Han SeungHee / Jeon JinSook – Yen Press – 2010 – 11 volumes

YES. A couple more bonus stories. I love that the characters tell stories to each other as a matter of course, and even within the context of a story, they tell other stories to illustrate their point.

There’s lots of Shahryar and Sehara, of course. They get their wishes and everything. But as soon as they met up, I had to wonder where the rest of the book was going, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to put up with a whole volume of the two of them living happily ever after.

Luckily, they tell one last story. It’s wonderful. It belongs to Shahryar.

It’s set in the modern day, which I found interesting after the writer’s commentary on the Korean retelling of Romance of the Three Kingdoms for modern times in the last volume. Now, the stories always reflect, in some way, the situation that’s happening in the main storyline. But this one actually had all the same characters in it, too. Fatima and Shazaman were there, as was Jafar and Maseru. And of course, Shahryar and Sehara were the main characters. It’s basically a modern retelling of the story. Except there’s still a fictional bend to it, since the characters are supposed to be the reincarnations of Shiva (Shahryar) and Kama (Sehara). Kama is trying to stop modern Shiva from destroying the world by helping him to fall in love with the girl of his dreams, which is, of course, Fatima.

Except Shahryar is a complete loser and a genuine stalker, so Sehara has his work cut out for him.

Also, characters in modern times are far less appreciative of storytelling than they were in the past. Sehara tries to tell Shahryar the story of Zeus and Europa by way of explaining the constellation Taurus, and all sorts of things go wonderfully wrong.

Of course, we know the end. But it was getting there that makes it fun. In both stories for this volume. It even ends open, with a framing device of Sehara’s memoirs being read as some sort of bodice ripper by teenage girls in a boarding school, presumably hundreds of years later. It was a strange ending, especially when their mother/the schoolmistress takes the book and begins reading it herself, with English text that is inexplicably about Canada.

Anyway, everything about this series was wonderful. I loved the main story, I love the way Shahryar turned from a tyrant to a lover through the course of the series, I loved the role switch at the end, I loved the art, and I loved the way Sehara always made his point with a well-told story, which were almost always just as good as the main story. The romantic parts weren’t bad, either. Nor was the unique middle eastern setting. I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending here, too.

Highly recommended.

Han SeungHee / Jeon JinSeok – Yen Press – 2010 – 11 volumes

I’m just going to toss this review off super fast, because I just got the last volume and wanna read it RIGHT NOW. This has been one of my consistent favorites from Yen Press, and I couldn’t be more happy that they picked up Ice Kunion’s back category, both for this and Goong.

Reading two volumes together is bad, because then I can’t remember what was special about each, so I have to write about this one before I start the last. Thus the haste.

We get the end of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story. As many adaptations as I’ve read of that novel (strangely, I read two adaptations of Chinese novels this afternoon), I’m still not very clear on what actually happens, and this is a more literal adaptation than the others I’ve read. I was a little lost, and it was my least favorite of Sehara’s stories. But the parallel with his own situation came as a nice surprise at the very end, as did the recall at the end of the volume.

The main plot of the series is what I’m most interested in at this point. Shahryar makes his way to the invader’s camp to rescue Sehara, who’s gone back to Baghdad for Shahryar. When Shahryar makes his way back to Baghdad, he finds out Sehara has left upon hearing news of his death. So there’s a lot of frustrating missed opportunities.

Both characters display emotion that are new to them, though. Shahryar looks much more happy and at peace than he did… well, before he died, and Sehara hits the depths of despair when he receives the bad news. Seeing the happiness and melancholy swapped between the two is strange, but it’s even stranger to see the gruff Shahryar so at peace. He has no guarantee that he will ever find Sehara, and yet he is positive he will. And that it will make him very happy when he does.

Somehow, that makes me want to read the final volume that much more.

That, and the fact that Shahryar picked up some… romantic reading on the road to Sehara. Not that I think that will go anywhere, but it could be funny.

I do feel bad for not liking the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story, because the writer cites a Korean adaptation of it as their inspiration for writing manga. Clearly it’s a story close to the person’s heart, and yet it just didn’t come across since I wasn’t familiar with the original. That’s a shame.

HanSeungHee / Jeon JinSeok – Yen Press – 2009 – 11 volumes

Hooray!  This is one of my favorite Korean series, and I’m very happy to see the story reaching its conclusion.  I knew it would take a little time with this series, due to its nature of telling a story that parallels its own, and with two volumes left, there are some pretty catastrophic-looking goings-on in the main storyline, along with a translation of Romance of the Three Kingdoms given to General Macleod by Sehara.

I… was shocked, to say the least, by the fates of Shahryar, Shazaman, and Fatima in this volume.  Jafar finally unearths the secret of Fatima, and it is very disturbing, to say the least.  I need more perspective on it, actually, so that I’m sure of what was happening.  Elsewhere, Shahryar and Shazaman face off in the middle of a bizarre storm, and their fight is cut with scenes from their childhood.  At this point, Shahryar is the “good guy” and a completely sympathetic character, which is an amazing feat considering how many women he slayed at the beginning of the story.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that at this point I’m not sure how the story will put the pieces back together for a happy ending.  I’m not going to complain either way, and I’m looking forward to the surprise that looks to be in store.  I’m hoping that the next volume will give more hints to the finale, but it may just contain a lot more of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms story.

I was a little worried when that tale started, because I’ve tried Romance of the Three Kingdoms before, and just could not get into it.  Too many characters, and the author points out in the end notes that it is a very masculine story with masculine motives.  Hilariously, the writer also points out how homoerotic these stories can be because of that, and puts a rather unambiguous spin on two of the characters for the retelling here.  Like we didn’t see that coming.

I read over the introduction to the story three times, but I’m still not positive of all the character relationships.  Basically, we have Jo.  He’s… uh, King.  He’s also currently host to Woo Kwon, an ally of one of his enemies.  I think.  Woo Kwon is grateful for Jo’s hospitality, but is only staying until he can find his allies again.  Jo is rather enamoured of Woo Kwon in a shoujo manga way, and makes this pretty plain, but Woo Kwon only has thoughts for his allies.  Lots of fights and stuff take place.  There is also a close advisor to the King that helps him try to catch Woo Kwon’s attention and who hopes to replace him when he inevitably goes back to his allies.  As confused as I was by some of what was going on, I can still see what’s going on, and I’m curious about where the second half of the story will go, since it stopped in a pretty good place.

Again, I absolutely love the storytelling techniques and the characters in the main storyline of this series.  I can’t get enough of it.  It’s been one of my favorites for years now.  The last two volumes just can’t come fast enough.

Han SeungHee / Jeon JinSeok – Yen Press – 2009 – 11 volumes

I like this series so much!  This is why manhwa are awesome.  This and Goong and Let Dai and Adventures of Young Det and Oath to Love and Passion and DVD and Dokebi Bride and all those cutie series I like… all of it’s great.  But One Thousand and One Nights is particularly great.

The plot of the series takes precedence in this volume, and surprisingly, the confrontation between Shahryar, Sehara, and the Crusaders doesn’t work out quite like I expected.  Later, Shahryar’s brother’s plots get more convoluted and it looks like the Emrir is in on the whole “disgrace Shahryar”-thing that’s going on.  Shahryar is definitely down and out by the end of the volume, but as other characters happily point out, he’s earned it a thousand times over for his crimes.

Fatima is floating around through the story, and the “story” we get in this volume is not of the fictional-but-still applicable variety, but is about the pasts of Fatima, Shahryar, and Shahryar’s brother.  Interesting stuff, and it looks like there’ll still be a little bit to go next volume.

The thing I like best about the series… well, there’s lots of things I like, but most important is the relationship between Shahryar and Sehara.  There isn’t so much of that in this volume, and though the beginning is most heartbreaking, the fact that I still flew this volume at the edge of my seat says a lot about how much this series has to offer.  The army is still pursuing the Crusaders and is trying to recapture Jerusalem, and with that dose of reality, we also have Shahryar slowly losing his mind and falling from his position of infallible hero in his country.  But Shahryar seems to care little, and is in no position to care about much of anything by the end of the volume.

It’s biggest weakness is probably that almost all the characters are very evil.  The main love story in this volume plays out between the villains, and as much as you want to root for them, because the story is still good, the fact remains that things are not so good for Shahryar and Sehara in the present because of them.  Shahryar himself is quite a villain, though he’s mellowed quite a bit since we first met him.  Sehara and Jafar are the only really sympathetic characters, but Sehara has stepped out for a bit.

I waited a long time to read this volume because I knew I would want the next right after I finished.  I was right.  I’m really, really looking forward to the ending, which I won’t get to read until summer, but still.  Three more volumes!

Also, I’m not sure if I knew this before or not, but I was surprised by the author afterwards in the back, which notes that the writer and artist got married around the time this volume was published.  I’m surprised, only because you rarely see married couples working professionally like this, and when you do, the work never seems to be this good.

Uh… huh.  So the story that Sehara tells in this volume is one that takes place during the Iraq war.  I was not expecting a “modern” story like that.  It’s a clever critique given the fact that the current plot of the story is dealing with the Crusaders invading Baghdad. There’s even a nice segue into the story.  The English king doesn’t understand why it is that the citizens of Baghdad aren’t more pleased by the fact he has gotten rid of their tyrant king, and shortly after this question, Sehara tells his story.

I was pretty bummed that the next story was taking place in modern times (because, really, Sehara can tell stories set in the future?), but it was actually a really great story, and made me forget that it was supposed to be commentary.  A soldier named Joseph winds up with a young boy who is running a suicide bombing mission to an oil field.  Along the way, we learn the boy’s circumstances and how it was he came to do what he’s doing.  The boy also tells a story-within-a-story about the Tower of Babel when a sandstorm unearths a ziggurat on the way to the oil field.  The boy’s circumstances have nothing to do with religion, and actually, religion doesn’t come up as a driving force for anybody in this story.  It worked out much different than I expected, and is in turn sad, uplifting, and horribly depressing.  It’s got good and bad people on both sides.  Notably, the little boy and his sister look like young versions of Shahryar and Sehara.

Now, the soldiers at the beginning of the story are using RPGs.  Yen Press has footnoted this, but I actually ran across the term yesterday in Banana Fish and didn’t know what it meant (Rocket Propelled Grenades).  The fact that I ran across this term I had never heard before twice in two days, both times in a girls’ comic, kind of blew my mind.

Aside from Sehara talking with the King of England and Shahryar realizing his mistake and turning back around for Baghdad, not much is going on in the main part of the story.  It does leave off on a horrible cliffhanger with the possibility of Sehara being taken by the Crusaders, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next volume and the next story to be told.  The fact that the storytelling is good enough to pull off a story about the Iraq War in the middle of a story about the Crusaders invading Baghdad says a lot about how good the stories really are in this series, and how much I like Sehara and Shahryar.  I’m a bit sad we won’t get to see better times between the two of them any time soon, though.

This is a review copy provided by Yen Press.

I like that the story here is called “Socrates in Love,” since it invokes a really obscure one-shot manga published several years ago that didn’t quite have the literal meaning behind the title that this story does. Or, at least, it makes me think of that manga. I don’t know about the rest of you.

The Socrates/Alcibiades story was lovely.  I wasn’t expecting a continuation since it ended pretty neatly last volume with the two of them falling in love, and I was even initially put off since I wanted to get back to the main plot about Sehara, Shahryar, and the Crusaders.  But the Socrates story is definitely worth it.  Basically the two affirm their love in a bloody battle, weather some rough times apart, then are drawn back together again in a very cute and romantic way, complete with silly joke.  You know that the story itself won’t end well since… well, Socrates is not known for his quiet death.  The ending is a little cryptic, but Socrates stays true to character.

I like that the story was also set in Ancient Greece.  I felt that the story itself followed its fair share of boy’s love plot devices, but setting it in a society which completely accepted relationships between men and boys is interesting.  I hadn’t seen it done before.

As much as I enjoyed Alcibiades and Socrates, I knew it would come at the cost of Sehara and Shahryar.  There are some maddening plot developments in the main story concerning Shahryar’s brother and Fatima, the Crusaders just barely start making a nuisance of themselves, and the last page with Sehara makes me rather anxious to read the next volume.  I’m glad I’ve grown to love this series so much since it’s relaunch, and I’m glad it got a second chance.  I would have never praised it as highly as I do now if I hadn’t read past volume 3.

This is another one of those series where I forget how much I enjoy it until I read the next volume. This is currently my favorite of the Yen Press series, and I’m very happy they decided to take over for Ice Kunion.

This volume focuses almost entirely on the Sultan and the storyteller. The Sultan decides to leave his palace for a bit of a break and brings the storyteller with him. The two bond and have their flirty relationship going, but a minor event pops up when a girl trying to flee an arranged marriage catches the storyteller’s eye. The girl’s arranged marriage comes as a result of the Sultan’s fondness for enlisting girls in his harem and killing them, the girl’s parents are trying to marry her so that she will not be chosen for the harem. The Sultan doesn’t want to deal with the problem, the Storyteller wants to help them, the two part ways.

The framing device of the Sultan and storyteller is often neglected, and I’m glad to see it getting plenty of attention in this volume. Their relationship seems to be growing very slowly and steadily. My memory between volumes is poor, so I forget that the Sultan kills women, which makes me enjoy both men as characters a little more. The Sultan is a pretty ruthless killer, but apparently he’s not so much anymore thanks to his Scheherazade, and since the volumes come out so frequently… that’s something I can accept.

The only story that actually gets told is one set in ancient Greece about a beautiful boy pursuing a love for Socrates. It seems to have a pretty definitive ending here, but seeing as how Socrates and the boy are on the cover of the next volume, it probably keeps going.

I’m one volume behind, a situation I plan to fix as soon as possible. I like this more and more with every volume.