Goong 12

September 12, 2011

So Hee Park – Yen Press – 2011 – 26+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 15-16

Now that I’m caught up, I’m pretty thrilled that these volumes come out as omnibuses now. The story moves so slowly that… well, almost nothing happens in this volume. But it takes its time doing what it does. It’s slow about it. Deliberate. Agonizing. I loved every page.

I can’t say too much about this volume that isn’t a massive spoiler, unfortunately. But again, this series is some truly addictive, soapy romance. Exactly the type of thing I love reading.

It’s very by-the-book in terms of drama. They love each other! But they can’t be together! Promises all around! Another man gets involved! Tears! Secrets! You know the drill.

Still, I can’t help but love every page. I never thought I would come around on Prince Shin, who was a terrible person for the first ten volumes. He’s still got quite a ways to go to make up for all that, and there’s still at least one awful scene between him and Chae-Kyung in this volume. But now that the two are happy together, it’s a lot more fun to read. You don’t have to feel bad for Chae-Kyung for loving Shin, and that makes all the difference.

For any lover of dramatic romance, this series is perfect. I promise. Just ignore Shin for awhile, it gets better later.

This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.

Goong 11

June 8, 2011

So Hee Park – Yen Press – 2011 – 26+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 13-14

Okay, I won’t lie. These ceased to be reviews around volume 9 and started turning into pure fangirl ramblings. I love this series a lot, and other than saying that it tends to move at glacial speed and reuse the same issues over and over again, but that the romance is ridiculously addictive… there’s nothing critical here. I’m just going to squeal for the next several paragraphs. Because this volume was the absolute best yet.

There were several bombshells here. The first one drops early on, and comes from no less than the King of Korea (the story points out here that the Korea in their reality is unified, which I don’t think I realized before). He tells the truth of why he wants to depose Shin and make Yul Crown Prince, and it apparently has something to do with the dying wish of the former king. The current King selfishly overrode this for the benefit of his own son. I’m not quite sure if the issue is the King’s selfishness, or the fact that the dying wish of a former King can’t be denied, or that if the former King wished it so while he was still alive, that makes it an order to follow… I don’t know. There’s some big cry thing here, and both the Queen and Yul hear about it. Yul decides to use it as blackmail to set Chae-Kyung free.

But, truth is, she’s doing just fine now that Shin has mostly stopped being an awful human being. After what appears to be a disastrous address at parliament, Shin decides he would rather run away than face his father again. Chae-Kyung comes with him, and the next volume and some is basically just a romantic getaway for the two of them. It’s great. Shin finally clears the air between the two of them, and they are free to be a loving, care-free couple free of the constraints of being prince and princess. It’s a wonderful piece of story, other than the fact Ms. Park teases with possible sex scenes so often that it’s not even funny anymore.

The story is blown to pieces when Yul lets it slip that Shin may have known abut Chae-Kyung’s grandfather dying and not told her. This is in revenge for something else that blew the story apart, the fact that he confessed his undying love for her once again, and right in front of his fiancee. She turned him down flat and said plainly she didn’t want to associate with him anymore if he was going to continue to act that way.

At the end, the Queen decides that the story hasn’t been interesting enough lately and forces Chae-Kyung to divorce Prince Shin. This point was driven home earlier, when the Queen discussed the necessity of this with Chae-Kyung’s mother, but not before Chae-Kyung said a long piece about how much she loved Shin, the Queen, and had turned around on palace life.

Seriously. The drama in this series is ridiculous. And it’s annoying how people always happen to be standing in just the right place to overhear something important. Always the same things, too. That Prince Shin might not be crown prince anymore. Yul hitting on Chae-Kyung. Hyo-Rin and Shin in a compromising position. Bah.

It continues to bring the funny, though. The Shin/Chae-Kyung vacation presents many opportunities for Shin to be humiliated by the author, and there’s nothing better than seeing that boy humbled. Also, I loved seeing him open up to Chae-Kyung. That was pretty much all he did throughout the volume, and after mistreating her for so long, it felt great.

I hate myself a little for praising such a nasty character, but really. He’s better now.

Goong 10

June 6, 2011

So Hee Park – Yen Press – 2010 – 26+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 11-12

So much back and forth! Shin feels like puking after Chae-Kyung “betrays” him and is cold towards her for an entire volume. Then, Chae-Kyung is the brave one who sets their feud aside in lieu of health concerns, and they are back together, with Chae-Kyung back in Shin’s good graces. It could be argued that Shin was betrayed by Chae-Kyung’s talk of divorce, that he finally learned to love her and his affection was kinda scorned, but still. He was a jerk again, and for an entire volume.

Still lots of drama. Surprise! Shin’s mother is close to giving birth, and Chae-Kyung’s grandfather is on her deathbed. These things can go nowhere good. I did like the way the former event will turn out, but a huge storm is approaching over the latter. I’m a little horrified, actually, because I just want Shin and Chae-Kyung to stop second-guessing one another, and this is going to be the worst for that.

There’s also still Hyo-Rin and Yul to consider. Both still rankle their intended’s opposite, and while this volume does have unpleasant jealous outbursts from both Shin and Chae-Kyung, both are becoming better and better at containing their rage and blowing off jealousy as the silliness it is. In Chae-Kyung’s case, it really does seem as if she has no intention of encouraging Yul. In Shin’s case, he… well, he did love Hyo-Rin, and he does things he shouldn’t, but it still doesn’t seem likely that he will cheat on Chae-Kyung. So there’s that, but it’s infuriating that these issues are still coming up. Hyo-Rin and Yul are positively relentless.

Elsewhere, Shin decides to take being king very seriously, and perhaps that means letting Chae-Kyung go. His father sees this, and the two have a discussion for the first time… well, since the manga started. Perhaps the seriousness is what his father wanted all along.

Also, there’s a really great scene on the Queen Mother’s birthday where it’s revealed that she enjoys traditional Korean wrestling more than any other traditional event. This goes along with Ms. Park humiliating her characters spectacularly, except in the case of the Queen Mother, she has no shame about her preferences. In that vein, she also asks Shin and Yul to wrestle. It’s great, save for the fact that Yul seriously needs to shut up about Shin’s wife.

Anyway, that was not a review of any note. I am enjoying this series immensely once again, and it makes me very happy to read two volumes at a time. But this is because I am a huge girl about comics, and can’t resist romance and drama when it’s so well-done. Goong is certainly queen in that department. I am disappointed that it is still going over the same issues again and again and AGAIN… but on the other hand, this keeps the cast of characters small, and every volume gives us a little more insight. Shin and Chae-Kyung can be an annoying study sometimes, but the side characters are developed very well, and I do like seeing the roles they play a little more in each volume. And… yes, annoying as they are, I love seeing Shin and Chae-Kyung together, too. Sigh.

Goong 9

June 6, 2011

So Hee Park – Yen Press – 2010 – 26+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 9-10

Okay, so maybe you just have to read this series in big chunks to appreciate it. The romance moves so slowly, and Chae-Kyung is so unhappy, it can be agonizing to read in one-volume pieces spread out over months. But when you read several volumes back-to-back, you can appreciate that things are just moving slowly, and that Chae-Kyung does still have some power to make her own decisions.

The big issue right now, of course, is Chae-Kyung’s divorce, and how to go about it. She thinks the easiest way is to announce that she wants it on a national interview. But Shin has been softening, almost learning how to act human, and her genuine love for him makes it difficult to wish for this. She’s still unhappy, of course, and Shin’s still a jerk much of the time. But you can see the cracks in his robot jerk mask when you read a big chunk of the story. He is a jerk, don’t get me wrong, and he really should be treating Chae-Kyung better. But he doesn’t know how, since he’s been kept at arm’s length his whole life, and he’s learning slowly. He is getting better.

There are lots of nice domestic scenes in this volume, the type of thing that Chae-Kyung has wanted all along. Shin allows her to impulsively jump out of a motorcade to go to her favorite donut shop. They eat bowls of ramen together, late at night, at her parent’s house. And in one really amazingly adorable scene, Chae-Kyung takes Shin out on a date. They’re not dressed up, so nobody recognizes them, and Shin sees what it’s like to be a regular person. It’s a shame there’s still so much drama going on, and that neither of them are happy, because it’s stuff like this that make me really appreciate the whole gimmick of “Chae-Kyung doesn’t know how to live at the palace since she’s a regular girl, but Shin doesn’t know how to live outside the palace” thing.

And… there’s plenty of drama, still. The arson attempt is blamed on Shin, still, and the media gets ahold of it. Shin and Chae-Kyung finally move to their own palace, but the public sees this as an attempt to flee, or that they were expelled from the main palace out of shame. Hyo-Rin threatens to reveal that Shin proposed to her, and that his marriage to Chae-Kyung is a sham. Shin discovers love letters between the King and Yul’s mother. Yul is still trying to make passes at Chae-Kyung (which Shin, to his credit, is getting better at not throwing a fit over), but he’s now got a greedy fiancee of his own who’s bent on becoming queen… conveniently fitting his mother’s plans for him. And Chae-Kyung’s grandfather is dying. I don’t know what else could happen. Doesn’t that cover all the bases?

Oh wait, that’s right, maybe Shin will get deposed? There’s always a risk of that. Maybe Shin or Chae-Kyung will get hit by a car. That’s about the only other thing that would put it over the edge.

The drama is getting pretty ridiculous, but it’s balanced now by the more interesting and steadily developing relationship between Shin and Chae-Kyung. I do genuinely enjoy that part of it.

And again, not enough can be said about So Hee Park’s sense of humor. She loves humiliating her characters. This series desperately needs a little levity, and some of these characters really do deserve humiliation. It is usually Chae-Kyung who experiences nosebleeds at the worse possible times, but sometimes Shin gets his too, and he so sorely deserves it (my favorite scene in this volume is where he goes on at length about his dream “ordinary” life, and Chae-Kyung observes that the only thing he knows about normal life is what he sees on TV).

And then there’s Eunuch Kong. I don’t even know anymore. He’s funny, but sometimes… he develops what I’m just going to call Patty and Selma syndrome. I’ll note that I love it desperately, and leave it at that.

I’ve got two more volumes of this to read… really, four volumes, since now they’re published in omnibuses. I love this treatment for the series, because it really does read better in big chunks. But I’m back on board. This is some ridiculously addictive romantic drama.

Goong 8

June 5, 2011

So Hee Park – Yen Press – 2010 – 24+ volumes

Sigh. I fell in love with the premise and drama in this series, but I’m becoming uncomfortable with the way the plot seems to be running in circles, and that none of the characters can catch a break from one another, least of all Chae-Kyung.

With the Queen’s pregnancy, she is taken off active palace duty, and her usual responsibilities are delegated to Chae-Kyung, who is still too ill and not well-prepared to take over as Queen. As expected, the court ladies bully her, Yul’s mother plots behind the scenes to gain the Queen’s powers, and there are about a thousand misunderstandings between Chae-Kyung and Shin.

Aside from the fact that nobody treats Chae-Kyung well, not even her mom (she’s not allowed to at this point), it’s the misunderstandings that make me most angry. Shin blows up at Chae-Kyung when, while waiting for him in his study, she picks up the phone after Hyo-Rin leaves an insulting phone message and tells her to stop badmouthing her little brother. Shin walks in at the end of this exchange, then yells at Chae-Kyung to stay out of her business. When Chae-Kyung explains to Shin that she doesn’t think he set the fire in Yul’s mom’s place, Shin gets mad that her trust comes from Yul’s version of events and not his own.

And yet, it’s pretty clear that Shin is finally falling in love with Chae-Kyung. There’s a scene in this volume where the couple kiss, and both come away from it pretty… aroused. He needs to take a breath and step away from the conversation before he says something horrible and demeaning. He needs to treat Chae-Kyung better, and he needs to stop being such a jerk.

Yul continues to move in on Chae-Kyung, too. He knows exactly how, and gives her all the attention that Shin should be. And Shin gets mad. Instead of doing the things that Yul is doing (checking on Chae-Kyung’s health, bringing her snacks, being genuinely nice), he gets mad at Chae-Kyung for cheating on him. Bah.

There’s also this whole business with Chae-Kyung wanting a divorce after a few years. She won’t be able to divorce Shin if he remains crown prince, especially now that his mother is having a baby. If she does, it will bring shame and ridicule on herself and her family, something she won’t be able to escape the rest of her life. Her solutions are constantly shot down. This is dangerous stuff she’s contemplating here, and Yul is feeding her a lot worse solutions to her problem. On the other hand, she’s so miserable that she deserves a way out.

Parts of it are still funny, though. So Hee Park’s sense of humor is bizarre, and she finds just the right times to slide jokes into the story. My favorite scene in this volume is where Eunuch Kong and Lady Han are helping Chae-Kyung come up with clever put-downs for the sharp-tongued ladies of court, then suddenly bail on her when they begin to fool around with each other instead. It’s the absurd and mildly disturbing sense of humor that is keeping the series readable among all the drama.

I’ve got the next several volumes available (they’re 2-volume omnibuses from volume 9 on, which is amazingly nice), and I’m hoping that reading a huge chunk of the story all at once will make me see that the narrative is moving forward, and that it’s not all about the misery of Chae-Kyung. Maybe… maybe Shin will get nicer, and things will turn more romantic, too. I would fall in love with it again it if that happened.

Goong 7

November 3, 2010

Park SoHee – Yen Press – 2009 – 22+ volumes

I took a break from this series for a little bit, but I have to pick it up again, because I do love its ridiculous melodrama to pieces.

I really like that feelings are developing on both sides of the Shin/Chae-Kyung relationship, and that both of them are too shy to admit it. Chae-Kyung has good reason, since she’s been on the receiving end of a fair amount of emotional abuse, but it’s the moments with Shin, where he’s trying to figure out how to properly express the way he feels for Chae-Kyung. Usually he fails, and winds up being a huge jerk, but there’s some sentimental moments mixed in there, along with those awkward and intense shoujo moments that always keep me coming back to series like this. Unusually for a girls’ comic (at least the ones I read), both characters openly admit in their heads to the sex appeal of the other, and often think about having sex. That doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons, but it’s interesting that the dynamic is there.

But the annoying thing about Goong is that it’s one of those series where, if Chae-Kyung and Shin just sat down and had an honest conversation about anything, anything at all, pick one thing, there would be no series and they would probably be in love with one another. I want to slap them both, and make them sit down and listen to one another. Literally, this manga is a series of misunderstandings that either the victim doesn’t feel like explaining (because they are insulted that assumptions were made), or the victim isn’t given a chance to explain. It is FRUSTRATING.

Plus, there’s the continued romantic pressure on both sides of the couple. Chae-Kyung has to deal with Yul, who is manipulative and dangerous. He’s better to Chae-Kyung than Shin, but I always worry about ulterior motives. He also clearly hates Shin and wants to be the crown prince, and it’s hard to trust his “pure” feelings for Chae-Kyung. You get the impression he only wants Chae-Kyung because she “belongs” to Shin.

Hyo-Rin is different. You do have to feel bad for her, since public opinion is against her and she is famously hated. And she may genuinely love Shin. Their relationship is hard to pin down. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for her, too, since she knows she could avoid public scrutiny and drama by simply staying away from Shin. There’s no reason in the world that she can’t just stand up to it if she doesn’t care and really wants to be friends with Shin, and that seems to be what she’s doing. She’s not written very sympathetically, however, since we are constantly shown students that gossip behind her back and her constant sneaking around Chae-Kyung.

More misunderstandings in this volume, including one where Shin finally slugs Yul. That could go either way, they both deserve it, but Shin is the crown prince, after all. There’s also more drama with Yul and Hyo-Rin (of course), in two separate incidents that are misinterpreted on both sides. There’s some fanservice-y crossdressing, and a cute scene where Chae-Kyung publicly admits to at least some affinity for Shin. And… of course, the house-burning is blamed on Shin. There is rather damning evidence that will be ridiculously explained away. Of course he didn’t do it, and I’m a little sad I’m going to have to sit through this piece of drama, but I’m sure it will result in lots of angst and hand-wringing. And if I don’t want that in Goong, why am I even reading? I love the stuff.

Goong 6

November 19, 2009

So Hee Park – Yen Press – 2009 – 21+ volumes

This is such a good series, but the volumes are alternately fascinating and insanely frustrating because the characters are just so horrible to each other.  Chae-Kyung and Shin continue to fight like cats and dogs whenever they are together.  The promising situation set up at the end of last volume (that the awkwardness between the two would be solved if they spent a night together) plays out for quite a long time at the beginning here, but it alternates wildly between passionate moments between the two and the two yelling at each other.

I always feel terribly for Chae-Kyung.  She can’t do anything right, but she sees more good in the royalty than they see in themselves, it seems.  In Shin’s case, she puts up with him because she knows he’s lacking social skills and just doesn’t communicate well (which doesn’t really give him the right to be an asshole, but at least he always seems to regret it afterwards).  She also starts turning against Yul here after seeing what he’s after, though she still bends and gives in to his niceness in the face of Shin’s cruelty.  Then Shin lashes out against her being nicer to Yul than him, and… it’s all a vicious cycle.

I sincerely hope things get better for Chae-Kyung.  I want to see her make up with Shin, I want to see Shin finally break down and tell her his feelings (though he keeps dancing around it, but she just doesn’t seem to believe him and I don’t blame her), and I want to see Yul and his mother… well, I want something terrible and humbling to happen to them.  Whatever.  I’m sure it’ll only be more drama from here on out, and I have to say… as much as I want to nice stuff to happen, I come here for the drama, don’t I?  It’s absolutely irresistible.  I am completely addicted to this series.