Legend of Chun Hyang is based on a Korean folktale, and is about the young Chun Hyang, a woman living in an oppressive society. The land of Koriyo has around three hundred towns and is ruled by the Chun-An government. In order to govern these towns, the Chun-An appointed three hundred and twenty-one Yang Ban—ruling nobles. Unfortunately, some of these Yang Ban are corrupt and have enslaved the towns they are meant to watch over, leveling harsh taxes and laws on the citizens. Furthermore, they punish anyone who disobeys with death.
Chun Hyang lives in one of these abused towns, fortunately for her fellow townsfolk. She’s spirited, beautiful, and good-natured. Pretty much, she’s every typical feminine trait in order for us to like her. Oh, and she’s a badass martial artist who rises up against the oppression her people face.
In the original legend, Chun Hyang is a commoner who fell in love with a nobleman. However, when she and her beloved were separated by “fate”, as it were, other suitors asked for her hand in marriage. She refused their advances and was thrown in jail because of it. This has made her a symbol of chastity, and even this day, she is honored for it. If there’s more to the original legend outside a young woman being punished for refusing a man and honored for her endurance in the face of all that, the manga doesn’t really say.
From what I can tell, the manga takes a lot of artistic license with this story. Here, Chun Hyang is more or less an active fighter against the evil Yang Ban ruling her town. It’s actually quite nice to see a female protagonist who isn’t a complete damsel in distress. She still meets her lover from the original legend, and the two fall in love, but she is no longer a victim of circumstances.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m all that interested in the story. The manga is only one volume long, so it’s a short read, but the art gets to me. It’s really not good, and there were some panels that I had to stare at for a while before I figured out what was happening due to bad perspectives and lines. What first threw me off it, though, was the storytelling in general. In the very first few pages, a Yang Ban’s son is about to force a common woman to go home with him so he can rape her. After Chun Hyang arrives to beat up his guards and succeeds in saving the woman, the art annoyingly changes to a chibi-fied version of her and the son. She laments not having a better challenge, and the son has a “cute” angry face because he can no longer rape a woman. It was a bit of a WTF moment.
The story’s not that bad, but it could be better. The art is where it suffers most. Read it if you want to. It does feature a fairly interesting—if clichéd—female protagonist, but she is active, and that’s something. If you decide to skip it, it probably won’t be a big loss.