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Youth Gone Wild – Nicky Lee

In keeping with the Nicky Lee theme…

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Lan Ya-Ting, an agent, has just been fired by her record company – thanks to her demonic diva charge. It’s not an ideal state of affairs, but luckily for Ya-Ting her uncle has decided to use his life savings to set up a record company of his own; he takes on Ya-Ting as his first employee and commissions her to find their first act. She seizes this opportunity to do what she has always wanted to: Form the first Asian rock band capable of competing (and conquering) on the world stage. Perhaps they’ll succeed, if she can only deal with the madness and drama that the band will bring with them!

This manhua is one massive love letter to stadium rock and hair metal. The sheer affection and enthusiasm that Lee has for rock music shines through, not only via promoted fangirl Ya-Ting, but also in the way that the performances are drawn and the simple love of music that comes though in the writing. I have a funny feeling that this is what Batman: Fortunate Son was aiming for, except instead of trying to define and intellectualise rock in some woolly, half-baked way* (which is ultimately insulting to fans and musicians alike) Youth Gone Wild goes down the route of showing how music affects individual characters and their lives, and brings them together for some juicy plots. The music facilitates the story, not the other way round. On a side-note, portraying music on page can be a problem and whilst you’re left to imagine something awesome to go with the lyrics for all of the band’s original compositions, if the music on page is pre-existing Lee will give you the title and artist to look up, which I personally found very helpful.

From a character standpoint, this manhua is the real Joss Whedon of all of Lee’s work so far – insofar as there is a massive core cast and (almost) everyone gets their chance to shine at one point or another; however, whilst this is a strength in that there are a wide variety of character types to draw on for drama and comedy (a lot of it) – it does affect the pacing, as we have to stop to get this person’s back story or that person is suddenly the A plot for this volume, when all you really want to do is get back to the story of the band or someone else’s plot arc. Nevertheless I love all of the character designs and how they change to suit the plot, and a good chunk of the conflict and comedy are based on character dynamics – which works rather nicely.

Speaking of the character designs, as is par for the course with Nicky Lee I love the artwork. A lot. All though be warned, some of the earlier volumes are disconcerting to look at if you’ve read The One, as Youth Gone Wild is from an earlier point in her career

My one main criticism of this work is that is oh my God do the last couple of volumes ever drag! This happened to a lesser extent in The One as well, but this feels like an author running out of ideas rather than having artificially prolong a story. The last few chapters are actually very good, but I’m glad the story didn’t continue beyond there at that time. Having said that, I am looking forward to reading the sequel, now that she’s had a long break from that world and has promised to focus on the more neglected characters.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go and rock out…

*Half-baked wool pie. Eugh.

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