Manga of the Month: Kowloon Generic Romance

Kowloon Generic Romance by Jun Mayuzuki

While the story of Kowloon Generic Romance does take place in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Walled City, it is anything but generic.

Real estate agents Kujirai and Kudou work side-by-side day in and day out at Wong Loi Realty Co. dealing with eccentric residents and maintaining the properties around the neighborhood. There’s more than a little sexual tension brimming between the two but Kujirai isn’t quite sure what to make of Kudou or her feelings for him.

Kowloon Walled City is a character itself. Based on the real area which was demolished in 1993, Mayuzuki brings the walled city back to life in vivid detail using a nostalgic 1980s art style. An immensely crowded place filled with shops, restaurants, apartments, vice, crime, and maze-like corridors, it is a place that has inspired endless curiosity. In the KGR version, the neighborhood is also dealing with two corporations trying to exert their influence on it. The walled city is a place where the past, present, and future collide.

From the start you’ll figure out that the title is a bit tongue-in-cheek as little details about the setting are just off. And by the end of volume one the story really starts to reveal itself. Honestly, I hope I have you intrigued because I don’t want to give away too much. As soon as I finished the first book, I wanted to read it again with the new information.

Part romance, part comedy, part science-fiction, part mystery, Kowloon Generic Romance blends so many things that it becomes hard to define but it all intertwines mirroring the walled city’s mesmerizing existence.

-Kate

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Manga of the Month: Wandance

Wandance by Coffee

Stories centering dance have a long history in manga especially when it comes to ballet, but Wandance takes us out of the formal theater and into the world of student led dance troupes highlighting hip-hop, house, breaking, and other styles and fusions of street dancing.

During his high school club fair, Kabo ignores the dance club presentation as it reminds him of an embarrassing episode in middle school. Later when he sees fellow 1st year student Wanda dancing by herself on the school grounds, the joy of dancing hits him. As Kabo and Wanda become friends, they realize neither of them is always comfortable communicating verbally. But dancing is a way to communicate, too.

The student led dance club is filled with dancers of all levels, but the best of the best are aiming to compete with other schools. Kabo is a novice and sticks out due to his tall stature and being one of the few (and currently only regularly attending) guys in the group. However, through a supportive club president, Wanda’s presence and partnership, and Kabo’s own self-determination he soon leaves behind his self-consciousness and embraces his love for dance.

Kabo is an earnest and sweet person so watching him gain self-confidence is really rewarding. I quickly became invested in Kabo and Wanda’s growth as dancers and their budding romance. The ease they feel with one another and their deep connection is beautifully depicted.

Manga-ka Coffee uses a fresh, frenetic line style that gives movement, energy, and a fast pace to the dance sequences. Plus, Wandance integrates plenty of dance theory, ways of approaching dance, and instructional sections into the story in a way that feels natural and helps you see each character more clearly. All of this for someone like me with zero dance knowledge has been illuminating.

Wandance is part coming-of-age manga and part sports manga, and doing both types of stories justice!

-Kate

Manga of the Month: Snow White with the Red Hair

Snow White with the Red Hair by Sorata Akiduki

Over the last year or so, I’ve been rediscovering my passion for Snow White with the Red Hair. Some of you may recall that I absolutely loved the anime and its cast. The manga extends far beyond the anime (and that’s saying something when, as of this writing, the English release is still about 10 books behind the Japanese).

Shirayuki is a self-possessed young woman who made a life for herself as a herbalist in the kingdom of Tanbarun. When she is ordered to become the concubine of the prince, Shirayuki instead decides to leave her home for the neighboring country of Clarines. In no time at all, she is working in the castle of Clarines as a court herbalist swiftly taking on new challenges, and falling in love with a very different prince than the one she left behind.

Despite the title, Snow with the Red Hair is not really a fairy-tale retelling, and the title is only vaguely related to the series’ initial meeting between the main cast. Beyond that, Snow White with the Red Hair becomes about the intertwined lives of Shirayuki and Prince Zen as they pursue their goals, grow as people and a couple, and the people, politics, and machinations of the kingdom around them.

Prince Zen is the second prince of Clarines and ripe to start taking on real responsibilities in the vast kingdom. Zen is down-to-earth, enjoys a little mischief, and chafes at the royal title but also wants to do what is right for the people of Clarines. In the mix is a lovable cast of side characters including the unflappable swordswoman Kiki, the earnest aide Mitsuhide, the aloof messenger Obi, the enigmatic first prince Izana, and the list goes on and on.

The love story at the center of Snow White with the Red Hair is incredibly satisfying and stands up to being a long series without adding in too much overwrought drama. Firstly, Shirayuki and Zen are quick to say they have feelings for the other and want to figure out what that means for them. Second, manga-ka Sorata Akiduki is masterful at creating swoony moments and slow builds. Third, Shirayuki and Zen have major stories outside of their romance that are just as interesting. (Fourth, possibly for me only, is that I am somehow able to 100% believe in Shirayuki and Zen’s love while simultaneously rooting for Obi.)

The story of Clarines goes further and becomes more grandiose than I would have imagined. Two years have passed in the series as of vol. 16 and so much has happened. Shirayuki and Zen have experienced adventures, setbacks, balls, political manipulation, victories, loss, friendship, separation, joy, doubt, love, and so much growth in their lives. Those around them have had similar trajectories and the world just keeps opening up further.

Snow White with the Red Hair boasts strong characters, heartfelt romance, a balance of drama and humor, and a well-crafted world to set it all in. Picking up the manga a few years after the anime has made me even more of a fan of Shirayuki, Zen, Obi and the rest of the gang, and I look forward to every volume to see where the story takes them next.

-Kate