Friday, January 8, 2010
Dokebi Bride, vol. 1
The story: Since she was young, Sunbi's been able to see and communicate with dokebi, or Korean spirits and demons. Born into a shaman family, her estranged father left her with her grandmother years ago when her mother passes away from mysterious causes. When Sunbi's grandmother dies, she moves in with her father and his new family in the city. With no friends or family, her sole companion is her dog. How will Sunbi survive the loss of her grandmother?
Reaction: To say this manhwa is different from the more popular sunjeong titles for girls is an understatement, but a truism nonetheless. The story has few happy moments, with those shown tempered by the stark reality of Sunbi's life. While there were a few humorous bits, this story didn't entertain so much as it made me curious -- curious as to the life Sunbi's grandmother lived, why she kept so much a secret from her only granddaughter and how Sunbi will survive the loss of the one person who loved her. Perhaps it's the cultural differences, or something else, but I found myself wanting to learn more. Otherwise, this story jumps around a bit, making it initially hard to follow.
Deep thoughts: Like Japan, Koreans do not hold fast to one religious tradition. Instead, they blend together shamanism and other indigenous practices, with Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism. Much like other shaman traditions worldwide, Korea's indigenous practice has been in place for thousands of years. While it would seem that the practice would die in the modern world, there's still a demand for shamans to perform everything from personal rites to blessing new retail locations.
Artwork: The art here less resembles traditional manhwa art, but there's a larger sense of realism afoot akin to that seen in Japanese seinen, or comics made for a more mature audience. Characters have telling eyes that seemed odd to me at first, but I quickly got over it. While the people are drawn well enough, the highlight of this manhwa are the dokebi, especially the majestic dragon that Sunbi meets as a young girl. But, it isn't all beautiful mythical creatures -- from sea dokebis to the demons at the story's beginning, there is a hint of the macabre. At times, I was also reminded of the intense art from Parasyte.
The verdict: If only... I did find this title intriguing, but was initially put off by the jumping around in time. However, that won't stop me from picking up the second volume to see how it improves and how Sunbi fares. Dokebi Bride is available in the U.S. from Netcomics.