Joy Kim

Librarian. Book Reviewer. Coffee Addict.

October 8, 2009
by Joy

Kdramas for beginners, part 1

Not all manga fans watch anime, but I think most people in the manga blogosphere acknowledge the synergy between the manga and anime industries. I’ve sometimes wondered, however, if dramas are being overlooked. Dramas may not be as closely tied to manga, manhwa, and manhua as anime, but there’s definitely plenty of overlap in the fan base, especially among younger fans. A lot of dramas are adapted from sequential art properties, and a successful drama can drive sales of a related comic.

So here is a quick primer of Korean dramas (aka kdramas) for beginners. I’m going to focus on Korean dramas as I don’t feel I’ve watched enough dramas from other Asian countries to claim to be knowledgeable about them.
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September 28, 2009
by Joy

What I’m Reading: Monster, vol. 1-18 (complete)

It’s been all Urasawa, all the time, around my apartment this last month, as I’ve been busy catching up on three of his series. I’ve reviewed 20th Century Boys and Pluto elsewhere, so that leaves Monster for this post. For the few of you who haven’t read this yet, Monster is the story of Kenzo Tenma, an up-and-coming neurosurgeon working at a hospital in Germany. One night, two patients are rushed to his hospital, each in critical condition: a boy with a gunshot wound and the town’s mayor. Tenma’s superiors tell him to operate on the mayor, even though the boy arrived first. Tenma refuses and goes on to save the boy’s life. Unfortunately, for Tenma, the boy (Johan) grows up to be serial killer. Blamed for Johan’s crimes, Tenma goes on the run in order to prove his own innocence and to catch the monster he helped to survive.

The world doesn’t need another gushing review of the series, so let me give you the short version–people, this is good stuff–and skip straight to some other comments.

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September 24, 2009
by Joy

Marley: Dokebi Bride, vol. 1-6

dokebibride1.jpgDokebi Bride, vol. 1-6
Story and Art by Marley
Translated by Michael Han (vol. 1-4), Ernest Woo (vol. 5), and Soyoung Jung (vol. 6)
Netcomics, 2006-2007
Original Korean editions: Ecomix, 2004-2007
Paperback $9.99 US
ISBN-13: 978-1600090752 (vol. 1)
ISBN-13: 978-1600090769 (vol. 2)
ISBN-13: 978-1600090776 (vol. 3)
ISBN-13: 978-1600090783 (vol. 4)
ISBN-13: 978-1600090790 (vol. 5)
ISBN-13: 978-1600090806 (vol. 6)

Shin Sunbi has been born into a family of shamans. Like her mother and grandmother before her, she has the ability to see and communicate with spirits. Sunbi has been raised by her grandmother in a remote fishing village, but after her grandmother passes away, Sunbi moves to Seoul to join her father’s household. He remarried after her mother’s death and has a wife and stepdaughter. This is a transition that would be difficult even in the best of circumstances, and Sunbi’s situation is hardly that.

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September 21, 2009
by Joy

Two cuisines, two gourmets

oishinbo.jpgThe other night I finally got a chance to read the first volume of the much-talked about Japanese food manga, Oishinbo, by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki. This is the story of a cynical journalist, Yamaoka Shirō, who has been assigned the task of creating the “ultimate menu” of Japanese cuisine by the newspaper that employs him. But a rival newspaper is chasing the same goal, and their efforts are being led by the famous gourmet, Kaibara Yūzan, who just happens to be Yamaoka’s estranged father. So as Yamaoko researches the best traditions of Japanese food, he continually comes into conflict with his father and his father’s strong opinions.

Over 100 volumes of this series have been published in Japan, and the “A la Carte” editions licensed by Viz collect highlights from this long run into convenient volume-length chunks. The abridged nature of this version is pretty noticeable when you read; there are obvious references to missing events, and the first chapter begins very much in medias res. (Reading the flaps and opening summary helps a lot; I don’t recommend skipping the preliminaries.) But overall the greatest hits nature of this volume is less problematic for readers than I expected. After all, there might be a nominal plot driving the episodes (the challenge of the “ultimate menu” and Yamaoko’s rivalry with his father), but who are we kidding? This story is all about the food.

I happen to have a great fondness for stories about food, so I enjoyed reading Oishinbo. The exhaustive detail would be overkill in another story, but here it is a huge part of the manga’s charm. My main issue with the story was actually a very personal one. As I read, I kept thinking, “This is all well and good, but what I would really love to read, being Korean-American, is a comic about Korean food!”

This is not just wishful thinking on my part. There is a well-known manhwa that does for Korean food what Oishinbo does for Japanese food. Shikgaek is a 20-volume series by Heo Yeong-man about a talented young chef, his family, and the traditions of Korean cuisine. I suspect its chances of being licensed are pretty much nonexistent, given the limited market for manhwa in the states, but I will tell you about it anyway–or at least what I know of it secondhand via the live-action tv drama based upon it.

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September 17, 2009
by Joy
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Nakajo, Hisaya: Sugar Princess, vol. 1

sugarprincess1.jpgSugar Princess: Skating to Win, vol. 1
Story and Art by Hisaya Nakajo
Translation and Adaptation by Anastasia Moreno
Viz, 2008
Original Japanese edition: Hakusensha, 2005
Paperback $8.99

When middle schooler Maya Kurinoki takes her little brother to the skating rink, she inadvertently draws attention to herself when she attempts and manages to land a double-axel jump. One person who witnesses Maya’s feat is a coach, and he invites her the join the local figure skating club. And before long, he’s encouraging Maya and Shun Kano, a skilled high school skater, to become partners for pairs.

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September 14, 2009
by Joy
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Shiina, Karuho: Kimi ni Todoke, vol. 1

kiminitodoke1.jpgKimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, vol. 1
Story and Art by Karuho Shiina
Translation by Tomo Kimura
Viz, 2009
Original Japanese edition: Shueisha, 2005
Paperback $8.99

Sawako Kuronuma is the terror of her high school classroom. Her resemblance to the lead character from the horror movie The Ring has earned her the nickname “Sadako,” and her classmates claim that anyone who looks at her for more than three seconds will be cursed. Of course, the reality is much less dramatic. Sawako is just painfully shy and rather clueless about social interactions; all she wants is to help others and make friends, but she can’t seem to connect with her peers. Lucky for Sawako, she’s about to be befriended by Kazehaya, the most popular boy in class, who takes it upon himself to stand up for the class misfit. But the classmates who whisper about Sawako behind her back aren’t going to change their opinions of her that easily.

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September 10, 2009
by Joy
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Urasawa, Naoki: 20th Century Boys, vol. 4

20thcenturyboys4.jpgNaoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, vol. 4
Story and Art by Naoki Urasawa
With the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki
English Adaptation by Akemi Wegmuller
Viz, 2009
Original Japanese edition: Shogakukan, 2001
Paperback $12.99

Naoki Urasawa now has three different series available in English from Viz, and I suspect if you asked any group of manga readers to choose their favorite, they would be evenly split among the three. So far as I can tell, 20th Century Boys, Pluto and Monster are basically comparable when considered as works of craft. The art, the plotting, the characterization: those elements shine in all three. Okay, there are some slight variations in the quality of the art, especially for Monster, which is a rather earlier work, but overall these are pretty much equally polished pieces of sequential art. So choosing among them thus becomes largely a matter of taste. What genre tropes speak to you? If you love suspense and murder mysteries, you’ll probably like Monster. If you enjoy old school science fiction, perhaps you’ll lean more toward Pluto.

And if you’re like me and have an incurable weakness for ridiculous shōnen manga, mecha anime, and rock music, you will probably think 20th Century Boy is pure genius.

[Note: The remainder of this review has some fairly big spoilers for the events of this volume.]

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September 9, 2009
by Joy
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Park, SoHee: Goong, vol. 6

goong6.jpgIn the latest volume of Goong, the ladies of the royal court think they have discovered the perfect solution to Shin and Chae-Kyung’s marital woes: sex. The young couple finds themselves locked in a bedroom on a cold winter night with just one set of bedding and single heating mat. Their options are pretty clear: sleep together or freeze. And freezing is looking like a pretty good choice, given how strained their relationship has become. Continue Reading →

September 8, 2009
by Joy

Yun, Mi-Kyung: Bride of the Water God, vol. 1

brideofthewatergod1.jpgBride of the Water God, vol. 1
Story and Art by Mi-Kyung Yun
Translation by Heejeong Haas
Edited and adapted by Philip Simon
Lettering by Steve Dutro
Dark Horse, 2007
Original Korean edition: Seoul Cultural Publishers, 2006
Paperback $9.95

Soah is being sacrificed for the greater good. Her village, facing ruin due to a long drought, has decided to sacrifice a beautiful girl to the water god Habaek to appease his anger and bring rain. Soah is the unlucky girl chosen to be the bride of the water god, but at the end of the ritual presenting her to the god she doesn’t find death but rescue. She wakes in Habaek’s kingdom, Suguk, where she discovers her bridegroom, rumored to be a monster, is actually a child. But even as Soah begins to adjust to her new life, there are hints of mysteries. No one will tell Soah what really happened to Habaek’s earlier wives–after all, Soah is not the first girl to have been sacrificed in exchange for rain–and Habaek is keeping one very big secret from his new bride.

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September 6, 2009
by Joy
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Arakawa, Hiromu: Fullmetal Alchemist, vol. 19

fullmetalalchemist19.jpgFullmetal Alchemist, vol. 19
Story and Art by Hiromu Arakawa
Translation by Akira Watanabe
Adapted by Jake Forbes
Viz, 2007
Original Japanese edition: Square Enix, 2008
Paperback $9.99

While reading vol. 19 of Fullmetal Alchemist, it’s hard not to get the feeling that the series is slowly heading towards its endgame. This is not to say that it is going to be wrapping up immediately. A little web research shows the series is up to vol. 23 in Japan and still running, though supposedly ending soon. But at this point in the story, Fullmetal Alchemist is now definitely more concerned with bringing established characters and plot threads back together rather than with introducing new story elements.

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September 2, 2009
by Joy
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Urasawa, Naoki: 20th Century Boys, vol. 3

20thcenturyboys3.jpgNaoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, vol. 3
Story and Art by Naoki Urasawa
With the cooperation of Takashi Nagasaki
English Adaptation by Akemi Wegmuller
Viz, 2009
Original Japanese edition: Shogakukan, 2000
Paperback $12.99

Having now written full reviews of 20th Century Boys, vol. 1, and Pluto, vol. 1, the big challenge I face in writing this review of 20th Century Boys, vol. 3 is the temptation to say the same wonderful things about Urasawa yet again. It’s not that they are no longer true–they are!–but that’s just not very interesting reading for anyone. So let the record show that I continue to have the greatest respect for the craftmanship of Urasawa’s work, his expressive art and character designs, and his thoughtful depiction of everyone from his protagonists to the random person who works in his protagonist’s convenience store.

Okay, now that’s out of the way, I will move on to talking about something new!

[Spoilers follow]

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September 1, 2009
by Joy
Comments Off on Highlights from Yen Plus (Sept. 09)

Highlights from Yen Plus (Sept. 09)

yenplussept09.gifIt doesn’t seem entirely fair to do a formal review of a single issue of a magazine, especially a magazine that serializes sequential art. So much is taken out of context that it’s difficult to do make a reasonable evaluation. That said, since Yen Press included a copy of the September 2009 issue of Yen Plus in my latest bundle of review copies, I thought I’d write up my thoughts on some of the series featured within and share some general impressions of the magazine as whole. Continue Reading →

August 31, 2009
by Joy

Urasawa and Tezuka: Pluto, vol. 1

pluto1.jpgPluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, vol. 1
By Naoki Urasawa and Osamu Tezuka
Co-authored with Takashi Nagasaki
Supervised by Macoto Tezka
With the cooperation of Tezuka Productions
Translation by Jared Cook and Frederick L. Schodt
Viz, 2009
Original Japanese edition: Shogakukan, 2004
Paperback $12.99

Pluto takes readers to the future, where a series of murders is putting an unwelcome spotlight on the imperfect coexistence of humans and robots. The first victim is the powerful Swiss robot Mont Blanc; the next, a politician involved in the debate on robot laws. No one would have thought the incidents were related, if the killer hadn’t left behind a provocative clue. Europol assigns their best, the robot detective Gesicht, to the case. But as Gesicht follows the trail of evidence, he discovers that the murderer is targeting the seven greatest robots in the world. And that list includes Gesicht himself.

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August 27, 2009
by Joy
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Avasthi, Swati: Split (2010)

By Swati Avasthi
Young Adult Fiction
Knopf, 2010
Hardcover $16.99

When Jace Witherspoon is kicked out of the house by his abusive father, he hits the road and drives until he finds himself on the doorstep of his brother Christian’s apartment. Jace hasn’t seen or heard from Christian in five years, since Christian made his own escape from their messed-up family. Christian isn’t exactly pleased to find his brother outside his door. And Jace has a new secret in addition to all the ones that he and Christian share.

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August 25, 2009
by Joy

Yoshinaga, Fumi: Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, vol. 1

ooku1.jpgStory and Art by Fumi Yoshinaga
Translation and Adaptation by Akemi Wegmuller
Rated M for Mature
Viz, 2009
(First published in Japan in 2005)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4215-2747-5
List Price: $12.99


In Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Fumi Yoshinaga (Antique Bakery, Flower of Life) takes her readers to an alternate Edo Japan, where a mysterious disease has taken a heavy toll on the male population. Women have assumed the roles traditionally reserved for men, including that of shogun, while the surviving men have become valuable commodities on the marriage market. And a select number of men, drawn primarily from the most elite classes, enter the Ōoku, the shogun’s inner chamber, where they are servants and (sometimes) concubines.

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August 25, 2009
by Joy
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Totsuka and Igarashi: Bamboo Blade, vol. 2

bamboo2.jpgKojiro, a high school kendo instructor at Muroe High, has made a risky bet in a moment of desperation. If his all-girls kendo club can beat the Machido High club coached by his old friend, Kojiro will win a year’s worth of free sushi. But if Muroe High wins, Kojiro has to surrender a kendo trophy that his friend covets. When volume 2 opens, Kojiro has managed to assemble a team of sorts, led by the quiet but expert Tamaki. But even Tamaki’s expertise might not be enough to carry the rest of the team to victory and save Kojiro from living on instant noodles. Continue Reading →

August 17, 2009
by Joy
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CLAMP: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, vol. 22

tsubasarc22.jpgThe last time I reviewed Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle for this site I noted that CLAMP had just kicked the plot of the series into high gear. Well, after many chapters of high drama, volume 22 finds our protagonists enjoying a temporary respite on yet another new world. Once again, it’s a place that one of them calls home: the Country of Japan. At first the gang’s stay in Kurogane’s country seems like a chance for them to recover from all the hurts, emotional and physical, that they incurred in Seresu, Fai’s homeworld, but their rest doesn’t last long. Not one but two other travelers soon break the peace at Shirasagi Castle, bringing reminders that the events around them continue to hurtle towards some sort of final confrontation. Continue Reading →

June 30, 2009
by Joy
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Adventures in ebooks

When it comes to technological innovation, I am generally in the early adopter or early majority categories. (Which one usually depends on how expensive the innovation in question is, as I am also quite cheap.) After all, I am easily tempted by shiny new things, and I am friends with many early adopters, all of whom are happy to share their latest enthusiasms with me.

That said, I was pretty slow to explore the world of ebooks, even though I started hearing about them ten years ago when I was a work-study intern at Yale University Press. I was just too much a fan of the printed book. So aside from an occasional venture into the archives of Project Gutenberg, I let the ebook revolution pass me by even as I continued to read a ridiculous number of books each year.

Two things finally changed my attitude. First, I became a librarian. Second, I got an iPhone.
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June 20, 2009
by Joy
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Park, SoHee: Goong, vol. 5

goong_5.jpgThe fifth volume of the manhwa Goong finds crown prince Shin visiting the royal family of England. Left behind in Korea, Chae-Kyung grows more and more lonely–and ever more vulnerable to the schemes of the Yul’s mother, the new daebi. Will new rounds of scandal bring the young royal couple closer together, or will they push them even further apart? Continue Reading →