By Leroy Douresseaux
Sep 14, 2007 - 22:33
She’s destined to be a sorceress, but she just wants to be a normal high school girl. That’s the scenario creator Eun-Jin Seo presents in Fantamir, Vol. 1, her fantasy manhwa (Korean comics) title brought to the U.S. by TOKYOPOP.
Lady Mir doesn’t want to be Lady Mir; she just wants to be Mir, especially after a mysterious incident has robbed her of the powers that would have made her a sorceress. Escaping to Shindansoo Academy, Mir tries to fit in at her new school and hopefully reach her goal of attaining 100 friends in high school. However, she runs into the school’s regimented class system, which is ruled over by four elite girls known as the Wonhwa.
When Mir catches the attention of Be-Hyung-Rang, a boy belonging to the elite male clique, the Hwarang, she earns the ire of the head Wonhwa, Ba-Ri. Since Ba-Ri is digging on Be-Hyung-Rang, she decides the best way to make sure that Mir won’t come between her and the object of her desire is to challenge Mir to a duel. The entire school turns against Mir, especially after Be-Hyung-Rang decides to help her prepare for the duel. If that weren’t enough, Hae-Rang, a rakish juvenile delinquent, keeps popping into Mir’s life, making it more complicated.
THE LOWDOWN: Fantamir has elements of fantasy and mystery, but the meat of the concept in high school drama – with a particular focus on fitting in and navigating the awful straits of high school politics. Eun-Jin Seo’s art, with its emphasis on Victorian men’s and women’s fashion with a chaser of Goth-Loli, is certainly good looking and has a pretty, floral, illustrative quality, but it doesn’t take away the sting of this narrative’s focus on familial and peer intrigue.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: This is, of course, shojo manga (comics for teen girls), but the male gender can also appreciate when an author does betrayal, rivalry, and conspiracy well. And Eun-Jin Seo does it well, while giving us fantasy with a backstabbing edge.