They say attitude is everything. You tell a Teen that, and you’re going to get eyes rolled at you. But seeing is often believing, and this title, An Ideal World, just might get some believers. This Chinese comic tells a familiar story but without feeling like it’s all been done before. Great characters, a fantastic world and some artwork to match make for a very entertaining and fun adventure.
An Ideal World
By Chao Peng & Weidong Chen
Age Rating: Teen
Yen Press, March 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7595-2942-7
162 pgs, $12.99
Ayou thinks he’s a loser. He’s not very smart. He works a dead end job as a forklift operator at a book plant with no dreams or aspirations. He thinks he’s unlucky and that’s why his life is so hard. He wishes his luck would change, so his life would get better. After a string of unlucky incidents one day, he decides he needs to start over, but doesn’t know what to do. He’s trapped in his unlucky mindset. He wanders the city, and after taking the wrong bus, ends up in the suburbs, where he gets lost in the forest. While trying to find his way out, he meets an old man who offers to help Ayou find the answers he’s been seeking. It’s here that Ayou’s adventures really begin.
The story is narrated by Ayou, as an event from his past. It starts out slow, taking a lot of time showing Ayou’s life and outlook. Almost the first half of the book actually. Waking up, going to work, and all his bad luck incidents are shown, as well as lengthy talks with his friends Su Fei and Dazhi who try to help him out of his funk. They try to tell him that his luck isn’t predestined, and he could change it if tried. He listens to their words, but he doesn’t really hear anything they say. This part of the book is slow and plodding, and can leave you wondering if it’s ever going to go anywhere.
When Ayou ends up getting lost in the forest and meeting the old man he calls Grandfather Beard, the story really picks up. Grandfather Beard takes him down under his house to a door where Ayou may find the answers he’s been searching for. Ayou’s ideal world is the exact opposite of his home. The sky is blue and the sun shines brightly on a town by the sea. The people are open and friendly. Some of them even seem familiar to him as he wanders around. He talks to several of the denizens, who tell hime their stories, each with a theme; make work into something you enjoy, and it isn’t really work, and never give up on your goals.
The story has a Wizard of Oz feel to it. Ayou is unsatisfied with his life. He goes to another world where he meets people very similar yet different from his home, and when he returns, he finally gets the message everyone’s been trying to tell him. He controls his life, and he has the power to change it. You don’t really notice the similarities until the end, and by then, you’re already drawn into Ayou’s journey. It adds to the story, not detract from it.
The art is rather cartoonish, with Ayou having exaggerated features like big eyes, and overly rosey, freckled cheeks. But it’s perfect in Ayou’s ideal world with all the strange and wonderous sights; exotic outfits, anthropomorphics, and different types of architecture side by side. It ends up being exactly what the story needs.
An Ideal World is a postitive story overall with a feel good ending. If you can get through the very wordy beginning, you will be rewarded with a fun and entertaining story. There’s nothing objectionable in the whole book, and no violence beyond Ayou’s bad luck incidents. One bunny is run over though. I didn’t think I would like this book, but ended up really enjoying it. It even made me take a look at how I view my life. I highly recommend it.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Yen Press.