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Growing Pains

April 13th, 2009     by Tiina Johns     Comments

The Color of Earth is the first in a trilogy of manhwa (Korean comics), by renowned creator, Kim Dong Hwa. The books are well known in Korea, but just being released in North America.

It’s a coming of age story that follows Ehwa, a cool little girl who lives with her mom in quiet, pastoral Korea. We watch Ewha from the ages of 5 to 15, as she matures physically and emotionally. She develops crushes on two boys–a young monk and wealthy student–and she gets particularly emo about the monk.

Ehwa’s mom, a widow who runs the town tavern, has a parallel storyline. She is constantly irritated by sexually inappropriate comments from her male patrons and she suffers through the rumours circulated by the townspeople about her single lady lifestyle. She does meet a hot travelling salesman who fulfills her needs, but he doesn’t want to put a ring on it.

Kim Dong Hwa uses a whole lot of metaphors, both in the characters’ dialogue and in their behaviour. Sometimes this is really adorable, like when Ehwa and the little monk have this sexy shoe scene:

But the endless talk of flowers opening themselves up to the spring rain gets a bit heavy handed at times.

I think that Kim Dong Hwa redeems this with some unflinchingly honest scenes–like one of Ehwa and a young girl friend having an exploratory sexual experience, or when she begins menstruating, or when Ehwa’s mother longs for the travelling salesman because she clearly wants to get it on with him.

I have to say, I felt a little frustrated with this book because it was so heavily marketed as “a wonderful book for women” (in Canada, anyway), and I think that women aren’t just interested in stories about love and periods. But The Color of Earth does have that sort of timeless quality, maybe like a Jane Austen novel, that can be really appealing for this kind of story.

The second book in the series, The Color of Water, will be on sale in June.

Tags: comics are for everybody

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