10, 20, and 30 3-6 by Morim Kang: B+

102030-310, 20, and 30 is a charming manhwa about three women, each in a different decade of life. Krumb is a widowed mother in her thirties; Rok, in her late teens, is Krumb’s daughter; and Belle, in her twenties, is Krumb’s niece and Rok’s cousin. As volume three begins, they’ve recently moved out of the spacious house that Krumb’s husband built and into an affordable-to-maintain apartment. Krumb has recently recovered from an illness, leading Rok to want to take on more of the caretaker role in the family. Meanwhile, Belle is spending most of her time doing nothing but loafing around and dreaming of possible careers without actually taking any steps toward making them happen.

Time is equally divided between the characters, and they all have their own plots involving personal growth. Krumb returns to work and must contend with a more demanding position, Rok is somewhat resentful of her mother’s fragility and 102030-4strives to be more independent, and Belle is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with herself. Each also has a man in her life with some mystery attached: Krumb’s boss proposed to her then disappeared on a trip to Hong Kong, Belle is being wooed by a financial consultant with a scheming (and shrewish) girlfriend, and Rok has unwittingly become an object of obsession for a teacher at the art institute where she has enrolled in a class.

Because there are so many plots going on at once, the story tends to cut between them quickly and frequently, which can take a bit of getting used to. They also frequently intertwine, often in ways that show the characters in their best light. For example, Belle, who is often selfish and annoying and who might be fairly intolerable if the protagonist of the piece, shows what a good person she can be as she protects Rok from her creepy stalker or fights to wrest Krumb’s investments out of the grasp of the corrupt financier (once she figures out his game). In general, all of the characters look after each other and a feeling of warmth presides.

102030-5My one complaint with how the plots are handled is that the most dramatic moments themselves are never shown. In volume five, Krumb learns that her boss is alive but handicapped and goes to meet him. The meeting itself is not shown, and it’s not until a few chapters later, when she’s talking about it with her sister, that we actually glimpse anything of what went on with them. A similar thing happens in volume six: Belle answers the phone, says, “Mom? What’s wrong?”, and the next thing you know everyone’s talking about how her stepfather died and his will has been altered, et cetera. It’s a little frustrating, but I also love that the story focuses on what happens after the big drama has passed, as everyone tries to figure out what to do next to move on from the experience.

Art-wise, 10, 20, and 30 is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The style is simple, more like something you’d expect from a comic strip than a manhwa, but it does have moments when it’s quite attractive. Panel layout is strictly in the rectangle family, though at least it’s not the same rigid grid applied page after page. I do like how many chapters end on successive panels of each woman in a similar wistful 102030-6moment, like gazing out at the first snowfall of the year or enjoying a Christmas celebration in each other’s company.

As volume six concludes, the story is beginning to wrap up. Gradually, the women are beginning to grow. Krumb is starting to stand up more for what she wants, Belle has grown up a lot and finally seems to be taking some responsibility for her life, and Rok has noticed her mother’s renewed strength and become more accepting of her. There are a few things left to make the ending a truly satisfying one, though, so I’m eager to see what the seventh and final volume brings.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

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