This all started because my son loves graphic novels. I was at the library looking for a specific book my son wanted when I came across the series The Tarot Cafe. It had never occurred to me before to find some graphic novels related to witchcraft. I know many people laugh at the idea of a graphic novel and claim that they are just comic books. My own feeling is that anything that combines art with telling a story is pretty amazing. I decided to not to prejudge and take a look at a few graphic novels that I had found.
The Tarot Café is a manhwa by Sang-sun Park and is published by Sigongsa in Korea, and distributed by Tokyopop in the United States. There are seven books in the series. This review is of Vol. 1 only.
The art in this graphic novel is breathtaking. It involves gorgeous, androgynous characters that are very detailed. No character is alike. Some of them dress in Victorian style clothing while others in S & M clothing. The artwork is very feminine and girly. My only complaint is that the male characters are too androgynous. You won't find a man's man in this story.
The story is about a tarot card reader named Pamela who meets four different characters split up into four short stories. These include a wish-giving cat who is part human, a blind vampire, a fairy, and alchemist.
Each short story is about love and has the same plot line despite the differing characters. The character that has seeked Pamela for a tarot reading has fallen in love with someone forbidden. The story line gets repetitive and boring. What is interesting though is that three of the love struck characters are males.
The use of tarot cards in the story is brilliant. I have studied tarot reading for years and Sang-sun Park using their actual meaning in the readings. In fact, Sang-sun Park makes the tarot cards so intricate to the story that she wouldn't be able to tell it without them. Each story begins when the character comes to Pamela for a reading and it told using flash back. I never thought that you could use the method of flash back in a graphic novel but it works very well in this book.
While each story has the same plot, the details of the story are quite different. All the of the stories have the same theme of sacrificing for love and discovering something about oneself in the process. I wish I could give more details but the stories are so short that I would give away too many spoilers. The stories appear simple, but they really aren't. There is depth to them but it's really after reading the story that you realize how much was there.
Because of this, I have a new respect for the graphic novel. The writer/illustrator has to be able to tell a story using pictures with very little words. I can understand how this is easily done with action stories but to do it with a love story takes real skill.
I would like to read the rest of the series to see what other amazing and unique characters Sang-sun Park creates.
I started to read the second graphic novel that I got but it was so horrible that I couldn't make it past the first chapter, so rather than write a whole new post I'll review it here. It's called Spell Checkers Vol. 1 and is by Jamie S. Rich, Nicholas Hitori De, and Joelle Jones. The book has been accurately described as Mean Girls meets The Craft. I do have to admit that much of the dialogue is kind of funny...if you lower your maturity to 13 years old. A few examples include "Sleep with one eye open and your legs closed, you slut!" and "Love the new do. What do you call that? 'My chemically treated romance?'"
The main characters are immature, extremely vulgar, and parodies of the meanest, most popular girl in school. In the book, they start to lose their powers and can no longer do things like cast spells to get 100% on a test. Maybe losing their powers helps them get more redeeming qualities but I hated the main characters with such a passion that I couldn't stomach the rest of the book.
I decided to look at the last few pages to see how they had changed. They blow up a building and one girl cries "We are the gods of hellfire!" Then another girls says, "You're more like the god of fire crotch, Cyn." Hmm...clearly they decided to become better people. Well, there's always Vol. 2!
As for artwork, the characters are drawn using very basic manga. The art is disappointing. The whole book is disappointing. You'd think between three authors, they could have created something better than this.