The Color Trilogy Reconsidered

I was hoping to participate more fully in the Manhwa Moveable Feast, but things are a bit too hectic for me right now what with having to get ready for ALA. Instead I’m going to post links to my original reviews and meander a bit.

The Color of Earth and the Color of Water

The Color of Heaven

Thinking again about this series, my overall reaction is still mixed. While it was nice for a change to read some manhwa with literary ambitions, the overly symbolic manner of storytelling and the fact that the characters mostly just spend their time talking to each other made reading the series a bit of a slog. The artwork and the aspects of Korean culture that were included in the manhwa were interesting, but the reader has to trudge through over twenty symbolic references to flowers and budding sexuality in order to arrive at a beautifully composed panel that evokes rural Korean domestic life.

I’m still glad that the Color Trilogy was published here. The treatment of manhwa by American publishers has historically been slipshod. Tokyopop in particular seemed to be bringing out so many Korean titles during the manga boom years, it was impossible to keep track of them all. I have no idea if I’ve missed some decent series I should have been reading or if most of the previous deluge was just substandard stuff picked up on the cheap back in the days when it seemed like issuing a new manga volume was an excuse to print money. With the contraction of the manga market it seems like people are being more careful. Dark Horse has a few selected manga titles and Yen Press seems to be doing fairly well with theirs. There’s no equivalent of a Viz signature line for manhwa though, and I think that’s a shame. I’m sure there are more interesting and artistic manhwa being published in Korea, but I’m not sure if we’ll ever see them. Translating the Color Trilogy seems to be a start in the right direction though, since it is aimed at a more mature audience. It would be good to see more variety in manhwa titles translated in English just as we are seeing so many quality manga currently published.