Roureville, Vols. 1-3
By E. Hae
Published by NETCOMICS
Evan Pryce is a an acclaimed reporter for the New York Times, whose most recent story has earned him a spot on a terrorist hit list. When coworkers at the Times make it clear they want him out of the vicinity until things cool down, he is shipped off to the middle of nowhere to investigate a tabloid-esque ghost story tip, very much against his will. Having spent ten days searching vainly for an off-the-map town called Roureville, Evan is about to throw in the towel when luck appears suddenly in the form of a flustered priest who unintentionally leads him straight into the town. Though the ghost story appears to be unfounded, Roureville is fishy from the start and after Evan manages to score a place to stay with a quiet young local named Jayce, the townspeople make it very clear that they wish for him to leave, enough even to resort to attempted murder. As the series continues, Evan becomes closer both to his reticent host and to the town’s carefully protected secret, ultimately discovering that he shares more in common with them than he ever would have suspected.
Though Roureville is not without flaw, it is in many ways a perfect example of what makes up a truly compelling boy’s love story. Complete in three volumes, Roureville is first and foremost a mystery. Though Evan’s growing relationship with his troubled young host clearly provides the heart of the story, it is the mystery of the people of Roureville driving the plot forward, just as thoughtfully and thoroughly as it would without any romance at all. This is what makes a romantic story resonate most, regardless of the gender or sexuality of its characters–something that is tragically overlooked in an overwhelming majority of the boys’ love stories I’ve read to date. By providing a strong external context for the story’s primary relationships, readers get to know the characters (as they get to know each other) out of bed first, which is, for my money, where people reveal who they really are. Providing real context for the romance in a story gives it much more dimension than it could possibly develop on its own, even over three volumes. On the strength of this alone, I would recommend Roureville. Luckily it has even more to offer.
One of the story’s main points of focus is Evan’s guilt over the people whose lives he has destroyed as a side-effect of his work, particularly innocents caught in the crossfire. With the quiet life of Roureville providing little distraction with which to muffle his own thoughts, Evan is pulled further and further into himself, increasingly aware of the blood on his hands. Meanwhile, Jayce has traumatized himself (to the point of altering his own state of being–the story’s one supernatural element, which integrates surprisingly well into an otherwise reality-based universe) over his perceived contribution to others’ misfortune, beginning with his mother’s death in childbirth. This mutual sense of guilt draws the characters together in a wholly believable manner (something one can’t take for granted in boys’ love), creating a situation in which Evan can learn to take responsibility for his actions and Jayce can learn to let go of responsibility that is not his. Whether a strong bond like this between two supposedly straight men is believable as a precursor to romance (something one can take for granted in boys’ love) is another matter entirely but it works fairly well here, despite the resulting lack of gay identity between them.
The story’s mystery–that of the origins of the town and its citizens–is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. While the framework it provides for the romantic plot is a key element behind the series’ success, the series’ scant three volumes is not nearly enough to allow it to be fully developed, leaving plenty of holes in both plot and characterization. Most of the story’s secondary characters represent opportunity lost as the chapters rush by, failing to make the most of what would make up an extremely compelling cast over the course of a longer series. Though not a single character is written as one-dimensional–not even Evan’s rejected fiancée (another nice deviation from usual boys’ love clichés)–much potential is left tragically untapped. The great care taken with the two main characters keeps things well intact, making this overall weakness an acceptable one, but when the required substance is so obviously there, it’s hard not to wish for more. That said, the series’ final volume is particularly strong, fleshing out the journey of its main characters beautifully, even within such limited space.
Hae’s writing is vivid and wonderfully visual, even in description, complementing the series’ stylized artwork extraordinarily well. “The self-realization came to me suddenly, like a car accident,” Evan says to himself at one point in the story, planting an image as strong as if it had actually been drawn. This quality helps to make up for where the series becomes overly wordy which, to be fair, is never true of the dialogue itself but rather description and inner monologue. The visual storytelling is strong overall, but there are occasionally so many boxes and bubbles hanging over a panel, it’s difficult to follow the thread.
On a personal note, I continue to enjoy NETCOMICS’ selection of Korean boys’ love stories, not only for what they uniformly provide (strong plots, thoughtful characterization, and engaging romance) but for what they don’t, particularly the twisted bedroom dynamics present in so much of the Japanese boys’ love manga I’ve seen published in English. Roureville is no exception to this and perhaps deserves special appreciation for the fact that its most passive character turns out to be especially aggressive in bed.
Ultimately, despite its weaknesses, Roureville‘s plotty composition and compelling romance make it one of the most enjoyable boys’ love series I have read this year. In a year like this one, that’s saying quite a lot.
Roureville is available in its entirety at NETCOMICS.com. Complimentary access was provided by the publisher.
Cait saysMarch 7, 2010 at 6:00 pm
I loved this series (and E. Hae’s previous Netcomics endeavor, Not So Bad), but am becoming increasingly frustrated with Netcomics’ restrictive online viewing system. They offer nothing in the way of repeat viewings (after the first 48 hour rental/chapter) the way that eManga does (though in the respect that eManga does not offer per-chapter rentals is in Netcomics’ favor). And since they have all but completely cut out their interest in actually printing their manga titles, with the exception of blockbuster sellers like Totally Captivated, I’m going to have to shell out another $2+ every time I want to read volume 3 of this series again. *sigh*
Anyway, I stumbled on this blog while following some links about the whole Incarnate debacle, and I have to say, your reviewing style is very refreshing. You’re also a brave woman not to cow-tow to expectations of giving letter or star grades to your reviews. I’ll eagerly await this upcoming Banana Fish roundtable. I was lucky enough to buy the manga and read it years ago (and have always compared it to Let Dai in my head). Since I’m one of few people I know who read and liked the title, it’ll be fun to read the thoughts of others.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 7, 2010 at 6:33 pm
Well, hi! I’ll have to check out Not So Bad! I do have the same issues with the way NETCOMICS runs their online business as you do, though like you, I enjoy being able to read chapter-to-chapter. I suspect their hesitance in offering print volumes these days, however, is due to poor sales. Everyone in the industry is hurting these days, especially small pubs like this. We can hope for changes, though!
Thanks for all your kind words. Heh, well, I do cow-tow to grading when I have to on other sites, but I’m happy to be able to make my own rules here, I admit.
Thanks for coming by and taking the time to leave a comment! See you at the BF roundtable!
Cait saysMarch 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm
You’re also so prompt to respond. =)
Well, there’s not much you can do about what other sites expect of their reviewers. It’s what you do when the ball is in your own court that matters. ^_^
I understand that Netcomics is “playing it safe” by not printing all their titles, but they printed the first two volumes of Roureville (which I own) and it saddens me that in order to ever re-read volume 3 (something I’d love to do, since I feel like the series’ climax is perhaps the best part of the story), I have to pay for it each time. I’m glad I was smart and bought up their other since-discontinued-in-print properties while I had the chance (Let Dai, Not So Bad, etc.), but now I feel like I regard my Netcomics rentals with a more “disposable” attitude. I’m reading Full House right now and while it’s interesting, I’m not committing myself to it because I know there will probably not be an option for me to ever read it again without renting it a second time. Considering how long a series it is going to be, as well, I don’t see myself rerenting any particular chapter or volume again.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 8, 2010 at 8:46 am
Hopefully the market for manhwa will improve, and NETCOMICS will be able to bring some things back in print. I try to push the content out there as much as I can, for whatever that’s worth. I have a weekly “Manhwa Monday” feature here on the site which I use to spotlight manhwa. I’m sure they base their decisions for print releases at least somewhat on how well the chapters do online. So here’s hoping!
Cait saysMarch 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm
Oh, and you can’t deny the absolutely accurate, and more importantly immediate, data that can be gleaned from online viewing numbers. With print books it takes months to find out if a book is selling well, or if the sales of volume 2 will keep up with the sales of volume 1 enough to determine whether priority should be given to production of volume 2 or not.
The problem Roureville I think had was how intermittent the chapters were coming out (partially, as I understand, because of the artist) for volume 3 (and the series doesn’t get “good” for the BL fangirl interests until that volume), which may be why the sales for volumes 1 and 2 lagged. People are less likely to buy any volumes of a series when there is no guaranteed schedule affirming it will be worth their while to start collecting it in print.
Melinda Beasi saysMarch 8, 2010 at 1:47 pm
Yeah, I believe the delays were pretty much entirely with the artist. Of course that’s always a risk when licensing something that isn’t complete. To kind of combine topics here, it makes me crazy when scanlation fans insist that the problem with US publishers is that they lag so far behind production in Japan. But simultaneous release (or near-simultaneous release) can hurt their sales *more* if there are delays with the original work.
Cait saysMarch 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm
That annoys me, too, though I think there are two things working in simultaneous serialization’s favor, particularly as it regards Japanese series (as opposed to Korean, which the US market has little knowledge of). First, there is the fact that scanlation readers are far more in-the-know about what titles are currently serializing and how far along they are. And secondly, as long as said simultaneous serialization includes the date of original publication and keeps new readers in-the-know in the same way, readers will be less likely to blame the English licensee for delays. If a company like DMP offered simultaneous serialized manga in English, I think it would behoove them to start with the most recently published tankoban of that series, rather than starting from the first volume, while they simultaneously work from the first volume separately. Especially if you consider that the people most likely to take advantage of said simultaneous serialization are people who have followed the scans up to now. Eventually, if this worked and scanlations waned in popularity (if even for just the biggest name series), the licensee could go back to a “start from the beginning” approach to serialization, drawing in new readers as well as old ones.
For example, let’s say DMP (and this is total speculation/hypothetical) got the license rescue for ViewFinder. They could start by serializing what will be the 6th tankoban (or go back and serialize the 5th) online, while they work on retranslating the earlier volumes from the beginning for print.
Manhwa saysSeptember 7, 2022 at 8:14 am
thanks for chapiter