Category Archives: manhwa review

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #18

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Set in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, a strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has released the final volume, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

During the royal family’s first public interview with Prince Sun, the nation is shocked when the youngest prince accidentally reveals Shin’s intention to get married and leave the palace! Recognizing Sun’s voice from her mysterious phone call a few nights before, Chae-Kyung drags her new boyfriend to the royal family’s parade. Shin spots her from the car, and Chae-Kyung follows him to the palace, where they are reunited…

The Review

The tale of the commoner girl in the Korean palace finally comes to a close. With the series wrapping up, Creator Park needs to tie up loose ends, and there are a lot  to be addressed. The first three chapters bring resolution to the Hyo-Rin/Chae-Jun, Eunuch Kong/Lady Han, and King/Queen pairings. Even Yul’s mother gets a kind of resolution although it makes the fuss over her medicine to the king look like the molehill that got turned into a mountain.

Having addressed the secondary characters, the focus turns to Shin and Chae-Kyung. The previous volume made it look like Chae-Kyung’s new boyfriend really had a shot at capturing her heart. At the very least, he seemed genuinely attracted to her, but then we learn they haven’t even kissed. In addition, he so understanding when Chae-Kyung starts obsessing over Shin again, he’s more like a super supportive guy friend than a serious contender for her heart. Meanwhile, Shin hasn’t picked up anyone new despite the Eagles’ attempts to get him with another girl so the last hurdle in the relationship is simply Shin’s position as Crown Prince. That doesn’t quite create the same drama as torn heartstrings or diabolical plots. As such, it’s a bit anti-climactic when they reunite, especially when the solution to their problem has been in the background the entire time. Even so, our lead couple has been through so much it is satisfying to see them finally achieve a happy ending.

Yen Press’s Volume 18 consists of Volumes 27 and 28 of the Korean release. The main story concludes in the Korean Volume 27, and Volume 28 is comprised entirely of side stories. These include “A Concubine’s Confession,” a time travel tale; “A Crown Princess’s Secret Diary,” in which Chae-Kyung pokes fun at her stuffy husband; “Debating with the Enemy,” a Yul-centric piece that goes off the deep end; “The Story of Spending a Night Together,” an extended account of the royal adults’ failed attempt to get Chae-Kyung and Shin to sleep with each other; and a couple of mini-manhwa about Park’s various experiences. Except for “A Concubine’s Confession,” these extras are heavy on Park’s particular brand of raunchy comedy, and if that’s been your favorite aspect of Goong, it’s not a bad way to close out the volume.

In Summary

The long-running palace dramedy comes to an end. There are more happy endings than not, and of course, our main couple finds a way to be together, although their reunion is less dramatic than I expected for a series finale. The Goong characters did a great job of keeping the audience hooked, but it does feel like it’s time for them to retire. For those who aren’t quite ready to let them go, Goong’s conclusion is followed by a number of short stories, which revisit the past and provide a possible (?) glimpse of the characters’ future.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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Manhwa Review: Milkyway Hitchhiking Vol. #2

Most manga and manhwa have lengthy plots with human main characters. However, if you prefer a feline narrator and more of an anthology feel, you may want to check out Yen Press’ Milkyway Hitchhiking. Read on for the review of Volume 2. (If interested in my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

There are as many people on Earth as there are stars in the sky. From the unique marriage traditions of a faraway tribe, to the unusual relationship between a fox and a chick, to the tale of a complicated royal succession, Milkyway continues to leave her mark across the bright stars of people’s lives, loves, tears, and laughter.

The Review

Milkyway’s tales continue in their non-linear fashion. As in the first volume, her roles vary from main character to mostly uninvolved bystander, but these stories run longer overall. Volume 2 contains only six “episodes,” and only two are single chapter stories. In one of these shorts, “Find a Bride,” Milkyway plays her biggest part when she disrupts a tribe’s time-honored marriage tradition. The tribe, a mishmash of Pacific Islander and Native American, is very obviously fictional but offers fun comedy as well as a chance for Milkyway to show some sass. In contrast, Milkyway’s more of a prop in “Flower Painting,” which explores the relationship between two brothers in long-ago Korea.

Her role is also minimal in “Tiger’s Present”/”Fox’s Dream.” Unlike most of the Milkyway stories, animals take the main stage in this one. The brightly colored artwork and whimsical style give it the feel of an Asian folktale and would definitely appeal to a younger reader. On the other hand, “Three Stories” is solidly set in the contemporary human world. Three elderly women trade memories that involve a cat (Milkyway), but though their anecdotes happen in different times and places, they all have a positive feel.

That is definitely not the case for the two longest works in the collection, “Crimson” and “The Watcher in the Shadows.” Those who enjoyed Volume 1′s “Knight of the Fallen Leaves” will probably enjoy “Crimson.” Like “Knight,” “Crimson” features a viciously dysfunctional royal family and has a color scheme that involves a lot of red and black. “The Watcher in the Shadows” has more of a Victorian Goth than a Grimm feel, but it also delves into disturbing territory with its predatory siblings. In both these stories, the humans dominate, and Milkyway’s little more than a narrator.

“Milkyway Convenience Store” makes another appearance, and Sirial also introduces “Milkyway Café.” This time around,  characters from the featured stories get thrown into the bonus mini-manhwa for comic effect. Other extras include a bonus illustration at the end of the book and footnotes explaining cultural terms.

In Summary

Milkyway Hitchhiking returns with six more “episodes.” Most these stories are longer than the Volume 1 works, and though there are lighthearted stories in the mix, they tend to have a darker feel. Milkyway continues to be the common thread binding the stories, but as in Volume 1, the stories are more about the lives she encounters so the particulars about her remain largely unknown.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Milkyway Hitchhiking Vol. #1

Most manga and manhwa have lengthy plots with human main characters. However, if you prefer a feline narrator and more of an anthology feel, you may want to check out Yen Press’ Milkyway Hitchhiking.

Back Cover Blurb

There are as many people on Earth as there are stars in the sky. Milkyway–a peculiar cat with a pattern of the Milky Way splashed across her back–travels across time and space; sometimes to observe, other times to interact with an unfolding story. From Sirial, the creator of One Fine Day, comes the full-color tale of Milkyway hitchhiking across the bright stars of people’s lives, loves, tears, and laughter.

The Review

From the title, you might guess this manhwa is a sci-fi along the lines of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It is definitely not. Milkyway refers not to the stars, but a cat whose fur looks like the nighttime sky. As for hitchhiking, that’s what she calls her ability to move from one place and era to the next. Her adventures, however, are not told in a continuous, chronological arc. Rather, the manhwa contains several short standalone stories. Their settings range from a European boarding school to an ancient Korean village to a near future city. Some tales are tragic, some romantic, and some humorous. The only common thread is that Milkyway features in each story; even so, her part varies widely. She plays the lead in the comical “I Am the King of the World,” but is more narrator than actor in the Grimm fairytale-esque “The Knight of the Fallen Leaves” while she plays more of a supporting role in “The Black Cat’s Wish.”

Milkyway doesn’t offer many particulars about herself. She wields magic and can “hitchhike” from one place/era to the next, but if there’s any particular impetus or mission behind her travels, she doesn’t divulge it. For the most part, she epitomizes the proud independence often associated with cats as she interacts with humankind. The personalities she encounters are varied and so is her treatment of them, ranging from super snobby to compassionate to perplexed.

Unlike many manhwa, this one is printed entirely in color. Palettes vary to match the tone of the stories, but all the illustrations, whether of cats, humans, or backgrounds, are gorgeous. Even when Sirial reverts to a super deformed style for the funny bits, the drawings maintain a high level of charm.

By the way, Milkyway Hitchhiking contains an eight-page segment titled “Milkyway Convenience Store” about the patrons of a convenience store. It’s placed in the center of the book but really feels like a bonus mini-manhwa. Other extras include four illustrations at the end of the book and footnotes explaining cultural terms.

In Summary

Milkyway Hitchhiking is a collection of eleven stories that don’t have a terrible lot in common. However, all of the tales have a very high cute cat factor and plenty of observations about humans from the feline perspective. The book’s full-color illustrations have a whimsical charm, and if you’re a cat lover, you may want to pick it up solely for the pictures.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #17

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Goong Volume 17 HeaderSet in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, a strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has released Volume 17 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Amid the fallout from the king’s decision to make Prince Yul the crown prince, Chae-Kyung and Shin make plans to get back together. Meanwhile Yul struggles to get to the bottom of his mother’s involvement in the accident that may have cost Chae-Kyung dearly. But when he confronts her, the Daebi reveals a shocking secret from seventeen years ago, which will set into motion events that will change their lives forever!

The Review

At the end of Volume 16, things are shaping up for Shin to go from Crown Prince to ordinary citizen. Creator Park seems to take great pleasure in putting him in a commoner environment. While Shin does complain about being a “Shinderella,” the mood is optimistic and seems to point toward a happy ending despite him losing the throne. However, things never go as planned, and this time they fall apart because of Yul’s mother.

Interestingly, it’s not her scheming that causes the upset; rather, it’s the sum of her misdeeds catching up to her. When Yul catches wind of her part in Chae-Kyung’s accident, he confronts his mother, and what follows is a candid look into the skeletons in the Daebi-Mama’s closet. She’s shown herself to be pretty ruthless throughout so it’s probably not a terrible shock to Goong fans, but I did find her remark, “Even I have a conscience,” to be unexpectedly amusing.

What follows is a major political upheaval that sends Yul out of Korea and drags Shin back to the palace. The perfect storm of Yul’s backroom bargain with the Prime Minister and the king’s downturn in health pushes the plot toward melodrama, but it also results in a healthy amount of comedy. Yul flees to Africa with–of all people–Mi-Roo. She, of course, has an agenda regarding Yul and the charity work she’s supposed to be doing, and it’s pretty funny to see how the spoiled, manipulative rich girl accomplishes her goals in a poverty-stricken village.

As for Shin and Chae-Kyung, they wind up in a situation reminiscent of when they first divorced. They are separated and trying to get on with their lives but can’t seem to forget one another. However, the main difference is this time Chae-Kyung gets a boyfriend, and he’s not a jerk like the guy in Volume 13. With a normal, upstanding fellow now romantically interested in Chae-Kyung and hordes of girls (as usual) swarming Shin at the palace, it will be interesting to see how Creator Park gets them to cross paths again.

Included as extras in this volume are Words from the Creator from the Korean Volumes 25 and 26 and the first page printed in color.

In Summary

The driver implicated in Chae-Kyung’s auto accident finally comes back to haunt Daebi-Mama. While it is satisfying to see her squirm, the ones who truly suffer for it are Shin and Chae-Kyung. The resulting political upheaval sends them on a roller coaster of emotions as they go from the verge of remarriage to torn apart by royal duty. The volume ends in familiar territory: the two separated but still pining for one another. However, Creator Park adds a new twist with Chae-Kyung’s wonderful new boyfriend. I doubt it will erupt into a full on love triangle, but it does add make for an interesting challenge to Shin and Chae-Kyung’s romance.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Aron’s Absurd Armada Vol. #3

An oft-used archetype in popular literature are pirates. Pirate stories are so numerous nowadays, you can find all sorts of buccaneers, ranging from romantic to sly to sinister, and joining the ranks of Captain Hook and One Piece’s Luffy is the idiot pirate Aron!

Yen Press has just released the final volume of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For those interested in my review of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

It’s pirates…
It’s treasure…
It’s the raccoon god…
It’s a monster…
It’s the sea king and the turtle…
It’s Bell…
It’s the Cornwalls…
It’s the king…
It’s Luther and Dorothy and Admiral Nelson and Lady Grey and so on and so on…
Anyway, Aron’s adventures are still cruising along…

The Review

Aron’s misfit gang has become fairly sizable, and although they get their hands on new outfits and a new ship, they (thankfully) don’t recruit any new crew members in Volume 3. That’s not to say there aren’t new characters. Leading them into their next adventure is the young boy Bell. Quite simply, he is everything that Aron is not. The crew instantly falls in love with Bell, and when they learn he seeks revenge upon the sea monster that killed his best friend, everyone–minus Aron–insists on sailing along to help him. Although Aron generally gets away with his stupidity, everyone gangs up on him to deliver punishment both swift and brutal whenever Bell is around.

In embarking upon this quest, they cross paths with the Navy, which has also suffered losses from the sea monster. While the pirates and Navy sailors do cooperate against their common enemy, the interaction between Aron and the main Navy characters (i.e. the Nelsons) is minimal. Scenes involving the Navy generally focus on the Navy’s perspective of the sea monster problem, and instead of revisiting Aron’s “friendship” with Luther Nelson, they focus on Luther’s one-sided crush on Dorothy and his tenuous relationship with his father.

Then Bell drops out of the story, and a talking bear in an orange jacket comes alongside Aron’s crew as they seek  the legendary knife that makes its wielder the greatest chef in the world! Aside from jabs at poor Vincent’s inedible food, this arc sheds light on the relationship between Mercedes and Wendy and provides back story on the Phantom Thieves. We don’t, however, get much information about the talking bear. Creator Kim seems to have inserted him into the story just so she can have another cute furry creature to draw.

Nevertheless, the bear does point to the crew toward their next quest: community service at a remote welfare center. The welfare center, like the sea monster, is also the target of a naval mission so we again experience the journey from pirate and Navy viewpoints. In addition, the welfare center leads into the final conflict involving the king and Aron’s mom. The Marchioness’ plot and the events that draw Aron into the midst of it are far-fetched, and while the lengthy string of coincidences does match the tone of the series, the finale fails to build a heightened climax.

Manhwa extras include character profiles (although one set seems to be in the wrong section of the book) and parting remarks and artwork from the creator.

In Summary

Aron’s Absurd Armada sails into its final volume! The crew behaves a bit more like pirates with a battle against a sea monster and two quests–although the impetuses for these adventures are rather moronic. The series wraps up with a plot against the king of Aron’s home country. It’s convoluted how Aron winds up at the palace just at the right time, but it makes as much sense as everything else in this series. At any rate, this manhwa reaches its conclusion, and though it had entertaining moments, I’m not terribly sad to see Aron go.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #16

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Set in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, a strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has just released Volume 16 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Struggling with reconciliation, Shin and Chae-Kyung are suddenly stuck in awkwardly close quarters when the king orders that the pair stay put until he can defuse the situation with Yul. But when the king, preempting Yul’s plan, confronts the public with the truth about his brother’s final wishes and allows them to decide who should be crown prince, Chae-Kyung seeks to defy the king’s command and return home to intercede with Yul. But instead of running home, she runs right into a trap…set for Shin!

The Review

Volume 16 is packed with drama, both intimate and public. Bombshells explode so quickly on each other’s heels that these chapters could have come off as ridiculously over-the-top. However, previous volumes have laid the groundwork such that the story sweeps you along rather than drowns you in melodrama.

To start, the opening chapter concludes the romantic moment begun at the close of Volume 15. Given the never-ending obstacles in the Crown Prince and Princess’ relationship, I assumed something would dispel or interrupt the mood. I was wrong. As such, Volume 16 should be a memorable one for Shin/Chae-Kyung fans. There’s a lot of skin, but the tone is more poignant than hot and heavy. Of course creator Park can never let things get too sappy, and bawdy humor returns the next morning with Eunuch Kong and Lady Han barging in to serve breakfast in bed.

Then the drama returns with a surprise announcement from the king. Yul’s been plotting all this time to wrest the throne by painting his uncle as a usurper, but the king outwits him, foiling the prince’s plot. In doing so, the king inadvertently ruins another plotter’s plans, and the trap Yul’s mother laid for Shin gets sprung by Chae-Kyung instead.

It’s not a K-drama without someone getting rushed to the hospital. While everyone (with the possible exception of Yul’s mother) is deeply affected, the two princes are the most distraught. However, Chae-Kyung’s hospitalization provides another opportunity for Shin and Chae-Kyung’s romance to deepen. Meanwhile, Yul gets hit by mind blowing guilt when he learns why Chae-Kyung left her cottage and again when he learns his mother’s part in the accident. As usual, creator Park has to lighten the heavy mood with some laughs, and her rendition of Chae-Kyung’s post-accident face is pretty funny although I could have done without Eunuch Kong’s “Lady Mama” wedding dress.

Included as extras in this volume are Words from the Creator from the Korean Volumes 23 and 24, a four-page manga about creator Park’s trip to France, and another four-page manga about Park and Yul.

In Summary

The emotional roller coaster that is Volume 16 brings Chae-Kyung and Shin closer than they’ve ever been. Yul, on the other hand, is as manipulative as his mother at times but so miserable you can’t help pitying him. He looks as if he’s blown his chances for winning Chae-Kyung’s heart, and things could possibly head toward a happy ending for Chae-Kyung and Shin. However, creator Park’s left a significant loose thread, namely the driver implicated in Chae-Kyung’s auto accident, that should fuel the drama for several more chapters.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #15

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Set in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, a strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has just released Volume 15 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

As Shin and Chae-Kyung try to pick up the pieces of their marriage in the wake of learning the truth behind their divorce, Yul is far from content to hang his head in defeat. Postponing his plans to study abroad, he positions himself near Chae-Kyung by taking classes at her school and even resorts to teaming up with the heartbroken Hyo-Rin to blackmail the former crown princess. But when Shin happens upon evidence of his cousin’s newfound treachery, will Yul’s plotting blow up in his face?!

The Review

Those who have been dying to see Yul’s mom get her just deserts will be somewhat gratified in Volume 15. Although Daewang-Daebi retains her position, she’s lost everything else, including the consideration of the King and Queen Mother. She gnashes her teeth so much it’s a miracle she has any left as she’s ousted from the royal inner circle. Of course, like any K-drama villainess, she’s not accepting her fate meekly, and she’s already laying the groundwork for a new scheme to get revenge.

Like mother, like child, and Yul is wreaking his own particular havoc upon the former royal couple. Having lost all chance at winning Chae-Kyung over, he’s out to make everyone miserable, too. Stalking Chae-Kyung isn’t enough; now he’s openly threatening her. With him resorting to extremes and terrorizing Chae-Kyung, it’s difficult to feel sympathy for him any longer. On the other hand, Shin and Chae-Kyung’s separation becomes more poignant, with Chae-Kyung suffering on Shin’s behalf and Shin throwing caution to the wind to bring her back.

In typical K-drama irony, Yul’s scheme to drive the desperate pair apart ends up pushing them together. Shin/Chae-Kyung fans will be gratified by a number of sigh-worthy moments, including one where Chae-Kyung is naked in the tub. However, though Park creates great melodrama, she’s always quick to dispel the pathos. Eunuch Kong’s appearances are fortunately kept to a minimum, but the way Park constantly shatters the romance with her particular brand of bawdy humor gets a bit old.

Included as extras in this volume are Words from the Creator from the Korean Volumes 21 and 22 and a three-page manga about creator Park meeting the Goong actors.

In Summary

Yul and his mother may have gotten caught by the royal family, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to roll over and play dead. Rather, Yul’s resolved to ruin everyone else’s happiness even if it means hurting Chae-Kyung. Ironically, his efforts result in Shin and Chae-Kyung running off together. A romantic getaway it’s not, but the amount of longing and angst should delight any Shin/Chae-Kyung fan.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #14

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Set in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, a strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has just released Volume 14 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of Volume 13, go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

When a leisurely hot-springs trip with the Queen Mother intended to bring the future royal couples closer throws Prince Shi, Hyo-Rin, Yul, and Mi-Roo together, fireworks are on the horizon. It quickly becomes painfully clear to all involved – especially Hyo-Rin – that Shin has his ex-wife, Chae-Kyung, on his mind. And when Yul and Shin find themselves alone, Shin confronts Yul, asking him to come clean about his part in Shin’s divorce from Chae-Kyung! To make matters worse, Shin isn’t the only one with sneaking suspicions about the divorce. The king is about to throw himself into the fray by taking Yul to task!

The Review

The Queen Mother takes the future royal couples with her on a hot springs trip, but her plans to spark romance between the pairs fall flat. There’s angst on Hyo-Rin’s part as she yearns for Shin’s attention, but Mi-Roo is the one who dominates the trip and, actually, the first half of the book.

Mi-Roo is hardly endearing, especially when she bickers with nasty Eunuch Kong, but she’s the type of character that makes things happen. She’s bold enough to knock Yul off a yacht, sly enough to manipulate the Queen Mother into doing as she wants, and clever enough to use the resources at her disposal (we finally find out why she wanted that pharmacist and mimic) to create an otherwise impossible opportunity for Shin and Chae-Kyung to meet. Her meddling’s rather entertaining, and when Chae-Kyung realizes what she’s up to, it’s pretty funny watching her try to wriggle out of Mi-Roo’s trap.

But once Shin and Chae-Kyung lay eyes on one another, the humor drops out, and it’s emotion and romantic tension all over again. Mi-Roo succeeds in taking Shin’s attention away from Hyo-Rin, but her meddling has an inadvertent and explosive consequence between Chae-Kyung and Yul.

The royals have been desperately pursuing the mastermind that demanded Chae-Kyung and Shin’s divorce. First the Queen, then Shin, and now the King joins the hunt (though it’s rather convenient how he just happens upon the mention of Yul in the Royal Annals). Now Yul and his mother are the ones backed into a corner. The Queen’s confrontation of the Daebi, which has been a long time coming, is quite satisfying, but the King’s visit to Yul is a complete surprise. It’s a dramatic moment, and even more dramatic is what follows between Chae-Kyung and Yul. Still, even though Yul deserves what he gets, you can’t help feeling sorry for him when he goes crying to his mom.

Despite this revelation, things can’t just go back to where they were for the victims. A royal divorce isn’t easily undone, and making public the how and why behind it would plunge the royal family into deeper scandal. However, the truth strengthens Shin’s resolve to get Chae-Kyung back. His drunken appearance at Chae-Kyung’s mansion isn’t his best moment, but Chae-Kyung/Shin fans should appreciate the passion and determination that drove him there.

Included as extras in this volume are Words from the Creator from the Korean Volumes 19 and 20 and the short story The Crown Prince’s Secret Diary, a humorous glimpse into the first days of Chae-Kyung and Shin’s marriage from Shin’s perspective.

In Summary

Mi-Roo dominates the first chapters of this volume with her outrageous yet solidly devised plan to bring Chae-Kyung and Shin back together. However, royal family drama swiftly follows on the heels of her rich-girl meddling when the King realizes that Yul was behind Chae-Kyung and Shin’s divorce. Our lead couple is still separated, but Shin/Chae-Kyung fans will be gratified with two emotional encounters between the pair and one fiery confrontation between Chae-Kyung and Yul.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #13

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Set in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, a strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has just released Volume 13 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For my Fandom Post review of Volume 11, go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

As Prince Shin and Chae-Kyung carry on separate lives away from each other in the aftermath of their divorce, the schemes and manipulation continue behind their backs! When the pair meet by chance at an orphanage, the fireworks go off just as the political factions – to say nothing of the conniving Yul – intended. Chae-Kyung’s outright rejection of Shin leads the Crown Prince to go running into the arms of his ex-girlfriend, Hyo-Rin – and propose to her a second time?!

The Review

Shin and Chae-Kyung’s divorce is official, but that doesn’t put an end to their feelings. The separation of lovers means angst, and the first half of Yen Press’ release of Volume 13 has it in spades with Shin rebelling against everyone and everything to have her back. Meanwhile Chae-Kyung’s in agony having to thwart his desperate advances. And of course there’s Yul, trying to capitalize on a situation where Chae-Kyung’s emotionally weak and Shin’s forbidden to see her. What makes it worse is that the royal family seems to think that throwing a new crown princess at Shin will help matters so Hyo-Rin and Chae-Jun get added to the mix. On one hand, the actions of the royals seem callous, the way they’re trying to replace Chae-Kyung, yet you can’t really hate them because SoHee makes clear how much they all miss her. It’s the kind of tangled emotional torment Korean dramas are famous for.

But SoHee can’t keep us wallowing in misery forever. By the middle of the volume, their post-divorce life takes on a comic flavor. Chae-Kyung is no longer crown princess, but she’s not exactly a regular person either. SoHee seems to take a kind of twisted pleasure in torturing Chae-Kyung at a group date gone horribly wrong with Shin stalking about under the pretense of a driving lesson. Mi-Roo also serves up a huge chunk of comedy. The rich brat is conniving and up to no good, but the way she twists her father into canceling plans to marry her to an Arab prince and helping in her ploy against Hyo-Rin is pretty funny. And SoHee continues in the super bizarre humor (?) that is particular to Eunuch Kong. (That character seriously disturbs me.)

Of course, things can’t end so sadly for our lead couple. Toward the end of the volume, the Queen and Shin are feverishly but separately trying to get to the bottom of the intrigue that led to their current predicament. Between that and Mi-Roo’s somewhat juvenile plan to get Hyo-Rin booted as crown princess by forcing Shin and Chae-Kyung back together, the divorced pair’s definitely got another encounter in their future, but it’s bound to be a tumultuous one.

Included as extras in this volume are Words from the Creator from the Korean Volumes 17 and 18 and the short story Confession, which delves into the past of one of our more villainous characters. Usually, this kind of back story makes me more sympathetic toward the individual in question, but this did not, although it did provide insight into the royal love triangle of a generation ago.

In Summary

Nothing like forcibly separated lovers to tug at the heartstrings. Shin earns points as a lead male for his persistence in pursuing Chae-Kyung despite everything driving them apart while Chae-Kyung is the consummate tragic heroine. Anguish abounds, yet SoHee keeps the mood from getting overly depressing with comic moments involving blood sausages, sleepless eunuchs, conniving rich girls, and the worst group date ever.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Aron’s Absurd Armada Vol. #2

An oft-used archetype in popular literature are pirates. Pirate stories are so numerous nowadays, you can find all sorts of buccaneers, ranging from romantic to sly to sinister, and now joining the ranks of Captain Hook and One Piece’s Luffy is the idiot pirate Aron!

Yen Press has just released Volume 2 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For those interested in my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

It’s treasure.
Yup, it’s totally treasure.
It’s definitely shiny and beautiful treasure.
It’s treasure that Aron and (especially) Robin and the crew(?) desire.
It’s treasure that brainless Aron and money-loving Robin and Robin-loving Ronnie and the crew(?) desire.
It’s treasure that brainless Aron and money-loving Robin and Robin-loving Ronnie and Ronnie-loving Dorothy and Dorothy-loving Luther and the crew(?) desire.

So, in conclusion, it’s treasure…!

The Review

Volume 2 picks up where Volume 1 left off, with Aron’s cross-dressing crew escaping the king’s palace, and then proceeds to go all over the place, figuratively and literally. There are no well-defined arcs in this volume, one adventure simply flows into another as characters set goals and forget them once the next distraction arises. Scatterbrained as they are, it’s easy to lose sight of the (minimal) plot. For instance, a quest to make Aron smarter leads to Robin getting amnesia that leads to a quest for an amnesia cure that leads to a witch that leads to Ronnie getting poisoned. By the time the crew invites the witch on board, you’ve forgotten Robin never got a cure and still has amnesia.

The crew also adds two more characters to its crazy cast. One is the aforementioned witch, who, despite her poisonous remedies, has a pleasant disposition and is beloved by all the crew except Ronnie. The other is Phantom Thief XX who, unlike most of the cast, is actually adept at what he does (stealing). He joins the pirate ship to escape a life of being forced to steal from the rich and give to the poor and instead ends up oppressed by Aron and his men.

As in Volume 1, most of the gags have to do with their bizarre personalities and less to do with any particular search for treasure. Kim-sensei’s dropped most of the gay/BL jokes and instead pokes fun at Vincent’s inedible food, Mercedes’ and Robin’s vanity, Anton’s and Gilbert’s blind crush on Wendy, and, above all, Aron’s epic stupidity. And in Volume 2, no one hesitates to punish Aron for his idiocy so he gets beat up over and over.

By the way, for fans of all things cute, in addition to the chibi-themed cover pages, Kim-sensei incorporates several adorable looking animals (and food!) into the manhwa. Apparently, Aron and crew have a weakness for cute things, and Kim-sensei uses that irrational love as the basis for several punchlines.

Interspersed with the adventures of Aron’s crew are a few scenes with the Navy. Most of these revolve around with Luther’s obsession with Dorothy. Even the two new additions to the Navy cast, Eddy and John, serve mainly to show how Luther loses all reason whenever Dorothy’s concerned. In a sense, Luther’s the naval equivalent of Aron, driving his subordinates insane as he does everything from veering off course to seek luck in romance to forfeiting his men’s vacation so as not to be separated from Dorothy.

In Summary

Aron’s Absurd Armada continues with the addition of a witch and master thief and a whole lot of pointless wandering. Though they do go on a search for treasure (the Golden Raccoon), most of their quests are for silly reasons, like learning whether the Sea King’s palace was built underwater or on land. There’s not a whole lot of swashbuckling, but there’s personality clashes aplenty with the world’s stupidest pirate captain and his crew.

First published at the Fandom Post.