Dice: The Cube that Changes Everything


Comic: Dice: The Cube that Changes Everything
Creator: Yunhyunseok
Genre: Drama, Psychological, Supernatural
Schedule: Saturdays
Rating: 4.5

With the popularity of series like Penny Arcade and xkcd, it can be easy to forget that webcomics are not just an American medium. They're not even strictly a western medium. There are entire genres and subcultures of online comics in other countries, but unless it's offered in multiple languages, a webcomic is unlikely to have a wide international audience. It stands to reason that if a webcomic from another country is translated by someone not on the production team, it must be among the best of its kind. If that is indeed the case, Dice: The Cube that Changes Everything serves as a remarkable example.

Dice can be found on Manga Fox for English-speaking readers, but for those who can also read Korean, the original version can be found here. While the original is the better choice, the focus here will be strictly on the English translation. Either way, Manga Fox is a nice, reliable site and for those interested, there is an entire subsection in the advanced search function for Korean webcomics, known as webtoons.

Immediately, the art leaves a strong impression. It's absolutely beautiful with its array of rich colors and dramatic, stylized lighting. The backgrounds, when shown, are rendered in great detail and the characters are well-designed with a nice, sleek style. Mood lighting plays a strong role here, with scenes tinted in shades of blue or orange depending on the time of day. Some pages seem to be using CGI or photography for backgrounds and they don't always blend well, as with the brick wall on this page, but most of the time it's nearly seamless. There are times when the lens flare and hard lighting are overused, but these effects range from at least acceptable to actually effective. Unfortunately, the stereotypical Cheeky Mouth, in which the mouth cuts into the side of the face, is also present. It's likely a stylistic choice rather than a mistake, as the expressions and general anatomy are otherwise excellent, but it's off-putting all the same. Despite these flaws, the art is still a lovely sight to behold with lavish visuals exhibiting a high level of skill and effort on the artist's part.

Hearkening back to the concepts of Faust, this story focuses on a boy named Dongtae who, by fate, has rotten luck and nothing special in his life. Tricked by a mysterious higher power and motivated by jealousy, he gains a supernatural dice that can change his life. The dice, which he has to collect in large numbers by performing certain "quests", work similarly to a video game. By using them, he can raise his "stats", becoming stronger, more attractive, or luckier. The quests are sent to him via cell phone by an enigmatic, unseen GM who goads him into resorting to more and more extreme measures to get what he wants. His envy of a fellow dice user conflicts with his personal morals, setting up potential for some serious psychological and ethical conflicts as the story unfolds. It's quite compelling thus far, save for some awkward moments. One page has a reference to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Star Wars, and finally 300 all in a row to describe Dongtae feeling betrayed. It's somewhat silly compared to the usual dramatic tone and breaks the mood, but this is a rare occurrence. For the most part, things are kept fairly serious if not wryly humorous.

Main character Dongtae is portrayed in a surprisingly realistic light, given the fantastic premise. He's not a particularly nice guy. In fact, he's downright spiteful and bitter over other people's good fortune and his life as a "bread shuttle", a slang term for a socially low-ranking student. He's understandably fearful about using the dice and hesitates at first, but is strongly tempted by what they can offer him all the same. His rival, a boy named Taebin, is introduced as a popular, lucky person who was much like Dongtae himself before becoming a dicer. He is cunning and calculating, embracing the idea of the dice as a game. There's a female love interest the two boys fight over, though she's not quite as interesting. She comes across as a nice person, but there isn't a lot to her character yet. By far the most intriguing cast member, however, is the GM. Who they are is kept a mystery, but despite the overly friendly, carefree tone of their text messages, they have a very sinister air. Their motivations for giving out dice and quests are unclear, which only adds to the intrigue as they begin involving more people in the games.


While the translation dialogue-wise is decent, there are some issues with the visuals, namely the lettering. None of this is the creator's fault, as the original lettering is actually top-notch, but English-only readers are not likely to compare the two. There are times when the words are obtrusive and the font for the cell phone texts and printed material are rarely aligned properly. The scanlation team is good at preserving the quality of the art, but they need to take more time at least aligning the text messages so it doesn't look pasted on. Strangely, while the original chapters are presented in a single long page, the translations cuts them up into several smaller pages. This might be due to file size limitations on Manga Fox, but it doesn't detract from the presentation because the cut-off points are carefully chosen cliffhangers, leading smoothly into the next page.

For fans of manga, or manhwa (Korean comics) in this case, Dice is absolutely worth looking at. The story already has strong themes of fate, jealousy, and moral dilemma that promise to escalate further as it progresses. While the lettering isn't especially good and not all the visual effects work together quite right, it's still a beautiful work of art. If this is among the best Korean webtoons have to offer, then it is truly an auspicious representative.

5 comments :

  1. That's why these kinnds of webcomics should be read on batoto.net. That website was made to view these comics as wel as manga so the full page will be 1 chapter instead of a chopped up parts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the suggestion. Manga Fox seems to be the more popular site, but I checked out Batato.net, and it looks like a reasonable way to read translated comics.

      Delete
  2. You should try reading 'the gamer'. It's like a more funny version of dice

    ReplyDelete
  3. Theres an app called line webtoon which has weekly updates of the series irs fairly behind mangafox but it keeps the one long image which i find a better feel for the read

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tip, komrade. We'll check it out.

      Delete