Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #29: The Story of Lee, Volume 2

The Story of Lee (published by NBM) is a romantic manga written by Scottish writer Sean Michael Wilson and drawn by Japanese artist Nami Tamura. It is in most respects a fairly ordinary boy-meets-girl story with a few interesting deviations. For example, this volume essentially tackles "happily ever after". After the first volume, where the titular character leaves her native Hong Kong to be with the young man she fell in love with, Matt, and also attend university in his native Edinburgh, this volume deals with the reality of achieving her dream. Lee had always wanted to go to the UK, but this book heaps some heavy doses of reality on the character. Her boyfriend, upon whom she depends as a sort of cultural lifeline, is moody and impatient with her. He's also jealous of her when she goes backstage and hangs out with a band she likes. The book also makes the unusual move of establishing a sort of homoerotic relationship between Matt and his best friend Richard, turning this into a love triangle of sorts.

The pace is pleasingly slow and relaxed, with an absence of huge, dramatic moments. Instead, there's an accrual of smaller moments that sometimes blow up and sometimes are repressed. There are long, knowing looks, uncomfortable body language and other meaningful exchanges that go beyond what is merely said. The focus on the culture clash between East and West also focuses on gender politics as well, which feeds into different communication styles. Wilson's dialog is a bit stilted at times, as it doesn't often sound like things someone would say out loud. That's exacerbated by Tamura's competent but utterly bland storytelling, especially with regard to facial expressions. Everything in this book feels stiff and mechanical, even as the themes explored are interesting and unusual for this kind of genre. One gets the sense that both artists are more comfortable doing other kinds of comics but that this is a dream project for them, one they don't quite have a grasp on as of yet.

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