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Review: Goong (Vol. 01)

Manhwa-ga: Park SoHee
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: December 2006

Synopsis: “What if Korea had continued monarchism? What if all the beautiful palaces which are now only historical relics were actually filled with people?! What if the glamorous royal family still maintained the palace customs?! Welcome to a world where Korea still has the royal family living their lives! Only for one high school girl, Che-Kyung, is this a tragedy, since she has to marry the prince who apparently is a total jerk!”

If Korea hadn’t been crushed by the countries around it, if their nobility was as wealthy and influential as that of China or England, what would modern day Korea be like? Changing history and sliding it into the real world, SoHee Park tells the tale of young prince Shin, who has been forced into an arranged marriage. He doesn’t seem to mind, but his bride to be, Chae-Kyung, has a thing or two to say about it!

Chae-Kyung’s grandfather was a good friend of Shin’s Grandfather, and since Shin’s family is of noble blood, when his grandfather passed away he had left the Kyung family with a single promise. He wished that his grandson and the granddaughter of his closest friend be wed when they came of age. This is where it gets a bit complicated. We find out that the boy to which Chae was promised isn’t actually Shin, but his cousin Yul. Due to some death in the family, Yul lost his place as heir to the thrown, and without knowing it, also lost the betrothal promise made by the late King. Neither Chae nor Shin are aware of this fact and it’s my assumption it’ll come up later to create a strange situation.

Shin is an egotistical teenage brat who’s next in line to be king of Korea. Once in a while he pulls his head out of his butt and acts like a human being. But these spurts seem to be short lived and sporadic, which is sad because under that cold distant visage of his you can tell is a nice guy just waiting for someone to hug him. Well, that’s how it feels about fifty present of the time. The other fifty you find yourself hating him so much it’s hard to imagine he could be anything more then a monster.

His bride to be, Chae, is nothing short of his polar opposite. She’s not strong or outgoing and tends to take the road of a frightened, helpless girl to change her own fate . She is far more likely to do what she’s told then take a stand, which is very unlike the common manhwa heroine. This doesn’t mean she’s not prone to temper tantrums, because wow she sure is. If I were to sum her Chae’s personality in a few words it would be: typical teenage girl. Occasionally rebellious, but in the end does what she has to do because there’s really no other choice.

SoHee Park has a very manwha style: flowy and full of fashion, long legs, eyelashes and men nearly as pretty, if not prettier, then the girls. The thing which really caught me off guard was where most artists use chibis to focus attention on a particular emotion or reaction to something, SoHee has created a somewhat caricature looking style. A caricature is an exaggeration of an individual’s defects or primary facial traits drawn out on paper. Usually they create a comical, but close, likeness to the person whom they are meant to portray. Basically, what SoHee has done instead of using cute looking chibis is invent huge headed, sometimes grotesque, and usually more realistic looking little people. They’re really something you have to see to understand properly. On a completely unrelated note, artistically the only other comment I have is that Shin’s eyes creep me out. Heavy dark lashes, usually narrowed and he tends to have a stare through your soul expression. So creepy!

Volume one of Goong is a bit of an information overload. It really should have been just a little bit longer and I’m not a huge fan of having something end on a page which should be in the middle of a chapter. It does leave you wanting to get your hands on the next one quickly, but when that’s not possible, it serves mostly to annoy. The plot and layout of this series is a bit jumbled, like too many people trying to get into the same picture, but if we judge every manwha by its first volume, most of them wouldn’t make it off the shelves. Thank goodness volume two is here.

Review written November 6, 2008 by Marsha Reid.
Book purchased from independant comic store

Marsha Reid

About the Author:

Marsha Reid is a self-proclaimed manhwa nut – "It’s my not so guilty pleasure and my one true love." She has a group called Anime@ Large, which has become much like a full time job to go along with her full time job at a local theater. Marsha likes fluffy animals (even though she's allergic), manga/manhwa, anime, and make Lolita costumes in her spare time.

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