Manhwa-ga: JiUn Yun
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2010
Synopsis: “On occasion, life offers an unexpected blessing: a natural talent, a promising opportunity, or even a spot of good luck. But human nature will not be satisifed by simply enjoying the fruits of fate. When greed takes over and man exploits the gifts he has been given, seeking more power, more wealth, more than his share, it can only end in tragedy… a truth Ho-Yeon knows all too well.”
Time and Again is a series I would classify as having one of my favourite story formulas – supernaturally-inclined individuals interacting with episodic characters in varying stories that test human morale and and judgement. This manhwa tends to favour its lead characters more and the secondary short-term characters less, but it’s still offered up its share of just-deserts and suspenseful problem solving when spirits are involved. This fourth volume starts off with another tale of Baek-On and Ho-Yeon doing their work as exorcists to save a dying man but the lessons relearned at the expected expense of their clients carries the remainder of the book into the origins of Ho-Yeon.
Poor Ho-Yeon… he’s such a likable character, very kind and devoted. Thus it’s all the more depressing to read about his back story which is full of his hard-work and sacrifice ultimately leading to his own sadness. The story begins with him already in his adulthood, now left to care for his ailing Mother and his disabled sister. He works as a transcriptionist for a General to earn the money he needs but his employer knows of how skilled a warrior Ho-Yeon is and the money he could make fighting at the frontlines. Convincing Ho-Yeon to join him by hiring a hand for his family and the promise of money to pay for their living, Master Son – who to his credit does genuinely care for Ho-Yeon – takes the young man away to war. Though Ho-Yeon’s intentions are noble, alas it doesn’t mean they are rewarded.
The story ends with Ho-Yeon being saved from a welcoming death by Baek-On and it briefly chronicles their first time working together that lead to their partnership and Ho-Yeon being chosen by a spirit inhabiting a sword. Suffice to say the story up until that point is very sad, both effectively told and sufficiently heart-breaking. Again I say, poor Ho-Yeon. The final chapter of the book returns to present day with a new character and some interesting, albeit confusing, flashbacks.
JiUn Yun’s artwork is very immediately recognizable as manhwa with a style similar to most of that which has been released of Korean comics in English. In comparison though I favour the little differences here such as a tendency to have smaller eyes and less clutter in panels. The hair and clothing designs set the era well and I love the little ornate details used when called for such as a set of sprawled scrolls or decorative wall hangings. The pretty-boy factor doesn’t hurt either though some designs feel a little lazy, slapping some facial hair and a few wrinkles on a stock-design face instead of playing around with different facial structures.
The manhwa that Yen Press puts out is always an extra treat with the larger than average trim sizes. Originally I’d thought this was something they were only utilizing to keep consistent the series they carried over after the acquisition of ICE Kunion titles, but even their newer series, such as Time and Again, are still sticking with the same release style. An added bonus is the full-colour illustration included at the book’s beginning which in this volume offers up a gorgeous image of Ho-Yeon.
This fourth volume read a little too quickly for my liking, feeling considerably shorter with only two distinct stories within it. However learning about Ho-Yeon was as satisfying as it was sad and now even more than before I look forward to seeing more interactions and jobs shared between him and Baek-On in future volumes.