Thursday, June 22, 2006

Last Fantasy, v. 1

Written by Creative Won with Art by Yong-wan Kwon
Published in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: Two brothers try their best to be real in a fantasy world which conspires against them.

Last Fantasy is a clever little take on fantasy stories and gaming, with the characters showing all the traits of classic Monty Haulers, grabbing anything of even marginal value to be sold at the nearest town that has disreputable merchants. Tian (the magical one) and Drei (the brawny one) seek their fame and fortune, mostly fortune, yet never really make the big time. Meanwhile, a dangerous presence lurks the background, planning something not nice.

Sometimes it is hard to create real characters in a parody/humor title, since they are used for such broad purposes that you don't really need to create that much detail in them, and too much detail actually makes it hard to believe that they would act in such broad ways. But this title does play around with some of the fantasy tropes in an interesting way, and the only reason it doesn't rate higher is because I think they are setting up some conflicts, and I am not sure how those later conflicts will play out.

It is interesting that this manwha was written collaboratively, according to the end comments, in a deliberate attempt to rectify a perceived weakness in the overall writing of manga/manwha. Which to a certain extent I can understand, for there has been an interesting argument in US comics (see Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics) that the disciplines of art and writing have been moving apart, and when you try to reintegrate them together, there is bound to be problems. People tend to focus on the art, since that is what you can tell immediately whether or not it is any good, while "anyone can write." Of course, writing well is another thing.

What, did you expect a writer, even one of reviews, not to stress the importance of writing?

We may be biased, thinking that most manga is well written, but let's face it, the bad stuff never gets translated, so we are seeing the top ten percent of manga and thus may be missing the hordes of beautiful but horribly incomprehensible stories. (You can find the comic-book versions of those in any comic book store, though.)

And, oh yeah, after all that, I do think they have put together a pretty strong story. So at least that problem has been solved with them at least.

- Ferdinand

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