Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Tale of an Unknown Country volume 1

One of the biggest trends in graphic novels in the last ten years has been the growth of manga imports from Japan (and manhwa from Korea and manhua from China). These manga books are read right to left and "front" to "back" (in the Western prospective). Many of them are based on anime (Japenese cartoon shows) and are generally known by their large eyed characters. If reading right-to-left completely intimidates you, don't worry, you're not alone. Open the book up from the traditional front and most of the time you'll get a diagram explaining how it works and directing you to the other side of the book. The text is still printed left to right, but you'll read the panels and dialog bubbles right to left. It took me about 3/4ths of the first book to figure it out, but once you get it, it's fun. Promise. In fact what I struggle with most now in manga is telling the characters apart, but I'm working on it. The thing that parents should be wary of is a lot of manga contains graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, etc. Most manga publishers include an age rating on their manga to help you make a decision..

Book: A Tale of an Unknown Country by Natsuna Kawase

Vital Stats: Published in the US in 2009 by CMX*, 144 pages, black and white throughout
Marketed Toward: Ages 9 to 12
Rating: E for Everyone
The Quick and the Short of It: Recommended for preteens and up, most likely to appeal to girls.
*CMX is the manga imprint of DC comics and is going under this summer. Therefore their titles may soon be hard to get.

Book Synopsis
Rosemarie is the princess of the kingdom of Ardela, a small country that celebrates nature and is primarily tourism based. In fact her country is so poor that she (a princess) sells bread and her brother (the prince) gives tours of the castle to the public (for a fee). Her brother is trying to broker Rosemarie's marriage to Prince Reynol of the nearby science and technology based (and rich) country of Yurinela. (Why yes, I do have my copy of the book right beside me so I can look up how those words are all spelled.) Rosemarie goes in disguise a maid to Yurinela to see what Reynol is like. Though no one is fooled by her disguise, her "meddling" in his life (forcing him to sleep and eat vegetables) causes him to fall in love with her. Apparently his willingness to smile causes her to fall in love with him. (Seriously I could discern no better reason.) Reynol visits her country and after some more shenanigans, they both admit they love each other and the engagement goes on. There are two more volumes in this series that I have not yet read.

At the end of volume one is a bonus standalone story about two teenagers in a school who fall in love. The girl does the announcements and the boy falls in love with her voice. At first she is embarrassed by the crazy stalker, but then she comes to love him as well. (It's short, but trite.)

My Take
Despite occasionally being confused as to who was whom (particularly among the male characters), I enjoyed this book. It was a quick light read and exactly the sort of thing I would have loved as a 10 or 11 year-old girl. She's a princess and she is going to marry a prince, but only if she really loves him. No one's pressuring her into it, her brother turns out to have her best interests at heart. I can see 10 year-old me happily curled up on my pink rose bedspread reading this on a rainy afternoon. This series will have little to no appeal to boys. Often manga series can run into many volumes (40 or 50+ easily) and this one is happily complete in three. All in all it's a good choice for dipping your toes into the manga waters. I will be reading the next two volumes.

Possible Issues/Christian Connection
All of the characters in the book are teens. Rosemarie's marriage negotiations are handled by her (slightly older) brother and Reynol's marriage negotiations are likewise handled by his older brother. (And by handled, I mean the older brothers make the final decision and hold all the power.) Books that depict teenagers falling in forever love and getting married are always slightly worrisome to me. I feel it can send a wrong message and give too much weight to teenage infatuation. While some people marry their high school sweethearts, most teenage relations are ephemeral. Also, where are the parents? Why are there no older adults anywhere in the book? There's no explanation for their absence, they simply don't exist, only teenagers who are close enough to the readers to be relatable, but old enough to act with a degree of independence. Mostly safe for a Christian family.

Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. - Jeremiah 29:6


Anonymous said...

Thank You for the review. Other countries have different ideas on what is right and wrong and different morals. God's way is the only way no matter what country your from.

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