Everyone should start reading manhwa with “Chocolat”! I was pulled in by a sample I leafed through a number of years ago in a free magazine. I could never find it in stores, but recently saw the volumes on sale during clearance on Right Stuf. I bought it and devoured the average-sized tome the day it came in the mail!
Manhwa, if you don’t know, is the word for Korean graphic novels. I was personally confused when I first read that excerpt— “Manga that’s left-to-right?” I asked. When I purchased it recently, I checked online and found out the truth behind the mysterious genre.
“Chocolat”, by Shin Ji-Sang and Geo, is the story of a young girl who adores DDL, her favorite band. The pop idol, Jin, is their apparent front man who holds a special place in Kum-Ji’s heart. Trouble arises when she cannot get into his fan club, so she stubbornly joins the club of DDL’s rivals in an attempt to rise through the ranks for a chance to socialize with other pop stars; to meet Jin himself. But along the way, Kum-Ji finds herself inextricably wrapped up with the members of Yo-I, the band she thought was nothing but a vehicle for celebrity.
As the tale begins, Kum-Ji is taking an elevator to a Yo-I fan club meeting, when she runs into its members. E-Soh, the most boisterous of the bunch, catches on to her tricks, however, when she gets stuck naming the players. It turns out that Kum-Ji’s aunt is the band manager, and she ends up helping out a lot, with E-Soh’s blackmail hanging over her head! He discerns that it’s Jin she really wants, and drives her nuts. And soon, Barbie makes her first vicious appearance…
The characters in this series are really the driving force. Without them, the story of a K-pop group would be pretty blasé. We could just pick up a magazine or read a blog to find out what idols are like. E-Soh’s progression from little brat to lovable is astonishing—By the end I was rooting for him so much! Barbie is the jerk you love to hate; her shenanigans move from mean, to childish, to downright scary.
The themes and trials the characters face also turn darker. There are potential suicides, threats of violence, car accidents—so many car accidents! With all the extraordinary happening, the authors are still able to keep an air of reality. This is what impresses me most about “Chocolat”. Everything seemed plausible enough that I didn’t question even a few outrageous incidents. And while I felt that the third book dragged a bit, the action picked up immediately in the fourth.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I liked it. It wasn’t how I had hoped things would go, but it was a good ending all the same. It really felt like all the loose ends were sufficiently tied up, and it was nice to see that Kum-Ji was able to resolve all of her differences with her numerous friends.