Thursday, December 15, 2011

Manhaw Review: The Story of Life on the Golden Fields Series

Since this is a bit of an obscure title, I had to look it up to see if this triology even had a series title, I'm talking about the manhaw books The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven. I first came across The Color of Earth three years ago at the library where I worked and thought it was okay when I read it and didn't read the other two book simply because the library didn't have them. Actually, looking at the publishing dates, the third book wouldn't have been published at this time (this was July 2009) and the second book would have been too recent to be in the library system, I was under the impression all three were already published however since the covers for all of them were on the back of The Color of Earth. Regardless, a few months back I was glancing through a post your manga shelves column and noticed these three books and remembered that I had seen the first and the third at the local library near my school. I checked out the first book and decided that if I could find the second one I would review all three and lo and behold they did have it, it was just apparently checked out every time I had gone by before. I was a bit worried that I wouldn't like the series at all since I hadn't been crazy about it before but thankfully that wasn't the case and I found myself enjoying being back home with the comfy chairs and reading for hours.

The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, The Color of Heaven by Dong Hwa Kim

Summary: Set in an earlier time, these three books chronical the life of Ewa, a girl growing up in rural Korea as she discovers love. From her first love to marriage the story shows her high points and low points and, just as importantly, shows her close relationship with her mother and her mother's journey as a widow in love with a traveling salesman.

The Good: It's unusal, but not unheard of, for a parent to have a major role in a story that focuses on their child but I've never seen a story that gives a parent such a prominate role. Ewa's mother is pratically the co-protagonist and the two of them have a very good relationship, again something unusal but something I liked, especially since my mother and I have always been close and this is the most similar representation of our relationship that I've ever found in a work of fiction. I also really liked her mother's romantic relationship as well, it was never protrayed as wrong that an older widow could fall in love again, maybe I'm jaded but I'm so used to seeing stories that say "only your first love can be your true one!" that this was extremly refreshing.  While Ewa might seem a bit mature for her age she seems realisitically mature, she never did anything that made me stop and think that a young girl wouldn't act that way.

The Bad: While I could understand Ewa's crushes (by that I mean, understand why she had them) I could never figure out why her final love came to frutation. It was clear that the two characters loved each other but I just couldn't see how their meet cute first encounter drew them to each other. There were also a few subplots dealing with side characters that either got dropped or had such a subtle resolution that I missed it which did bother me a little bit. Finally, I'm not exactly a prude but I'm also not a fan of pages and pages of sexy-times and I swear that every metaphor for sex in all three volumes was used during Ewa's wedding night, I really would have liked that section to have been a bit shorter.

The Art: The art was on the simpler side, which worked nicely with the setting, but when you really looked at a page you would see that many scenes were just crammed with details. It was a nice change of pace from the kind of art I normally see and was consistently lovely. I do wish there had been a way to print some of the colored pages that appeared in the front of each volume, I liked how the cover images were colored so I'm curious how the actual pages were colored.

When I read through a foreword in one of the books I discovered that this is considered "sunjung manhaw" in Korea which is their equivalent of shojo manga and I thought "well THAT explains why I'm loving this!" It doesn't sound like the author (a guy which really surprised me, while it's not unheard of for people to write well-written books staring the opposite sex it always surprises me, especially one that deals with a mother-daughter relatsionship at it's heart so well like this one does) has many other works, or at least many other works localized in English but I'd be interested to see what else he's done or even if there are any other translated manhaw gems like this hiding out there that I haven't seen yet.

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