Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Goong, vol. 1
This is my first review of a manhwa, or Korean graphic novel. I will continue to focus on manga, but will occasionally review manhwa from time to time.
The story: What if there was still a Korean monarchy? How would the once-abandoned palaces look and what would the royal family be like? In this Korean manhwa, Park SoHee explores just such questions. Chae-Kyung is just a simple high school girl, but when she finds out her grandfather arranged a marriage between her and the crown prince, her world is turned upside down. So, not only is she forced to marry someone she barely knows, but the prince, Shin Lee, turns out to be a huge jerk, too!
Reaction: I loved Chae-Kyung and her silly personality! She's an awkward teenage girl, put through an even weirder situation when she finds out what her future holds for her. The recreation of a Korean monarchy fascinated me, too, and I found the idea of an arranged marriage between the crown prince and a commoner intriguing. While it was confusing to keep all of the Korean terminology and the cast of characters straight, Sohee does a good enough job of keeping the plot uncomplicated in this first volume.
Deep thoughts: When the Korean monarchy is first introduced, it is mentioned that Japan and England both still possess royalty. Mind you, both of the aforementioned royal families have zero to little actual political power. But, their power is exercised much like celebrities, attracting attention wherever they go. While it's still in question whether or not the Korean royal family imagined here has any power besides their celebrity, it seems that they command the attention of the country.
Artwork: Honestly, it took me a little while to adjust to the manhwa art style. But, that doesn't make it unpleasant. The more realistic body proportions are an interesting contrast to the expressive eyes and pouty lips characters seem to possess here. Another thing that took getting used to was the somewhat grotesque chibi style used here; they're still entertaining, but are much less appealing than those employed in Japanese manga.
The verdict: Highly recommended. The idea set forth here by SoHee is appealing and I definitely want to see what develops next. Is there something more to both Chae-Kyung and Shin as characters, and what will become of their relationship? Will they settle on a loveless marriage, or will more come of this unlikely pairing? I'm determined to find out! Goong is available in the U.S. from Yen Press.