Manga-ka: Yeon-Joo Kim
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: October 2007
Synopsis: “A young girl is kidnapped by her father’s political enemies… a bride-to-be embarks on a journey to her new home, but her escort has other plans… and a tough boy falls for the orphan girl he’s supposed to protect… In these moving, poetic stories, people are often not what they seem, while love comes from where you least expect it.”
Nabi the Prototype is a collection of six short stories, most of which are all directly connected to each other. The thing that maintains this as a collection of short stories over a continuous story with a couple shorter ones tacked on is that though directly connected, the bulk of the stories are not presented in chronological order. Upon first reading, this may seem a little odd to readers but it’s a unique way of keeping readers interested, if not at least a little confused at first.
The first two stories are the shortest and stand on their own. There isn’t a lot of time in those few pages for much development but Yeon-Joo Kim still manages to embed a lot of heart into these characters, enough to leave readers reflective at the end.
The next part of the book follows a small cast of characters with a back and forth, between childhood and adolescence, approach from different character perspectives as a method of telling the story. While there are some facts in the story that are revealed over the span of the chapters, it’s the personalities and motivations that are really the focus of the collection. The characters are interesting and thought out and the mix-matched way in which they’re presented works well with the whimsical tone this book already has. Unfortunately the story reaches a point where its proved itself intriguing but then leaves readers hanging with the confinement of it being short, inconclusive stories. With short stories like these it’s usually up to the artist to find a fine balance between being entertaining enough to make a satisfying read but not go so far as to leave readers feeling unfilled in the end. Nabi the Prototype just barely misses the mark with this one.
The artwork is really pretty and delicate. It has a very classic Asian feel to it and all the characters are designed dainty and beautiful. The thin lines and style do well to compliment the story, feeling very light and airy, never bogging down the story with too much or too little detail. Some characters appear very similar and may make some readers do a double take, but if readers pay attention to names, everything is kept pretty clear and more often than not it turns out to either actually be the same character or someone whose similarities to a previous character are purposely noted.
Tokyopop did an okay job here with Nabi. The translation is easy to follow and with no glaring errors in spelling or grammar. A minor flaw in some cases would be the placement of the text which seems severely out of centre with the text bubble or, as with a couple of places, is cut off by the binding of the book.
At the back of the book, Yeon-Joo Kim points out that some of the stories in here are mere side stories to other works of hers that hadn’t yet been released. Maybe that’s partially to blame for the unfinished feeling this book has. Nabi the Prototype may not feel like it has enough as a whole to really stand out as something spectacular or worth revisiting but, overall, this book is recommended for its lovely artwork and moving stories that carry a lot of soul in them.