Archive for June, 2010

What is the Color of love?

June 27th, 2010

The following review — part of the special Manhwa Movable Feast discussion among the manga bloggerati this month, and by the way, thanks to Eva Volin over at Good Comics for Kids for providing complimentary copies of this month’s books — is presented in glorious Kim Dong Hwa COLOR-VISION! To anyone who reads Kim’s Color trilogy, it becomes apparent rather quickly that the guy loves using metaphors. If there’s any character in these books who doesn’t speak in metaphors, they all must be standing just outside the panel frames, because otherwise they simply don’t exist here. Compare your standard real-world conversation to one rendered in COLOR-VISION!:

Typical conversation (real world)

Duksam: “I love you.”
Ehwa: “I love you, too.”
Duksam: “But … I have to go! I’ll miss you!”
Ehwa: “I’ll … I’ll miss you, too!”

Typical conversation (Color trilogy world)

Duksam: “The jegae is full of my love for you. In fact, there’s so much that a mere jegae isn’t enough to carry it all. At night, I count out everything I love about you, but I never finish because morning arrives long before I’m done.”
Ehwa: “I, too, have a difficult time sleeping. In my mind, I draw your eyebrows, then your eyes and then your nose, and then I look up and dawn is breaking.”
Duksam: “Still, you’re better off than I am. Every flower I look at reminds me of you. So how can I go into the fields and mountains?”
Ehwa: “It feels as though you glued my shoes to the ground. I can’t seem to part with you.”

And after reading several hundred pages of this over three volumes, you can’t help but feel inspired to write in that style. Like so.


Today‚Äôs profiles: “The Color of Earth,” “The Color of Water” and “The Color of Heaven”
Author: Kim Dong Hwa
Publisher: First Second
Suggested age rating: Older teen 16+

The Eisner awards are a crown of the comics industry, the polished jewels adorning it hand-picked by appraisers who truly appreciate glittering graphic novel splendor. Those appraisers have deigned this year to consider the Color trilogy by Kim Dong Hwa, a set of South Korean gems that bursts with the brilliance of a thousand shining stars … yet focuses on a single topic.

See, in Kim’s world, everyone — from the young monk in training to the village elder, the chaste and pure of heart to those unafraid to sneak out back for a quick fling — is a babbling brook of sexuality, seemingly capable of murmuring only metaphorical musings and proverbs about such matters.

From the opening pages, where two beetles are shown entwined in their tight rope of love, this story flows in one direction, carrying one theme: Life is all about the buds that blossom between a man and a woman; all other matters are mere leaves that fall and litter the ground. And under this canopy, the flowers of women can only bloom to their fullest potential with the gentle rain provided by men.

So we have Ehwa, the girl who gradually matures into a woman by the strokes of Kim’s pen, whom we never see going to school, eating, sleeping, playing or doing mostly anything we’d expect to see normal children doing. Fallen leaves, remember? Instead, she gets most of everything she needs to know about life from her mother, a tavern owner who seems to be more Carolyn Hax than caring hostess. (Then again, when her patrons have libidos strong enough to power a small village for months on end, perhaps that’s understandable.)

Ehwa’s mom is a widow, but there’s no time for her to pine for passionate days lost; instead, a mysterious man appears in her life, a traveling salesman, and hark — the morning dew that had seemingly dried is renewed for a fresh dawn. Her insight comes in handy for Ehwa, a girl who finds love fulfilled first in the young monk Chung-Myung, then in the orchard farmer’s son Sunoo, and finally (and most permanently) with Duksam, the burly young man. Thus the stories of the young brook and the mature river flow parallel to each other, the river occasionally intersecting with the brook, with both coming away with additional pebbles of wisdom to carry forward.

Kim’s flood of gaudy prose and poetry often drowns me, a reader who would have been satisfied with a few long sips. The pill he asks me to swallow — about women needing men to feel complete — is large and bitter, and my gag reflex kicks in rather often when I try. And yet a still, small voice within me tells me not to be quick in offhandedly dismissing it. Perhaps what we’re looking at here is a rose, full of thorns from an outsider’s perspective, yet bursting with delicate beauty through the eyes of his native Korean audience. These are, after all, “little gems from my mother’s life at 16 … ochre-colored earth stories…” as Kim’s introduction notes.

I can see the beauty, and I can certainly appreciate the Color trilogy for that. At the same time, though, my enjoyment is tempered by those thorns. But would this story have resonated quite as much with me, for good or for ill, had those thorns been removed? I know for starters that this post probably wouldn’t have had nearly as many metaphors crammed into it. But more importantly, the story probably wouldn’t have had as much of the flavor of a cultural perspective unlike our own, and it wouldn’t have stirred nearly as much discussion or debate as it has.

And that would have been a real shame.

Monkey-AME, in their own words

June 17th, 2010

When I first got the idea to catch up with the ladies of Monkey-AME for today’s fifth-anniversary edition of Cel Shaded, I knew there was one person I needed to get in touch with: Rachael Ing, one of my Twitter followers and someone who’s figured several times into the recent history of local anime/manga journalism. She was one of my interview subjects in what arguably was one of the prototypes for Cel Shaded, a profile of MangaBento as part of the Star-Bulletin’s preview coverage for the first Kawaii Kon in 2005; a year later, she was also interviewed by current Daily Disher Cat Toth as part of the Advertiser’s Kawaii Kon 2006 preview.

Rachael was very receptive to the idea, and quite helpful in getting material from some of the other Monkey-AME members, to boot. By the time I started writing the column, I had four e-mails packed full of updates. I tried to pull out the highlights for today’s column, but there was just too much good stuff to leave on the cutting room floor. Presented here are those biographical blurbs, edited slightly for content and style but otherwise left uncut.


From Rachael Ing: “I’m attending the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. At first I was going to major in photography or animation, but I ended up choosing visual development (a type of illustration) in my second year. I’ll be graduating in Spring 2011 after four years. I was fearful of majoring in art before due to lack of confidence and concern about jobs after graduation. Being able to talk about these concerns with friends who are going down a similar path is invaluable.

“I have to admit, a major bonus that comes with going to school on the mainland is being able to attend several anime conventions a year. Each has a very different atmosphere, and it’s great seeing how diverse and creative con-goers can be.

“I have no long-term job goals in mind; I just get through the months project by project. Even if I end up not doing illustration as an occupation, drawing is something I will still continue to do. The list of personal projects I would like to accomplish is never-ending.

“Regarding the group: Monkey-AME’s last collaborative project was in 2007. As our members became more involved with college classes, we’ve had less time for group and personal projects. We still communicate online and have reunions in Hawaii during vacations. A few of us have begun the planning stages for our own original manga. We bounce ideas off of each other and give critique and suggestions on plot and characters. It’s a slow process, but we’re working toward something we’ve never done before, and want to create the best manga we can. If there is another collaborative release in the future, it will be under a different circle name. ‘Monkey-AME’ has collectively matured, and we’d like a new name to reflect that.”


From Leslie Ann Kam: “blu/blubloodrazberry has just recently graduated from Cornish College of the Arts and is now trying to put a portfolio together and look for work. She attended Seattle’s 2010 Sakura Con and is planning to attend AkiCon (in Bellevue, Wash.) this fall and possibly sell some art in the artist’s alley.

“For my senior project, I created my own anime episode with characters based on the western zodiac signs such as Cancer, Libra, etc. It was a big learning process and a lot of fun. I plan to have it up on my website ( for viewing soon.”


From Jaymee Masui: “After graduating from high school, I attended the University of Hawaii for about a year and a half before transferring to Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I’m majoring in illustration and am enjoying the process of developing my drawing skills. Leaving Hawaii to go away to school on the mainland was a difficult decision for me, but I don’t think I could have progressed in any other way.

“I’ve also started going to more anime conventions on a regular basis, I think I was in Artist Alley for about five conventions from October ’09 to this May? When I look back at how the AA at Kawaii Kon used to be my only convention event, it makes me nostalgic because I remember thinking that it was impossible for me to ever attend a mainland convention.

“As far as long-term goals are concerned, my focus right now is to finish school and to work on developing my personal projects. I’m very intent on making drawing and creating my professional career, and open to the many leads that can make it a reality.”


From Ashley Nose: “I’m Mayumi from Monkey Ame. I was born and grew up in Honolulu and graduated from Kalani High School. I’ve always enjoyed drawing since I was a kid, and continued to doodle through my early college days at Kapiolani Community College. Somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted to try my hand at animation (I love the medium so much … so it seemed like a good idea at the time). I’m now entering my third year at California Institute of the Arts, majoring in character animation. This summer I’ll be working on a portfolio that I can show to studios in hopes of gaining an internship or job. Eventually, I’d like to graduate from college and enter the animation industry.”


Thanks for your help, everyone! Good luck with your future endeavors.

Good housekeeping

June 9th, 2010

“Here we are.”

It was the only proclamation that the Genshiken, that “Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture” shown in that wonderful anime and manga series of the same name, needed to advertise themselves in their university club catalog. And it’s with that proclamation that tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Jandoc and I welcome you back to Otaku Ohana under the new umbrella of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Just a few programming notes for today: It seems like this blog will still be hosted at for the time being. If anything changes, we’ll be sure to let you know. And for those of you who keep up with my weekly column, Cel Shaded, please note that it’ll be running on Thursdays starting tomorrow.

And just to keep this post on topic in regards to our expanded coverage of anime and manga … umm … how ’bout that coalition of manga publishers going after scanlators, as reported first by Publishers Weekly yesterday? About time, huh?