Cafe Occult Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Writer/Artist:Oh Rhe Bar Ghun / Ahn No-Uhn
Translated by:Je-Wa Jeong
What They Say
Suh Rin, an ordinary young high-school girl, meets with an unfortunate end when, as she is coming home, is hit by an on coming truck. Next thing she knows, she's being abducted by a stranger... Overwhelmed by the fact that she had just been killed, Suh Rin has difficulty grasping the fact that she has entered a new existence in a realm of spirits. More importantly, she has yet to realize that a tremendous supernatural power lies within her... a power great enough to make her the target of tremendously powerful people within the spirit realm.
However, thanks to a man named Young and the mysterious owner of a cafe called the Cafe Occult, Suh Rin is rescued from servitude. She now joins Young on action packed thrills in which she fulfill special requests from clients in a lawless world controlled only by power.
The cover art is the same as the original Korean release, featuring Young holding his black cross-shaped gun. The black English logo is across the top and the creator names are along the bottom. The back cover features Suh Rin in all her cuteness. Wrapping around the entire book is the cross-shaped gun in the background. It’s a nice looking cover and definitely advertises the product appropriately.
The paper quality is not the best, as it is very thin, but the print job is pretty good. Inside there is a 2-page volume header as well as chapter headers which don’t feature any text but have nice illustrations. At the end of the book is a 2-page extra from the writer that talks about how he works with the artist and then presents a character summary.
No-Uhn’s artwork is extremely clean and uses a lot of varying dark tones to create a rich looking manwha. The story has a horror feel and the dark artwork really heightens the mood. There isn’t much white space and the backgrounds feature clean line work and great shading. The action scenes are very busy but No-Uhn maintains control and keeps them very crisp.
The character designs aren’t the most original, but they look great. The girls have a borderline ecchi feel with their suggestive clothing, but this isn’t a fanservice title. The eyes are big, hair long and full of volume, nicely detail outfits, and overall the girls are pretty cute. The male designs are much more rugged, with the exception of Young. He has more of a dark, pretty boy look that fits his moody personality.
The original SFX are left untouched and the English translation is place near the original text. I like this technique, but in this title the English SFX try to mimic the size and font of the original, effectively doubling the amount of artwork that needs to be covered up. Also the English SFX sometimes don’t even appear near the original text, making the panel feel somewhat cluttered at times.
The dialogue is pretty dry and serious, but that definitely fits the tone of the story. It reads very easily and there was one grammar error that I found. Overall a solid translation job for the dialogue.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Café Occult is a place where the spirit and human planes can coexist, and it’s also where Young, a hired gun of sorts, gets his jobs from spirit clients. One of his jobs is to rescue Suh Rin, a young high school girl who just tragically died in a traffic accident. After making it back to the café, Suh Rin finds out that there are people who are after her spirit and it is up to Young and Master, the café owner, to keep her safe.
Café Occult is a title that features a lot of different other genres and styles that are worked into the story very well. There’s a certain dark fantasy feel with the spirits who can shape-change from drawing upon the power of the ‘Anima’. The panel work and dark tones give off a horror feel. The existential plot and action give off a minor sci-fi vibe. The cute girl assassins are good for a laugh, even if they aren’t supposed to be intentional funny. Mainly, this is an action title as many thugs try to capture Suh Rin and Young fights them off with his big cross-shaped gun.
The story can feel a bit campy at times, but there are some interesting characters and aspects to this spirit world. The little assassin girl, Suh Ra, is quite a tragic character. Her mother tried a double suicide, only Suh Ra lived while her mother died. Now her mother’s spirits inhabits her and when awakened turns her into a cunning assassin. I also like how the Café Occult is a headquarters for people to hire Young for mercenary type work. A coffee shop in the spirit world filled with mercenaries, how cool! There’s competing gangs, mysterious evil bosses, monsters, guns, fights, bare legs and pigtails . . a lot to like here. It may feel somewhat cheesy at times, but I took it in stride and it added to my overall enjoyment.
Café Occult presents a lot promise with its introductory volume. The mixture of many genres into this existential storyline isn’t the most unique, but it is an entertaining read and had me turning the pages quite feverishly. There’s more questions than answers in this first volume, but I genuinely care to find out the answers.
The characters are somewhat shallow, although I found it pretty easy connect with Suh Rin. I thought the way she handled the news of this spirit world and her death was a little brisk, but maybe that is a testament of her bravery. While the character designs are extremely cute, I don’t think they fit within the context of the story and I found myself inadvertently chuckling.
An interesting title and one that I would never have thought of picking up, and is my first title by Infinity Studios. Overall I am pretty pleased and I look forward to seeing where this story goes and how Infinity Studios will handle its production.
Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Infinity Studios LLC
Orientation: Left to Right