Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp – A Beautiful Portrait of Taipei

“Bắc Thành Bách Hoạ Thiếp”: A Thousand Cards Depicting the Northern City

Square The Manga has returned with Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp, the latest work by AKRU, available in the Vietnamese comic market (don’t ask why I already have the book in hand). This is a series by the author AKRU from Taiwan, so it’s a Manhua, not a Manga. The price for a copy of “Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp” is 39,000 VND. Let’s explore what Amak has brought to Vietnamese readers at this price.

Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp – Tập 1

Unboxing Bắc Thành Bách Hoạ Thiếp

The first impression when holding the book is the eye-catching cover. From the illustrations to the design, it’s visually appealing and has a matte finish that enhances its attractiveness. If you search online, you’ll notice that the cover design differs from the original version, making this a special edition unique to Vietnam. Another pleasant surprise is the inclusion of color pages. For the price of 39,000 VND, you get a substantial book with 8 full-color pages and 2 long fold-out color pages, all complemented by AKRU’s precise artwork and Amak’s high-quality printing. Overall, the interior is well-crafted, with clear printing, no visible flaws, readable fonts, and only a minor drawback in terms of the accompanying text being slightly hard to read. Choosing a clearer, more robust font would address this issue.

Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp is a fascinating tale set in a tea and pastry shop called Bách Họa Đường, founded by an eccentric owner named Yamashita. The story unfolds in Taipei during the Chiang Kai-shek era (which corresponds to the reign of Emperor Hirohito in Japan from December 25, 1926, to January 7, 1989). Why is the shop owner called “eccentric”? Because he possesses the ability to see things that others cannot and even converse with a crow. While this motif may not be entirely novel, it is explored from a fresh perspective, avoiding the typical adventure against evil forces.

In the first volume, the narrative is divided into three parts:

  1. Introduction to Bách Họa Đường: The story begins in the present, introducing the tea shop and providing glimpses of the characters who will play significant roles.
  2. Unusual Abilities of the Shop Owner: We learn about the extraordinary abilities possessed by the enigmatic shop owner.
  3. The Origin Story: This section delves into the “legend” of why this particular individual appears and establishes the existence of Bách Họa Đường.

Reading the entire volume in one go might give the impression of a somewhat chaotic arrangement of chapters. However, if you break it down into the three outlined parts, the story becomes more comprehensible. Although the first volume lacks intense climaxes, it does offer a lengthy narrative with detailed exploration of secondary characters (while the main character remains somewhat elusive). This approach may frustrate impatient readers but also piques curiosity, leaving me eagerly awaiting Volume 2. I wonder what surprises AKRU, the author, has in store for us.

Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp – Tập 1


Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp has several commendable aspects that make it an engaging read. Let’s delve into the positives:

Attention to Detail: The author pays meticulous attention to details, preserving the ambiance and context within the story. From the ancient-meets-modern streets and buildings to clothing and language usage, everything is finely crafted.

Historical Anchoring: The team behind this work deserves credit for providing detailed annotations about time periods, famous locations, and comparisons between the past and present. This enriches the reading experience, making readers curious to explore the real-life places mentioned in the story. It’s almost as if one wants to visit Taipei immediately to witness these landmarks firsthand.

Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary: The use of less common Hán-Việt terms like “Nữ cấp” and “A Bản Tử” adds depth. Language enthusiasts will appreciate these nuances.

Smooth Translation: The translation flows well, avoiding awkwardness and ensuring clarity. Readers can immerse themselves in the narrative without feeling hindered.

Detailed Appendices: The 16-page appendix provides rich context, historical timelines, and clear illustrations. It also sheds light on the author’s research process. History buffs and travel enthusiasts shouldn’t skip this section.

Overall, Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp weaves together history, fantasy, and mystery, inviting readers to explore a captivating Taipei across time and dimensions.

Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp – Tập 1

Some drawbacks

Certainly, praising too much can be monotonous, so let’s briefly discuss some drawbacks of the story.

Book Cover Design: One common drawback across all of Amak’s works is the tightly folded dust jacket. The lack of rounded spine curvature detracts from the overall aesthetic of the cover.

Text Spillage: Although it occurs in only one or two places, text spilling out of the frame disrupts the reading experience and is regrettable.

Inappropriate Word Choices: Some terms used in the context of that era feel out of place. For instance, the phrase “tour trải nghiệm” (experience tour) could be replaced with “chuyến trải nghiệm” (experience journey) or a similar phrase. Using English terms during the Chiang Kai-shek era sounds somewhat awkward. This issue partly arises because these words are commonly used in modern life, and we tend to default to them without considering the historical context. Not only Amak but many other publishers also fall into this trap. For example, terms like “Uhm” or “Haizzz” could easily be replaced with more authentic Vietnamese expressions like “Ừ” or “Ừm,” enhancing the value of the Vietnamese reading experience. Hopefully, editors and translators will pay more attention to this matter. Additionally, there are a few minor punctuation errors that can be overlooked.

In summary, I hope the points I’ve highlighted provide you with a brief overview of Bắc Thành Bách Họa Thiếp. If you find it appealing, mark your calendar for August 22 to grab a copy. And of course, AKRU fans shouldn’t miss the opportunity to own this intriguing series.

Source: Square The Manga

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