Bookbed reviews: “Honbarian” by Olivecoat

by Gianne Rabena

THE STORY

Photo credit: @olivecoat

Driven out of her hometown by invaders from across the sea, Andrea finds herself lost in the forest with no memories of her former life, only an old key that bears the White Rose of the Countess of Helmsberg. When she stumbles into an orchard that belongs to the mysterious Flinders family, circumstances appear that make her begin to question her own identity. Is she as innocent as she believes, or is she their enemy?

Read Honbarian on Webtoon.

WHAT I LIKED

It pleases me that I’m finding more and more Filipino creators in platforms like Webtoon, especially as the webcomic haven has been gaining more popularity and recognition with big-time collaborators. And stories like Honbarian are the kind of content that had me wowing from Episode 1 (“Lost in the Woods”) and hitting that Subscribe button.

A wandering girl, a mysterious past, a quaint little family, and a world that opens up like a storybook fantasy, Honbarian sets its reader up to follow the story of Andrea, lost in more ways than one, with a ‘first meeting.’ But not before giving us a hint of the simplistic but fluid character design, reminiscent of animated movies such as Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arriety and perhaps even the style of Cartoon Saloon’s fantastical films. 

Andrea’s wandering and passive character is immediately combated by the proactive Randy, who not only takes her into his home to find shelter and meet his family, but helps the reader get a wider view of the kind of world these two characters live in. The fact that Andrea is a long way from home and the subtle but sure introduction of an underlying conflict happening in this world is what pushes the narrative into motion. As she is introduced to the members of the family, feeling like the outsider whilst warming up to their relatively safe and idle lifestyle, I got the sense that there was more happening beyond the borders of the farm house.

When it comes to art, there is always an element of storytelling and worldbuilding in the panels of watercolor paintings and 2D animation, and even the colors seem to set a tone: something folktale and fairytale-esque. Its earthy, somehow autumnal, color palette also gives the impression of a season of change and transition for the story, even before the dialogues are said.

All in all, I enjoyed Honbarian‘s pacing and the gentle way in which its creator attaches value to the characters with humor and personality. It also feels a little bit Anne of Green Gables-esque or Princess Anastasia-meets-Studio Ghibli, as I hinted earlier, but something entirely its own.

tl;dr

Loyal to a simplistic style often common in webcomics without totally setting itself up to be identical to other titles, Honbarian shines on its own. It has enough pacing and intrigue to promise readers something to look forward to with each episode. ☁️

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