Tsuyoshi is a spoiled middle-school boy from a wealthy Japanese family. When his strict grandfather gets tired of Tsuyoshi’s playboy ways, he tells the boy the family’s dark secret–they’re actually Korean! Well, 400 years ago. But that’s enough of a family tie for Tsuyoshi’s grandfather to decide to ship him off to Korea to learn to be a man. Things do not go smoothly, though, when Tsuyoshi meets his new next-door neighbor: the practical, plainspoken, middle-school girl named Be-Ri. The two of them might just hate each other enough to spark off a new Japanese-Korean war!
I am a HUGE, rabid fan of JiSang Shin and Geo’s manhwa series Chocolat (also published by Yen Press), but it is unfortunately having Korean publishing issues, so I can’t get my regular Chocolat fix. Luckily, Yen has also been releasing Very! Very! Sweet, a series which has all of the elements I love about Shin and Geo’s work: funny stories, convoluted romantic entanglements, plucky heroines, and surprisingly deep moments. And since many of the deep moments in this series are related to cultural stereotypes and how they affect the way people interact with one another, Very! Very! Sweet has a welcome timeliness to it.
Westerners may not know a lot about the long history of strife between Korea and Japan, going back through many years of war and occupation, but one thing I love about reading comics from other cultures is that I get to learn things and have fun while doing it. Shin and Geo don’t shove a lot of details down readers’ throats, but they do present problems that are still present in the way people from Korea and Japan relate to one another (problems that are universal to all cultures). Tsukoshi doesn’t pick up Korean quickly, so he causes problems because he can’t understand or be understood. Be-Ri’s grandmother, however, speaks perfect Japanese because she was forced to learn it during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), so her reaction to hearing it coming from Be-Ri’s new next-door neighbors is less than neighborly. Other cultural details are scattered throughout the plot, but Yen Press helpfully offers translation notes in the back….
Very! Very! Sweet vol. 1-5
JiSang Shin and Geo
Vol. 1: ISBN: 978-0-7595-2865-9
Vol. 2: ISBN: 978-0-7595-2866-6
Vol. 3: ISBN: 978-0-7595-2867-3
Vol. 4: ISBN: 978-0-7595-3146-8
Vol. 5: ISBN: 978-0-7595-3148-2
Yen Press, 2008-2009