Graphic novels (manwha in Korean) are long stories told like comics. This author is known for sweet sunjung genre for girls. Today’s review is of a trilogy, The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven.
The Color of Earth is a seminal work turning manhwa in a new direction. Description of agrarian Korean life is pre-industrial in time, probably 19th century. The author uses flowers and rain as symbols throughout this story of a widow and her young daughter. In this story the child is becoming aware of differences in the world and people. Kim Dong Hwa shows true mastery of poetry, use of space, shading, and linework. It delicately touches upon gender differences, but may offer offense to some.
The Color of Water offers a growing story like a flower budding open. Gently we see the daughter’s interest in human sexuality grow as she moves toward womanhood. Three girls in the story are at different levels. The younger two envy their engaged friend until they learn the groom is nine years old. Raising him will be her life. She must care for his parents and any grandmothers. She will be expected to train all her sister-in-laws to be good wives and homemakers. Neither friend wants a life like hers.
The second book seemed more insightful using more metaphors, trees, flowers, butterflies, and streams to convey her budding sexuality. As with all teenagers, there are moments of embarrassment. Her first period, first wet dream, and first experience in self gratification are in this volume. (Sorry to offend)
The Color of Heaven does a wonderful job conveying the close bond forged between mother and daughter. There is a LOT of waiting on the return of the men. The bridal clothes are beautiful even in black and white. The drawings in this third book are more detailed and offer better contrast to the panels.
Notice: The marriage is consummated in this book. Symbolism is used in graphic books and understood by graphic book readers to substitute for more detailed drawings. In this work, readers view the young couple above the waist as you see an undressed mannequin in a store window. The author used black out where swimming trunks cover in an action scene.
Overall, this series will stand up well over time and could foster dialogue between mothers and daughters.
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Reviewed by Robyn Daniels