Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa strikes me as the Oscar-bait of manhwa; it is a prestige release. You release this to win awards and gain great praise from reviewers and comic experts but never get more than a handful of mainstream sales. It is a historical, slice-of-life comic about a young Korean girl named Ehwa and her journey towards womanhood. It depicts Ehwa discovering her first feelings for a boy which parallels her widowed mother finding a new love. It is quite frank about the physical development and emotional changes of growing up. Overall, I found in enjoyable if very sedate. The characters were engaging and I was slightly amused by their constant use of metaphor during conversation. It was a stark contrast to the very base matters that are often the point of discussion. The character designs are simple but effective and have a traditional ink drawing feel to them. The backgrounds alternate between being very ornate, especially with some of the full-page spreads, to totally nonexistent during conversations. Most people are going to be captivated immediately or quickly turned off by either the slice-of-life nature or the earthy tone of the book. Still it is a good read for people who want their comics to have the weight of more award-winning prose.
Color of Earth touts itself as a unique work and I would agree. It easily pushes itself with its matter-of-factness of learning about one’s sexuality but at the same time tends toward metaphor and innuendo in people’s conversations. As we follow Ehwa she often finds herself at a loss because of the way people phrase things. It goes to show that even though she has to learn these things, it can be hard to get people to give you a straight answer. And unfortunately that is what Ehwa really needs. But like everyone else in life, you learn about things eventually and get it all straight in your head, sort of. The mother and daughter relationship is at the forefront and the most interesting development in this book. As we go along they become more like confidants rather than parent and child. This seems to happen for a number of reasons, not the least of which is they don’t have any men in the house. The art is very classic feeling. It fits the time period of the book and makes it seem more like fine art than sequential at times. I’d say this series is worth checking out just based on having never read anything else like it. I can’t say it is a story I would normally read, but it is has a charm that requires me to finish reading it.