Chun Hyang is a young girl who lives in a village ruled by a tyrannical Yang Ban. When her mother Wall Mae tragically dies, Chun Hyang sets of on an adventure with Mong Ryong, a young traveler who holds the empire's most powerful office as the Am-Hang-Osa. Based on a Korean legend.
Unlike most of CLAMP’s works, The Legend of Chun Hyang is a fairly simplistic one-volume manga. While it doesn’t have the depth of their longer series, it’s still worth checking out.
While the manga is based on a Korean folktale, it is, as you would expect from a manga, far from a straight adaptation. The original legend, as the beginning of the manga briefly explains, is about a poor young girl who refuses to marry anybody but the nobleman she loves. In the manga, Chun Hyang is portrayed as one of the few people in a small village who is able to stand up to an
oppressive government. Eventually, she joins up with Mong Ryong, an official sent to right the wrongs of the rulers. There are only two chapters in the main story, and while this means each is very through, they are also separate stories. Since there is no real continuous plot, the story lacks suspense. Regardless, the simplistic plotline at least means that there’s always something happening.
The art is typical of Mokona Apapa’s style: sharp features, especially the eyes. The lines in Chun Hyang seem a bit smoother than in her other works, which softens the art and makes it a bit more attractive to the eye. It’s a solid enough style, but is bogged down by the clumsy, confusing action scenes (which are thankfully short).
As for characters, the heroine is an endearing one. Chun Hyang has mannerisms typical of strong female fighters: she’s cute but doesn’t take any nonsense. Mong Ryong, in contrast, is lax and easygoing, but dependable when the time is right. Interactions between the two are quite predictable – he’ll annoy her, she’ll reprimand him; it is supposed to be funny but we’ve all seen it before. Other notable characters include Chun Hyang’s kind gentle mother, Wall Mae; the villaneous emperor Yang Ban, and several water sprites. Each character’s personality is distinct and firm, and while they won’t blow you away with their complexity, they tell the story efficiently.
All in all, The Legend of Chun Hyang is a pretty average manga. In one volume, it tells two full stories (as well as a shorter omake) cleanly. CLAMP fans and fans of strong girls fighting for justice’s sake in a historical fantasy setting (not as much of a niche as it might sound!) should enjoy the ride. It may not be a great epic, but it is a decently told old/new legend.