Priceless by Young-you Lee (amazon)
For whatever reason almost every manhwa I’ve read features an absent mother. Either they’re running off to Europe (I.N.V.U), pursuing their career as a musician (Queen’s Knight), or in the case of Priceless, running away after being busted for selling illegal Chinese dietary supplements. Lang-bee lives alone in a shack after her mother abandoned her, and she supports herself by working a variety of odd jobs – she sews stuffed animals, works in a cafe, and makes extra money at school by doing chores for her classmates. When she was young, her mother read her palm and told her that she was destined for a lifetime of happiness with a young husband. Now Lang-bee just wants to marry someone rich and old, who will die quickly and leave her all his money.
Lang-bee’s normal existence is interrupeted when a random teenage boy shows up at her shack calling her “daughter”. Evidently her Mom has decided that the prophecy was meant for her, not her daughter, and she’s sent her future husband Jimmy to live with Lang-Bee. On top of everything else, now she has to play host to a father who is young enough to be her brother. Lang-bee’s also captured the attention of Dan Won, the richest boy in school. He goes everywhere accompanied by a bodyguard. Won spends his spare time writing horrible poetry.
The art in Priceless features somewhat angular character designs, and it frequently switches into super-deformed style. The storyline is ok. I have to say that I wasn’t bowled over by it, but it was diverting and the series is only three volumes so if I decide to get the later volumes it won’t take too long before the story comes to a resolution.
Ouran High School Host Club (amazon)
Haruhi attends the exclusive Ouran High School as a scholarship student, wearing a ragged haircut and a baggy old sweater. One day when looking for a quiet place to study Haruhi enters what looks like an abandoned music room only to find the Host Club, a group of boys who entertain other students (male or female) for the right price. When trying to fend off the attentions of the host club’s leader Tamaki, Haruhi breaks an expensive vase and has to work for the Host Club to pay off the debt. Although Haruhi is the newest male host – she’s actually a girl. The host club’s other members are the egocentric Tamaki, quiet and calculating Kyoya, mischevious twins Hikaru and Kaoru, perpetually cute Hunny, and the strong and silent Mori.
Although other gender switching manga tends to play up the drama/romance angle, Ouran High School Host Club focuses on comedy. Haruhi seems fundamentally uninterested in gender distinctions, she doesn’t at all mind being taken for a boy, and she remains disinterested in Tamaki’s attempts to bring out her feminine side. Her primary motivation appears to be food, but she also seems to be amused by having girls pay her attention in her guise as a boy. The over the top actions of the host club are heightened by the boys’ addiction to teardrops to look suitably emotional, the twins’ interesting take on the idea of “brotherly love”, and Tamaki’s tendency to sulk in a corner whenever Haruhi tells him that he is annoying.
I actually started watching the anime adaptation of this series first since Cathy was blogging about it so much, and in some ways I prefer the anime just because it brings out the slapstick elements of the story a little bit more. Still this is a funny manga, and a great choice for Viz’s lower priced Shojo Beat imprint.