After losing his job as a city gardener, the main character only seems to care about one thing, his home garden full of rare plants. But when a mysterious man burns down his garden and home, the protagonist barely manages to escape alive. When he wakes up in the hospital, he learns he has lost his eyesight. With nothing left, the man just lies in the hospital bed with seemingly no hope left, until the sudden regaining of his eyesight causes him to realise he has been transported to a strange new world covered in a mystical forest.
Mushishi meets Alice in Wonderland, is what I would probably simplify this story to. A very intriguing supernatural webtoon that kind of defies one’s expectations when reading the first chapter or so. I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more reviews. I think it’s a great story with a few bumps here and there.
The story is about a gardener, Ajussi, who one day after a mass fire in his home (which is blossoming with all types of interesting fauna), is rendered unconscious and blind in a nearby hospital. While his niece looks after him, Ajussis’s consciousness is whisked away to a strange magical forest, where he is
told by a young woman that he needs to escape from the clutches of Mua, who controls this place known as the hill.
What follows is a very action packed adventure as we discover the origins of this world, about the origins of the fire in Ajussi’s home, and the characters that reside in the hill. The story itself was really enjoyable, balancing itself really well with its pacing. The author sprinkled plenty of action in the story to keep the readers excited about the world, and he also added in a lot of very wonderful details about the hill that would later become very important in the later chapters. The suspense and drama are also used very well, and despite its relatively simple story line, I think the world in which the story resides is what it makes it special.
One bit of criticism is I thought the ending was a bit confusing. I think one thing that I see often is at the end of manga/manhwa there are often just a lot of images without many words or dialogue, and there are just some lingering questions that are kind of open to interpretation that could have been presented better without adding a layer of confusion.
The characters in the story are not particularly fleshed out, but everyone serves their purpose and there’s a sense of likability to almost all the characters. Ajussi is obviously the protagonist and while he doesn’t really exhibit much of a personality, his loneliness, love of nature, and just his character design makes him a character the reader can latch onto and understand his perspective.
There are a few other side characters too, but I think this is where the story gets a bit weak. For me, it was easy to sympathize and tag along with the characters but from a storytelling perspective there wasn’t all too many things interesting about them. There are a few characters who would be interesting, but unfortunately they end up not getting a lot of screen time. The back story of these characters are a bit weak, and Ajussi really is the only one that gets a bit more attention, and even he is not as fleshed out as I’d like him to be.
What’s more satisfying is how these characters end up playing a role in the ending of the story. The young woman, Ro, who warns Ajussi about Mua plays a very heart wrenching part as she desperately tries to save this man whose presence in the hill is her fault. Mua, the antagonist of the series, also has a few important moments, but again, I would’ve liked to see more from them.
Finally, the art. I’m not an art expert, but I think the style in which they drew the world of the hill and the characters was really interesting. Webtoons, unlike most manga, are usually in color, so that’s a plus side already, especially since the lush colors that are used throughout the manhwa complement very well with the forest. It’s a byproduct of such good imagination from the author, but the art really carries through a very visceral vision of the hill. Action scenes are drawn with clarity and it’s easy to understand what’s happening, and some of the more expository or beautiful drawings are pretty cool to look at as well.
Overall, I’d recommend this manhwa to anyone looking for a fun action packed adventure with a preference for the supernatural. It’s a fun short story that shouldn’t take too long to read, and I think it’s worth it.
The Wizard of Oz, The Neverending Story, Peter Pan or The Little Mermaid.
All these tales share the same mix of fantasy and romance with Kiss Wood.
What starts out as some sort of a family drama in a rather modern world, soon shifts our main character to a colorful world within a giant forest where he is soon to find out that things work a little different from where he came from.
The hero in our story is an old man who happens to be obsessed with plants in all forms and shapes. Sadly for our hero not everyone knows to appreciate his interests and even his
niece which lives with him is getting sick of his unnatural love for mother nature, which occupies his entire time.
And so one unfortunate event after the next occurs for our old man.
First his niece leaves him, then his house gets burned and unfortunately our hero was inside the house during the fire which left him in a state of coma in the next best hospital.
But as if things weren't bad enough, our hero wakes up inside the hospital ruins surrounded not by the city he used to live in, but a giant forest. In this forest our hero meets all sorts of surreal plants and just as surreal people with his only goal in mind to survive and get out of this dangerous forest.
Although Kiss Wood is strongly riding along the green trails with such a title, a plant-loving protagonist and a giant forest which seems to punish those who've treated nature wrong, the story is just as rich in details as the world it is set in and goes therefore beyond a story with a green moral of "Let's be more aware of nature". It's not a full-fledged, serious Seinen with gore and survival of the fittest either however. Instead what we get is a beautiful fairy tail with a wonderful world and a terrible fate that climaxes into both tears of joy and sadness as the story unfolds.
Art and Characters
The characters in Kiss Wood all seem really surreal but eye-friendly. The colorful pages and the smooth drawings are to be thanked.
The characters personalities seem all very strict in their roles and there seems to be all sorts of crazy types.
A little girl is a sadistic tyrant who seems to rule over the entire forest.
A lama which runs faster than any vehicle could ever move.
An old, bearded man who loves plants.
A cursed traveller.
And a mysterious woman that seems to take a liking to our old man.
If you are still unsure wether to read Kiss Wood or not, I can suggest it to anyone that enjoys a good, serious story, fairy tails, fantasy or a good, worthwhile ending.
However it's not an easy going happy-go-lucky adventure in a slice of life manner and neither is it pure mature content with all sorts of violence or nudity.
For me Kiss Wood was a very good read with an exponentially increasing enjoyment factor.