Love! Love! Fighting! Manga Review: To Live And Try In South Korea
Jessica C. Michaels
Firstly, let’s get this out of the way: Love! Love! Fighting! is revolutionary. It might be a light, fun romantic comedy, but, shit, if you have a half-black, half-Korean, female, plus-sized, multi-dimensional main character, then your story is automatically politicized. Your story is also highly refreshing and a damn good read. Thank you, Sharean Morishita.
The story follows Oriana who, after losing her job, gets whisked away by her obnoxious cousin Krisa to South Korea and meets a musician while participating in a game show. Bitchy waifs, the language barrier and Oriana’s insecurities undo an adorably cute meet up and Oriana cannot understand why the gorgeous cutely-eccentric Jae-Hwa is interested in her. Rarely do we ever get to see black women being vulnerable, fashionable, feminine, childish and silly while simultaneously being able to kick life’s ass. Oriana is compelling and funny and I quite like her.
It is quite a novelty, having an actual three-dimensional lead in a romantic comedy. Too often the audience is meant to project themselves onto the female lead, and we end up being served flat, dull, personality-free leads – a blank slate, meant to mirror the average woman’s aesthetic (meaning white and thin). Love! Love! Fighting! is not unaware of this trope, which it so satisfyingly subverts. Oriana is very aware of her blackness and her size, particularly in skinny, pale-obsessed South Korea. There are a few particularly heartbreaking scenes in this regard, and anybody who has ever been black, female and/or plus-size will be able to relate.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the subtle subversion of colourism tropes are here as well. Whether intentional or not, or whether I’m looking a little too deeply into it, it’s rather nice to see the light-skinned character like Krisa being played up to be loud, rude and obnoxious. As opposed to the old Dark Skin is ratchet trope. Morishita is very good at not being too on-the-nose about all this. What I mean is,while the plot and characterization are front and centre, reader cares more for Oriana’s story and what she represents. And, it’s kind of hard not to be: Oriana’s surrounded by rather shitty people. Jae-Hwa is The one person who seems to appreciate her, but due to language, can’t have a proper conversation with her. For a cute romantic manga, Oriana’s sadness rings loudly – and while this may be a little jarring to some, this is not a bad thing. Oriana endears herself quickly to the reader, and I found myself really caring about and rooting for her. It helps that the art, despite being simplistic in places and in black and white, is quite immersive. The visual style shifts from mood to mood and complements the story nicely.
Love! Love! Fighting! is definitely worth a read, in my opinion. Sharean Morishita has created something that somehow manages to be light and fun without compromising on depth, emotion and thought.