Sometimes it's not so good to be the king - or a princess either!
Writer/Artist: Park SoHee
Translator: Hyeung Im
Adaptation: Jamie S. Rich
What They Say:
Following her very public, nationally televised wedding to Prince Shin, Chae-Kyung's life in the palace grows more complicated. The newlyweds argue about anything and everything. But when Chae-Kyung becomes terribly homesick, Shin takes her to visit her family. During their visit, the prince experiences what it's like to live as a commoner.
What We Say:
Volume two opens with the wedding ceremony of Prince Shin and Chae-Kyung. To her credit, Chae-Kyung gives the ceremony serious consideration, which is more than the groom allows it with his cunningly discrete mp3 player and barely disguised amusement.
Once the ceremony is complete and a few jokes about the wedding night are played out - don't believe the back cover blurb here, the accommodation that both Chae-Kyung and the prince must make with each other's life-styles, and the effects of the marriage on their relationships with classmates, come front and center.
Chae-Kyung has the harder task in that she has to undergo training in royal duties and deportment, and, as a royal, is effectively a prisoner. Shin, whose motives in marrying Chae-Kung are never clear, either feels very sorry for her, which is unlikely, or is bored out of his mind, which is likely, when he arranges for the newlyweds to spend a few weeks with Chae-Kyung's parents. Of course, the Korean press is quite taken with the idea that a royal would deign to live as a commoner, even if only for a few weeks, and SoHee Park gives this kind of goldfish bowl existence a plausible and very funny turn.
It is with trepidation that Chae-Kyung returns to school. Because of her new status, she fears a distance between her and her old friends now that she has married the crown prince, and her initial reception justifies her fears. But this is just a prank with most of her classmates extending congratulations, the warmest coming from Yul, that is Prince Yul, member of the royal family and the one-time Crown Prince, who because of restrictions on congregation of members of the royal family in public, shares Chae-Kyung's classrooon in the older part of the school. There is a sincerity to the hand of friendship that Yul extends to Chae-Kyung, so much so that Yul is thoughtful enough to send, via Shin, a backpack full of snacks that Chae-Kyung could be missing now that she is forced to live a sheltered life as the wife of the Crown Prince. And while Chae-Kyung intends to keep her part of the bargain with Shin and looks forward to the time that Shin will keep his promise to divorce her, one wonders what SoHee Park has in store for Chae-Kyung and the young man who was originally intended to be her affianced, Prince Yul.
SoHee Park's art is quite lovely. Her drawings of the wedding costumes are stunning with a level of detail not often seen in black and white rendering - a very distinctive and accomplished graphic sensibility. Her character designs are attractive, as is fitting for a storybook tale about royalty, but she almost exclusively assigns her characters more manic and outrageously frenzied moements to chibi renditions. In these, SoHee Park goes for the broad laugh, rather than the cute and amusing, with the sharp stylistic difference between the character types pulling one out of the moment. The result is visually jarring.
The Royal Palace Goong is more than the usual high school romance. By inventing a monarchy as a stage for her lovers, SoHee Park not only gets to reinterpret Korean culture in a modern setting for a modern audience, but shows how the cult of celebrity affects the lives of those caught up in it, whether they be royalty or the average Korean family.
Those who have seen The Palace, the live action Korean drama based on this manhwa, should find this different from the televised series. It is intentional and SoHee Park had stated as much as the end of volume one. For starters, look for a difference in the character of Hyo-Rin, Shin's girlfriend. This difference reflects not only on how Chae-Kyung is accepted, but on how one interprets the character of Prince Shin himself.