Recently there has been somewhat of an influx of manga adaptations of so called classics such as the works of Jane Austin and Victor Hugo. It's really nothing new, adapting a classic for modern times is a fairly popular practice.I don't really look into these “Manga Classics” too much,as I prefer the source material. These type of titles could be okay for all I know but I feel that the transition will lack the subtle touches of the original works. That may just be the snobbery talking in all honesty,so I'll put that aside to see if CLAMP can make a transition to manga can work.
Chunhyangga is a Korean folktale that concerns a young girl betrothed to a noble holding out for his return even in the face of immanent death. It's a short tale and is supposed to trumpet the virtues of chastity and rebellion against corrupt government. I'm not going to give a full review of that because: A. That's not the focus of this post and B. People care as little about my subjects as is,so I'm not about to start reviewing books that people probably care even less about. The Legend of Chun Hyang plays rather fast and loose with the source material. However faithfulness to the source is not really the problem here,it's more lack of depth and inconsistent tone that plague it.
The first two chapters follow Chun as she combats evil magistrates with the help of Mong Ryong. While in the original tale,she defies the magistrate through refusal of advances. Here she is a competent action girl that acts as a protector of the townspeople. She only thinks of protecting people and like her folklore counterpart stays “pure”. Women keeping their “honor” is a minor theme through out the first chapter, Chun Hyuang's mother kills herself to keep the magistrate from raping her. Women staying chaste is a common theme in folklore and I won't really go into the underlying sexist tones this brings to the part. Mostly because CLAMP was not really trying to make a statement one way or the other just incorporating elements of the original story of which there are plenty. Does this excuse it in anyway,no. It just comes off as an oddity in a story that is all about women being on even footing with the men.
The second chapter drops these connections entirely in favor of becoming a traveling adventure story with a bit of a Slayers flavor. It's a fun little story filled with mythical beasts,magical battles,some lite tragedy and confusing character development. While the first story was a semi retelling of the original tale,this feels like CLAMP was trying to pitch the book as a series that never happened. Mong Ryong and Chun Hyang have a typical love/hate relationship that has Mong Ryong being a lecherous pervert and her keeping him in line. Near the end of this chapter Chun Hyang nearly kills a second magistrate but stops suddenly because she realizes it won't bring back the dead. This comes completely out of nowhere as she does that exact thing to the last magistrate with no chastisement.Suddenly revenge is a bad thing...for some reason. If this series had more time to develop then maybe this could have been fleshed out but as a stand alone Aesop it conflicts heavily with what's presented. Chun Hyang,nor anyone really, is not given enough depth for events to mean anything and the next chapter gives them depth that they never use.
I'm pretty sure the final chapters working title was called: “Tone,what's that?”. The chapter follows young Chun Hyang as she defends the town from young magistrate's son from the first chapter. The whole thing is treated as a wacky comedy with implications the the magistrate's son loves Chun Hyang bur can't show it. First considering the horrific events of the first chapter this comes of less as charming and more chilling. Second of all why are we giving semi character development to character that are already dead. Plus Chun Hyang character development here apparently didn't take as shes just as impulsive as a teenager and a child. Though this may be because the original chapter was not written with this in mind for which it gets a free pass but this chapter has no excuse. It adds nothing to the first chapter in terms of motivations and while the first two chapters are not that serious this chapter is just too wacky.
As a straight adaption The Legend of Chun Hyang fails,as an action adventure story it's pretty average. The short length and bizarre final chapter, leaves us with a mediocre book that screams for more. It's a book that clearly wanted to be something more than it what was presented and that makes me sad to see something that may have been struck down in it's prime. It really hasn't colored my opinion on manga adaptions that strongly but I do recommend it for those looking for a fun action tale.
Till Next Time:Stay Positive.
P.S Sorry for the lateness of this one,again I'm a ditz with schedules.