May 12, 2009
Here’s the end to another rather classy shoujo (or soonjong, I suppose) high school romance. It felt great following up Hana Yori Dango with this, because this picks apart the relationships between its characters, whereas Hana Yori Dango is more about the events.
For events, well… the vacation camp finishes without incident, and then the entire rest of the book is dedicated to the practice for the drama club’s “The Little Prince” performance. Now, they’d been talking about this since last volume, but every time a character said “The Little Prince,” I thought of “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde. I was quite puzzled, and couldn’t figure out why a fox was replacing the bird. I didn’t actually realize what was going on until Seyoung mentioned Saint-Exupery. Apparently my reading comprehension has been going down the toilet lately. There are several Little Prince-like drawings that follow as she contemplates the similarities between herself and the fox.
What is actually going on is mostly in Seyoung’s head. She is agonizing over the fact that Yunho likes her, and she tries to figure out if she wants to fall in love again if it will mean a potential broken heart, and she is also distraught over the fact that her friend Hyunjung seems to like him. This romantic triangle is really the best, because Yunho really does like Seyoung, but has problems telling her, and Hyunjung’s feelings are something Seyoung has inferred and are not spoken. It really is heartbreaking to see Seyoung pushing Yunho away when you know she really does like him.
Again, it can be a bit agonizing because of the pace and the fact most of it is Seyoung running circles in her head, but I’d say that’s a pretty authentic 17-year-old thought process. I mean, who doesn’t remember going over this stuff in their head again and again in high school?
And appropriately, the last pages in the book take place just a few days before Seyoung’s 18th birthday.
What a beautiful series. I’m definitely checking out the other series by this author. On to Two Will Come!
May 4, 2009
It’s hard to keep reviewing this series, because while it’s incredible at capturing the inner thoughts and conversational nuances of Seyoung and her circle of friends, the same problems reoccur through each volume (usually someone liking someone who doesn’t like them back). This isn’t a bad thing, because very rarely are issues concerning romantic relationships resolved as easily as talking the situation out. In fact, this series does a great job at showing all these characters with unspoken enmity between one another. This makes for some great painfully awkward conversations. Conversely, there are exchanges where it’s clear the characters don’t want to hold grudges amongst one another, but can’t bring themselves to drop their hostility.
Really, there aren’t very many series that can capture these moments between friends like this one can. As I mentioned before, the pace is extremely slow, and the issues tend to keep circling one another through the volumes I’ve read, but that hasn’t hamper my enjoyment of it at all. It actually makes it more realistic.
This volume does add some elements to the story, including fleshing out Hyemi’s character to show the sheltered life she leads, and expanding/creating a love triangle between Seyoung, Yunho, and Hyunjung. It also throws a vicious girl with a crush on Yunho into the mix. This volume’s actually great for awkward group scenes, there’s a birthday party at Hyemi’s house, and an unusually cool summer break story where all the major characters (plus a handful of other people) go on a trip together.
I don’t forsee there being a satisfying resolution with all the loose ends wrapping up next volume, but I am looking forward to seeing how Seyoung and Hyunjung handle their mutual love interest.
May 3, 2009
Wow, this series is… very introspective. A lot of time is spent with Seyoung contemplating her feelings and her position in life both in her head and with Hyunjung, the class monitor who seems like a really nice friend. She’s great at lending an ear and offering a lot of strangely grown-up advice.
Seyoung’s problems are largely the same as they were last time… she still likes Hyunwoo, but Hyunwoo likes Hyemi, and she likes him back. Of course, that means Seyoung still can’t stand Hyemi, which bothers her since it’s simply jealousy that keeps the two apart, and Hyemi is actually quite friendly towards her. She also finds herself unable to stop acting out against Hyunwoo and everything having to do with him, and she hates herself a little for that, too.
Although Hyunwoo is what she’s most often thinking about, this volume spends most of its time developing the friendship between Seyoung and Hyunjung, and pushing Seyoung and Yunho just a little closer together. The subtleties in the relationships here are wonderful. The way Seyoung agonizes over every conversational nuance, seeing the unspoken reactions from each of the characters as the three of them go out on what are more or less “group dates”… it’s just a lovely story.
About the only thing I can fault the series for is the fact that the pace is a bit slow. But that’s only to be expected when Seyoung spends so much time analyzing all her personal relationships and reevaluating them after every event.
It’s just… really fascinating to see everything developing in Seyoung’s life. There is no right and wrong for her as far as friends and relationships go, so to see her work out the gray areas, and seeing how the decisions of other people affect her and how she interacts with other people is pretty satisfying. The series does an excellent job of showing things an honest-to-God normal teenage girl would worry about. I love it.
March 20, 2009
So… the paperback output from Netcomics has been down to a trickle lately, probably due to x and y factors, economy, blah blah blah. I’ve been broken of my dislike of reading their stuff online, but that doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t rather read paperbacks. I still like buying a whole bunch of stuff during the Right Stuf studio sales, but there’s been less and less new stuff from Netcomics for each sale, so I tend to go back for the old stuff. Narration of Love at 17 is an older series, both in terms of when it was first published in Korea and when Netcomics started publishing it, and I was actually surprised by how much I like it.
As much as it probably doesn’t sound like it given the fact I rave about Skip Beat and Honey Hunt, I like to stay away from series that focus on acting because it’s such an easy hook. For some reason, I don’t trust stories to integrate the acting parts well, and I just… don’t like them, usually. The characters here are in an acting club at school. This series is, for all intents and purposes, a romance manga, but the characters talk about acting all the time. The president of the acting club is one of the romantic interests, and the main character and her rival compete for the same part in the play. But the play is never shown or described, and the part itself isn’t really discussed so much as the fact the girls are (sort of) competing for it. I have to say, I kind of like the hands off approach, because I could go without having to drag my way through another school play or whatever, and we still get the drama (no pun intended) that goes along with the theatre club.
Narration of Love at 17 is actually a pretty serious series. It starts off with the main character, Seyoung, confessing her feelings to her childhood friend Hyunwoo, and getting brutally rejected when he thinks she’s just practicing for an acting role on him. Her rival, Hyemi, the pretty and talented star of the acting club, winds up getting a television series and breaking her committment to the club in order to take a television role. To add insult to injury, Hyemi also clearly has a crush on Hyunwoo. Hyunwoo is oblivious to this, but he spends less and less time with Seyoung. Seyoung takes her anger out on Hyunwoo when he is around, which pushes him further away.
There’s actually kind of a good balance of rival love and hate. As much as she would love to hate Hyemi, Hyemi is actually a nice girl, and Seyoung can admit to herself that the sole reason she doesn’t like her is because she is jealous. She also can’t stop herself from being angry at clueless Hyunwoo, even though she knows this isn’t how to go about making him understand how she feels. A lot of the comic focuses on Seyoung’s introspection and analysis of the people around her, which is interesting despite a bit of a foggy adaptation.
This series actually stops and lets the reader think about situations after they happen, rather than going from one situation to another and letting the characters sort everything out for you. There’s a lot of things that remain unsaid between everybody, including what is obviously, but never overtly spoken of, an attraction between the president of the drama club and Seyoung. It’s subtle, and kind of a nice read. As much as I like contemporary shoujo comics, it’s almost like taking a breath of fresh air to go back to an older one, which are somehow very different, even if they are only 10 or so years behind.
I did like the first volume, but it’s still got a ways to go before it becomes a classic-must-read-type series.