst of the lot or a black sheep in any way, so I wonder if another volume ever made it out in Korea.
While researching this, I found out the author has one other series in English, with one volume released by ADV before they went under, called Fantasy Land. It sounds simultaneously generic and fascinating, and I believe I will be picking myself up a copy in the near future.
This book is very unusual. Comic short story collections are a toss-up for me, and I normally dislike manga/girls’ comic short stories since they tend to stand on underdeveloped characters. But this one is full of good ideas, and reads like some of the better josei collections we’ve had in English. It reminds me quite a bit of A, A’ actually, though it’s not as successful at communicating its ideas.
The strange sentence on the cover, “How Martians conquer the Earth. Is it really impossible? Science fiction story.” is actually the titles to the three stories in the volume. The first, “How Martians Conquer the Earth,” is about a former playgirl who settled down with a good boy, then went crazy with grief when he died. The strange thing about this story is… you’re unsure if the character is dreaming, and she also makes references to martian invasion and the dead coming back to life. Neither of these things have any affect on her life, so they’re just ideas. Was there a martian invasion? Is that what happened to her lover? Does he come back from the dead? Is that what a “return” is? This story was somewhat difficult to parse in spots, and it peters out more than it ends, but there’s a lot of interesting ideas floating around, and it is very romantic. That’s frequently enough for me.
The second story, “Is It Really Impossible?”, is what made me think of A,A’. Or a cross between A,A’ and Ai no Kusabi, I guess. In a future society, women are declared “Goddesses” now that there are so few, and there are “dominant” and “recessive” males, all of whom have barcodes on their foreheads. The recessives are unable to produce offspring, so for some reason, they now all dress and act like women. Dominant males are the men’s men, and are allowed to date and attempt to father children with the “Goddesses.” The story is about one of the dominant males who enjoys the company of the recessive males more than the Goddesses. Though this sounds like the plot of a BL story, after the dominant and a recessive get into a conversation, we learn he dislikes being treated like a stud by the Goddesses, and genuinely wants to be friends with a girl he likes, something none of the Goddesses are interested in, but the recessives are. The recessive he talks to reveals that he wants to destroy the world. Whatever. It’s an interesting premise, and it is mostly used to frame the two characters, but a lot of their discussion walks us through the interesting society and its rules, and I loved the implications. I wish this could’ve been turned into a longer series.
The final story was the least interesting, and… may have been based on a Korean television show I’m not familiar with. A dour girl (I think, anyway, the main character was sorta sexless) resists being given a friendly robot after she suffers an accident, and the robot does everything it can to make friends with her, only to be rebuffed for being “too human.” This is a story that’s been told a hundred times, and I didn’t like the main character at all, but it has a nice twist at the end. A twist that lost me and may be tied into the aforementioned show, if it exists, but it was still a nice twist. The only reason I think the show might be real is because the dialogue had copious footnotes about it, and I think the characters would’ve explained the characters and whatnot themselves a little more if it was something unfamiliar to Korean readers.
I like the mood and ideas in the stories, and I like that they are sci-fi tinged while still being heavily romantic. It’s quite unusual, and I loved reading it. But, as I’m talking my way through this and going back through, I’m realizing that the stories were a little sloppy as far as storytelling goes. I still liked them quite a bit though, and this is a wonderful volume of short stories to pick up if you are so inclined. If it sounds interesting to you, you’ll probably love it, though the sloppiness makes it harder to recommend to a wider audience.