Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Operation Liberate Men Review

There are plenty of comic creators who's artwork and storytelling abilities improve over time. Then there are those whose works seems to either stagnant or even get worse. I came across a Manwha (Korean comic) that is sadly the latter.

The comic is Titled "Operation Liberate Men" and started out quite interesting. The main character is named Suha and is a girl that is often mistaken for a boy due to her rowdy attitude and tomboyish looks. One day after finding out she failed the high school exams and her life looks like it has no future she runs into a guy that asks her to help him liberate the men of his world. He tells her that in his world men are slaves and have no rights while women rule. He had mistaken Suha as a man and Suha agrees to go to his world, but not to help but interested in a world where women rule (having been tired of women still being treated like inferior people in her world) but when she gets mistaken as a guy in the strange world and gets treated horribly she decides that it is wrong and (sorta) wants to help.

The initial premise of the comic sounded quite good. It was an interesting concept of flipping the gender roles in an ancient society. Instead of women being the ones with no rights it was the men. Having the main character be a women as well, but fighting on the men's side without them knowing that she is a she would create a great conflict especially with women haters that only want to flip the roles and not be equals.

The question that plagued me the most while reading this comic is the " how and why?" How did women gain control? I'll be honest, men are stronger then women, and part of the initial "women stays home with the children" mentality came from the fact that women gave birth AND had to breast feed their children for awhile so in a way it made sense in medieval times to have women stay home. (Not condoning poor treatment of women, just stating where some ideas may have cropped up from)

The smart way to do it would be to make the fact women can give birth a really big deal and much more important then anything a man could do. The women could say since giving birth is such a hard task they are stronger then the men and the society could evolve with those notions in place. This comic though never really explains such things and it is mostly hand waved as "that is just the way it is." Okay so that can be a viable explanation, if there used to be a reason men were kept at home and it had been forgotten. In the manga Ooku the men fell to a disease and most of them died leaving women to work in the field and take hold of positions of power since men were of a "delicate disposition." Such a thing happening and as years pass society keeps old rules in place that no longer make sense until it becomes such that men are not real citizens.

There is a singe page where a previous ancient society is mention. A technologically advanced society run by men where women were the slaves. The women rose up and took over.... and centuries later they live in a medieval type world. Unfortunate implications much?
This comic seems to just want to use "slavery" to get people on the main characters sides. The first two volumes did a decent enough job showing the difference in lifestyle between the women and the men. There is just a problem with the art. The men all look like beautiful women. They have long flowing hair, beautiful eyes, and wear dresses. If you see a beautiful long haired women in this comic, be warned. It's really a man. This in itself still wouldn't be a problem if the creator had a reason for this and used it to it's full potential. What do I mean? Well lets say that men and women look exactly the same in this world, and it's only what is under their skirt that determines if they are a citizen or a slave. How would you know who was what by a glance? Would slaves be marked? Have to wear specific type of clothing? That would be a pretty good way of showing the folly of slavery in their world if men and women are as strong as each other and have no other obviously outward shows of otherwise. (Besides what's under their clothes)

Of course the whole  "men look like women" thing has no real point besides the creators attempt at drawing "pretty boys." The worse part of this whole thing is what the women look like. Many are  stocky, with huge muscles at times and man-faces. (except for the "pretty" women in this world) when I look at the men in this comic I get this weird disconnected feeling, I know a character is a boy... but no matter how hard I look at the picture I just don't see it. This is made even weirder by the few men with facial hair!! The look like women wearing fake mustaches. The roles haven't been reversed in this world. Their genders just got mixed up.

When you bring up the fact that Suha constantly mistaken for a guy in this world, I just get confused. She is supposed to look like a guy in her world, but guys in this world look like girls..... it could just be a problem of the art looking one way but supposed to be another. Like in a ton of other anime/manga where the character is supposed to be 14 but looks 20.

That is Suha
Even all these things could have been overlooked. I've read far far worse and the first two volumes or so are pretty decent. The worse problem of all is the pacing which is TERRIBLE. We get a flashback fairly early on (I think the 2nd volume but don't quote me) that sorta explains whey Suha was chosen to come to this world. Emphasis on "sorta" the whole thing was confusing. Then somewhere about the 4th volume the story without warning flashes back to 20 years ago or so, and for the rest of the volumes spends most of the time in the past. It sometimes flashes back to our "main" character Suha, but at a certain point Suha has less screen time then the character the flash back it to. I should also mention that the flash back added nothing to the story. None of the information presented was new, and I had already figured out all the major details. If there was a specific point it was lost due to the long drawn out nature of the flashback. It was already known how that story would end so I didn't see the point to devoting several volumes to it. 

This comic is on "hiatus" but from what I've read I think it would just be better to call this cancelled. It has nine volumes out and nothing had been explained by that point. Some magic power called Asad is brought up and males who are found with it are killed, and in the first volume (or two) it is reviled that Suha has Asad. Which how someone from another world has it, isn't explained and in fact is rarely brought up. Half of the volumes are pointless flashbacks to a side character that add nothing to the story and when the story FINALLY picks up pace and the plot really starts to move forward it gets put on hiatus.

I was really dissapointed in this comic. It had an interesting premise and the art is pretty decent all things considering. In fact this story started out good... but it seems like the creator got to wrapped up in making up back stories for her characters and shoving them down our throat. I understand that when you make up a character and create this huge backstory for them it is tempting to show off your homework. You want others to appriciate all the extra work that went into the background for your story, but it can't derail the main story. Which in Operation Liberate Men.. it does... badly.

I've read that there are plot holes as well in this comic, but I think that is a lie. There is no plot.

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