The Iloilo komikeros of Ice Cream Indie have been regularly churning out manga-style komiks of the last few years, and by now they seem to have a regular following. Of the products they showed last Komikon several were anthos with several issues, and the others were titles I already had (and I was already running out of budget). Therefore it was Katunga that got bought. Among the titles on the table that was also the one with the most impressive art using the manga style.
(I am purely Tagalog, so don’t ask me what “katunga” means. My Cebuana friend says it means ‘middle’ or ‘half of’.)
Maya has always been bullied as the daughter of an aswang, but her world collapses when her mother is burned alive inside their own house by the villagers. She is taken in by Ajussi, her mother’s young albularyo friend (and a Kpop fan!), and helped by Ruwan, resident quiet bishonen with thorn whips as weapons. Maya is also transferred to a school for otherworldly beings, and actually quickly becomes friends with one, manananggal Mana. But all is still not well in this new school, besides the fact that Ruwan seems to be an aswang hunter, and Maya is slowly falling for the cutie.
Admittedly that spells like your usual manga young-adult story, but this thing has so much local flavor it’s hard to not like. The English is Bisaya (yes, there’s a difference from the way Tagalogs speak and write English), even in its missteps in syntax. The ‘lugar lang’ (the Iloilo version of ‘para’) sequence is nice.
The competence of the art, in its being manga-style, is also incredible. The level is at par with the likes of Columbia Kho, plus with very intact sense of paneling and pacing. Its detail work is impressive. The shifts between serious and çhibi is nearly flawless, and still local.
This comic has also one achievement: it made my heart skip several beats after seeing Ajussi and Ruwan. The last time any indie did this, it was Mark 9:47’s roster of angels. This means: the author did the bishonen right. It’s in seeing so many weak attempts by now that I finally understand. One does not simply create a cute drawing and declare that a bishonen is made. There is a pacing and crafting of the characterization leading to a panel that makes the females swoon over your guy. When done wrongly or poorly, you still don’t have a bishonen that makes pulses race. You just have a cute fellow. Katunga has at least one bishonen and one nice cutie.
The book publication process ran into some problems, as the art was drawn up to the margins, so some of the art was cut. This is a problem easy to fix with the printer.
Among the manga-style komiks, it stands a head above many. Among komiks in general, it’s a great addition to the numbers, and solid fact that the indie age is a national thing, and not an NCR-restricted one.