The Ruler of the Land Vol. 1
With so many new titles from ADV Manga coming every month, The Ruler of the Land might just go unnoticed. However, passing up this entertaining Korean graphic novel would be a shame.
The setting for the story and many of the characters within it brings to mind classic Chinese epics, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, though the comic relief provided by Bi-Kwang, the main character of the story, is perhaps more fitting in a Jackie Chan film than in an age-old tale of heroism.
In a way, the juxtaposition of a lecherous, conniving, slacker of a swordsman with a story that stresses honor and devotion is exactly the reason The Ruler of the Land is so appealing.
Hwa-Rin, a talented swordswoman and sworn guardian of the legendary "Sword of the Flowers", is on a mission to recover her honor. Under her watch, the blade was pilfered by Sang-Pil "Gold Cobra" Jin and his loyal (to him, anyway) gang of thieves.
As the granddaughter of the most skilled warrior in the land, Hwa-Rin is shamed to her soul after the theft. She quickly disguises herself and sets off in search of her family's treasure.
Despite her considerable talents as a martial artist, she is going to need some help in recapturing the weapon.
When the lusty Bi-Kwang catches a glimpse of her without her disguise, he is instantly smitten with the voluptuous woman, and offers to aid Hwa-Rin, believing two falsehoods.
First of all, he thinks that Hwa-Rin in disguise is really the brother of the lovely woman that he believes he saw when she was unwrapped. Secondly, he mistakenly thinks that he will get to see even more of Hwa-Rin if he aids her "brother."
Naturally, this is not the help that she was looking for.
What she doesn't realize, of course, is that while Bi-Kwang may be an immature womanizer, he is also the most talented student ever to train under her grandfather. A master of the lightfoot technique (a talent he probably honed while running away from the parents of deflowered women) among other martial arts, he is a force to be reckoned with once roused.
And nothing rouses him more than an attractive lady.
The setup for this tale may sound corny at first, but Jeon Keuk-Jin really does an impressive job of balancing the humor with the action. The pace of the manwha is brisk and exciting with frequent comedy and the strong backbone of a truly interesting plot.
Visuals in The Ruler of the Land are as solid as the engaging story, with character designs that lean more towards realism than exaggeration. Character designs are roundish but appealing, and each character is distinct. For comedic purposes, certain scenes are drawn a bit out of proportion, but it all worked rather well for me.
This is one of those titles I picked up on a whim to read on my lunch break, and now I find myself happy to hear that it's 31 books long. It is very readable and I'd love to see more of it. Try it out if you're looking for some fun historical fiction that goes on longer than that little pink drummer bunny with the sunglasses.
According to ADV, the series "already has an estimated five million readers worldwide and has inspired several successful computer games". We'll have to see if they can reproduce its popularity domestically.