Ark Angels vol 1 (Ongoing series)

UK Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Sang-Sun Park

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £6.99

Number of Pages:  192

ISBN:  1-5981-6262-4

Reviewed:  31st May 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


Don’t you wish there was a way of correcting humanities mistakes?  Some way of, for example, going back in time and saving animals from extinction at our hands?

That is the premise of Ark Angels, in which a trio of angelic beings under the direction of Noah travel backwards and forwards in time to rescue endangered animals on the verge of extinction.  Once an animal is rescued from extinction the three – Shem, Hamu & Japeth – call up Noah’s ark (which, somewhat bizarrely, appears to be a blue whale with wheels) and transfer the creature aboard, where it will stay until humanity realises it’s folly and the animals can safely return home.  Their mission isn’t just about preserving the animals for the future though, as the number of species on Earth dwindles the lifespan of the planet reduces too, so rescuing the animals actually increases the Earth’s life.  However, the trio’s hope that humanity will see the error of it’s ways is not shared be all, a mysterious being known only as 'The Lord' wants to destroy us in order to stop us causing more damage to the planet.  In order to prevent this the personification of the Earth gives our intrepid heroines a challenge, if their actions can turn the planet’s body clock back by a certain amount humanity will be spared, but if they fail the time of humanity will come to abrupt end as nature reclaims its domain...

Ark Angels is one of a host of Korean manga (often referred to as ‘manwa’ or ‘manhua’) titles being release by Tokyopop, and it is definitely one for the ladies.  Cute animals, ethereally beautiful male characters, magical powers and romance are all trademarks of manga aimed at a young female audience (a style called ‘shojo’ in Japan) and Ark Angels has all of them in abundance.  The ecological premise behind the story is nice and Sang-Sun Park backs it up with some interesting stylistic ideas.  The most noticeable is that, because the main characters are magical, they can look into the soul of any living thing and see it’s human form, causing cute little Guam Fruit Bats to turn into dashing princes and the Earth itself to be depicted as a stunningly handsome platinum-haired young man.

This provides another aspect to the story, leading not only to much of the comedy but also some of the most imaginative scenes, such as the grand conference between personified spirits, animals, planets and elements.  Ark Angels vol 1 does have some interesting ideas and is good fun to read, but the real meat of the story doesn’t really kick in until near enough the end of the book.  Before this the story focuses on their attempts to rescue a bat from an evil chef and a crane from a evil zookeeper (do you see a trend appearing?), which is pretty much a prolonged intro to the story that doesn’t really tell you a great deal about the characters.

In a way that’s the problem with Ark Angels vol 1, there is little depth to it.  The main characters are wafer thin, the story pretty peripheral and the ecological message overly simplistic and shallow.  It starts promisingly enough, with plenty of enjoyment to be had from the trio’s escapades in Guam and some decent comedy, so when the excellent grand conference takes place the scene seems set for it to build on these foundations and become even better.  But instead it doesn’t really go anywhere, changing little except moving the action to a school (ho-hum) and adding villains and a load of attractive male love interests.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad, but the flashes of brilliance it occasionally shows are fleeting.  The scenes with the human version of Earth in it are by far the highlights, and it is during these scenes that it hints at depth and some interesting developments to come, but at the moment it is simply fun rather than great.  In fairness as a 25 year old male I am not this book’s intended audience, but I still think that Park has missed the opportunity to really flesh out the story or add mystery to the characters.  If the idea of loads of brooding, handsome, mysterious men, cute animals, romance and young girls tasked with saving the world appeals to you then you will find plenty to like in this book.  However, if you want to read something with depth and originality then you could do better elsewhere.


Quite a lot this time round, as well as the usual adverts and next volume preview Tokyopop also provide a gallery of character art and best of all a ten page preview of Queenie Chan's The Dreaming.  It's great to have a preview of another title that goes beyond a short synopsis - great stuff!


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