Featured Columns

March 29, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Sarasah 1-3

More articles by »
Written by: Kristin
Tags: , , , ,

Title: Sarasah
Author: Ryu Ryang
Publisher: Yen Press
Volume: 1-3, of an ongoing series. Each volume is priced at $10.99, averages about 160-180 pages, includes (quite necessary) translation and historical notes in the back, and a lovely color insert in the front (though I wish they were more varied).
Vintage: 2007 by Seoul Publishers in Korea, first volume in July 2009 by Yen Press
Genre: Mostly romance, a little comedy, historical setting, political intrigue (hooray!)

First things first: Sarasah is a Korean manhwa. That means that unlike Japanese manga, you read this book left to right, like you would an American book.  If you’re a fan of Japanese manga, you’ll probably enjoy Korean manhwa as well.

High school student Ji-Hae is in love with one of the most popular guys in school. For years she has thrown her feelings at him, with no result. Well, actually, her incessant attentions cause Seung-Hyu to hate her even more. And he does hate her; he rejects her every time, is visibly embarrassed and annoyed by her actions, and wants absolutely nothing to do with her. But Ji-Hae keeps pressing forward, trying to find a way to make him like her. She orchestrates a birthday surprise for him at school, which is the last straw. Seung-Hyu has an outburst in front of the student body, and declares that he’s going to change schools just to get away from her. Ji-Hae chases after him, insisting she’ll change schools instead, and he ducks out of the way, causing her to fall down the stairwell. When she wakes up, Ji-Hae finds herself lost in a garden, and is told that she must be dead by the garden’s supervisor, Hanrak-Goongee. Lady Gameunjang, the goddess who controls the flow of human life, appears to help, and they learn that it’s not Ji-Hae’s time; she’s free to go back to her world. But Ji-Hae doesn’t want to return to a world where the boy she loves treats her like an animal. Lady Gameunjang is moved by her plight, and offers to send her back in time to discover and fix what has caused, by karmic basically, Seung-Hyu to hate her so much. Hanrak-Goongee plants a flower in her chest, which will bloom as she is loved; once it’s fully bloomed, she’ll return back to her time. Lady Gameunjang sends a tiny, arrogant holy beast to aid her (though he hasn’t done much but cause trouble so far). Ji-Hae is then sent to the kingdom of Shilla somewhere in the mid to late 7th century, where she must track down the era’s version of Seung-Hyu and get him to love her.

In the first volume, Ji-Hae goes back in time, where she finds herself the daughter of a prominent politician, with the name Lady Ari. She accidentally runs into Bub-Min-Rang, who is the future king and unifier of the three kingdoms, and is quite appalled by her unladylike mannerisms. She manages to find the era’s version of Seung-Hyu, an elite soldier named Ja-Yun, and creates a series of lies and false situations to work her way into his life. (Great start there, eh?) Including disguising herself as a boy and pretending that she has lost all her memories.

Uh oh, I smell a love triangle brewing! And it's only the second volume!

In the second book, the politics of the era start making their way to the front of the story. This is the reason to read the series. Bub-Min-Rang, who has discovered Ji-Hae’s secret (that is, that she’s been running around pretending to be a boy, not that she’s from the future), offers to help her get closer to Ja-Yun under the pretense (well, he actually does this too) of teaching her all the things she has “forgotten” (mostly things like history and the current political climate). While investigating opposing political factions, Bub-Min learns that Ja-Yun is a soldier loyal to Misa-Heul-Rang (who’s related to someone in the opposing faction); Ja-Yun also notices that Bub-Min is paying close attention to Ji-Hae. The ambitious Ja-Yun begins to devise ways to use Ji-Hae to get to Bub-Min.

The third book introduces a new problem – Ji-Hae’s flower is beginning to bloom (for reasons obvious to the reader, but not so obvious to Ji-Hae), and it’s giving off a very strong and pleasant scent. But that’s the least of her troubles. The Queen has been poisoned, and her father finds himself involved in the investigation, along with Bub-Min. As stubborn as she is, Ji-Hae isn’t about to be left out of the loop, and she starts working on her own plan to help out.

I really don’t like Ji-Hae; I’ll just get that out of the way. She’s ill-mannered, obnoxious, manipulative, obsessive…. I’m so bothered by her pursuit of a guy who hates her guts, that I’ve decided there must be some wacky reason why he’s rejecting her so forcefully, either from the past or present, but that he might actually like her somehow. Who knows. It was enough to make me really consider bothering with the series after the first volume. Now that I’m three volumes in, I’m rather glad I stuck with it. There’s all sorts of political goings on in the story, which I love. It’s really picking up, and it’s far more fascinating than Ji-Hae’s plight (which is truthfully only non-fascinating because I don’t like the character much). At this point, to me, it’s more like – These guys are really interesting, and this political plot is really interesting, I just have to put up with this annoying girl along with it. And I’m OK with that. The only disadvantage to reading it as a political story is that the average (American) reader isn’t likely to be familiar with the specifics of ancient Korean history. This can make things a little confusing early on, as can the use of Korean titles and honorifics. Yen Press’s translation notes in the back of each book cover most of what’s important, but they still leave out a thing or two, so you may want to do your own research as well.

The art in this series is rather nice. Everybody is beautiful. Well, Ji-Hae kind of looks like a mutt most of the time, but you don’t read these sorts of stories to look at the girl. It’s drawn so that girls can swoon over the hot guys. These guys are almost too beautiful to be actually attractive. Almost.

Yen Press has put together some good looking books here, but there are some editing problems that can cause a lot of confusion. Since we’re dealing with a gender-bender story here, it’s extremely important to make sure all pronouns referring to the character are correctly translated and printed. Having not seen the original text of course, I can’t comment on these issues as a problem in the original, or a mistake by Yen Press, but it’s troublesome; and once it happens (and it happens in the first volume), it’s difficult to trust references of that nature through the rest of the series. Otherwise, it seems solid – they keep the honorifics and translate the sound effects, which is always appreciated.

There is one serious complaint I have with the series, and this may be a slight spoiler, so you’ve been warned. There’s a moment in volume 3 where Ja-Yun quite suddenly and for no apparent reason knows Ji-Hae’s true identity (as Lady Ari). So not only did he somehow figure out she was a girl, but he figured out who she was as well. There’s nothing in the story that explains how he learned this at all. Unless I totally missed it. The errors in the text that I mentioned above don’t help at all in finding the moment he realized this. I’m completely clueless; it’s as if a chapter is missing from the story. It seems most likely that it’s a fault with the story, but I can’t rule out a translation issue. Nor can I rule out that it will be cleared up in a future volume.

Regarding the give-away copy of Reversible vol. 1: I’m holding off on giving it away until I talk to my contact at Digital Manga. Please be patient, although the contest is now closed. You will be contacted soon! Regarding the answer to the question: DMP recently announced a major new series acquisition by yaoi mangaka Ayano Yamane. What is the title of this series? The title of the series is…the Finder Series! The first volume will come out in summer 2010 on their Juné imprint. Though it was previously licensed, DMP will be giving the title a new translation. You can check out the press release at DMP’s website.




  1. Billy

    Sounds like this has some of everyday life plus a fantasy aspect. I like it when writers mix it up like that. 🙂

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: Bento Bako Weekly: Sarasah 1-3!! https://comicattack.net/2010/03/bbwsarasah1_3/ #comics #manga #anime […]

  3. “…but you don’t read these sorts of stories to look at the girl. It’s drawn so that girls can swoon over the hot guys.” BLASPHEMY!! lol

    Very good write up Kris!

  4. Kristin

    Everyday life plus fantasy? Hmmm…. The only really fantastical parts are the little holy beast (who is barely in the story, really), the one time she visits the gods, and the flower that blooms on her chest. It’s grounded in history, though obviously modified and romanticized history. It’s mainly historical romance, with a touch of magical fantasy.
    When you say “everyday life,” I think “slice of life,” which this is not.

  5. […] (Slightly Biased Manga) Danielle Leigh on Ristorante Paradiso (Comics Should Be Good) Kristin on vols. 1-3 of Sarasah (Comic Attack) Erica Friedman on vol. 6 of Sasamekikoto (Okazu) Diana Dang on vols. 1 and 2 of St. […]

  6. […] Comic Attack, Kristin Bomba reviews volumes 1-3 of Sarasah. Both Lori Henderson and Andre take a look at volume one of Raiders, at Comics Village and […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Website Protected by Spam Master