Today, the subject is DOKEBI BRIDE.
From the cover, you may be forgiven for thinking this is a book set at some point in Korea's past; in fact, it's set in modern times (2004, when it was originally published), and the main character, Sunbi Shin, is wearing the traditional garb of a Korean shaman. That's essentially what the book is about: Korean shamanism, which is dying out across Korea (replaced by Buddhism and Christianity; I've mentioned before, but Korea is a largely Christian-identifying nation), a girl with inherited shamanic powers and both of their places in the modern world.
Sunbi comes from a line of female shamans, raised mostly by her grandmother after her mother's passing (after having died, supposedly, from demonic possession due to inexperience with her own abilities) and her father's fleeing to Seoul. Sunbi has inherited the abilities of her grandmother, who is very much respected in their rural community both as a powerful shaman and a person of great character. As a child, Sunbi revels in the ability to see and communicate with dragons, spirits and demons, but also recognizes that this not only makes her different, but that people her own age--raised either in newer religions or secularly--fear her. Because of this, she's a very withdrawn girl - but that's fine with her, as long as she has her grandmother and her dog, Sonbang. And then, not long after Sunbi has entered high-school, her grandmother suddenly passes, leaving her alone - except for her father in Seoul, who takes her in to live with him, his new wife and his step-daughter. Interspersed with this are passages about Okboon, Sunbi's grandmother's, relationships with various spirits and interactions Sunbi herself has had with them growing up (including a dokaebi/dokebi, a kind of sea-demon similar to the Celtic fomors, who wishes to make her his bride, hence the name).
That's where the first volume leaves off. Marley, the manhwaga, tells us in her foreward that this story is more or less her own memories, told in a fantasy-based fashion: she is the grand-daughter of a shaman and much of what's in the story is based on her remembrances of her grandmother and her own childhood - presumably without actually interacting with sea dragons. As such, the story feels very personal, but it also feels somewhat inaccessible. The themes of feeling like an outsider, and abandonment, should be fairly universal, but Marley tells this story in such a disconnected, dreamy fashion that I had a hard time getting into it. I was somewhat interested in the characters' situation, but the narrative was disjointed and slow-moving to the point where I lost interest.
The art, as well, was not particularly engaging. The book doesn't say where/how this was originally published in Korea, but lack of notice of a manhwa publisher, and the extreme variations in chapter lengths (anywhere from 21 to 70 pages), leads me to believe this was probably a web-comic originally - and the art is about what you'd expect to see from a talented amateur who isn't ready for professional work, but is certainly capable of telling a story on their own.
The art itself has moments where it does shine - some of the line work is very good, but not much of it. There are places where Marley obviously put more effort in than others but much of it seems rushed. Additionally, characters are occasionally off-model and the overall skill level just doesn't seem up to snuff. It's not bad, per se, but I can't honestly call it good, either.
There are five or six (depending on where you look; volume seven may be a phantom release) more volumes of this series, but I think I'll skip them. Not particularly recommended.