Monday, July 4, 2011

Blah blah blah: Crazy Coffee Cat Manhwa Review

One of the mildly relevant title intro panels.
So far I'm not so crazy for Crazy Coffee Cat, a Korean webtoon written by Um Jae Kyung and drawn by Choi Kyung Ah. As far as I can tell from the few scanlations now available, it's a comic of the soonjung romance, slice-of-life variety. Basically it follows protagonist Kho Yang Yra, a girl who has been given a job at a coffee company. Strangely enough, however, I'm eight strips in (which are essentially eight chapters) and I still don't know too much beyond that.

I think part of it is that I don't really understand where this thing is going yet. The exposition is weird in that it feels as though all of the events just sort of happen, without too much buildup, like there isn't any forward movement or logical progression of events. I can't help but wonder if the writing was really planned beforehand, or if it was written as ideas simply occurred to the writer. Even in slice-of-life pieces there's some sense of forward progression, however small. Regardless, I'm getting the feeling that after eight strips we're still not into the meat of the story, so I'm probably making assumptions too early.

So far in the story, Yra has described to her friends an embarrassing job interview she had with a coffee company. She went to a good school and got all right grades, but she didn't think she'd pass the initial examination to get an interview. As a result, she sort of just put whatever she felt like under the "Why do you want to work with our company?" question of the application, stating, "I am crazy for coffee!" Which, by the way, she isn't. She just wrote that because she needed something there.

My question is, if you really thought you weren't going to do well enough on your exam to even get an interview, to the point that you didn't even try to write something smart on your application, why bother turning it in at all?

Regardless, she's called out on her bluff, and gets increasingly embarrassed as she's one-upped by other applicants in the room and laughed at by the interviewers. She eventually has one of those shoujo moments where she speechifies about how she's still crazy for coffee, even if she doesn't know that much about it, and why can't she say she's crazy for coffee even if she just means the coffee from vending machines?

Blah blah blah. To me, it reads as though she's trying to save face and cover up for the fact that she flat-out lied on her application. The manhwa, of course, paints it as though it's some meaningful, "empowering" moment. Sorry, but I don't buy it at all.

Anyway, she gets the job, probably because she's "spunky" or "has heart" or some other nonsense. Or maybe she's actually the first genius to write, "I am crazy for coffee" on an application to a coffee company, who knows. Anyway, before she leaves for her physical examination for the job, she gets a mysterious text from someone she doesn't know, stating that she should go to Cat's Eye, a nearby cafe.

Tell me: If you got a random text message from an unknown sender, telling you to meet at a random cafe you've never been to, would you go? If you had any common sense, probably not.

But Yra doesn't even consider not going. She's suspicious, sure, but that's about it. She gets the text, wonders who it is for about two seconds, then TRANSITION PANEL I guess she's made up her mind, because now she's at her physical exam and now she's going to the cafe. Ugh. Since it's a shoujo/soonjung manhwa, of course nothing truly bad is going to happen to her. But it isn't just the fact that Yra is an idiot that annoys me, it's also that all of this just happens out of the blue, with no buildup to these "suspenseful" plot points or even the development of those plot point once we get there.

Basically, she goes to the cafe and more MYSTERIOUS things happen, or at least kind-of-confusing things. She meets an apparently famous barista who seems to know her already because of her reputation as being a huge coffee lover or something, and then Yra runs into a celebrity who one of her friends is a fan of, and then, and then, and then... It's just event on top of event with no clear logical progression or connection between them. As I said: Blah blah blah.'t...properly...emote..!
And in case it isn't clear, I really don't like this protagonist. She's pretty, as one of her friends points out, and "spunky" or something, but she's an idiot with no common sense or, it seems, any depth at all. And as far as I can tell, she essentially lied to get her job. My dislike toward her also has to do with the writing of her character, which doesn't bother to make her interesting or original in any way, and doesn't convince the reader that we should care about her, or even believe that there's anything special about her besides the fact that she's pretty and "spirited." Bleh.

The art is something I really disliked at first, but grew on me as I read on, to a small extent. My initial reaction was that it is extremely stiff in linework, coloring, and design. It lacks the sense of movement that I prefer in, for example, Soon Kki's Cheese in the Trap (read my review here), which feels more organic to me. Even the facial design in Crazy Coffee Cat lends itself to looking really frozen; it resembles comic renditions of dolls instead of people. I think the eyes particularly add to this effect, as they often seem glassy and lifeless. Things are almost too pretty for my taste, but I can see other readers liking it. The lines are very clean and precise, and the coloring is often detailed, so take a look if that sounds like your preference.

Hey, man's gotta know how to apply his mascara.
But back to the "prettiness" factor. It's all right in some parts, and generally tolerable, but it's way too prominent on the young men in this manhwa. In other words, the potential male love interests look like girls to me.

And let me be clear: I have a healthy appreciation for bishounen. A well-drawn one, at least. I'm not a crazy fan of girly dudes in real life (see Polecat's post on that subject), but the drawn ones are often quite attractive.

But there's a difference between a girly boy and a boy who looks like a girl. A huge, huge difference. And the young men in this manhwa often just look like girls. Honestly, they have features I would be pretty pleased to flaunt myself: Long eyelashes, pouty lips, and perfectly coiffed hair and eyebrows. For many of these young men, the only difference I can tell between them and the girls is that they have thicker necks, and maybe slightly slimmer chests. There is one guy who's just been introduced thus far who does look reasonably nice, and like, you know, a boy. So there's that one moment of reprieve.

Male trout pout: Yay or nay, ladies?
The art became less obtrusive as I read on. I think I just got used to it, so while I don't have particularly positive feelings toward it now, I rather just don't have strong feelings either way at this point.

Phew. I feel like a lot of this was one long rant, so I apologize if I'm coming off too strong. Anyway, this manhwa was not to my taste. I'm wondering if I've really just completely outgrown shoujo/soonjung manga/manhwa, or if it is genuinely as mediocre as I feel it is.

My sense is that, if you are a fan of shoujo/soonjung comics, check it out, and read at least a few strips before you make up your mind. The protagonist never grew on me, but the art wasn't so bad after I read on. It does seem to have a pretty good number of fans. However, if you have preferences like mine (I personally think Cheese in the Trap is far superior, for example), you probably won't like it.


Crazy Coffee Cat on Webtoon Live: Find scanlations here.

Crazy Coffee Cat on Mangafox

Crazy Coffee Cat on Naver: Find the original, untranslated webtoon here.

Cheese in the Trap on Mangafox: I couldn't resist including this link; I highly recommend this manhwa. Read my review if you're not convinced!


No comments:

Post a Comment