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Still coughing and get winded fairly easily, though I think it's getting better.

I told my friend J. that I would visit every large bookstore in Seoul by the time I left, and I am working on it! I think J. half thought I was kidding, but after two weeks, five bookstores, six volumes of manhwa and one book later, she has caught on to my dead seriousness. For those curious, the book loot is Carla Kelly's Libby's London Merchant and Miss Chartley's Guided Tour; Kim Yeon Ju's Nabi the Prototype, so I can compare it with my English translation at home; Nabi 1, 2, and 4; a collection of her short stories titled Fly; a totally random manhwa called Annyeong, Pi, which I thought would be a fairly easy read before of the cute fluffy chick on the front but turns out to have a cute fluffy chick that is the reincarnation of the main character's past life's servant (of course a random manhwa I pick up will have reincarnation!); and the Korean translation of Yotsuba 9, on the grounds that the vocabulary Yotsuba uses shouldn't be too hard. Unlike, say, ALL of the Kim Yeon Ju. But her art is so pretty! I could not resist!

If anyone has information about the following manhwa, I would be extremely grateful!

Random manhwa with pretty art )

I feel vaguely guilty about going to Book Off even in Korea, but they have used manhwa!

I think class has been improving my pronunciation and listening immensely; I still find speaking incredibly difficult and am terrible at it, and we haven't learned any grammar that's new to me. Still, getting a refresher course in grammar is never bad, and I'm hopefully picking up more casual Korean. It's also very confusing because sometimes I stare at writing and it takes me a while to figure out if it's in Korean or in Japanese because I can read both now. Sadly, I was reading katakana in Book Off and thought I was reading Korean because that's what I'm used to and it's a much blockier script, but no...

Also, I still try to put Japanese in when I can't figure out Korean. But when I try to consciously speak Japanese, all that comes out is Korean. I realized this after trying to help two Japanese tourists in the subway and it took me 30 seconds to figure out how to say "It's okay" in Japanese instead of saying "괜잖아요." And then what ended up coming out of my mouth was "大丈夫요 (Daijoubu yo)." >_<;;;

On the plus side, knowing Chinese is invaluable. It also means a lot of my vocab sounds strangely formal, because the more formal vocabulary tends to be the Sino-Korean vocabulary, which I find easier to remember. I also was very startled to find quotes from various Chinese historical sources about Korean history in the National Museum of Korea.

By the way, one thing I love about Korea? The National Museum of Korea? FREE. Awesomesauce, especially since I only made it through the Three Kingdoms period this trip.

And I haven't even gotten around to describing Seoul, which I adore. Or how there is 팥빙수/shaved ice everywhere here and how J. showed me an awesome little bakery and how cheap and tasty the food here is and how Busan made me homesick and how I am still not an adventurous eater for an Asian person (did not try the live octopus or the fried silkworms, did try the raw sea cucumber and am still really not feeling it) and how there is all this street food that I haven't been eating because I am so full from other meals. But I had 호떡, this round flatbread with melted sugar and some nuts I think on the inside, and I suspect it was not the best 호떡 (I should have lined up in Busan at that stand, but we had to catch a train), but OMG I must get more when I go to Insadong on Wed.

Oh! And we made 다식/tea snacks in class and learned a teeny weeny bit of 택견/taekkyeon and walked around a 한옥/hanok (traditional style Korean houses) village. Someone had a brand-new beautiful shiny hanok, and they parked a brand-new beautiful shiny orange Porsche under it. It looked a bit out of place, to say the least.

And now I must go, even though I still haven't gotten to Busan and Shanghai and the World Expo and Seoul proper, because Coffee House is starting, and even though I can't understand a thing going on, I'm watching just for Kang Ji-Hwan in glasses. He is adorkable!

And after that is the new horror sageuk Gumiho, which is sadly much easier to follow than Coffee House, since it's much more action oriented. Also, yellow contacts + fangs + women turning into foxes = entertaining even when you can't understand!
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I read volume 1 quite some time ago, and I was amused when my old post on it noted that I wanted to see more of Che-Kyung having to deal with palace politics and etc. Ha, no such luck!

Spoilers move into the palace )

Overall, I don't think I'll keep reading. I love the clothes, but I still haven't connected with the main character or the hero, and I don't seem to have the same sense of humor as the manhwaka does.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I really hope a) reading these in English and b) without jetlag makes it make more sense. That said, despite my having no idea what's going on with the plot and suspecting that the characters are probably not particularly well-rounded, the absolutely gorgeous art keeps me reading anyway and lends the story a mythic quality that it otherwise might not have.

Spoilers are confused )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I am so embarrassed I read this. After I had watched the entire drama too!

Tae-Woong is a scruffy boxer who used to be a genius mathematician until a traumatic event. Bora is a chronically ill and suicidal girl who closes herself off from everyone to keep herself from getting hurt. This is amazingly less melodramatic than the drama based on it, but that is probably only because there are only two volumes of manhwa and 16 episodes of drama. They had to fill those hours with something, preferably something as tear-jerking as possible!

Um. I do not even know what to say about this! I am not objective at all. I love the use of "The Snow Queen," and outside of that, I largely roll my eyes at the various twists and turns Bora and Tae-Woong go through even as I eat it all up with a spoon! This includes things like Bora thinking, "I hate you for being nice to me! If you hadn't been nice to me, I wouldn't have had to... feel!" or Tae-Woong thinking, "I always thought falling in love would be comfortable, not... like this!"

Also, there are shenanigans in which Bora runs off and Tae-Woong must run after her as her trusty chauffeur, last-minute tear-jerker plot twists, multiple suicide attempts, and several collapses.

I probably had entirely too much fun reading this, but I don't care!
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I love Kim Yeon-Joo's art. It's gorgeous, her kids are adorable, and I love the clothing. I also love her characters. Unfortunately, her storytelling skills aren't so great.

I read Nabi: The Prototype, which is a prequel to Nabi and has three stories about Aru, Ryu-Sang, and Myo-Un, the main characters in Nabi. Ah-Ru is an adorable girl, Ryu-Sang is a grumpy guy who used to be Myo-Un's friend before smashing a vase over her head for reasons yet unknown, and Myo-Un is one of the orphanage's more mysterious inhabitants, at least in terms of origin. Nabi begins at the orphanage; a noblewoman has gathered orphans together and fostered them, again for unknown reasons. Soon, the orphans must disperse, and we get more vague hints as to Myo-Un's specialness.

As you can tell, I have very little idea of what is going on. I suspect I would just give up on the manhwa if it weren't for my emotional investment in the characters from reading the prequel. I'll probably keep reading, but I don't have high hopes for the plot. I think Kim may excel at creating brief character interactions and at invoking emotion in the short form, but she doesnm't seem to be very good at building things out over time, be it in terms of plot or characterization. That's really too bad, because I very much want to know what is going on with Ryu-Sang and Myo-Un.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Ohhhh, it's nice how it's so much easier to figure things out when one reads two volumes at a time, as opposed to waiting a year or so in between volumes.

Apologies, my spellings of all the names are off as my volumes are elsewhere and I am not sure if Wiki's are the same as the English translation's.

Spoilers )

Woe! I want these out in English now, as I am sure it will make more sense than in Chinese, since I have a hard time figuring out who is saying what.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This is a version of Little Women in which the March sisters go to an English boarding school: Meg's a teacher, Jo's the much-squeed-over fencing club president, Amy's pretty much herself, and Beth is a resentful girl jealous of being the ugly duckling among her accomplished sisters.

I am not sure why making Beth resentful and jealous horrifies me in a way that making Triptaka a gun-wielding, foul-mouthed misanthrope does not. Wait, actually, it's probably because I've read enough retellings of Journey to the West to see any changes as playing with the story, whereas I don't think I've ever really seen an adaptation of Little Women that wasn't done straight. On the other hand, I am completely amused by Jo as the gender-bending crush object of all the girls in school and her swooping ponytail. I think the manhwaka took most of the internal conflicts we see with Jo and give them to Beth instead, with less of an emphasis on wanting to be good and more of an emphasis on wanting to rebel.

That said, the manhwaka does know the book very well from her notes, which almost makes the changes odder for me. Also, I cannot tell at all how accurate her representation of clothing and etc. is... I am constantly shocked to see people's knees and calves exposed because their skirts stop a little below their knees, and then it's nothing until the boots start. But! That may just be my own preconceptions about Victorian clothing. And I think the manhwaka moved the time so it's post-Civil-War.

Anyway! This was just a bizarre reading experience for me, since I grew up reading Little Women and am highly unaccustomed to having assorted shirtless bishounen, grumpy clumsy shoujo-manga-heroine Beth, and Utena-like Jo in it. And Laurie has a crush on Beth!

(Also, I am secretly rooting for Amy just because she is such a brat.)
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I actually bought this in Taiwan and read half of it, but I finished it here in English. (Taiwan flips manhwa! I feel cheated.)

I bought this purely on the basis of the cover and the face that it was about fairy tales. The cover doesn't lie: the art inside is just as gorgeous, if not moreso, with beautiful Art Nouveau lines and lots of stylization. Sadly, you can't seem to preview the art or see more of the interior at the official website.

I think the premise is that the Grim Peddler (nameless) sparks fairy tales into being or narrates them or somehow controls the flow of the story, and he does this by providing seeds that grow into people. Sleeping Beauty is one of these seeds, given to a desperate queen who wants a child. He lives with a young black-haired man who is occasionally a cat (also nameless), and said man/cat tends to get shoved into stories by the Peddler to make things go as they should. Unsurprisingly, each of the retold fairy tales is very different from the ones we're used to. The ones in this volume include Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, the Little Mermaid, and an original fairy tale, which is sadly the most incomprehensible.

I don't think the manhwaga is doing anything particularly revisionist with any of the retellings, but I was rather amused by the twist on Hansel and Gretel. Also, did I mention the art was gorgeous? I'm guessing the rest of the series will be just as incomprehensible, but I may end up getting it anyway just for the pretty.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This series keeps enraging me, but I read on because the art was so gorgeous. Thankfully, I have been released, since the author's note in volume 4 annoyed me so much that I refuse to pick up more! Ha, freedom!

I still like the stories being told between the main story, but the main story is so frustrating, especially because it's taking a source famous for its heroine and making it something in which all the women are ineffectual and unimportant or evil.

Spoilers make me swear off the author )

ETA: I realized I must have accidentally skipped vol. 3 and shoujo!Caesar.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This is a collection of interrelated short stories that the manhwaga used as a sort of prologue to her current series Nabi. Alas, I've heard sales of this volume weren't great, so TokyoPop isn't planning on releasing the series. That's too bad, because the art in this is simply gorgeous, and though some of the stories are confusing, her characters are charming and intriguing and I want to see more of them and the world.

The first two stories don't seem to be connected at all. The first is on a young girl who's a political hostage; she's been temporarily blinded to prevent her from ever seeing her captives. The second is on a somewhat tomboyish girl being married off for a political alliance; both have a nicely bittersweet feeling, not much resolution, and a sense of a wider world going on around the heroines. The next few stories are about two orphans at different ages. We first meet them when they're kids—incredibly adorable kids! So cute!—and then we watch as their relationship doesn't quite develop as expected, thanks to a vase.

On a side note, I wish TokyoPop put blank pages or dividers or something between the stories instead of an easily-missed title; I had to flip back several times before I realized that I was in a new story.

Really lovely art and atmosphere, and I pout to think we might not get more in English.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Sunbi is the granddaughter of a powerful shaman, although she's never really learned to exercise her own powers. But when her grandmother dies, she moves into the big city with her father, stepmother and stepsister. But this doesn't mean she's left the spirit world behind.

I had a very hard time getting into the first volume a year or so ago because the art style put me off; the spirits and monsters are appropriately scary, but there's stiffness to the human figures that I found annoying. But after trying a reread, I was fascinated by the world in the first volume, particularly of Sunbi and her grandmother's connection to their village. This may be why I wasn't as enthusiastic about latter volumes, which are set in the city. Also, though this may just be because my brain is on vacation, I could not for the life of me figure out a plot arc. Sunbi has to deal with the spirit world influence even as she's trying to do mundane things like stay awake in class. And then the whole "bride" part of the title came in, only more as comedic relief, and I was even more confused.

I do like the exploration of Sunbi's mother and how she died, and when the manhwa focuses on that, it's wonderful and creepy and strange. But I'm not overly fond of the new dokebi hanging out with Sunbi, and I still can't figure out what's going on, so I'm not sure if I'll keep reading.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I really need a manga/manhwa/manhua icon instead, huh?

Spoilers )

All in all, not as good as the first volume and the series ended a little too fast for me—I could have actually read at least a volume or two after the ending. Still, the art is absolutely gorgeous, and I still like the slice-of-life-ness and the stillness that the manhwaga likes to focus on.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I keep reading these so far apart that I can't keep track of the plot.

Spoilers )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I have no idea what's going on with the story!

On the other hand, I don't care because the clothes and architecture are GORGEOUS. Just... gorgeous! And there are flying ships and spreads of Korean cosmology and maids who turn into birds and tattoos and did I mention the beautiful clothes?

I have no brain today, so everything under the cut is very mish-mash.

Spoilers )

In conclusion: tattoos and wet shirts.

ETA: here, have pictures of a guy in a wet shirt (if you look closely, you can see the dragon tattoo under it. Also, while you're there, flip through the excerpt because it is just that pretty.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Jang Yun-Ook is an illustrator who just got her latest credit card bill, prompting her to try to rent out a room to someone who will only sleep there. Lee Bum-Moo ends up as her roommate, and though the two argue a little at first, they soon establish a rhythm.

Not much happens in this volume: Lee Bum-Moo goes about on his random part-time jobs, Jang Yun-Ook illustrates, and they talk about cigarette brands and sometimes he tries to get her to bring him an umbrella when it rains.

This is by the same manhwaga who did "The Poet Who Buys Words," and I really love her art. There's not actually that much to this volume, but I just like the little moments and the age difference between Yun-Ook and Bum-Moo (she's seven years older), and, of course, I am a sucker for the pretty.

Sadly, I don't think I'll like the second half as much, as there are some reveals near the end that had me rolling my eyes a bit. They detract from the slice-of-life, quiet melancholy of most of the volume. Then again, I don't even know when the second half will be out, as it looks like Ice Kunion was bought out by Yen Press and Amazon's date of release is from 2007.
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(eta: changed author name and title to reflect the licensed version)

Ok, I think I'm done! Whoo!

Lord Baek Un and his companion/swordsman/servant Ho Yeon go around putting ghosts and other such spirits to rest in Tang Dynasty China, though Baek Un's clients usually find out that they're better off not asking for his help in the first place.

(I didn't realize it was Tang Dynasty China until reading the author's notes, largely because all the places they refer to are Korean. "Wow, Korea of this time period looks an awfully lot like the Tang Dynasty!" I thought. "Oh," I said when I read the notes.)

Some of the stories remind me of early xxxHolic; they're morality tales in which people get what they ask for but not what they want. Baek Un is particularly uninterested in educating people before they talk to him; he'll make a brief attempt to dissuade him, but not much after that. Some other stories don't have Baek Un or Ho Yeon in them at all.

We also get hints at Ho Yeon and Baek Un's Tragic Backstories (I am certain they are tragic); I'm looking forward to getting more.

I sort of wish Baek Un and Ho Yeon were female -- they would be Yuuko and Chae-Ohk from Damo! It would be awesome! But oh well. At least later on, two potentially cool women show up, even though they're side characters.

Definitely going to keep reading this for more Asian mythology and folk tales, especially because the appendices for each volume explain where the author got the stories. And I like the art and am looking forward to Tragic Backstory, especially because I am sure it will explain why Ho Yeon is so loyally devoted to Baek Un.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
(almost done with the weekend manga writeups)

[livejournal.com profile] octopedingenue recently posted some manhwa recs, of which this was one.

Eun Myoryong and Jung Euimoon are the only two members of their school's defunct biology club; Euimoon grows vegetables in the old lab and cooks over Bunsen burners while Myoryong tells morbid fortunes with her tarot cards. They're eventually joined by two other students, the rebellious Banha and gay Chunpa.

There's some love quadrangle stuff going on; Banha likes Euimoon who likes Myoryong who likes Chunpa, but that's not really the focus of the series.

Instead, it seems to be a series of shorts on the students and how odd they are. Some of them are touching, some are just wacky and have frogs. I think I would have liked it much better had I gone in with the expectation of that and not an actual plot, but a reread will be a lot of fun.

What I like the most is how odd everyone is and how different aspects of each character get illuminated in different chapters; it reminded me a lot of Kare Kano even before [livejournal.com profile] octopedingenue said so.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
The princess of angels has run away to earth to avoid her betrothal to the king of hell and is now happily disguised as a boy. The four guardians of heaven have to find her, and her male friend at school seems to know a lot more than he lets on...

This is pure fluff, but it's fun fluff, and hey, it's got cross-dressing, heaven, hell, and the king of hell! Dong-Young (orig. Chun-Yoo the angel princess) is naturally clueless about most things, the guardians are probably going to be overprotective, and I am betting at least one develops a crush on her. Bi-Wal (the male friend who I am guessing is the king of hell. Given the way the series is going, that is so not a spoiler) is hot and overprotective and has a smirky smile that he uses to torment pretty much everyone.

I am fairly certain that absolutely nothing that happens will be surprising, but the art is pretty, and did I mention that whole angels and demons thing?
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This is a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights, only this time, Scheherazade is the boy Sehara. I was excited about the gender bending until I learned that the sultan was still played by a man.

So far, the story is following the frame fairly well. The sultan (I forgot his name in this version) marries his father's old wife, who then goes on to betray him. In return, he decides to marry a woman every day and execute her the next morning. To stop the carnage, Sehara steps in and begins to tell stories.

Well, actually, I can't remember if the sultan's wife was originally his stepmother in the original. Also, instead of doing it for the sake of the murdered women, Sehara steps in because the sultan rescued him (or he rescued the sultan) a while ago, and he fell in love with the sultan. We also get the stubbly, glasses-wearing, extremely hot vizier, now imprisoned, and not Sehara's father, and a near-incestuous relationship between Sehara and his sister.

Honestly, I found the frame story to be rather boring, which is sad because I like the original so much. But they removed the women! So instead of getting a contrast to the sultan's evil wife in Scheherazade, you get the sultan's misogyny having him accept a male wife instead, which I feel reflects poorly both on a feminist and on a glbt level.

On the other hand, I may read the next one because the art is so gorgeous. Also, instead of staying with the tales from Arabian Nights, the manhwaga is adapting tales from all over. I really loved the story within this volume, which stars a cold, icy princess. I would read an entire series about her if there were one!

On a side note, when I was reading this at [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija's, I noticed that the manhwaga had a thing for Chinese culture. The younger sister notes that Chinese people eat "dirty" things like pork -- I bristled at that, until another character refuted it or said it wasn't forbidden for them. There were other random mentions of Chinese culture worked in, like a Romance of the Three Kingdoms reference, along with the Chinese influences (sideways, given that it's Turandot) in the story. I was very amused by this, given that the manhwa is still set somewhere in Baghdad (I think).


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