Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Chiro - The Star Project
Eunyo Song is the apple of her family's eye – a child model for the family children's clothes company, she's grown up to be a gorgeous, spoiled sixteen-year-old...with a major crush on the class president, the decidedly dorky Changkyung Woo. Unfortunately for her, she's caught the eye of Inan, a popular teen idol who is drawn in by her pretty face and intrigued by her much-less-sweet personality. Inan isn't the kind of guy who takes no for an answer...and Eunyo isn't inclined to say yes to someone she doesn't like. Whatever happened to a pretty girl's life being perfect?
You never can quite tell what series cut off in their prime will get a license rescue. Some make perfect sense, while others feel a little more random. Netcomics' reissue of Hyekyung Baek's Chiro: The Star Project, which was previously published in English by Udon, is at this point in the latter category. It's a decent shoujo (well, the manhwa equivalent) that plays a bit with the established tropes of the genre while throwing in some surprises in terms of character, most with the heroine Eunyo. But it isn't immediately striking as an excellent example of either shoujo or manhwa, making it's reprint a bit of a mystery.
The story focuses on third-year middle school student Eunyo Song. She's stunningly gorgeous, a fact she's very well aware of, although she pretty much takes it as a matter of course. Naturally she gets extra attention and special treatment – she's beautiful. That's what happens. While she can come off as snobby and over-confident, it quickly becomes apparent that she's not mean or hard-hearted; it's just that she's always been told that her looks make her special, so she assumes that to be universally true. Her behavior drives her best friend, Hyunju, a little batty, but she seems to understand that it's just how Eunyo was raised and continues to be treated by her three adoring older brothers. (Mom and Dad are suspiciously absent from the picture.) And besides, she can always tease Eunyo about her major crush on Changkyung, the class president, who is so far below Eunyo in terms of looks and coolness that it's really incongruous. One day, in an effort to get Hyunju to lay off the teasing, Eunyo suggests that they go to an open audition at a famous studio, where at the very least Hyunju might be able to score some celebrity pictures for her blog. That's where the two of them run into Inan, the hot, popular teen idol...who promptly breaks Hyunju's camera. When Eunyo takes him to task for it, not caring about his celebrity status, he becomes fascinated with her. Unfortunately he's not the world's most mature specimen, and after learning that she's already got a guy she likes, he turns nasty(er) and sets out to make her life miserable as a way of “claiming” her.
So clearly this is one of those romances with a hero who stretches the definition of the word. While not nearly as bad as some other romantic leads (looking at you, Black Bird and Hot Gimmick), Inan is really not a very nice guy. On the other hand...Eunyo's no prize herself. While she rarely means any harm, she's thoughtless to the point where she accidentally burns a house down and is so poisoned by the idea that her beauty makes her special that she has a hard time understanding that, really, she's just another girl like all the others. (Inan doesn't seem to understand that about himself, either.) Baek does make a real start at showing us that Eunyo is about to become a much more self-aware character, as Inan's treatment of her makes her question things she always took for granted, such as her family's wealth, and her relationship with Changkyung gets her to start to think about her treatment of other people. So there is a real sense that Eunyo is going to go through a lot of changes as a person over the series' twelve volumes, and that really does help to make this first a better read...after the fact, once you've had a chance to sit back and put everything together.
Chiro: The Star Project's first volume is one that improves upon reflection, largely because Baek's storytelling isn't particularly well paced. There's generally a feeling like we're missing a page or a panel when the plot transitions (we aren't), and Eunyo, Inan, and even Hyunju can be highly obnoxious and difficult to read about. In at least two of those cases, it feels like a very deliberate choice, but it doesn't help to know that in the short run. Baek's art tends towards the over-toned and crowded, but it isn't hard to follow, and she does have a way with the short quips randomly placed throughout the story. Narration feels a bit out of place, as if Baek couldn't think of any other way to get the information across, but it isn't used too frequently. Netcomics' translation reads easily, although some of the sound effects will look odd if you're not used to the Korean versions.
So yes, this license rescue remains a bit of a mystery. While the story definitely improves and has some interesting implications for where it will go, by the end of the first book it just doesn't feel quite good enough to have merited a second translation into English. On the other hand, these are early days, and if this isn't instantly wonderful, it does have potential to rise above this initial volume...so maybe we should give it a bit longer to prove that Netcomics knew what it was doing when it decided to give this series a second chance.
Overall : C
Story : C
Art : C+
+ Eunyo shows potential to evolve, some interesting elements at play, such as her crush on the nerd and why she is the way she is. Reads smoothly despite very crowded pages.
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