The Missing White Dragon Vol. 1
The Missing White Dragon is a series of short romantic stories that range in setting from Korea's classical era to a Victorian world, up to modern times. The five tales in this book all vary in one way or another, but each one has magic, romance, and lighthearted comedy to keep things together. They also all have some connection to Asian folktales and myth.
The first story in the manhwa is what the book is named after. "The Tale of the Missing White Dragon" is about a human and a demon, Baran and Sue Sun, who are forced into an arranged marriage and agree to work together in squirming out of it. Their fathers agree that they can go if they find the White Dragon Seal, but it's been missing for ten years and no one has any idea where it could be. Luckily for our heroes, a little discussion brings up past events and the seal is found, along with a lost love.
The next story, "Hannya," is another traditional story about a medical doctor with a sad past who saves the life of a shaman. In return, the shaman exorcise her demons and helps her to break out of the icy shell that she had built up around herself after the loss of her brother. He frees her of her guilt, kicks out another small time shaman causing trouble, and embarasses her to death with compliments.
"Dispel Magic" is story number three, and it jumps from the traditional setting of the first two stories into a modern school romance. Joon loves Miran, and Miran loves Joon, but neither are willing to admit it. Miran decides to delve into magic and make a love potion, but she has no talent and can't get a thing done. Joon thinks magic is a waste of time, but he has a lot of potential, and for a brief moment a tome reacts to him and he manages to cast a spell on Miran, turning her into a puppy. The only way she'll be cured is if they admit their love for each other. With a little prodding from a crazy wizard, they might be able to pull it off.
It's back to traditional myths with story number four. In "The Romance of the Crying Thunder Sword", a mischievous young girl steals her father's sword and meets up with the dragon that made it. A fox spirit tries to steal the sword for himself in order to save his wife, who's trapped in a cave. After a little miscommunication, the girl helps the fox family, and the dragon gets the girl. Or does he?
The last story, "A Magician's Proposal", was originally called "Mr. Jackason's Proposal", but that was considered too goofy. The story is the goofiest of the lot, so it's fitting. Mr. Jackason is a magician and a con artist, intent on living the high life by seducing a princess into marriage, but after a few misfired spells, and an insult in the form of a chicken, he ends up in jail instead. Never fear however, for his loyal fairy Wendy is used to cleaning up after her master's messes.
For such short stories (they average around thirty pages), Park Young Ha has managed to cram in a whole lot of character and comedy. The romance in each story is very light, and after finishing the book, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. The army of characters that exist in a book like this all had their own charm and personality, and even though each story had the same basic premise, none of them were boring.
One of the things that I thoroughly enjoyed in this manhwa was the artwork. I have a weak spot for beautiful clothes and traditional dress, and everyone had very good fashion sense. After being exposed to kimono and yukata all the time, the Korean clothing in the book makes for a nice change of pace, and characters changing outfits three times within thirty pages is nothing to shake a stick at, especially considering the amount of detail put into everything that they wear.
At the back of the volume, there's a description of how each story came about and an afterward by the author. Since the book itself is a collection of shorts, there is no extra content. It's smaller and thinner than a manga produced by a big name like VIZ Media, and the cover seems to have developed a crease much more quickly than normal (or maybe I'm just reading it too much), but it was still well worth its price. Anyone with a penchant for magic and lighthearted romance should add this book to their collection.