Time and Again is a new historical fantasy manhwa from JiUn Yun (Cynical Orange). Set in Tang Dynasty-era China, it follows a dissipated exorcist, Baek-On, and his sensible bodyguard, Ho-Yeon, as they travel through the countryside completing jobs for hire. Though volume 1 does have a few stumbles, it’s one of the most promising series openers that I’ve seen in a long while.The story so far is very episodic, with the individual episodes inspired mostly by Chinese and Korean folklore and literature. Much of its initial appeal comes from the setting. The historical details in the costuming are very pretty; the ghost stories are unsettling but generally shy away from gratuitous gore. There’s never any promise of happy endings, and that contributes to the creepy atmosphere. As I noted in my previous write-up, the tendency for the stories to become morality plays reminds me a lot of early episodes in xxxHOLiC and of Pet Shop of Horrors.
However, the main characters are the main reason I think this series has the potential to be really strong. Though Baek-On and Ho-Yeon are very peripheral in some of the chapters (they don’t appear in chapter 3 and barely appear in chapter 4), they are easily one of the best things about the book. Baek-On’s first entrance is an inglorious but memorable one–he shows up for a job dead drunk and draped over the long-suffering Ho-Yeon’s shoulder–and it soon becomes clear that he has charisma to spare. He even quotes Li Bai! Ho-Yeon is quieter and sensible, in some ways a classic second lead, but he has solid chemistry with Baek-On. The odd couple humor works, and there’s just enough mystery about their pasts to pique readers’ interest. What is driving Baek-On to drink? What is the tragedy in Ho-Yeon’s past? Yun only drops the vaguest of hints, but it’s more than enough to make me impatient for volume 2. I’m genuinely eager to know more about these two characters, and that’s almost always a formula for success in a series.
The art here resembles that found in a lot of sunjeong manhwa. The two leads are beautiful and epicene, and a great deal of attention is paid to the drape of people’s hair and clothes. While I do like how Yun draws the leads–especially the mercurial Baek-On, in all of his many moods–I found some of the other character designs a bit generically pretty; I even briefly confused two of the women characters at one point. I also wearied of Yun’s use of one particular artistic device (close-ups of eyes). That issue is mostly confined to a single chapter, however, so hopefully it will not be a recurring problem.
If Time and Again focuses a little more on the characterization of the two leads–and the last pages of volume 1 suggest that’s the plan–I think it will be one of my favorite manhwa. Fans of ghost stories and folklore retellings should definitely check this series out. Time and Again is also being serialized in Yen Plus and is available there monthly.
Volume 1 of Time and Again includes a set of beautiful color pages, an often amusing afterword by the creator, and translation notes. Like many of Yen Press’s series, it’s printed in the slightly bigger 5 3/4″ x 8 1/4″ trim size.
Review copy provided by Yen Press.
Review previously published at MangaLife.com.