Manga Monday

Manga Monday #10: Finding Your True Colors

Next year is my ten year high school reunion.  That’s insane!  TEN YEARS.  I’ve really almost been out of high school that long?  I mean, it feels forever ago, but at the same time it feels like yesterday.

Could that partly be due to the fact that I married my best friend from high school?

George, my four year-old, just started preschool!  He is nothing like me when it comes to the first day of school.  He has none of the anxieties that I did.  I dropped him off to his new teacher, thinking maybe I should hover around and break the Mom-won’t-be-here thing slowly.  There was no need.  George was like, “Peace,” and basically shooed me away today.  When I pulled into the driveway after picking him up he said, “Let’s go back to school!”

Yep, this kid is not like his mother.  The first day of school, I was always a nervous wreck.  How do I look?  Do I look ugly?  Will I hate my teacher(s)?  Will they hate me?  What if my friends aren’t in my class?  What if a new kid moves in and my best friend isn’t my best friend anymore?

Writing this now, I realize how ridiculously self-conscious I was.  I wasted so much time worrying about dumb things.  If I could go back, I would tell myself, “Dude, chill.  Be confident.  This is all a blip on the radar.  Just enjoy it!”

Finding Your True Colors

Spirit Fingers
스피릿핑거스
Han Kyoung Charl
117 episodes (ongoing)

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People… I love this series so much.  It is quite possibly my favorite of all time.  It hasn’t ended yet, so I can’t be sure.  But, bygone, I love it.

Spirit Fingers begins with our lead character, Song Wooyeon, lamenting her high school life as it nears its end.  18-years-old, Song constantly feels unattractive, untalented, and unwanted.  This in not only due to her low self-esteem, but also due to the fact that she is surrounded by people who do nothing to fight her poor opinions of herself.

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Yes, that woman is her mother.  Song’s life is full of people like this, and she is too meek to stand up for herself.  Day in and day out, she faces comments like this from everyone around her, from family to friends to even strangers.

One day, Song is approached by a handsome young man on the street.  He asks if she would be willing to model for his drawing group.  Song, dazed by the beautiful man in front of her, agrees.

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However, once the drawing begins, as she’s standing in the cold on a public street, posing for this group of strange artists, Song feels ridiculous.  She wishes she was prettier, that she had been wearing something nicer, that she was 25-pounds lighter.  She basically wishes she were anyone but herself.

At the end of the three minutes, the drawing group shows her their drawings.  They all hand her their pieces, each varied in talent and style.  As they wave goodbye to her, she sees the handsome guy’s drawing.  She’s shocked that not only is it beautifully rendered for a three minute drawing, but it also includes his phone number, along with an invitation for her to join their weekly drawing group–Spirit Fingers.

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Song, with the push from her friends, calls up the guy, named Goo Sunho, and admits that while she loves drawing, she isn’t especially talented.  He tells her that the group isn’t about skill, and that as long as she enjoys the process, that’s all that matters in Spirit Fingers!  The group meets weekly, each Sunday, and she agrees to attend the next one.

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Spirit Fingers is all about Song’s journey as she enters this drawing group–which is about a love for drawing, not skill–and chronicles this ragtag group of people building her up to be a stronger, more self-confident person, and how that affects not only her, but the other people in her life.  As Song continues to feel grounded in loving herself, she isn’t afraid to face those who fight that.

This webtoon is full of characters who are thick with realism, and each character is distinctly designed.  A lot of manga lack variety in character styling, but not Spirit Fingers.  The actual art group is made up of people with ages ranging from 18 to over 40.  All of them come from different backgrounds, and yet they all somehow ended up drawing together each week.  They’re all different heights, varying styles, distinctly individual facial features, with unique personalities.  The one thing that they have in common is they’re all really good people.

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There’s a lot of symbolism with color in Spirit Fingers, including the members of the club each being a different colored “finger”.  Their color choices are fairly symbolic of their personalities.  For example, beige is associated with calm and simplicity, and Beige Finger fits that description perfectly.  Each meeting group members are instructed what to wear under a specific theme, and each member dresses not only to match that theme but their chosen color as well.

The relationships between the characters are intricate and entertaining.  Not only is there a huge amount of humor (so great), but there’s also a lot of real topics that are brought to the forefront and discussed.  The biggest theme is probably the things that we do in our attempts to appease others.  While there are characters who are very sure of themselves,  some of them find that confidence shaken, while others appear self-confident but actually have done a lot to make themselves appear that way.

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For the most part, the series addresses that even when people seem pretty sure of themselves, deep down there are things they struggle with as well.  It also touches on the realities of bullying, and how that is attached to those individuals low self-esteem.  The author has an interesting take on the spectrum of actions that comes from people who really kind of hate themselves, including Song.

And can we just talk about how beautiful Spirit Fingers is?  Like, are you kidding me.  The art is beautiful.  There’s such a modular, fashion sketch style to it, filled with bold color schemes and textures.  I love it so much.  It’s a beautiful read with a strong storyline and character arcs that have you singing.  Seriously, no exaggeration–it’s a freaking good series.

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Spirit Fingers has a bit of everything to it.  No quite a romance, but it definitely has romance.  Not really a school life story, but it has some school life to it.  Not entirely a comedy, but dang it’s hilarious.  Can’t really call it a drama, but holy crap it cuts deep!  Mostly it’s just about finding who you are and accepting whoever that is, no matter what phase of life you’re in.  AND I LOVE IT.

I wish I could just post eight million screenshots of the comic, but, alas, that would defeat the purpose of telling you GO READ IT NOW.  Spirit Fingers is currently published for reading in its entirety on the Korean Naver Webtoons site.

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You can read it scanlated in English on Bato.to; you’ll need to register with a free account to get access.  It’s only been translated up to chapter 57 of the series, so if you binge read and want to know what’s next–but, you know, you don’t know Korean–crabbielife on WordPress does some great summaries for each new release.

What color would you choose if you were in the Spirit Fingers club?

(And yes, if you were wondering, in the comic they do say the name is from Bring It On.  Which is awesome.)

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