Thursday, April 06, 2006

Love as a Foreign Language, v. 3

Written by J. Torres and Illustrated by Eric Kim
Published by Oni Press

Slugline: Joel, an American teaching English in Korea, is flabbergasted and unsure how to act when invited to a welcome dinner for the attractive new secretary, Hana.

While not strictly a manga or manwha, I think this title comes close to being an OEL and it's far enough outside the world of manga readers that they need this pointed out to them.

Joel is an American living in Korea, teaching English in a school. He has had a horrible time adjusting and is in the process of wrapping up his contract when the school hires a new secretary, Hana. He is attracted to her, and even better, he sees her in a manwha-bang, a shop that rents out manwha, which means she likes comics!

Heck, I want to make the moves on her! That is, if Miranda hadn't also shared my love of the graphic storytelling form...

(So Miranda, no need to sic Ariel on me!)

The volume covers Joel's realizing that there is going to be a welcoming dinner for Hana, his various worries about the Korean rules for meals, and the teasing that his colleagues, both English and Korean natives, dish out on him. The volume captures this by leaving the Korean dialogue translated only in the endnotes, so that we share Joel's confusion as we read the book and try to determine what is being said, like him, by inference. Plus, there is a startling revelation about Hana at the end of the volume.

While the volume is a little thin and reads quickly compared to most manga collections, the price is lower to compensate. While I have seen romance stories like this before, this one is very much set in Korea and communicates the sense of place very strongly. This sense of dislocation and exploration, along with a decently told story that utilizes this unfamiliar terrain, makes Love as a Foreign Language worth checking out.

- Ferdinand

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