Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Lights Out!" manga review

NOTE: When LA Alternative folded, this manga (or manwha, the Korean term) review never got run--so I may as well post it here.

MANGA by Lyn Jensen

Teenage Kicks in Korea

Korean manga (sometimes called by the Korean word manwha) is becoming an ever- more-visible part of the international graphic-novel market. Myung-Jin Lee is one of the most successful Korean comic artists of the past two decades, and TokyoPop is in the process of making what looks like his entire catalog available in English.
Between 2002 and 2004, TokyoPop published ten volumes of Ragnarok, Lee’s sword-and-sorcery series based on Viking mythology. As one of the top-selling Korean comics of all time, it had already inspired a Japanese anime series (a first for a Korean title) and an on-line videogame. (Check iro.ragnarokonline.com for a download.) TokyoPop hints of more Ragnarok manga to come with, “He continues to work on it to this day.”
However, Lee’s American fans needn’t wait any longer for something different. TokyoPop recently published vol. 4 of his debut nine-volume series under the title Lights Out. (The original title has been variously translated as It’s Going to be a Wonderful Night or An Evening Something Wonderful May Happen.) Lee tells readers, “After ten years we’re putting it in the spotlight again… Just as it was …Kind of embarrassing, but I hope you enjoy it.”
Lee’s art in Lights Out has more of an urban street-cred look than his elaborate fantasies for Ragnarok, befitting an entirely different story of at-risk youth getting teenage kicks while trying to escape Korean gang life. The plot appeals to both racing and martial-arts fans, as the lead character takes up motorcycle racing but finds he can’t leave his street rep behind. Volumes 2 and 3 are “full of hot, steamy, hardcore, uh, motorcycle racing,” as one racetrack groupie says. Vol. 4 reverts to martial-arts clichés, the kind where one high-school kid can take out dozens of seasoned hard-core street thugs—yeah, right, whatever. Vol. 5, due in October, is built around a school track competition as the characters continue feuding and romancing.
That’s not all the Lee-related manga that TokyoPop has to offer. The publisher is also introducing American fans to the two-volume fantasy-comedy, Laya, the Witch of Red Pooh. About a present-day witch and an anthropomorphic cat, it’s the creation of Lee’s studio, Dive to Dream Sea. Obviously it’s for a different audience than either of the other two series. All three, however, are rated 13-plus.