Manga Title: Nineteen, Twenty-One
Author/ Artist: Yu, Han/ Kim, Hye-Jin
Genres: Romance, slice of life
Demographic: Josei, Shoujo
Flowers hang from the sides of houses and hug the walls in a strange harmony. Narrow streets sprawl throughout a bright, well-kept neighborhood, showing signs of meticulous care. In this place of tidy order, there are creatures that exist in the small unnoticed spaces and that slink along pathways, keeping out of sight. Stray cats.
It’s here that we find Yun-lee, a 21 year old student who’s just started her life again after recovering from an accident for over a year, coming out to meet these unwelcome, ragged beasts. Though too cautious to actually touch them, she brings them food and tends to them whenever she can, showing a compassion that’s very much like the flowers about her, spilling their fragrances freely onto the wind for all.
One day a stranger comes leaping, like a cat himself, into her private world. He’s Dong-hwi – also a lover of cats, and the exact age Yun-lee was before she lost two years of her life: 19. They start getting together, feeding their beloved cats and nurturing the seedlings of their own feelings at the same time.
Both characters are at important points in their lives, standing in front of the same line. Yun-lee is starting shakily again after losing two years, and Dong-hwi is hesitant about entering into the adult world, with all its hang-ups and responsibilities. Amidst all of this, their budding romance for one another, as well as for cats – takes place.
Yun-Lee and Dong-hwi start to take care of a group of stray cats together, but encounter some difficulties in the community that tests their resolve.
The challenge that faces them is something that’s posed to us all at some time or another: if you could do something worthwhile even though it only makes a small difference – would you still want to try? And so they make the choice to do what they can for their small clan of cats, despite the opposition and trials their own lives present them with.
Every once in a while, you read a story that doesn’t get you psyched-up, but rather warms you up and leaves you feeling that way afterwards. Nineteen-twenty one is definitely that kind of story. The panels are big, with luxurious drawings of flowers, scenery, people, and of course – cats. The setting is within a small town, yet the art makes you feel like you’re inside a botanical garden.
Nineteen, Twenty-One is a journey into an exotic wilderness, full of sights that remain behind your eyelids after closing them at night and thoughts that will keep you pondering, ever so gently, along with them.
What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?