Once Upon A Time
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Chapters 1 & 2.

The first time I read this work was online on the Sweatdrop forum, and even then I was quite impressed with it. In general it is well presented from start to end, the layout of the pages moves the story on in a manner which is easy to follow, and the art itself is very consistent and of a high quality. Having read plenty of manga, and other examples of other UK manga style comics, I can say that this is an excellent piece of work, well worthy of anyone's collection.

Once Upon A Time
Sonia Leong.

Sonia's web site

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CCS - Card Captor Sakura - A shoujo manga created by CLAMP a japanese manga group of four women.
Shoujo - A category of manga, manga which is marketed towards girls rather than boys, which generally portray relationships, romantic or otherwise, and often focus on social issues, shoujo does not refer to the style in which a comic is drawn, although most shoujo manga do display similar characteristics like big eyes for example.
Manga - Japanese comics, made in Japan.

Chapter 1
Once Upon A Time #1 (c) Sonia Leong
Once Upon A Time #1© Sonia Leong

Life's not like the story books, you never know where the inspiration comes from... so it says at the back of the zine. Although this story is set in the present day UK, from the moment you first open this chapter of once upon a time you are thrust striate into a fantasy world, in which an Elfin princess is dying in the arms of her protector Sir Thorvalyn. This is in fact a book, which the main character Briony Rose Johnson is reading during her break time. This will have greater significance later on in this chapter, but for now lets concentrate on this story and its influences.
Throughout the zine, experienced manga readers will notice many things that are similar to certain Clamp stories they've read, most notably CCS. You can see familiar scenes, and one or two of the characters seem to resemble them either in physical looks, or just by their interests and behavior. Take the second character we are introduced to: Mercedes Whiting, she reminds me of Tomoyo from CCS not least because of her physical resemblance, but also because she is an ace student just the same. This girl only plays a minor role here but she becomes more significant in the next chapter.
Through this first chapter we see how the girl, Briony deals with her feelings for Lucien, another character introduced to us here, and how she gains her inspiration and courage to finally talk to him. Indeed I think the whole idea of this story is to inspire the reader to achieve their goals in life, whether it be love, academic success or anything; even I think the act of comic creation itself. Take this quote for instance, "If you do not dare to start... how can you ever expect to finish?" Nothing could be truer than that - whoever you are or whatever you want, if you don't go for it you won't ever get it unless you start - and that has to be the most potent message the creator wants to get across.

Chapter 2
Once Upon A Time #2 (c) Sonia Leong

Once Upon A Time #2 © Sonia Leong

Surprisingly this second chapter does not follow on from the first, but instead focuses almost entirely on Mercedes Whiting and her goals in life and her struggle with the pressures of school and life. If you remember - she is a bit of a swat, and everyone is proud of her academic abilities and everyone expects or assumes she will go on to do great things.
Unfortunately young Mercedes has other ideas: she wants to be an artist instead and rather than disappoint everyone she just keeps it to herself. However an events force her to express her feelings and she cannot predict how those around her will react!
Art wise this chapter is just as good, if not better than the last one, and the layouts just as good. You can see that Sonia Leong is an accomplished artist taking great pride and putting thought in her work - as with the first chapter the shoujo style artwork is spot on. This helps greatly with the portrayal of emotions, and makes areas of this story quite moving. As stated earlier there are plenty of morals and messages in these chapters, which are meant to inspire those who read them. All of them are quite true and I think they apply to most people, including myself. Indeed it would seem the experiences of the creator herself are portrayed in some form in the story.
Overall I enjoyed this story greatly, if I were to chose a category for it then I would choose 'shoujo' to describe it as there are plenty of life issues and emotion in there. There are even scenes which readers of Card Captor Sakura would instantly be familiar with, although these references are quite subtle, most familiar readers would recognise them. So to sum up; great art, good story, references to Japanese culture, inspiring messages, and lots of feeling are all to be found in Once up on a time, and although life is not like a storybook, they can serve to inspire us all!
Wayne Hallows

Once Upon A Time
32 A5 pages
Price: £2 each (P+P)
Address: via Sweatdrop Studio's website

Received at ZUM! HQ:
#'s1&2: reviewer's copy
Review Posted:
#'s1&2: 15viii05

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