It's a clash of cultures and personality when a spoiled Japanese student gets sent off to Korea and meets his spunky, new Korean neighbor.
Writer/Artist:JiSang Shin / Geo
Translated by:Jackie Oh
Adapted by:Jackie Oh
What They Say
Chuyosi is a restless troublemaker whose strict grandfather has finally been given the reins to crack down on him. His grandfather sends him on a quest to find the roots of their ancestry. The family names' roots brings him to Korea where his taxi driver, an chatty energetic girl named Very, passes out on him. Despite an ugly first encounter, the two later grow close and learn to respect each other's differences.
The art used for the cover is the same as the art featured on the first two pages of the book, which also happen to be printed in color on glossy paper. While color pages are nice, I think this choice was a kind of a waste because the cover and inside pages are almost identical except for a few minor differences (Tsuyoshi is featured against a plain white background and a bit more of Be-Ri's hair and body can be seen on the inside pages). If they were going to do color pages, they could have chosen a different piece to print in color.
The illustration on the front cover features Tsuyoshi wearing traditional Japanese garb (haori and yukata) in fall colors with more modern accessories (earrings, bracelets, fingerless glove) and holding a round fan with a goldfish pattern. Behind him is a background of orange maple leaves against white. Cutting horizontally approximately a third of the way up is a light blue strip with the title logo and volume number in red and authors' credits in white. The title logo, which is decorated with hearts, uses lettering that resembles handwritten scrawl for the words“very! very!” and more standard looking type for “sweet.”
On the back cover is a close-up of Be-Ri wearing a fur trimmed garment. Her cat Gu-Nyang is in her arms, and Be-Ri looks as if she is biting the tip of the cat's right ear. The light blue horizontal strip also cuts across the back cover about a third of the way up. The story synopsis in black font is placed on the blue strip to the left while the ISBN code is placed to the right. In the bottom corner are the publisher's logo and age rating.
Yen Press has done a nice job with the packaging of this title, which is printed in the larger A5 size. The print job is clean, the paper and binding feel nice and durable, and as mentioned earlier, the opening pages are printed in color. Its extras include a couple of fun manwha pages about the authors, two pages of translation notes, and ads for other Yen Press releases.
These artists seem to enjoy big hair. Really, really big hair. Be-Ri's hairstyle in particular is so fluffy and feathered it makes her head look overly big. The features of older adults are realistically proportioned; however, teenagers are drawn with huge sparkling eyes and lashes, and the boys, especially Tsuyoshi, look somewhat androgynous. The artists tend to give the characters an angular look (pointy chins and noses and sharply drawn eyes) rendered with short and scratchy looking lines. All the teenagers seem to wear loose fitting clothes, which gives them a sloppy sort of look. Characters' bodies are realistically proportioned (i.e. no bulging muscles or balloon sized breasts), and they have enough distinct attributes that one can easily be differentiated from another. Because this is a comedy, deformed versions of characters are used frequently. These range from exaggerated expressions to complete chibified versions. The deformed characters effectively communicate the story and action, but they're not particularly cute.
The only animals that have shown up so far in this manhwa are cats, mainly Gu-Nyang. Except for two panels where Tsuyoshi's cat is introduced, they are not realistically drawn and have almost as much expression in their overly large eyes as their owners.
Backdrops, on the other hand, are excellent. Both indoor and outdoor scenes are beautifully detailed down to individual tiles, bricks, and leaves. Flowers, plants, and blossoms are meticulously drawn. Sparkly, flowery, and dark screentones accentuate characters' moods without being too overwhelming. The artists also favor overlapping panels for the manhwa layout, which sometimes make the pages feel a little crowded.
This is probably the most challenging aspect of this book. Because this is a manhwa, it obviously was originally written in Korean. However, it involves both Korean and Japanese characters, and there are scenes where both languages are simultaneously spoken. There are even a couple places where English is thrown in. This can get very confusing for readers, especially those new to manga and manhwa, and I think that Yen Press could have handled it better than they did.
Yen Press chose to keep honorifics and terms of respect and provides an explanation for them as well as several cultural references in their translation notes at the end of the manga. However, it would have much better if they had used footnotes or at least used asterisks within the text to point readers directly to the translation notes, especially considering the number of jokes that are only clear when a character’s name is defined. Currencies are kept in the original yen and won, but the reader is not provided with any idea of how those currencies translate to American dollars, which would have been handy (I've read enough manga to do the conversion from yen to dollars quickly enough but have no idea how much a won is worth).
Also, some odd reason, a few Japanese phrases (“Kono Yaro!”, “Baka!”) are not translated into English but printed in romanized Japanese. I've watched enough subtitled Japanese shows to be familiar with these phrases, but those words could easily confuse new readers, who might mistake them for proper names. At page 95, when Tsuyoshi arrives in Korea, the book notes that Japanese dialogue will be printed in a different font. Unfortunately, the font that they choose for the Japanese is only slightly different than that used for the Korean. (When the Korean font is printed in bold for emphasis, it is barely indistinguishable from the Japanese font).
As Yen Press has done with other titles, the original sound effects are maintained with translations placed beside them in small text. However, the translations they provide consist of a transliteration of the Korean text with English equivalents in parentheses. For instance, the translation provided for a sound effect in a hammering scene is "kang (bang)". It's a feature that might be handy for someone actively trying to learn the Korean language, but casual readers may find it confusing to have so many words running around. Translations of text on paper and signs are translated with notes at the panel margins.
Tsuyoshi Takuan is a spoiled Japanese teenager. Heir to the largest food manufacturing company in Nagano, he's handsome, smart, and tough. Unfortunately, he is also constantly getting into trouble for fighting, messing around with girls, and wrecking his motorcycle. He has no respect for authority, defies his doting parents, and takes his life and wealth for granted.
Be-Ri Kang, on the other hand, is a Korean teenager, living under much more modest conditions. Her father passed away when she was young, and she now lives with her mother, her older sister, and their tenant, who also happens to be her sister's boyfriend and Be-Ri's crush. Be-Ri has a quirky knack for taking other people's throwaways, refurbishing them, and selling them for a profit. But interestingly enough, though she is almost obsessed with making money, she hardly spends any.
These two very different teenagers live in two completely different worlds until one day Tsuyoshi's grandfather gets fed up with Tsuyoshi's selfish ways. He reveals to him that he is actually descended from a Korean and then abruptly sends him off to Korea to learn more about his Korean heritage! And as it turns out, Be-Ri's family is Tsuyoshi's new neighbors. By chance, they run into one another at the airport the day Tsuyoshi lands in Seoul and immediately get off on the wrong foot. Unfortunately, the two of them are going to have to learn to get along because, not only will they be classmates, they're going to be class partners!
Very! Very! Sweet is not the easiest read for American audiences, and I would not recommend it as a first title for a neophyte. As mentioned in the Text/Translation section, with all the different languages and terms involved, things can get very confusing for those unfamiliar with Japanese and/or Korean very quickly. Translation issues aside, it is a contemporary story supposedly about culture clash between characters from two Asian countries that have had long-standing conflict, and many of the characters' remarks and reactions can only be understood within the historical context of this conflict.
However, even if you can make sense of the translation and have a decent background on Korean-Japanese relations, the manhwa doesn't make for the best plot. The concept of a Korean and Japanese forced to live in close proximity and work out their differences sounds like a pretty good basis for a story, but the plot doesn't quite deliver. Tsuyoshi is very flat as a character, while Be-Ri's is overdeveloped. Before Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi even cross paths, we learn that Be-Ri has a bit of a daddy complex, a huge crush on her sister's boyfriend/the household tenant, an inferiority complex in regards to her sister, a kind of love-hate relationship with a certain boy at school, and that she dotes on her cat. In the meantime, all we learn about Tsuyoshi is that he's rich, he has an attitude, and his current ability at Korean stinks. It almost feels as if the story is predominantly about Be-Ri, and Tsuyoshi is just another male character in Be-Ri's life.
In addition, the main jokes have to do with Tsuyoshi's poor language skills in Korean and the Korean names Tsuyoshi’s grandfather gives to him and his guardian Ito, who is posing as his uncle. Strangely enough, Takuan, which is Tsuyoshi's Japanese family name, and Dan Mu-Ji, Tsuyoshi's Korean name, both mean yellow pickled radish. However, for some reason, Tsuyoshi's being named after yellow pickled radish is hilarious in Korean but not in Japanese. At any rate, I suspect all these name puns and language humor are a lot funnier in Korean than they are in English.
This manhwa is rated teen for some cursing and the fact that you have to juggle two cultures.