by Theron Martin,

12 days

12 days GN 1
Jackie lost Noah, the love of her life, first to marriage and then to a fatal accident. Distraught and unable to get Noah off her mind, she asks Nick, Noah's half-brother, to bring Noah's ashes to her. Over the next twelve days she intends to consume the ashes in smoothies, thus hoping to finally get over her former lover by the end of the ritual. As she discovers, though, memories don't fade so easily, especially for the woman she once cherished above all else but could not forgive for choosing a man over her.

Though its style is certainly manga-influenced, 12 Days would more accurately be called manwha or perhaps even OEL, as creator June Kim is a Korean transplant to New York City. Best-known for her work as a cartoonist and illustrator on album covers and for various magazines, the one-shot 12 Days represents her first full-fledged graphic novel. The narrative ability she shows here suggests that you can expect more of her graphic novels to see publication in years to come.

The premise may be creepy, but it is derived from ancient Greek history and supposedly based on a real-life story Ms. Kim was once told. At its heart it is a story about trying to find a way to cope with a devastating loss, one made all the more painful by the fact that the heroine was just getting over losing her former lover to marriage at the time that it happened. As the days and chapters progress the narrative mixes in flashbacks to assorted points in the relationship of Jackie and Noah, gradually showing how the roots of their relationship go back to their teenage years, how close they were, and the circumstances of their break-up. This isn't done in any sort of chronological order, so it takes some effort (and probable rereads) to piece the whole story together, and there are critical story points which could be missed if one isn't careful. Some of the time frame switches aren't clarified, either, which obfuscates things further.

Those are the only significant flaws in what is otherwise a very well-written story, however. Dialogue, behaviors, and relationships all feel credible enough, and the story neither dodges nor overly emphasizes that the central relationship involves lesbians. Though the gay factor does complicate certain family matters, the other circumstances present here could just as easily apply to a hetero relationship, so not dwelling too much on that aspect is as it should be. The manga influences on the writing can be seen most clearly in the oft-comical asides, which might seem incongruous in such weighty subject matter but serve well to offset the gloomy overtones.

Ms. Kim's character designs do a fine job of portraying appealing, realistically mature characters; they even, to an extent, depicts variations due to racial features without resorting to caricature. Background art is less detailed and more sporadic, and shading effects and patterns depend heavily on CG effects. The manga influence can be seen here in the occasional use of superdeformed art and similar effects, although such tricks aren't used heavily. Although word balloons do make it clear who is saying what, the way the dialogue is printed in the balloons leaves a bit to be desired. It's clear and easily-readable, but also clearly typed rather than hand-written, which can be disconcerting for those not used to it.

Tokyopop's greatest production achievement lies in its eye-catching cover design, which uses glossy black lines with red highlights, a red binding border, and matching red title and author name. It is bound in the American left-to-right format, and bound well. Its page count runs slightly longer than the typical manga but includes no extras beyond a creator bio printed on the inside of the back cover. The 16+ age rating it carries is for mature concepts, a swear word or two, one main character smoking heavily, and a strongly implied sex scene, though no actual nudity or true fan service is present. Sound effects are non-existent, so the only foreign language present anywhere in the volume is the occasional Korean song.

12 Days doesn't easily fall into any of the normal manga (or manga-like) categories. It avoids any kind of sensationalism in providing a mature piece about a difficult topic, which may limit its appeal but certainly makes it worth reading.

Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B

+ Strong writing, good premise and character designs.
Use of flashbacks is a bit confusing at times.

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