Manhwa-ga: Shin JiSang and Geo
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: December 2008
Synopsis: “When E-Soh issues an ultimatum to Kum-Ji, she has to choose him on the spot or watch him walk away for good! Happy couplehood seems imminent for the two friends until former Yo-I fan club president Barbie makes her debut on the idol scene. Is this her new ploy to win E-Wan over?! And will it work against E-Soh and Kum-Ji’s budding relationship… since Kum-Ji still hasn’t quite gotten over her broken heart?”
I still have so much trouble telling these characters apart! Doesn’t help most have the same profession, close to the same character design and names that I have difficulty remembering. Fortunately I can always tell who Kum-Ji is which gives me a grounded starting point in most situations. Keep an eye on the romantic-heroine and everyone else will fall in around her eventually, right? Fortunately Chocolat usually makes it all worth the effort.
This book’s strongest moments existed with some strong interaction between the cast making for some surprisingly heartbreaking moments as all emotional cards are tossed on the table. E-Soh inparticular really puts himself out on a limb in this volume when he gives Kum-Ji an ultimatium she can’t ignore. But old feelings never really fade so the road is anything but smooth for this love-pentagon of characters. Oh, Kumi-Ji, who will you choose? Honestly even I don’t know and I always love some unpredictablility! Frankly it was nice seeing a couple come out of all the back-and-forth feelings exchanged up until this point, and though bittersweet, its still a simple plot-achievement that was long in the making.
One aspect of Chocolat that continues to amuse me is the obsessive fangirl nature Kum-ji and her friends hold for their favorite band, D.D.L. From squealing to forum-trolling, these girls do it all. Honestly these kinds of fanatics drive me batty in real life and these kind of fangirlish dramatics are things I tend to avoid whenever possible. Truth be told however, I find myself almost surprised when Kum-ji steps back from her D.D.L-love to continue living the other aspects of her life, so easy it is to assume these maniacals live for nothing but their obsessions.
In contrast to Kum-Ji’s fanatism, I found I really enjoyed some of the simplier moments of the book, especially during a bout of her mother’s sarcastic wit when basically informing Kum-Ji how useless she is and how she needs to leave her cellphone and computer days behind her. It’s hard for anyone to be unable to relate to this mother-daughter dynamic as generations collide and emotions can often flare in short but unexpectedly-heartfelt ways.
Chocolat‘s art style continues to have its up and downs. While the majority of the book, Kum-Ji in particular, are nicely drawn in an attractive, though fairly uninspired, classic Korean shoujo-style, the occassional wonky panel spoils the whole thing. Characters look fine from the front and from a distance, but get a close look at their head from any angle than forward and the sharp jaw lines make absolutely no sense and stand out more as almost lazy-neglect than a stylist choice.
As with all previous volumes before it, I always have trouble when I first pick up a book of Chocolat. I get the characters confused and I need to constantly flipback to remind myself whose who, but efforts always pay off and by the time I’ve finished, I don’t regret a moment of it. Theres nothing like the dramatics of teenage love and angst, so toss in some pop-star sensations and some chuckle-worthy humour and you’ve got a story that may be fairly unoriginal but rarely short of entertaining.