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Angel Diary, Volume 1

Review

Angel Diary, Volume 1

written by Lee YunHee, illustrated by Kara

The only princess of Heaven is missing! Running away from her arranged marriage to the King of Hell, the princess Dong-Young is hiding on Earth, living as a normal teen…boy?! All of the angels of Heaven and the agents of Hell --- as well as the demon race --- are looking for her, but they don’t know exactly who they’re looking for. The four guardians of Heaven are charged with returning the princess, but not all of them agree with that charge. Meanwhile, on Earth, Dong-Young is trying to blend in, but her annoying classmate Bi-Wal keeps declaring his love for her. But he thinks she’s a boy, doesn’t he?

Kara, the duo behind the series Demon Diary (TokyoPop), team up with writer Lee YunHee to create a cute romance that plays with the ideas of gender and family relationships. Dong-Young is not the only character whose gender is confused, called into question, or out and out changed throughout the course of this series. Because of this, Kara and YunHee manage to get readers thinking about what gender really means, though they never shove any ideas down anyone’s throats. This is still a light romantic fantasy. But there are characters who don’t look their assigned gender, there are characters who form deep bonds with characters of the same gender, and there are characters who have to transcend the perceived limits of their gender.

What makes all the deep thoughts work is that Kara and Lee do not drop the issues midway through the series in favor of romance or action, or vice versa. They keep those ideas fresh, and they keep the action and romance moving. It’s obvious that they have mapped out the world they created and that they know how things work in that world. So when new ideas are presented, they fit nicely into a slot that readers didn’t at first see but makes perfect sense within the story.

The romance is never neglected, though at times it isn’t developed as fully as it could be. Dong-Young’s relationship with Bi-Wal is as “awww” inducing as romance readers could want. Bi-Wal saves Dong-Young when needed, but Dong-Young is also unafraid to take the initiative. She’s a fearless young woman who grabs a hold of what she desires --- fitting for a ruler. Another love relationship is built a little too easily, with the complications shoved aside in favor of moving along the story. A third relationship comes close to being a same-sex one, though it appears to be entirely emotional. The two characters need each other and find companionship and completion from one another that they never found from others. It’s hard to say how that relationship will turn out by the end of the series, but at the end of volume 10 it appeared to have been shattered.

Family relationships are another big part of the series. Dong-Young’s role as princess is one that fits what her father needs her to do, no matter what she might want. Two of the guardians of Heaven are step-siblings and two are cousins, and their relationships with each other are shaped by their family ties (both positive and negative) and by a childhood together. Bi-Wal’s role in the story is easy for readers to guess, but how his family shapes Dong-Young’s story --- and how she in turn shapes that family --- makes for compelling reading. Not all of the characters are fully developed, however. It’s unfortunate that at least one of the guardians devolves from a major player to a humorous side-character, but that can happen in long series with a lot of characters.

Kara’s art (one of the duo draws and the other inks) is pretty and cute at the same time, much like the story. There are a lot of very pretty young men here, fitting for a romance story aimed at female readers. Luckily, Kara is also skilled at the action and fantasy scenes. In a story like this, those scenes could become chaotic, especially when there are a number of characters in play, but Kara manages to balance everything and keep those scenes clear and moving along quickly. Angel Diary is only 13 volumes long, so it is nearing the end of its run. There is nothing that should keep it out of the hands of a middle-school-age audience, and the medium-sized length of the series makes it easy to fit into budgets. Libraries looking for light fantasy romances to meet the needs of voracious readers would do well to consider this series.

Reviewed by Snow Wildsmith on November 2, 2005

Angel Diary, Volume 1
written by Lee YunHee, illustrated by Kara

  • Publication Date: November 2, 2005
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Ice Kunion
  • ISBN-10: 8952744675
  • ISBN-13: 9788952744678