“The Trials of Love” – The Color of Earth/Water/Heaven (manhwa) – 9/10 Black Cats

Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. ~Author Unknown

Mangaka: Dong Hwa Kim

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Drama/Romance/Historical

Review Status
: Complete (3 Volumes/3 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US

Art: The art might not be considered ‘pretty’- it’s really very plain, but it makes wonderful use of space in emphasizing things and making the story more expressive. Some of the panels are starkly beautiful. This uses a policy of ‘show, not tell’ to tell the story, and creates some of the most amazing scenes that convey a thousand things with a simple motion or expression. There is discretion and visual metaphor used when depicting openly sexual scenes. Whatever else it’s failings, the sheer skill it takes to do that is astounding and more than makes up for it.

: The Color of Earth tells of the daily lives and about the world of two generations of Korean women. Sometime in the past, in a quiet rural village of Namwon, Ehwa lives with her mother, a widowed tavern keeper. They are best friends and tell each other many secrets. As each spring passes she learns about her changing body and begins to learn about life. As Ehwa grows, her mother, left alone at young age, rediscovers love. As Ehwa grows, she also discovers love and must face a trial in order to be with him.

Review: “The Color of…” is a unique manga in a thousand ways. It is the only manga I have ever seen to deal with love and sex, and do it in a way that is both mature and sensitive. Using lyrical language that is full of similar and metaphor, each book tackles the different stages of growing up and maturing in a rural village in the late 19th Century/early 20th Century, and what it means to find love.

Each book separates Ehwa’s growth and maturation into sections, not defined by age so much as what happens at those ages. “The Color of Earth” begins with Ehwa discovering the differences between men and women, innocence leading to more than one misunderstanding (thinking that she’s deformed), and the men that frequent her mother’s inn casting her into confusion about the propriety between men and women. And as she discovers her first love, so her mother rediscovers love. This has a few rough edges concerning the story, but is fairly funny. The discussions she and her mother have are honest, and her mother introduces her to the simile and metaphor she herself uses to often speak of love (and other things, when Ehwa isn’t around). Ehwa discovers that there are some she cannot and should not love for various reasons, and learns of heatbreak.

The second book flows far better. Conversations flows far more smoothly, with much joking and teasing, which makes this a delight to read. It also becomes more in-depth when it comes to the body and sex. There’s a marked difference between the Ehwa of a few years ago, who crushed on the boys in her village, and the one who now longs for a man who will truly love her- she doesn’t waste her thoughts on guys who are only looking for a quick lay or are only messing around. This leads to a fateful meeting with a man that is serious about her- and in turn must leave her.

The third book is about Ehwa having discovered love, but dealing with the wait and heartbreak that comes with needing to wait for someone to return from a long journey. Because this takes place in an old time period, the wait seems long and is fraught with waiting and thoughts on what’s happening. There is a change in Ehwa and her mother’s relationship as she’s is nearly a grown woman and her mother is aging. Ehwa does finally marry, and her mother’s observations on watching her daughter leave hit home- beautiful thoughts that capture the essence of the loss of someone so dear. All the things that happened in the former books come together in a way that is just like real life- the culmination of experience and learning. And it’s done in a way that is satisfying and beautiful.

Overall, even with a little bit of a rough start, this is a fantastic manhwa that tells a beautiful story.

Recommended: 18+. This is a story that deals with sex and sexuality- while the only genitalia overtly shown are those of young boys (briefly) and breasts on occasion, but there are suggestive gestures, blantantly sexual themes, and sex is shown (though it isn’t obscene in the context of the story. It actually comes across as something special and loving).

Other titles you might enjoy:
Usagi Drop


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