Hanami: International Love Story Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Writer/Artist:PLUS / Sung-jae Park
Translated by:Taesoon Kang and Derek Kirk Kim
Adapted by:Taesoon Kang and Derek Kirk Kim
What They Say
Joonho Suk has just moved to Seoul, South Korea, leaving his longtime crush Sae-un in Suwon. Lovesick and disoriented, he decides to take a walk around his new neighborhood. But this big city full of eccentric people " witch wannabes, the Babe Patrol Research Center, young girls who speak a strange language... and one of them can lift enormous slabs of concrete! Joonho witnesses a bicycling accident involving Hanami, a charismatic exchange student from Japan, and soon he's on the wrong side of her vengeful grandfather. If he manages to survive this first day in the urban jungle, things have got to be calmer in his new school... right?
Lovely greens and pinks are the main colors here. The precocious girl of the title, Hanami, and her cat get the cover all to themselves. The subtle touch of shiny, nearly transparent flowers scattered across the cover is a nice detail. Essential info such as publisher's name, barcode, price, et cetera are worked into the back cover well without disturbing the visual flow. A whopping total of six color pages are reproduced on normal paper (not the high quality shiny stuff), but the other color pages are the blurry black-and-white stuff you usually see. Extras include 4 bonus short comics, and a brief word from the writer and artist.
Simply put, it's like the bastard child of Ken Akamatsu and those "How to Draw Manga" books. At first glance, I think most manga readers (including myself) would assume that this is just another crappy OEL manga. Yet another reason you can't judge a book by its cover! Aside from the occasional missteps (like when Hanami's hair mysteriously loses all color for several pages), it's cute, cartoony art for a not-so-serious manga.
Because of the frequent switches between languages and references to multiple cultures, notes are abundant and often just shoved into panels. Even if it isn't pretty, notes in panels work better than notes at the end of a volume because by that time the joke is long gone. It's a comedy, after all, and timing is everything. Hanami's stilted, juvenile Korean speech is translated very well without making it confusing even for the reader. The original sound effects are still present, and the English counterparts are above the originals. No errors were noticed, aside from a peculiar "127" thrown into the wrong place on the page, right in the middle of a cultural note.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In true comedy style, important events such as moving to another city are details
never mentioned to offspring. As a result, after he finally confesses to his crush, Joonho discovers that his whole family is packing up for Seoul! It's a crushing blow to his blossoming relationship with the beautiful Sae-un. Even though he has at last his own room in Seoul, nothing can soothe his sorrow.
On a walk, he sees a little girl talking to a cat in some language he doesn't recognize. To his amazement, she lifts an incredibly heavy concrete block all by herself to rescue the kitty! He's so stunned that he can't talk, and the foreign girl thinks Joonho wants the cat, so she gives it to him and waves goodbye. Yet another little girl, talking in the same mysterious language, pops up and tries to chat, but poor Joonho has no idea what to do, so he just stands and smiles. The little girl decides that Joonho must be "special".
Later, he sees a beautiful teenage girl crash her bike, and rushes over to help her. After a trip to the hospital to get her bandaged up, they go for a walk, and he discovers why she's there: she and her sisters are from Japan, and after their Korean grandma died, they decided to come visit grandpa. Hanami's sisters are going back to Japan soon, but Hanami is here to stay! Her Korean may not be fluent, but she works hard to learn it, and even teaches some friends how to speak Japanese.
Poor Joonho. He's smitten with this beautiful exchange student, and yet he can't forget about his girlfriend back in Suwon. To make his temptation worse, he discovers they even live in the same building and go to the same school! Sae-un's weekly visits and nightly phone calls don't seem to be making it any easier for him to decide. How can he choose between two beautiful girls?
If you find yourself wishing there had been more Love Hina, or if Negima just isn't coming out fast enough for you, this is the perfect substitute. It's got strikingly similar art, girls who don't know their own strength, epic punches to wimpy men, and a male protagonist that somehow has every girl at his disposal but no ability to choose between them.
Personally, I'm not a fan of this type of story. Every incarnation of it seems less interesting than the last, but in defense of this manhwa, the exchange student/language barrier thing is fun. Sadly, it doesn't do quite enough to make the dopey love triangle any more bearable. Perhaps men will find something to enjoy in this rehashed "two beautiful girls + one guy" scenario, but there really isn't much appeal for anyone who doesn't want romantic escapism in a comic book. Even worse is the aping of Ken Akamatsu's style and plot lines, which make the whole book feel that much more uninspired and derivative. It has an inexplicably sanitary feel as well, almost as though the writer or artist wanted to go further with the pervy situations and had to hold back.
I wouldn't go as far as to say this is a romantic comedy, but if you like physical humor and the occasional dosage of panty shots, you'll find plenty to love. On the other hand, if you aren't already hooked on the genre, you won't find much to love here.
Mania Grade: C+
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Released By: Dark Horse
Orientation: Left to Right
Series: Hanami: International Love Story