Dokebi Bride 1-6 by Marley: B

dokebi1Dokebi Bride is very difficult to describe because it’s a little bit like a lot of things, but isn’t fully any one of them. On the surface, it’s the tale of a girl named Sunbi Shin who can see spirits, and those are a dime a dozen, though few incorporate myth and folklore so creatively. In later volumes, it morphs into the story of a supernaturally gifted protagonist who travels and somehow helps to ease the problems of others; I’ve never read Mushishi, but wouldn’t be surprised to learn the vibe is similar. At its core, though, it’s the story of a girl who has been deserted by those she loved and is angry about that and who tries to act as if nothing really affects her.

As we learn in the first volume, Sunbi has been raised in a rural village by her grandmother after the death of her mother. She and her grandmother, the village shaman, are close and Sunbi learns all sorts of things about dragon spirits and feeding sea dokebis. Unfortunately, she’s ostracized in school for her strangeness and learns to hide her ability to see spirits. Upon her grandmother’s death, Sunbi moves to Seoul to live with her father and his new family where she could not possibly feel more unwanted.

dokebi2Sunbi has bigger problems than her new living arrangements, however, as she seems to have no defense against the spirits that she encounters every day. An untimely encounter with a spirit at school only serves to ensure that her ostracism continues and the only friend she makes is Taehoon, a boy who’s interested in some weird energy fields around Sunbi that he’s picked up on a special camera. After a particularly traumatic spiritual visitation results in a devastating loss, Sunbi finally decides to take some action. After consulting with a professor of folklore, she performs the ritual to summon dokebis and ends up forming a contract with the strongest one of the lot, whom she names Gwangsoo. The generally comedic Gwangsoo considers Sunbi his bride, and has a vision of her as some kind of warrior, though she doesn’t seem to be aware of these facts just yet.

dokebi3With Gwangsoo at her beck and call, Sunbi has more confidence and random spirits leave her alone. She also starts helping people, beginning with the spiritual problem keeping Taehoon’s mother’s restaurant from prospering and, after leaving her father’s house when another shaman comes to claim her grandmother’s artifacts, extending to runaways with violent tendencies and a woman who blames her disabled mother for all of her life’s difficulties. Meanwhile, a mysterious guy shows up and moves in with Sunbi’s family in Seoul and something strange is going on with her right arm.

As a character, Sunbi is the personification of prickly, as if she’s refusing to let anyone in after the pain of losing her loved ones. She refuses to lean on others, even though her stepmother does try (through regrettably manipulative ways) dokebi4 to get her to confide in someone, and is disinterested in her surroundings. After losing the shamanic artifacts, the last mementos of her grandmother, she runs away but not before the spirits attending the shaman tell her that all of the pain and suffering she’s enduring is serving to make her better able to understand those who have lost and been hurt.

As Sunbi heads out on the road, this new compassion doesn’t manifest right away, but by the end of volume six she seems to be a little bit more kindly disposed to those around her, though noticeably more towards creatures than other humans. It’s when she’s with Gwangsoo, for example, that she seems the most relaxed: she can’t trust people, but she trusts him. The art reflects this too, actually, with the creatures beautifully drawn (particularly the dragon in volume one) but humans far less so.

dokebi5While Dokebi Bride is always interesting, occasionally fascinating, and sometimes very moving—and ought to be read if only for Gwangsoo and his brethren, who would be right at home in the movie Labyrinth—it does have some problems. My main issue with it is that all six volumes feel like exposition to a bigger story that hasn’t yet begun. A lot of plot threads have been advanced—Sunbi as warrior, the itchy patch on her arm, hints at a significant role that she’ll play—but they don’t seem to go anywhere. For the first four volumes I felt pretty secure that Marley was going to get to the point someday, but after the fifth volume and its wholly unpleasant detour into the life of a girlfriend-abusing former runaway I am not so sure. It seems to be back on track with the sixth volume, but many unexplained elements remain.

dokebi6Also, while I am usually delighted when a series doesn’t insult a reader’s intelligence and allows them to figure things out for themselves, I find that I actually want a bit more spoonfeeding from this series. A large portion of my synopsis, for example, is what I suppose happened based on observing the events rather than what I know happened based on a character remarking upon it in any way. The story doesn’t come right out and say, for example, why Sunbi is no longer plagued by spirits. It’s an extrapolation that I’ve made and can only hope is correct.

Dokebi Bride is definitely unique, and I feel safe in recommending it for that fact alone, but be forewarned that it might not be the most satisfying reading experience you’ve ever had. Maybe it’ll turn into something amazing down the line, if it’s ever continued, but so far it hasn’t quite managed it.

13th Boy 1-2 by SangEun Lee: B

13thboy_1There’s really no way to describe 13th Boy other than “odd,” but it’s odd in the best possible way.

It’s the story of Hee-So Eun, a fifteen-year-old girl who is already on her twelfth boyfriend, Won-Jun Kang, to whom she confessed on a national TV program. Alas, their relationship only lasts a month before Won-Jun unexpectedly breaks up with her. Hee-So refuses to give up, however, and concocts various schemes to get closer to her “destined love,” like stealing his wallet and contriving to get into the girl scouts so that she can go on a camping trip with him. Her efforts are unwillingly aided by Whie-Young, a boy with feelings for Hee-So, and Beatrice, a (male) talking cactus.

On its surface, 13th Boy reminds me a bit of Sarasah. With her unquenchable persistence in the face of rejection, Hee-So is similar to Ji-Hae, and they both seem to share a taste for cool and aloof boys with nothing to recommend them but their looks. Quickly, though, 13th Boy proves itself the better series by actually giving Won-Jun a semi-pleasant personality, though Hee-So is still clearly more in love with the idea of him than any qualities he may possess. There are also many unexpectedly strange elements like, oh, say, a talking cactus, a weird connection between Won-Jun and some former kindergarten classmates, and the magical abilities that Whie-Young possesses and keeps using to help out Hee-So even though he knows that using his power shortens his life span.

13thboy_2Often when a series tries to juggle this many weird elements it ends up an awful mess, but that doesn’t happen with 13th Boy. There’s enough of a forward momentum with the main story that the subplots are free to develop more slowly, and I never got the sense that the creator didn’t know where she was going with all of this. By the end of the second volume, for example, several things are already more clear and the possible directions the story could take are numerous.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this unpredictable tale goes, but I do have one fairly major problem with the series: I don’t like Hee-So. She does some dumb stuff in pursuit of “love,” which is kind of irritating, but what’s worse is her frequent reliance on “I’m a weak girl” as an excuse for why she can’t be expected to do certain things. With Whie-Young there to bail her out at every turn, she never has to take responsibility for her ill-considered actions at all and clearly expects to be able to coast along on cuteness all while simultaneously criticizing another girl who takes the same ploy—if it is a ploy in her case—to extreme levels. I can only hope that she matures as the series continues, else all the loquacious cacti in the world won’t be able to save it.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Sarasah 1 by Ryu Ryang: C

sarasah1Ji-Hae Namgung has harbored an obsessive crush on her classmate, Seung-Hyu, for over a year and a half. Because her “love” hasn’t faded in all this time, she believes it’s more substantial than most and won’t give up her attempts to win Seung-Hyu’s heart, despite the fact that he has repeatedly and emphatically rejected her. As she chases after him after his latest refusal, she ends up accidentally tumbling down a staircase and awakens in the world beyond, where Lady Gameunjang, the God who controls the flow of human life, is touched by Ji-Hae’s plight. It’s not Ji-Hae’s time to die, but she can’t bear returning to a world in which Seung-Hyu hates her, so instead, Lady Gameunjang sends her into a past life, where can rectify the wrong that causes him to hate her in the present.

Once in the past, Ji-Hae doesn’t seem to consider trying to fit in at all, and instead shocks her former self’s family by lopping off her hair, speaking informally, and going off dressed as a boy to search for Seung-Hyu. When she finds his past equivalent, called Ja-Yun, she rattles off a series of lies to convince him to let her stay with his family and later accompanies him to a political meeting attended by a man who will one day be an important king in Korea’s history.

I can put up with a lot of flaws in manga. I am capable of liking something when it’s silly, when it’s implausible, or when it has little merit aside from its ability to infect you with the compulsion to know what happens next. But what I cannot abide is an unlikable protagonist, and unfortunately, that is exactly what Ji-Hae is. When she describes what she loves about Seung-Hyu, it’s a catalog of physical attributes. When she springs her latest (public) declaration of love upon him, it includes a note that reads, “You are mine. You can’t get away.” And when she gets to the afterlife, she has the audacity to wail, “What have I done to deserve this pain?” Um, been a completely deluded psycho stalker, perhaps?

Because of Ji-Hae’s abominable behavior, one might assume I’d feel sympathy for Seung-Hyu, but I’m thwarted there as well, since he’s got about as much personality as a cardboard cutout. Granted, as Ja-Yun, he seems to possess at least a small quantity of kindness—or else mere common decency requires him to house the disguised Ji-Hae after she tells her hard-luck tale of orphaned woe—but is otherwise just as stony as before.

About the only thing working for this title is the setting, which allows Ryang to draw some nice period costumes and work in some political elements while eschewing a strictly realistic portrayal of living conditions during the time in question. In general, the art’s attractive (especially the color pages in the front of the book), featuring an everygirl sort of heroine and ample bishounen eye candy.

Sarasah is also a quick read, which tempts me to give it at least one more volume to see whether anything resembling a real and honest relationship between Ji-Hae and Ja-Yun begins to develop. If Ryu Ryang takes the bildungsroman approach, that’s something I might be able to get behind.

Sarasah is published by Yen Press. Only one volume is currently available—volume two is due in November—and the series is ongoing in Korea, with six volumes so far.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Goong: The Royal Palace 6 by Park SoHee: A-

goong6From the back cover:
Hoping to clear the air between Shin and Chae-Kyung, the ladies of the court pressure the young couple to get more intimate. But even a night together may not be enough to push the two close. Amid lingering suspicious of Shin’s involvement with Hyo-Rin, Yul takes the offensive in claiming not only his right to the throne, but to Chae-Kyung’s heart as well… Will her commitment to her husband and her duty as crown princess prevail?

In this volume, Shin and Chae-Kyung are forced to spend a night alone together by order of the queen mother, who buys into the theory that Chae-Kyung’s recent poor health is caused by problems in her relationship with Shin, and that by forcing them to consummate their marriage, those problems will immediately evaporate. Alas, things do not go as planned. Later developments include Yul admitting his feelings to Chae-Kyung, an attempt to gain more political power for the royal family, a subplot involving the girl Shin used to like, and the news that Chae-Kyung’s grandfather has cancer.

It’s really impossible to convey the awesomeness of Goong through a mere plot summary, because so much of the story is carried by the characters rather than the events. The night Shin and Chae-Kyung spend together is a fascinating example. When they’re first locked up together, Shin asks, “Are you scared? Do you think I’ll attack you?” Chae-Kyung, however, is more worried that she might attack him! Shin abruptly kills any mood that might’ve been brewing, though, when he says, “A man can sleep with a girl whom he doesn’t really like.” Readers can see that he’s developing feelings for her and just trying to protect himself by feigning detachment, but Chae-Kyung can’t. When he’s later moved by her eyes, which speak so honestly of her feelings for him, and tries to kiss her, she slaps him. Shin, of course, has no idea what he did wrong.

What a complicated and complex relationship! This is the sort of situation that two people, no matter how attracted they are to each other, would probably just give up on after failing time and again to truly connect. Shin and Chae-Kyung don’t have this option, however, and continue the pattern of hurting each other. Their struggle is both captivating and frustrating; it’s going to be so vastly rewarding once they finally work things out.

Shin’s insecurities and ignorance of a loving family come into play in the latter half of the volume, when he refuses to allow Chae-Kyung to visit her ailing grandfather. The excuse he gives is that she has duties to attend to, but he’s really worried that she’ll want to stay with her family rather than return to the miseries of palace life. Yul uses this situation to try to get on Chae-Kyung’s good side—suggesting that she get her marriage with Shin annulled and marry him instead since Shin’s dysfunctional upbringing makes him treat her badly—but only succeeds in strengthening her sympathies for Shin. The final scene suggests that Yul’s meddling might backfire on him even further, to which I say, in Nelson’s voice from The Simpsons, “Ha ha!”

An awful lot goes on in a single volume of Goong and all of it is wonderfully balanced and exciting to read. About the only flaw I could mention is that the unattractive artwork during comedic moments still persists. Because of this, I’ve never been able to award any volume a straight-out A, much as I have wanted to, because the random bits of ugly pull me out of the story. They don’t appear to be going anywhere, alas, so it looks like I’ll just have to resign myself to their presence.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

10, 20, and 30 7 by Morim Kang: B+

102030-7Morim Kang’s warm, family-oriented manhwa comes to a close in its seventh volume, bringing the tales of thirty-something Krumb, twenty-something Belle, and teenager Rok to a satisfying close. Each woman has faced personal and romantic challenges throughout the course of the series, and the ending resolves nearly all of these plot lines well while still retaining the sense that life will go on for these vibrant characters.

My one complaint about the conclusion involves the resolution of a subplot concerning an art teacher of Rok’s who became obsessed with her and who, it was suggested, suffered from mental illness. One of Rok’s friends does a bit of investigating but the solid truth behind his mysterious behavior is never known; I suppose that’s true to life—we sometimes never know the motivations of those who puzzle us—but it’s frustrating from a reader’s standpoint.

I’m not sure what the Korean equivalent of josei is, but whatever it is, I bet 10, 20, and 30 qualifies. Although there are some teens among the cast, two-thirds of the focus is on Krumb and Belle and their forays into the workplace and the dating scene. Though its tone is quite different from Mari Okazaki’s lamentably languishing Suppli, I’d recommend it as a possible consolation read for fans of that series. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel like hugging your mom.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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.

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.

Click 6-8 by Youngran Lee: B-

I’ve decided to absolve myself from the entirely self-imposed edict that I review each volume of a series separately and start offering multi-volume reviews on this site. The final three volumes of Click seemed like an ideal place to start, since it was getting to be challenge coming up with new things to say about each volume when taken individually.

The romantic angst ramps up as we approach the conclusion, with Jinhoo realizing he has feelings for Joonha (and, believing Joonha is male, proceeding to be melodramatic and tortured about it) and Heewon being depressed because of her own pathetic behavior regarding same. (Meanwhile, Taehyun’s family resolves to learn the true gender of the person who has captivated his heart. I hesitate to include that in the angst category, though, since it’s pretty pointless and boring.) One has to wonder why all of these characters are in love with Joonha, since she’s only somewhat less of an ass now than she used to be.

In any case, Joonha seems to feel about equal affection for them all (judging by a conversation with her father at the beginning of the seventh volume) and they all know about each other too, resulting in fisticuffs between Taehyun and Jinhoo at one point. Jinhoo, the presumed favorite, breaks up with his girlfriend, Hyejin (whom he realizes he cares for but has never truly loved), and finally, finally comes out and asks Joonha, “Why does everyone say you’re a girl?” Alas, it’s here where the series takes a turn for the dramatastic, for as Joonha begins to respond to the question, Jinhoo’s phone rings with news that Hyejin’s entire family has been in a car accident. Dun dun dunnnn.

From that point on, the kooky just keeps on coming, with two of the contenders for Joonha’s affection removing themselves from the picture for pretty much unnecessary reasons. The way the two scenes parallel each other is kind of interesting, though, and I finally have some sympathy for (okay, this is a spoiler, but did anyone really think this person would be the one?) Heewon who was feeling like a dupe for ever falling in love, but who now seems to be more at peace with the way things happened. There’s also an entirely random kidnapping that made me laugh out loud, it was so ridiculous.

I’ve seen where some have found the ending of this series to be unsatisfying, and I can see where they’re coming from. My problem’s not with the ultimate pairing, though, but rather with how it was carried out. Like Beauty Pop, instead of actually showing the protagonist confessing her feelings to the person of her choice, the story instead jumps forward in time a few years to a point where they’re a recognized couple already. What a cheat! Plus, they’re not acting much differently than they ever did, and it seems to have taken four years for any kissing to transpire!

Click continues to be a fast read through to the end, and while the endless drama is part of it, the art’s another big factor. The page layouts tend to be pretty simple, with large panels and not a lot of backgrounds to stall the eye. This presents a problem, though, because without any pace-slowing, transitional panels, one can be zipping through a brief scene with Taehyun’s family and suddenly, disconcertingly, turn to a page on which Jinhoo is dramatically announcing that he’s postponing his return trip to New York. It happens fairly often and is jarring each time, like zooming along the interstate then suddenly slamming on the brakes.

Ultimately, I’m glad I read Click. Yes, it could be cheaply manipulative and ridiculous, and no, I didn’t much like any of the characters, but it was a fun ride all the same.

Pig Bride 2 by KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim: B+

Si-Joon Lee is still not used to the idea that the girl in the pig mask that he agreed to marry as a child is really his fiancée. The girl, Mu-Yeon, calmly yet tenaciously ignores his demands to leave him alone, and it gradually occurs to Si-Joon that she is actually protecting him from an unknown and dangerous third party with a grudge against his family. Meanwhile, Doe-Doe, the girl Si-Joon likes and mistakenly believes is sweet, schemes to make him hers, which means finding out Mu-Yeon’s secrets.

The greatest appeal of Pig Bride is its fairy tale feel, which grows even stronger with this volume, as Si-Joon begins to experience dreams of a past life with a woman who reminds him of Mu-Yeon. Images from the dream recur in his waking hours and begin to impact how he feels about his fiancée. Although he does get angry at her and attempt to push her away, it’s apparent that it’s mostly his own confusion that is the problem. The developing relationship between these two is handled well and is easily the most compelling thing about the story.

Less successful is the treatment of the threat against Si-Joon’s life, which still makes very little sense two volumes in. Doe-Doe’s plotting, too, offers little of interest, though at least her antagonistic presence seems poised to bring about revelations about either Mu-Yeon’s appearance or the nature of the mask she wears. Possibly both.

Even with its vagueness on the villain front, Pig Bride is still a very entertaining tale. It’s definitely worth a read.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Pig Bride 1 by KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim: B+

pigbride1From the back cover:
Lost in the mountains on a trip to summer camp, eight-year-old Si-Joon fears he’ll never make it out alive. When a strange girl in a pig mask appears before him, he follows her to a house deep in the woods, where he is told that he must marry the pig-faced girl to atone for the sins of their ancestors. Si-Joon’s not too keen on getting married, but that wedding feast looks so delicious! It’s only afterward that he realizes what he’s done and… wakes up. Now in high school, Si-Joon Lee has been dreaming about the pig bride for as long as he can remember. But it’s all just a dream, right?

The only son of a rich and elite family, eight-year-old Si-Joon Lee has, once again, been sent away to summer camp due to his parents’ busy schedules. Bored and miffed that his games and cell phone have been confiscated, he heads off into the mountains and gets lost. He encounters a girl wearing a pig mask and, when she drops it and flees, runs after her to return it. The chase leads him to a house where a woman announces that she’s been waiting for him. She tells Si-Joon about a folk tale wherein a man marries an ugly shrine maiden who then protected him, and that he is the descendant of that man while the girl in the pig mask, Mu-Yeon (also cursed with a hideous face), is a descendant of the shrine maiden. His marrying Mu-Yeon will release her from the curse but, more importantly, he’ll then be able to partake of the sumptuous feast prepared for the wedding festivities. He complies.

The next day, Si-Joon is rescued by a search party and, in the intervening eight years, has managed to convince himself the entire experience was a dream. Mu-Yeon, however, had promised to return to him on his sixteenth birthday and proceeds to do just that, knocking at his door and announcing, “I have come to consummate our marriage.” Si-Joon persists in thinking it’s a dream for a while, but mostly just a) wants her to go away since he likes someone else and b) wants to know what she looks like. His roommate Ji-Oh is a little more savvy, realizing both that the girl Si-Joon likes is not wholesome and sweet like she appears to be and that Mu-Yeon seems to be protecting Si-Joon from an unseen supernatural threat.

While there are a few problems with this volume—it’s extremely unclear why Si-Joon is being targeted and also very obvious that his love interest, Doe-Doe, is a Mean Girl—I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. Si-Joon could’ve been an unlikable character, with his stated dislike of strong women and preference for someone quiet and gentle, but his genuine puzzlement over why girls make such a fuss over him makes it clear that it’s not feminine strength that he objects to, really, but just the shrill pushiness that he faces day in, day out as girls try to curry his favor by hurling boxes of homemade cookies at him. I also quite like Mu-Yeon’s calm competency and aura of mystery as well as Ji-Oh’s discerning nature and level of participation in the story.

This series is off to a very promising start and I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here.

Pig Bride is published by Yen Press. Volume one is available now and volume two will technically be available in August 2009, though Amazon shows it as in stock. The series is complete in Korea with a total of five volumes.