Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dokebi Bride - Manga Review (Volumes 1 & 2)

Rating: B

Sunbi is a girl who can see ghosts and spirits. This isn't unusual, since her grandmother and mother had the same powers. Her grandmother has used her understanding of the spirit world to be the shaman of a small town. Unfortunately, Sunbi's mother never found a good way of dealing with these strange abilities, it drove her mad and she committed suicide.

The story follows teenage Sunbi as she leaves her small town home with her grandmother to move in with her estranged father in the city. The spirit world doesn't seem content to leave her alone, and Sunbi is torn between dealing with her new school and dealing with the strange spirit-related happenings that only she can see. Fortunately, the city holds a monk and a nerdy classmate who have an understanding of spirits, and may keep Sunbi from going mad.

From the book
Dokebi: mythical Korean creature, frightening in appearance (typically having giant head horns) - humorous, mischevious, but known to reward good people

Dokebi Bride is a manwha ("comic") from Korea. The story is based in Korea and steeped in Korean culture. The first two volumes have a lot of flashbacks and glimpses into the life of Sunbi's grandmother and Sunbi's younger years in order to establish the characters. Sunbi is really strong, but it's obvious she can't deal with the spirit world on her own and we are left wondering at the end of book two what allies she will develop in her new home.

The storyline and character design are both really well done. The art is very clean and angular (a typical manwha style). The use of white space gives the entire comic a strangely soothing overtone, even though there's a lot of strange things going on. Some particularly cool and well illustrated scenes - a giant dragon (spirit of the ocean) shows up, or when Sunbi and her grandmother feed the Dokebi to help their village's fishing. I absolutely love the cover designs for them (see left).

The second volume has a lot of exposition, because the story is relating a lot of difficult ideas (like detecting spirit energy by scientific means). In this case the exposition works, but I'm hoping the third volume gets back to more character-related dialogue and action.

This book definitely has a dark feel to it, and is not as lighthearted as a lot of other manga out there, but the story is compelling and I look forward to reading more.

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