The holidays are a good opportunity for me to catch up with a whole bunch of things I haven’t done because life has been so crazy in the latter half of the year. One of those things is that I have finally managed to read through the English version of Oblivion High #1.
As you may remember from my Finncon report, this is a Finnish manga, written by Johanna Koljonen and drawn by Nina von Rüdiger. The original is in Finnish, but the English translation is very well done. And so, for that matter, is the whole comic. Vol #1 is titled “Exchangeling”. Rather than me have to try to recap the plot, I’ll just quote what Nina says on her web site:
The Nix, a water spirit, finds a way to take the place of a Japanese exchange student Masato in the home and school of Soon Mi Svensson. What starts off as a lark becomes serious for the Nix when the unpopularity of Soon Mi and her friend Nin rubs off on him. After some initial humiliations, he accidentally manages to help the girls turn their social life around: get a posse to rival that of the bullies, meet boys and even get a modeling job. By the time the girls find out who Nix is, they have a whole deal to lose if he goes.
That’s the basic plot: fairy changeling helps geeky girls fight back against bullies in school (and doubtless eventually find True Love). But there’s quite a bit more too it than that. For example, Masato, the exchange student, is billeted with Mii’s family because Mii is half-Chinese. There’s racism in Mii’s unpopularity. Also Mii and Nin are fans of things Japanese, and the bullies turn this into an excuse for some homophobic taunting.
It also seems (though I have to admit that it was a long time ago for me) that Joc and Nina have their finger on the school pulse. I particularly like the section in which Nix wows all of the kids with his guitar-playing skills, until the music teacher points out that he was playing a folk song, at which point everyone decides he is totally un-cool. Of course Nix, with his fairy charm, has a natural air of ineffable cool, so this disaster doesn’t last long.
There are still bits of the story I think I may be missing nuances of, but this isn’t because of the translation, it is because manga has a whole pile of visual conventions for displaying emotion and I’m not familiar with all of them. I’m hoping Kevin can help me out with that.
The story’s web site is pretty cool too, though it is all in Finnish.
Conclusion: this is good stuff. If there is anyone out there who is publishing manga and would like something that has a bit more of a Western sensibility, and doesn’t need translating, they should be looking at Oblivion High.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to #2.
The girls finally realize that Masato is missing.
And that something terrible may have happened. (Those girls have wild imaginations.)