manga bookshelf

It Came from the Sinosphere: Island, End of Nightmare (Manhua)

The cover of the manhua, featuring Luonian (blue) running towards the reader, and Huaizhen (orange) taking up most of the background.

Why couldn’t I find this image in a bigger size?

Hello, everyone! I’m back.

The Story

During a trip to an island in the South China sea, a teenager called Luonian has an encounter with a phoenix, and then a giant dog (a demon?) pins him to the ground. Then Luonian wakes up in a hospital in Taiwan. Was it just a nightmare?

A picture of Luonian with the island in the background.  We see a jungle and a seagull.

Back in his hometown, Banqiao, Luonian gets attacked by a demon … which gets taken down by some fellow senior high school students. Apparently, a number of teenage demon hunters attend Luonian’s senior high school, but demon hunters are generally pretty discreet about their work, so he wasn’t aware of their activities before. Now that he knows, their offer to train him and let him join their demon-hunting club.

To make matters worse, that “dog,” who is actually a nine-tailed fox and is called “Huaizhen,” comes back. Huaizhen had waited 3000 years to get the “aura” of that phoenix … and Luonian had “stolen” that opporunity by getting the “aura” of the phoenix instead.
Therefore, Huaizhen wants to eat him. However, they strike a deal – Luonian lets Huaizhen suck his phoenix-aura-laden-energy (note: this might not be the best way to translate this from Chinese), and Luonian will let him live. Furthermore, since demons are attracted to the phoenix-aura, Luonian should expect a lot more demons in his life from now on.

In case you’re not familiar with Chinese-mythology, men are supposed to feel extreme sexual attraction towards nine-tailed-foxes. In Huaizhen’s experience, this is generally true … with the notable of Luonian, who doesn’t have the least bit of sexual interest in Huaizhen. Huaizhen finds this … intriguing.

Finally, Huaizhen urges Luonian to join the demon-hunters because a) they can help protect him from the demons (and if the demons get him, she can’t suck his energy) and b) she wants to know more about the demon-hunters. But Huaizhen makes a point of hanging around Luonian a lot, pretending to be Luonian’s teenager sister, and if the demon-hunters learn about her true nature…

Background

This manhua is adapted from a series by a very popular online novelist called Moren. Moren is known for mixing fantasy, wuxia, and science fiction together. I myself have only read the first couple volumes of Island, End of Nightmare, and I would call it fantasy with elements of wuxia and science fiction rather than blend (I feel it has a lot more in common with the YA fantasy I’ve read than the wuxia or science-fiction I’ve read).

The artist YinYin with Han Baobao, who did the writing for the manhua adaptation.

The artist YinYin with Han Baobao, who did the writing for the manhua adaptation.

The manhua edition is drawn by YinYin, who also drew the illustrations and book covers for the original novels. YinYin is a regular contributor to Crative Comics Collection, and has produced her own original manhua.

The Artwork

YinYin says in the interview at the end of the volume that, when drawing for manhua, her first priority is to communicate the story, and aesthetic considerations (i.e. is the artwork pretty) are secondary. I think this is a good set of priorities since comic books are storytelling media, and there are many other media for artists who want to put aesthetics first.

SURPRISE! Fellow senior high school student nabs demon.  There is a big, clear panel showing the main action, with supporting panels with reaction shots.  Also, notice that the demon hunter is erect and vertical, while the demon is horizontal, making a nice right-angle.

SURPRISE! Fellow senior high school student nabs demon. There is a big, clear panel showing the main action, with supporting panels with reaction shots. Also, notice that the demon hunter is erect and vertical, while the demon is horizontal, making a nice right-angle.

And I think YinYin gets the “storytelling” part down. The artwork does an excellent job of clearly communicating the story. Though the plot summary above may seem a bit complicated, it’s actually quite easy to follow in the manhua itself, and I think the artwork definitely helps. It took much less effort to follow the manhua than the original novel, and the novel itself is not hard to follow.

I also don’t think putting the story first costs the aesthetics anything.

First of all, the more I look at it, the more I like the cover illustration of the novel. I really dig the blue/orange theme – and it’s very appropriate that Luonian is blue, and that Huaizhen is orange, since they act as opposite personalities. Come to think of it, this is a beautiful example of storytelling and aesthetics coming together.

This 'big main panel with supporting reaction panels' composition really works.

This ‘big main panel with supporting reaction panels’ composition really works.

The artwork clean and smooth. I think the trick is that YinYin makes sure there is enoguh detail to give the artwork meaning, yet it stays simple enough that everything is focused and the reader’s eye is not distracted by minutiae. And YinYin knows how to make a page pop with a simple, striking image. Most pages are not like that, but then again, if they were, then they wouldn’t pop.

Getting nabbed by a giant dog definitely pops.

Getting nabbed by a giant dog definitely pops.

And some of the images are simply, well, graceful.

I like this page for some reason.

I like this page for some reason.

In fact, I think this is the best work I’ve seen from YinYin.

The phoenix, of course, is lovely.

The phoenix, of course, is lovely.

YinYin also says that, while obviously there is a strong Japanese influence on her work, she tries to express her own style rather than try to make her artwork look like Japanese manga.

Where Have I Seen This Before

If you have read a significant amount of general manga – heck, even if you’re just reasonably familiar with YA fantasy – this should seem like familiar territory. The question is: what sets this tale of teenage demon-hunters apart from other tales of teenage demon-hunters?

One way to stand out is to have superlative writing. Though this story is well-written … and there are definitely touches I like (for example, the fact that Luonian’s senior high school just happens to have a demon-hunting group, and of course he didn’t know about it since there was no reason for him to know about it) … the storytelling alone is not exceptional enough to make it stand out from the other well-written stories in this genre.

Alas, the story's attempts at puberty/sexual humor is not one of the things which makes it stand out.

Alas, the story’s attempts at puberty/sexual humor is not one of the things which makes it stand out.

The thing which does make this story stand out is that it is set in Taiwan.

All other things being equal, people are usually more interested in stories about their own society and themselves than stories about other societies and other people. Taiwanese people are no exception. While Taiwanese people love Japanese manga, all other things being equal, they find things even more interesting if it’s about Taiwanese people in Taiwan than Japanese people in Japan.

While it’s not apparent in the first volume of the manhua (though I’m sure this will come through in future volumes), this story really does run all over Taiwan, and I think that is on purpose. There is such variety in Taiwan itself that one can find quite a variety of interesting locations without ever going abroad. As someone who has travelled extensively in Taiwan, I really enjoy this aspect of the story.

Availability in English

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Conclusion

I have no intention of continuing with this manhua, or with continuing the original novel series. It’s good enough that I don’t mind reading it, it’s just that there is so much more out there that I’m much more excited to read.

This manhua seems to be part of a campaign by the publisher Gaea to promote local manhua, particularly manhua which is distinctively Taiwanese. Making one of the first manhua an adaptation of a popular novel series is probably a good move, at least as far as getting readers’ attention. Considering the recent successes of movies made in Taiwan, I think there is definitely an audience out there for good, distinctively local manhua. The main thing needed to build that readership is to create and publish consistently high-quality manhua to attract and, more importantly, keep them.

However, though this volume was first published last August, volume 2 has yet to appear. That conceivably could be because the artist is too busy … but I think it’s a sign that the manhua has not been selling well.

Next time: The Iron-Crane Pentalogy (novels)


So much has happened in the past few weeks, where can Sara K. begin? Well, she is now one of rare people in the world who can honestly say that she has soked in an outdoor seawater hotspring in the middle of a thunderstorm. There are only three seawater hot springs in the world, and considering her geographic location, Manga Bookshelf readers can probably figure out that she did not go to the one in Sicily.

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.





Before leaving a comment at Manga Bookshelf, please read our Comment Policy.

Speak Your Mind

*