Pine Kiss 1

June 10, 2011

Eunhye Lee – Netcomics – 2006 – 8 volumes

Here’s a blast from the past for you: I think this was one of the series Netcomics launched with. Sadly, it was also one of the first that they dropped, and we saw only 5 of the 8 volumes in English. A shame, since Eunhye Lee is apparently a rather famous manhwa artist.

Unfortunately, this book has a word salad translation. Bad translations are passable for me, because bad translations usually just stumble over grammar and poor word choices, but the meaning still gets across. Word salad translations are different. I had a hard time following this book at all through the first half. It’s a romantic drama, similar in feeling to Let Dai, so a lot of what’s happening is that people are discussing their emotions metaphorically. With the metaphors scrambled, most of what’s happening is useless.

The intro to the book is also hilariously abstract. It features three people at the end of their rope, and after a monologue, they come to a billboard with a man’s face and narration that states “I will help. It’s pine kiss!” No further explanation.

Actually, here’s one of the three opening scenes. A boy is reprimanded by his teacher (who doesn’t appear again) for listening to headphones in class. The dialogue is as follows: “You rascal – Take those out of your earholes, right now!” “Huh? Class started already? I didn’t hear the b…” -WHACK- “Son of a bitch! You think I can’t hit you because they banned physical punishment? Why don’t you call the cops, huh?” “Until when… do I have to live with getting beaten when attacked, studying if told to, not even knowing what I’m doing. Laughing like a dementia patient locked inside they walls they built?” “I will help.” “It’s pine kiss!”

Those are the first three pages. They didn’t make the best impression, and I struggled to understand what was going on as the narrative jumped around in time a little at first, then introduced several characters at once.

It is very Let Dai-ish, though, and I tend to love these very modern-feeling Korean romantic dramas. The shoujo equivalents tend to use a lot of humor, exaggeration, or more melodrama then necessary. It’s not a bad thing, and I love shoujo manga. It’s just a different approach. These Korean series feel a little more connected to reality, no matter how outlandish the circumstances.

So far, the series seems to be about a very charismatic teacher named Orion starting at a new school. Several students immediately fall into his orbit. Sebin Jo is the selfish daughter of a rich mob boss (this is heavily implied, but not very clear), and she falls for Orion almost immediately. At odds with Sebin is a girl named Dali, who believes Orion is her long lost love, the high school student she gave a marimba mallet to when she was very young. There’s also a boy named Sanghyung, who is completely smitten with Sebin and winds up spending time with Orion because Sebin is always around him.

Sebin is featured most heavily so far, and she is irritating. She is selfish and snobbish, not caring about anybody except herself, and of course Orion is the one thing she absolutely must have, and she uses all sorts of evil tricks to land him. And this is just the first volume. It’s especially difficult to take here, because there is no humor involved. When she nails women in the face for walking with Orion, it’s not a joke, she really is just doing it to get them away from him. Dali fights with her a lot, primarily over issues like doing her school chores, but Dali often loses these fights because everybody thinks Sebin shouldn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to. Incredibly, Dali is shown in a poor light several times for not thinking of Sebin’s feelings, while Sebin racks up reader sympathy because she can’t help her gangster family background. She is kidnapped before the end of the volume, but not because of her background, and her bodyguard and Orion help her before anything can happen. Mysteriously, as she cries while her bodyguard beats up her kidnappers, Orion comforts her. I… I don’t know why I should care, or ever sympathize with her.

I might have pegged the kidnapping scene a little wrong here (again, a lot of the details of what’s happening are lost in metaphorical monologues that are lost in translation), but there’s still plenty to object to.

I do like Orion, however (he is quite charismatic, and I love the way he handles the students), and even though I hate Sebin, I like this series so far. Again, I’m partial to this type of story, so I’m willing to wait out the silly bits to get to the good stuff. Apparently the benevolent Orion has a tragic past full of death and gangs, and I’d love to learn about it. I also want to see all this romantic drama resolve itself, and one hopes that Sebin will eventually get a reality check. The translation can only get better with each volume (the quality vastly improved in Netcomics’ second year of existence), so I’m willing to wait for it to get better. I’ve got one more volume of this, but I’ll probably go ahead and track down the other three, now that I know it matches my tastes.