Chrono Code vol. 1

Chrono Code vol. 1
 Chad Clayton  rates it:    

Author/Artist: Eui-Cheol Shin/Il-Ho Choi
Format: Paperback
Price: $9.99

Ji-Soo is an amnesiac girl who has no memory of her past, save for her younger brother. Evidently, however, she carries the secret code for something in the future called the Riverside Satellite (what purpose this satellite serves has not yet been mentioned). So, some soliders (police?) from the future have come back in time to try and get the code from her. Oh, and every major character thus far is a “Chronoid,” which is evidently some kind of being with superhuman strength and speed.

That’s all the information I’m fairly sure of after reading Chrono Code, because this isn’t a manwha that goes to pains clue the audience in to what’s happening. It seems as though it’s trying out a story format similar to last year’s awful Kagerou-Nostalgia, where it tosses forth a bunch of characters and happenings, presumably in hopes of playing catch-up later. Well, I’m sad to report that what didn’t work last year still doesn’t work this year. Chrono Code may not be nearly as incomprehensible as Kagerou-Nostalgia (though it’s not always easy to follow), but it shares just about every other flaw.

Thus far, Chrono Code is all situation and no story. This book is just one character appearance or event right after another, with no weight or significance being lent to any of them. The characters certainly can’t carry the story; there isn’t a single genuine personality to a single one of them, nor is there ever a sense of genuine affection or hatred towards between them. But that’s mostly expected, considering that none of them are ever called on to act outside the basic constraints of the plot. Is Ji-Soo a generally happy person in her natural environment, or does she have emotional problems stemming from being an amnesiac and being separated from her brother? What about the intentions and goals of the rest of the characters? Damned if I know. The plot doesn’t fare much better; it quickly devolves into spectacle without significance, and events without context. Events happen and the story presumably progresses, but without a good handle on who the characters are, what purpose they serve, or even an idea of the implications of the characters’ actions and who they’re going to affect, it all seems pretty meaningless.

Chrono Code!
I think Chrono Code‘s problems are ultimately the result of impatience. This story so desperately wants to get into the thick of action that it charges full speed ahead, without regard for proper development or structure. If this manwha would simply slow down and allow the plot points to develop, and the characters to become people rather than plot devices, it would be at least passable, if not good. As it stands, though, we’re subjected to clumsy little escape tricks every time the writers have completely written themselves into a corner, or can’t think of a more clever or natural way to advance the story. Though the Chance Happening and the Previously Unmentioned Superpowers make their appearances, the most prominent of these is the But Wait! trick. You know, that’s where people begin to do the most efficient and smartest thing possible, only to be stopped by some last-minute stipulation pulled fresh from the story’s ass. Here’s a paraphrased example from the manwha:

“If she won’t talk, I’ll kill her!”
But Wait! You can’t kill her, because the Riverside code will erase itself if its carrier dies!”

Here’s another:

“You have betrayed me! I find you guilty of treason, and sentence you to immediate death! But Wait! I love him, so I’ll let him run me through with his ridiculously long phall…err, sword while I only Wound His Cheek ™ and let him go!”

Chrono Code!
And so forth. There’s several other problems with Chrono Code – such as its halfhearted, ultra-cliche attempts at humor, or its overly busy art style that sometimes renders it hard to determine what exactly is happening – but suffice it to say that Chrono Code just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work as serious action or interesting sci-fi. It doesn’t work as kitsch, cheese, or trash. It doesn’t really even lend itself to mocking: it’s not ridiculous enough in concept or rendered such with ludicrous incompetence that it invites jokes or heckles. It’s just painfully dull, obvious, and lacking in any kind of soul or charm.

In his review of the Korean animated TV series Bastof Syndrome elsewhere on the site, Mike postulated that Korean animators had mastered the mechanics of animation, but hadn’t quite yet mastered the technique of creating and telling a story. I get the impression that Korean manwha is in a similar position. I’ve noticed a common thread between the handful of manwha titles I’ve read thus far: most of them have the look of a successful comic or manga series (credit where it’s due: most manwha is nothing if not stylish), and they certainly have good ideas, but too often the implementation of these ideas is simply lacking. Granted, this observation only entails the handful of manwha I’ve read so far. If there are manwha out there whose substance can match their style, I’m anxious to read them. But for now, the search continues.

Added:  Monday, August 15, 2005

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