Manhwa-ga: Ryu Ryang
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: February 2010
Synopsis: “Ji-Hae remains at Ja-Yun’s side as he recovers from the riding accident. She can hardly believe he would risk his life just to save her, but when the flower in her chest flushes with color, it seems to confirm her hopes—Ja-Yun likes her?! Unfortunately, the blooming flower’s scent has aroused the interest of some of the other Nang-Do, and she must tread carefully or risk exposure. Outside the walls of Nang-Meun, dissenters have begun to plot against the queen. With her father and Bub-Min spearheading the investigation, it’s only a matter of time before Ji-Hae is drawn into the political turmoil…”
The character of Ji-Hae is becoming a consistently more tolerable character come this third volume of Sarasah. She hasn’t reached a point of being actually all that likeable yet but she’s already come a long way from the selfish obsessive-stalker that volume one had her so eloquently painted as. Political intrigue and a healthy dose of budding character drama goes a long way in distracting both her and readers from the shallow plot that originally fuelled this out-of-time manhwa series.
Ji-Hae’s continuing dual life as a politician’s daughter and amnesiac young man training to be a warrior are both pretty interesting paths to follow. However, she transitions between both roles so effortlessly that it’s just that – effortless, distractingly so. For something so integral to keep hidden, she seems to be put next to no effort in hiding it and it then becomes really hard to believe that anyone else falls for it. Fortunately then for believability’s sake, not everyone does. Lucky for her that she’s in a manhwa where the guys are as pretty as she is, if not more so, otherwise she wouldn’t be able to so simply blend in as a young man.
Mid-way through the book the magic of Ji-Hae’s situation rears itself for a brief moment when the rose tattoo upon her chest finally begins to blossom. A side effect of this, aside from mild plot progression, was also a flowery odour that drew men to her. Coupled with the lines about blooming and falling in love as a woman, Ji-Hae’s situation is starting to read a lot like a metaphor for puberty.
While Ji-Hae’s goal to make Ja-Yun fall in love with her pops in just enough to remind readers’ where this all started, there’re also other relationships begin to form amidst the circumstances. Along with Bub-Min’s potential feelings for Ji-Hae, her guise as a young man brings into question ‘his’ relationship with Ja-Yun. Ji-Hae’s cute face and nice smell also makes some of the Nan-Dong warriors question their interests for a moment as well.
Also part of the insinuations is the creepy and enigmatic Misa-Heul who continues to bring a much-needed element of uncertainty to the series with his position of power and eerie disposition. By this third volume’s end he makes an irrefutable request of Ji-Hae’s that promises intriguing consequences for volume four.
Woven amidst everything is also a political ploy to see the assassination of the queen. While not yet directly impacting Ji-Hae, the turmoil sees both her Father and Bub-Min’s involvement in the investigation, which guarantees Ji-Hae sticking her nose in soon enough.
Volume three of Sarasah continues on the second volume’s trend of well appreciated new content and plot elements that help raise the series up from its superficial beginnings. Ji-Hae still has a way to go to regain readers’ support but it’s fair to say she’s on her way. The series still needs a bit more kick but a building cast of interesting characters and a potentially deadly political mess brewing in the background looks promising.