Remember manhua review

Remember how ‘Red Colored Elegy‘ was supposed to be a highly-influential work? When I reviewed it, I noted that I could see how people would be inspired by it, but the keyword was ‘inspired’ – I never expected someone to flat out copy the whole thing. Until I read Remember by Chinese artist Benjamin, that is…

The blurb goes:

What is the fine line that separates love from hate? How can a broken heart heal from a loss so deep? When is letting go of your inhibitions worth risking your life?

International artist Benjamin depicts profoundl moving portrayals of love and loss that get at the core of what it means to throw your heart into life. The artist doesn’t offer any comfort from the despair we all feel in our lives – while we know there is no answer, we are all better off for asking the question… and remembering the struggle.

Actually the real question they should be asking is “What is the fine line that separates inspiration from plagiarism?” I will give Benjamin props for being a pretty good artist (that cover just screams “Buy Me!” doesn’t it?), but when it comes to storytelling he is utterly bereft of ideas. And he is completely aware of it too, if his self-loathing author’s comments are anything to go by.

Remember_p026Remember is made up of two short stories. The title story ‘Remember’ deals with a  Struggling artist with a bad attitude, girl who loves him for no reason, he pushes her away until she does go away and then he hates himself even more than ever, the end.  I really didn’t need to summarize that, I should have just pointed to the original story, which for all its flaws does a better job at conveying the doomed relationship and almost, not quite, making the characters relateable.

Anyway, this struggling artist submits story after story to a comic publisher only to have them turned down because they’re not enough like Japanese manga. “Chinese readers don’t want originality! They want plagiarized Japanese manga!” the editor straight-up tells him. So it’s ironic – or maybe meaningful – that the story itself is a straight-up copy of Red Colored Elegy, with better art and with the sex cut out or made ambiguous to avoid censorship.

Is this how low Benjamin had to sink to get his work published in China? Maybe. But what is more likely is that he put that scene in just to cover his inability to write a Chinese manhua that would be accepted by editors. “See it’s not me, it’s the editors, they forced me to plagiarize! Left to my own devices I could totally write a great story!” If that’s the case, why is the copy even worse than the original?

Besides, the Remember collection includes a second short story as well, about students in art school being bullied, but it’s crap. I read about a third of it and then just skimmed through it because it was just more self-loathing navel-gazing twaddle. He probably copied that from a Japanese manga as well, I just don’t know enough manga to spot which one.

Remember_p081In any case, by that time the nice art had lost its effect on me and all of Benjamin’s shortcomings as a writer were on display for all to see. Rambling, incoherent ‘I’m so deep and nobody understands me’ characters dot the pages like so many teenagers at an emo concert. They’re all flat one-note characters – ‘quirky girl’, ‘misunderstood artist’, ‘unreasonable editor’ – one defining characteristic carries them through the whole story. Even in a short story you should be able to flesh characters out a little more than that, especially in slice-of-life kind of stories where enjoyment depends on getting under the character’s skins.

Benjamin can draw, there’s no question about that, but unless he can learn to write as well it really doesn’t profit him very much. The fact that the manga goes for less than $2.00 on Amazon despite being out of print should tell you everything you need to know about that. Still I’m not a mean person, and I can see some budding talent there. I’d advise him to work on his writing skills if he really want to make it as a mangaka (manhuajia?). Failing that, there’s nothing wrong with being a dedicated artist and illustrator, since he does have the skills to back that up. Good luck, Mr. Plagiarizer!

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress