A Bunch of Korean Vampire Manga

A Bunch of Korean Vampire MangaModel, Vol. 4 by Lee So-Young
Series: Model #4
Published: 2014 by TokyoPop
Genres: Manga
Pages: 204
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Paranormal shojo manga has quickly become one of my guilty pleasures. I blame the series Model by Lee So-Young. I picked up the first volume at an anime convention last year, and I’ve been hooked. So hooked that I binge-read the last four books in a single afternoon.

In case you don’t know anything about the series, the premise is pretty simple. A vampire named Michael invites a young artist named Jae to his home in order to paint his picture. In exchange, she has to let him indulge in some of her blood. When Jae arrives at the mansion, she quickly starts to uncover some of the secrets of its denizens, including the enigmatic housekeeper Eva, and Michael’s “son” Ken. The synopses and commentary below contain mild spoilers for previous books.

Model Vol. 4 is the most disjointed of the series. It contains several dream sequences that reveal more about the characters’ pasts. We get to go back in time and see when Eva and Ken first arrived at Michael’s house, and it provides some insight into the relationships between the different characters. We see Ken’s confusion as Eva goes from warm mother-figure to her cold housekeeper persona. In between the dream sequences, the love triangle between Michael, Jae, and Ken intensifies. Then the final dream sequence brings us to Jae’s childhood, and an encounter she had with a restless ghost. The last dream sequence has some cultural implications that don’t translate well in the English version of the story, and that could have used more explanation. And the events in the sequence aren’t connected to the rest of the plot.

While I enjoyed Model Vol. 4 enough that I immediately picked up the next one and the next one and the next one, it suffered from middle book syndrome, and didn’t feel as coherent as the other books in the series.

A Bunch of Korean Vampire MangaModel, Vol. 5 by Lee So-Young
Series: Model #5
Published: February 8th 2005 by TokyoPop
Genres: Manga
Pages: 178
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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In Model Vol. 5, Jae finally starts to admit her own feelings, both to herself and to Michael. She’s in love with a vampire, and she isn’t afraid of him, even if she should be. And there are several scenes in this volume where we get to see some of the fierce chemistry between the two of them as they end up in each other’s arms.

Meanwhile, the flashbacks continue, and this time, we get to see more of Adrian, whose story is intimately intertwined with the stories of Eva, Michael, and Ken. What is he doing in Michael’s house, and what can his true intentions be?

A Bunch of Korean Vampire MangaModel, Vol. 6 by Lee So-Young
Series: Model #6
Published: 2005 by TokyoPop
Genres: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Model Vol. 6 starts out with a blank canvas. Even though Jae loves Michael, she doesn’t know if her feelings are returned. And she still doesn’t understand Michael enough to paint a picture of him that satisfies her artistic vision. Meanwhile, Michael has decided to send Jae away. He gives her a mere two weeks to finish the painting and be gone from his life, forever. That means that she has a very short window of time to unravel the secrets that bind everyone together, and the ways that the past has come back to haunt them. Something is wrong with Ken. And Adrian is smack dab in the middle of everything.

A Bunch of Korean Vampire MangaModel, Vol. 7 by Lee So-Young
Series: Model #7
Published: 2005 by TokyoPop
Genres: Manga
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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The story concludes with Model, Vol. 7. Ken’s origin and nature are finally in the open. Ken’s very existence has been used thus far as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when mortals and immortals love one another, but this book brings in a measure of hope. Because of his father’s sacrifice, Ken is not as doomed as was once believed, and has the chance to live a normal life. He prepares to leave Michael’s house, and intends to take Jae with him. Jae intends to go, believing that if Michael does indeed return her feelings, it will doom him to an eternal life of sadness when she inevitably ages and dies. But never fear, Model is the type of lighthearted and fluffy story that ends happily ever after.

Now that I’ve finished the series, some thoughts that jump across all of the volumes…

I enjoyed the bishonen art style tremendously. It’s an aesthetic that works for me. The angular and almost androgynous look that the Michael and Adrian have is beautiful. That said, there were many places in the story where it was a bit ambiguous which characters were involved in a scene. When many of the characters have long flowing hair and clothing, it can be hard to tell who is who. Michael at least had his own font that he used when he spoke, but there were some parts that I had to reread to clarify who was speaking. And some of that is probably the art style, but some is also probably me still getting used to reading manga rather than novels.

Model is the type of series that reminds me of a paranormal soap opera. Every character interaction is filled with drama, and every named character has their fair share of secrets and intrigue. It’s easy to read, and easy to binge. Kind of like the literary version of potato chips. By the time I finished the series, I was invested in the characters, and it mattered to me whether Jae and Michael would end up together or whether she would take the path of least resistance and end up with a mortal (or mortal-ish person) instead.

Overall, I’m glad that I decided to take a chance on this series. It’s not “serious” reading, but it was oddly satisfying.

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