“Keeping It Ghastly” is a bi weekly article on Japanese horror comics which have English print editions. Some are from famous authors, others are from unknowns and underground artist circles. Either way, it’s going to be to a terrifying/awesome ride exploring the horror manga on our bookshelves!
We will now take a break from our regular “Keeping It Ghastly” made-in-Japan-horror-comics-with-print-publications-in-english program to talk about two books from South Korea. This week it will be one the topic of Time and Again vol 1, a horror historical fiction manwha from JiUn Yun, author of Cynical Orange.
Time and Again is the story of ghost and demon exorcists-for-hire who travel South Korea during the reign of Chinese Emperor Xaunzong of the Tang Dynasty. Our protagonists consist of the arrogant and often drunk master exorcist Baek-On, his mysterious aid Ho-Yeon, and the beautiful sentient sword Shin-Wol. The pacing of the first volume of Time and Again is odd, with only 3 of the 5 chapters focusing on the adventures of our protagonists. The other 2 chapters are seemingly unrelated stories that occur in the world of Time and Again. The 3 chapters that do feature Baek-on and Ho-yeon as active members of the cast also vary wildly in length. Chapter 5, for instance, is only 5 pages long while the first chapter is 36 pages in length.
The first chapter of the volume, titled “Grudge”, introduces the characters via the story of a young woman haunting the well on the estate of her vicious mother in law. “Grudge” does a good job of introducing the vices of Ho-Yeon, the strange master-servant relationship that exists between him and Baek-On, all while the tragic history of Ho-Yeon and Baek-on begins to unfold. It unfortunately suffers from a predictable plot twist that can be seen well in advance of the story’s conclusion. Chapter 2 contains by far the best story of this volume. The motivations of the main characters are put to the test by an impossible situation. Ultimately we see that Ho-Yeon, despite being seemingly heartless, bases his actions on some of the brutal realities of his profession. It’s a great example of the difficulties the characters could encounter in later chapters. The rest of the volume doesn’t deliver on this potential, but not having read the later volumes it’s possible JiUn Yun does recapture this chapter’s magic at a later point.
The flowing art throughout Time and Again is consistently well done in terms of technique and tone sheet application. Additionally there are none of the gigantically drawn hands that tend to haunt much of manwha. The art is highly characteristic of the shojo genre, so don’t go into this expecting anything less than flawless bodies, pointed chins and long, luxurious hair. Characters do, however, have individualized physiques that denote all ages, but our two exorcists unfortunately look like clones of one another with different hair, pupils and clothes.
Time and Again is available in paperback and digital format from Yen Press, the publishers of such titles as Black Butler, Spice and Wolf, and the Sword Art Online manga adaptations. Digital copies and print copies of all 6 volumes can be purchased directly from the company website, although a more economical purchase of these books can be made via Amazon.com, or more rarely from a local used book store. I wish that I could report more on the purchase of the license for this title, but very little information is available. Even the Yen Press website does not have any press releases about this title. The company has gone through numerous owners since its founding in 2006. Currently it is operated jointly by Hachette Book Group and KADOKAWA Corporation as of April 2016. The number of manwha titles purchased seems to have slowed over the years, with a much greater focus instead on original titles, adaptations of franchises, and manga. From the evidence available about Time and Again I can only conclude that this was a title purchased to round out Yen Press’ catalogue. It’s not a bad manwha, and the first colum does have potential due to the gritty reality it is set in, but I would strongly suggest borrowing a copy of this series before investing in it for your own bookshelf.