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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/11/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: iD_ENTITY 1"

Written by Hee-Joon Son
Art by Youn-Kyung Kim
TokyoPop, Inc. 2005

Review by Kelly S. Taylor

Hee-Joon Son, the author of iD_eNTITY, has come up with a horribly plausible idea for the next next generation of videogame consoles -- dream-mode. Dream-mode allows players to jack into their MMORPG of choice to play all night instead of just frittering away eight hours sleeping. So, yes, this means that five to ten years from now I will be a psychotic, REM-state deprived zombie, but I will have finished Final Fantasy XII, by golly!

Other than making me worry about what the clerks at EB Games will be like after they have completely given up sleep as an option and puzzle over the creators’ eccentric grasp of capitalization, iD_eNTITY is a fun read. It follows the adventures of three friends obsessed with a fictional MMORPG (massively multi-player online role playing game) called Lost Saga.

Despite being published by the very Japanese-sounding Tokyopop, iD_eNTITY comes to us from South Korea, the country voted most likely to forego sleep in favor of playing Lineage for the tenth year running. MMORPGs of all sorts are hugely popular in South Korea... which distinguishes them from North Korea, where WMDs are the current fad.

I take exception to the fact that this manga is identified as cyberpunk on the back cover. Cyber, definitely. Punk? I think not. Thus far in the story, only the villains wear black. Instead of a grey, Orwellian bourgeois-hell, the protagonists’ "real" reality is a school where cute, big-eyed girls wear plaid mini-skirts and over-sized knee socks. No one is addicted to anything... except for the game. The characters aren’t even allowed to drink in the virtual tavern in the game world. Where’s the punk in that? If anything, iD_eNTITY must fall into the heretofore under-publicized genre of cybercute. Mark your calendar if this is the first time you have heard the term. It won’t be the last time... especially if the Japanese have any say in the matter.

The characters seem like standard issue at first. Our primary protagonist is shy and sensitive in the real world, but a bold hero in the game world. His friends are an impetuous muscle-man type and a mysterious intellectual type. They run into a pair of faux bad girls who are actually pop singer princesses slumming it in cyberland.

The only thing that saves iD_eNTITY from cliché-ville is its sense of humor. The running jokes get more amusing with repetition instead of more annoying... which is a very good thing. The author gives each character his or her own foibles. These imperfections are frequently deployed to deflate the plot’s attempts to turn the story into something too serious. The banter between the friends is easy and charming. iD_eNTITY’s humor is heavily based in online RPG culture, but is not unintelligible to the uninitiated. Should the reader begin to feel left out of the cyber-loop, a lexicon of gaming slang has thoughtfully been provided at the back of this volume

As far as the graphics go, the title of this manga is an indication of the type of fun artist Youn-Kyung Kim likes to have with fonts. In a touch I thought was particularly effective, game commands are rendered in a gothic typeface to distinguish them from normal dialogue.

The artwork is pretty much what you’d expect in a teen-adventure manga, but makes up in boldness and energy anything it lacks in originality. Characters and their accoutrement are stylishly rendered. Wacky chiba versions of the characters appear to indicate zany-ness in progress.

Overall, I give iD_eNTITY two cyber-thumbs up. If you are a massively multiplayer online role-playing gamer looking for a massively offline role-playing game manga, then this is the book for you!

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