Saturday, January 4, 2014

Dystopia: Love at Last Sight (OEL manga) by Judith Park

Dystopia: Love at Last Sight is a mix of drama and romance, possibly with a dash of science fiction. It's published by Yen Press. I found it at a used bookstore and bought it because it was a one-shot - no worrying about needing to collect lots of volumes or not being able to find the earliest volumes.


I have a massive manga collection, and one of the things I want to do in 2014 is finally read, review, and possibly even offload a bunch of them. I tagged this as OEL (original English-language) manga, but it's probably more accurate to call it OGL (original German-language) manga. The author is described as an “international superstar who is a German mangaka by way of Korea.” I wasn't entirely sure what this meant, but I spotted one sound effect in German, with the English translation in a smaller font right next to it, so I suppose it was originally written in German.

This started off relatively okay. It managed to be both melodramatic and kind of boring at the same time. For a good chunk of the volume, there were three main characters: Dionne, Lyon, and Shikku. Lyon was Dionne's older brother, and Shikku was Dionne's best friend. When he was little, Lyon had a serious heart condition. As a result, his and Dionne's parents were super-protective of him and neglectful towards Dionne. Later in life, Lyon tried to compensate for this by being as supportive and caring towards Dionne as possible.

Shikku had a big crush on Lyon but didn't really know him that well, so Dionne sort of talked Lyon into at least considering going out with Shikku. Dionne seemed fine with the idea of the two of them being in a relationship, except she kept having dreams of Lyon abandoning her. I began to worry that this was going to turn into an incestuous love story, with Dionne realizing that she'd fallen in love with Lyon and couldn't bear the thought of him ending up with someone else.

Thank goodness the story didn't go in that direction. It did, however, go in its very own crazy new direction and, in my opinion, suffered badly for it. There's no way I can talk about any of this without spoiling the big plot twist, so, if you have any plans to read this, you might want to skip the rest of this review.

Right after Lyon and Shikku decided to start dating, Lyon was hit by a car. He died. The shocking twist came when Dionne's parents introduced her to the newest member of their family, Gabriel. Gabriel was Lyon's clone, created when Lyon was two years old in case Lyon needed a replacement heart. Dionne thought this was monstrous...mostly because she was horrified that her parents thought Lyon could be replaced.

The story doesn't deal with the ethics of growing a whole new person just so that he can provide replacement organs when needed. No one but Dionne was at all horrified by what Dionne's parents did, and even Dionne's horror seemed too limited. I had originally assumed the story was taking place in a contemporary setting, but then I started to wonder if this was some sort of near-future world where cloning people for organ harvesting wasn't unusual. Unfortunately, the story itself never gave me any answers.

Gabriel worried that others would view him as Lyon #2, a mere replacement for the person they lost. He worried that Shikku would fall in love with him simply because he looked like Lyon, and he worried that Dionne would hate him because their parents were trying to use him to fill in the hole in their lives that Lyon left. What he never once thought about was his life prior to being brought in as Lyon's replacement. Where had he spent the past 19 years? Did he miss his former life? Did he resent having been created to be Lyon's organ donor?

Basically, Park opened up an enormous can of worms and dealt with almost none of it. The ending, with Gabriel's attempt to make others see him as an individual, was interesting, but the story ended before anyone had a chance to see the new him.

As far as the artwork went, I thought this volume was okay. People occasionally looked a little awkward, but I've seen worse. I kind of enjoyed Park's love of screen-tone. Unfortunately, the last chapter or so of the volume looked dramatically different – compared to the rest of the volume, the artwork looked bare, unfinished, and a little flat. In an author's note, Park explained that she had bronchitis and that a friend helped her finish the last chapter. I think she and her publisher would have been better off postponing things until she was well enough to finish on her own.


The volume began with eight full-color pages. There were a couple author's notes, a couple Dystopia “making of” pages, and a few character profiles. The weird thing was, one of the character profiles was for a character, Raiden Crowfield, who never once appeared in the volume. I did a bit of checking online, and the best I was able to come up with was a German forum in which someone asked the same thing I was wondering: “Who is Raiden Crowfield?”

At first, I thought this was the identity Gabriel chose for himself after he decided to become his own person, but, as someone in the forum noted, Gabriel and Raiden's heights were completely different. The only theory that makes sense is that Raiden was a character Park planned to include in a future volume 2. The problem is, this volume was released as a one-shot with only the barest chance that it would ever be continued. Raiden appears to be nothing more than a loose end.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Chobits (manga) by CLAMP; Chobits (anime TV series) – If you liked the weird twist in Dystopia and wish more had been done with it, you might want to give this a try. This series has things called Persocoms, robot companions that people use instead of computers. It deals a little with some of the emotional issues surrounding Persocoms that have been built to look like deceased family members, human beings falling in love with Persocoms, etc.
  • Sand Chronicles (manga) by Hinako Ashihara – This is a 100% contemporary drama series (no off-the-wall plot twists). Like Dystopia, it deals with family relationships, friendship, and romance, but it does so in a much more complex and nuanced way.
  • Ceres: Celestial Legend (manga) by Yuu Watase; Ceres, Celestial Legend (anime TV series) - This one is maybe stretching it a bit, but it might be a good fit for those looking for something else with romance, uncaring family members, crazy twists, drama, and close siblings (in this case, yes, it gets a bit incestuous - I'm sorry). On their 16th birthday, a girl and her twin brother find out that they are descended from a tennyo (heavenly maiden) and the human man. The girl, Aya, is slated to be killed because the family is afraid that the tennyo's wrath will harm them through her.

No comments:

Post a Comment