MangaMania: Bride of the Water God/Butterflies, Flowers

>> Tuesday, March 8, 2011

First, something I never ever do, I'm going to do. That's right, a contest! And it's a retroactive contest. See, during my manga mania, I picked up several books that I either already had or turned out didn't work out for me, including several first in a series: Otomen, Kimi ni todoke, Ratsetsu, Bride of the Water God, and Vampire Knight. I also have volume 20 (don't ask me why) of Fruits Basket over and above the whole set and volume 1 of Night of the Beasts, which I let my manga-obsessed toddler play with so I can't vouch for the condition. I figured I'd make a drawing of all those who took the effort to make a comment throughout the whole manga mania series (including those to come) and draw names out of the hat for each commenter. Then they get to pick which book they want (first come, first serve) and I'll send it to them. Five books, five winners (6-7 winners if anyone wants to take a chance on the state of Night of the Beasts or wants Vol 20 of FB). I'll include anyone who's already commented, though you can bow out if you'd like. Most are in good enough condition for regifting if you want to do that. If no one's interested, hey, I'll donate them to the local library.

Bride of the Water God

Bride of the Water God is technically a manwha from Korea, written by Yun Mi-kyung. It's also unique in all these series I describe in that it reads front to back and left to right like a "normal" comic.

Anime? No Volumes of manga: 11 (7 Eng) Status: Ongoing

My rating: Has a certain appeal

Age range/taboos: Some limited sexual innuendo and violence, though more the description of violence than actual. Again, I don't see teenagers coming to grief reading this, though I'm not sure how much it would appeal to them either (though my daughter likes it).

Premise: Based on myths about the water god Habaek, it largely follows the intrigue of the gods' realm with everyone wanting to control Habaek who is hung up, first on his memories of his lost human bride (Nakbin) and then on his new human bride Soah (sacrificed by the village to end a drought). Soah is who we follow. Soah is confused since Habaek is cursed to be a child during during the day and a man by night since the man (who "isn't" Habaek) romances her.

What works: Of all the manga-ish books I have, this is the series where artwork was the biggest driver. It's beautiful, detailed, powerful, filled with decorative intricacies and convoluted costumes. I'm not lying when I say it's stunning and the colored cover art is gorgeous, too.

I also like mythology and like learning more about it, so it's somewhat interesting to me from that point. I have some fondness for Mui, even if I don't understand his motivations frequently, I understand those moments when he is trying to be protective, even if it comes across more like callous given that his interest in Soah makes her attractive as a pawn in the gods' power struggle.

What I didn't like: It's frustrating to me that Soah doesn't get most of what's going on. She seems to have a very limited understanding. Pretty, clearly attached to Habaek (in both forms) and jealous of the many Nakbin spinoffs that show up, but still largely clueless and easily used. She's not particularly strong.

Also the story is confusing, partially because of the large pantheon of characters I, personally, have a hard time keeping up with (especially the Emporer and his tendency for disguise), partially because many characters have multiple names, and partially because I find the story itself hard to follow. My lack of understanding of the actual myths behind the story probably don't help much. It also seems to drag on a bit so pacing's slow, possibly because the artist behind this takes up so many pages with dramatic art. So it's not all bad.

Butterflies, Flowers

Talk about a contrast to Bride of the Water God, Butterflies, Flowers is a mature-rated manga written by Yuki Yoshihara, with adults in a "office" setting and a great deal of melodrama.

Anime? No Volumes of manga: 8 (6 Eng) Status: Complete

My rating: Has a certain appeal

Age range/taboos: It's rated mature which might be a misnomer, not because I recommend it for teenagers (I don't) but because it's not exactly designed to appeal to the mature. Adults only, but it's more fraternity-type maturity. There are few sexual taboos that aren't crossed here, with plenty of innuendo, nudity and sex, some measure of violence. Cross-dressing is included.

Premise: Working girl whose wealthy family has fallen on hard times find she's working for a man who was once her special servant growing up. His adoration of her as a child becomes something more adult but not without confounding them both. He's also very very weird.

What works: I'm struggling a bit with this one. The characters, for once, are not the draw. I don't really like either one, though I like Suwo a bit. In fact, a number of side characters are a good bit of fun. Perhaps I like the fact that nothing is sacred, that a good bit of this is making fun of the manga excesses only a good bit more crudely than OHSHC did. Domoto, our male lead, is one of the most melodramatic characters ever, possibly schizophrenic. He is both calm and cool and hot-tempered, a sexual harasser of the highest order and abjectly correct in preserving his girlfriend's virtue, emotionally emotive to the nth degree (he cries frequently). The action and plotlines are consistently absurd.

And that, boys and girls, might be why I've read this raunchy silly thing more than once, why it still makes me laugh. You can't take the damn thing too seriously and it's so stupid it's funny. True, that can backfire and I know a number of things that peg out my stupid meter so that my laughter reflex is squashed. Apparently this just wiggles under that for me. When we go off on "otaku" tangents (otaku means fans of manga/anime/video games) where our characters can drive a mechanized suit a la gundam, it's ridiculous. And, I guess, that it's charm.

What I didn't like: Well, it's stupid. The characters aren't particularly likeable or do anything that makes a lick of sense. The artwork is not good, in my opinion, nor our main players good looking.

Some of the sexual harassment, sexual aggression, etc. is off-putting. I find that's true of most sophomoric romps like this, though. One could argue a serious level of misogyny here, but I don't think that's entirely accurate. The girl is often in charge of the situation and still, largely, calls the shots. And Domoto swings from workplace aggressor to happy housewife.


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