A Bustling Belgian at BICS Birmingham, UK – part 2

Posted by on October 22nd, 2010 at 1:31 AM

One of the higlights of BICS (read the first part of my report right here) was talking to Yuri Kore, a talented manga artist who is Korean and lives in the UK. She won the Manga Jiman competition (a manga contest organised by the Japanese embassy in London) in 2009 with her story The Boy Who Runs From the Sun and has self published two books  along with numerous beautiful illustrations. I’m not that knowledgeable about manga in general though I do not dismiss it as a genre. I can’t, however, place manga-ka in the larger Japanese cultural context or make smart comparisons between famous manga artists so I’m just going to run with these and see where it leads me …

Both stories in this book deal with the perception of self and finding a place to belong. Almost every person The Girl meets is either unhappy with their own person or sets out into the world to find a place where they can be themselves.

The artwork is of a certain cutie pie variety but with detailed backgrounds and realistic animals, the old manga trope of caricatural expressions in moments of extreme emotion is also used here to good effect. A rather typical but also endearing trait in manga. The Girl Who Is … excells at telling a disarming tale about an inuit girl that has tears flowing out of her eyes the whole time so people think she is always crying. Her fellow villagers shun The Girl and act downright hostile towards her, based on this single visual trait. The Girl finds it extremely difficult to break through the preconceived notions people have of her. She flees the village and runs into a flying whale who turns out to be a fellow in kinship. Together they set out to find a place in the world where they belong.

In the second tale, The Boy Who Runs From the Sun arrives at the one place where the heat of the sun can’t reach … right at the spot where The Girl Who Is Always Crying lives, the north pole. Again they both try to explore what it means to belong somewhere and how one fits in even if they feel they are different.

The whole book reads like Studio Ghibli-light which is a huge compliment. Motivations are kept simple and true and there are a lot of ideas harkening back to fantasy and magical realism. The outlook of the flying whale on how the earth and seas are divided is especially hilarious. Yuri Kore ties all these fantastic elements together in a grounded outlook on how you can belong among people and how to walk this road of acceptance.

60 pages, black and white, self published in 2010 by Yuri Kore

This is a very different tale in story and visual execution than the previous one. Although dealing with the same theme of not belonging and sporting the trademark huge eyes Yuri Kore likes to draw, storywise it takes a rather dark and gothic turn. We are thrown into a family where the father has been murdered in a burglary and where the mother blames the main character, Alison for his death. Things spiral quickly out of control leading to a horrible ending.

While the previous book was perfect for small children with an innocent outlook on life, Alison’s Room is definitely for an older audience. A teenage audience  would be perfect since the feelings of displacement and alienation or far more fixed upon than in the previous book, this is not to say that an adult can’t enjoy it too but more for the craft involved than the actual story. Yuri Kore told me that she actually prefers to make these dark little tales, it is closer to her own way of thinking than The Girl Who … Having said that, Alison’s Room is a very straight forward story. Kore inserts  tension by focusing on an imaginery monster in Alison’s closet, a stand-in for her fears and alienation and a nymphomaniac mother but in the end, the book holds itself upright by the spiralling events and the building tension she expertly handles.

Kore switches her cutie pie style for a more serious approach showcasing along the way that she is an excellent handler of zip-a-tone. While in the previous book, the panels were playfully arranged and characters often floated on the page, here she makes use of the claustrophobia of the panel border; enlarging, stretching and conforming the panels to the emotions of the players.

Heavier on the drama but lighter on story, Alison’s Room was an enjoyable read though enjoyable is maybe the wrong word for such a horrific story.

60 pages, black and white, self published in 2010 by Yuri Kore

Yuri Kore is a major talent and for self published books, the quality of printing and the design of the books are outstanding, on a professional level even. If she is interested in more sequential work, I imagine it won’t be long before she is picked up by a publisher. And just as an extra, here are some of her beautiful illustrations:

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