Model by Lee So-Young
Version: Tokyopop English Localization
Today I'm going a different route and will be reviewing a manhwa. For those of you who don't know what a manhwa is, let me give a little background. There are generally two types of comics on the market now, Western and Eastern. Western comics are the ones you're most likely to find in full color monthlies, like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, etc. Eastern comics are the ones that are usually referred to as "manga", after the Japanese word for comic book. Manga can be used to refer just to the Japanese comics, or to any kind of black and white, story driven, short format comic book that uses Asian themed art styles (and is usually read "backwards", that is from the right page to the left). China and Korea also have such comics, and they are called manhua and manhwa respectively. So a manhwa is specifically a comic from Korea. Manhwa have the unique distinction of being read left to right like Western comics, and are thus great for those who wish to begin reading Asian comics.
The manhwa I'm reviewing today is Model by Lee So-Young. The plot is fairly simple: a Korean art student living in Europe, named Jae, is roped into looking after a drunk guy her friend leaves at her apartment. It turns out this drunk guy is the beautiful vampire Michael, who agrees to be Jae's model for a portrait in return for some feeding time. ;)
If you've never read a manhwa before, this is a great one to start with. The main character is Korean, but the setting is in Europe and there aren't many Korean cultural references to misunderstand. The art is very detailed, and while some characters look very similar, there are cues to help tell them apart. For instance, all of Michael's speech is in fancy capital script, something which really helps in the more character heavy scenes.
Now, on to the story. This manhwa is seven volumes total, so I'd say it's average length. Each volume is roughly one chapter, so you don't get the sudden story detachment present in so many other manga. Each volume starts with a text recap of the previous, though this isn't necessary since all the volumes are released. The premise of "modeling for blood" carries through the series, though by the second volume there are additional events happening to keep the story going.
Most vampire stories fall into one of two categories: vampires are evil and must be destroyed (think Vampire Hunter D, Blade, or Dracula), or vampires aren't just evil bloodsuckers (Vampire Princess Miyu, Interview With The Vampire, etc.). Model is clearly in the second category. It's listed as Horror/Romance, and it clearly doesn't shy away from it. Jae becomes part of a bizarre love triangle between herself, Michael, and a boy at Michael's house named Ken. The early and middle volumes deal with Jae and her adjustment to live in Michael's mansion, and later volumes focus on Michael's relationship with the others in his house. The action is not evenly dispersed; It starts out strong but tapers off until about volume 5 or 6 where it picks up again. If you like romance with a side of action, pick this up. If you prefer romantic vampire stories where the action takes a front seat, I suggest Trinity Blood instead (though it is a little more bloody).
Model is rated Teen by Tokyopop, although I bet that it would be rated Older Teen if Viz had the property. I agree with Tokyopop on this one, though. The blood shown is not intense, and there are no bare breasts like there are InuYasha or Black Bird. I've seen Model tagged on the internet as having mature scenes, but I just don't see it. Maybe someone with a grudge tagged it. :/
The Model manhwa volumes are fairly cheap due to its age and Tokyopop's liquidation, so definitely pick it up. I've seen them on Amazon for .01 plus shipping. I finished one volume in a matter of hours, so you can definitely find time to check it out.
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