The Adventures of Young Det 3 by Gyojeong Kwon: B+

youngdet3-125Book description:
Two adventure-loving boys from the country set out on their quest to defeat the evil dragon that threatens the world. Det and Osen battle their way to glory, finding romance and the life of heroes along the way.

Having left Ogean, their small village, behind, friends Det and Osen are traveling toward Dedeil, a large city where they hope to “make it big.” The first village they come to is beset by dog-headed monsters, however, so they stop a while and use some knowledge imparted by their hometown’s sorcerer to help the villagers defend themselves against the creatures. Things aren’t much better at the next town, where giant, corpse-faced birds are plucking off the populace one by one. Det and Osen again help out but the volume abruptly ends in the middle of a nocturnal skirmish.

This volume feels more like a medieval fantasy novel than either of the earlier ones in the series, mostly due to all the traveling and the encounters with mystical beasts. Actually, it reminds me a little of an RPG, a resemblance definitely not lost on Gyojeong Kwon when he/she writes, “The tempolite, Fore, has joined Det on his journey! Party level +1!” While Det and Osen (though mostly Det) are still determined to make their way to Dedeil, they aren’t adverse to pausing and helping people in need, resulting in a pace that is best described as unhurried.

As a result, there is time for plenty of small moments, like testing to see whether a certain plant stem, when burned, really can repel the monsters, or talking about Det’s feelings for the girl he left behind in Ogean. The friendship between Det and Osen is warm and secure; not only do they look out for each other, they also clearly admire one another’s particular qualities and skills. Even though they may appear to be your typical “odd couple,” with Det being more outgoing and Osen more reserved, Kwon never portrays their relationship in so simple a manner. Their personalities do make for some funny moments, though, like these final lines from chapter eight when they’ve finally seen the gruesome faces of the giant birds up close.

Det: By the way, that face is a real gag.
Osen: Yeah. A little bit.

Besides a nicely nuanced story, The Adventures of Young Det also offers gorgeous art from Gyojeong Kwon. Aside from just being generally beautiful, I find that backgrounds and scene composition provide a stronger sense of place than I usually encounter in manga. Too, Kwon is adept at drawing all sorts of people, especially at depicting age in a way that goes beyond simply taking a young-looking character and drawing some lines under his eyes.

The one major complaint I could make about this volume is that it doesn’t move the overall story forward much, but I suspect that taking the time to set groundwork will pay off in the end, just as the lengthy explanations of the magical system did in earlier volumes.

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