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Hotel Africa Volume 1

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Hotel Africa Volume 1 by  Hee Jung Park, published by TokyoPop

Hotel Africa Volume 1

© Hee-Jung Park / TokyoPop

The Bottom Line

With its deluxe, oversized binding, Hotel Africa is presented as one of Hee Jung Park's signature masterworks. The art is lovely, and TokyoPop pulled out the stops to present the first pages of this book in full color. Unfortunately, they skimped on the translation. Every character, young or old, simple or sophisticated speak in the same stiff, literally-translated voice.

The characters' clumsy dialogue only makes Park's melodramatic short stories seem even more clichéd and shallow. Hotel Africa was heartbreaking - if only because it showed how beautiful artwork can be diminished by weak translations.

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Pros

  • Deluxe, oversized presentation gives Park's artwork room to sparkle and shine
  • Romantic, distinctive and poetic artwork with elegant, delicate line-work

Cons

  • Painfully literal translation of dialogue lacks natural, conversational tone
  • Stiff, two-dimensional characters interact like paper dolls in a shoebox stage
  • A strange, looking-glass view of a romanticized America that feels inauthentic
  • Clichéd melodramatic short-stories that read like high school "creative writing" essays

Description

  • Original Title: Hotel Africa (Korea)
  • Author & Artist: Hee-Jung Park
  • Publishers:
    • TokyoPop (US)
    • Seoul Cultural Publishers Inc. / Shinwon Agency Corp. (Korea)
  • ISBN: 978-1-4278-0575-1
  • Cover Price: $12.99 US / $13.99 CANADA / £7.99 UK
  • Age Rating: OT - Older Teens, Age 16+ for mild profanity, mature themes
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: April 2008
    Korea Publication Date: 2005
  • Book Description: 192 pages, black and white illustrations, 14 color pages
  • More Manhwa by Hee-Jung Park:
    • Fever
    • Martin and John
    • Too Long

Guide Review - Hotel Africa Volume 1

Hotel Africa is the second of four titles by Hee-Jung Park, a creator billed as Korea's best-selling manhwa artists. Park's first TokyoPop release Fever left me less than impressed, so when I picked up Hotel Africa and noticed its deluxe, oversized format, I thought, "This must be the good one."

Unfortunately, the editors took great care to create an attractive package, but skimped on the translation. The characters, young or old, hip college kids or Native American mystics, all speak in the same stilted English. Their conversations sound so stiff, their dialog could have come straight out of Babel Fish. Need examples? Here are a few:

College student: "Did he swallow a steam engine? All the free-spirited people of the world have gathered here."
Traveling bikers: "We are the famous... Red Muffler!"
Grandmother: "It ended abruptly, but otherwise, it was the greatest feeling."
At one point, a character moans, "Crappy script, crappy acting. Only logical, eh?" I couldn't agree more.

Perhaps this lack of conversational voice is more glaring since Hotel Africa is set in a fantasy world it calls America. "Hotel Africa" is a Utah rooming house run by a young widow, her half-black son and her feisty mother. The house becomes the setting for a series of melodramatic short stories about love, loss and longing told by Elvis, the now grown son who's living in the city.

Some stories are more touching than others, but most read like essays from a high school Creative Writing class for a teacher who gives out easy "A's" for just showing up. These tales ache to be meaningful. Park's elegant, delicate artwork gets them halfway there, but weighed down with florid prose and clichés as characters, these stories miss the mark, time and again.

In a way, Hotel Africa was heartbreaking - an example of how beautiful artwork can be diminished by poor choices of words.

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