Virtual Reality is an interesting genre and through the years there have been plenty of success stories from both written materials like light/web novels and their visual counterparts (mangas, webtoons and animes). Specifically, the sub genre VRMMORPG has been really popular these past few years. In the early 2010's, one of the works that left behind lasting impressions for me would be Reki Kawahara's novel series, Sword Art Online (Aincrad). Although not perfectly in sync with the novel I also enjoyed watching the anime a couple of years later. SAO is a great experience as there is undoubtedly an entertainment value lying underneath. But personally, I think it's just too emotional and there were also instances that the male leads decisions were quite questionable. Other than these few reasons, I can say that SAO did a great job representing itself in the VRMMORPG scene.
Now comes Legendary Moonlight Sculptor which is also a VR/VRMMORPG work released also in the 2010's. It has a web novel and is also adapted to a webtoon which is updating in snail paced. Before LMS most VR materials that I read were quite 'heavy'. Certainly, too much drama in a tech environment somehow creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. Some people might say that it's an overreaction to refer most of these as such but I can't really hide my disappointment to read something that is too cliche and emotionally demanding. There are these works that tried to incorporate humor but in most cases there were only three outcomes. First is, they failed miserably trying to do so, second is that plot is too complex many details including humor are lost in the process and finally being too emotionally heavy for the audience/readers by forcing in emotions that are unnecessary.
What I like about Legendary Moonlight Sculptor is it's simplicity which actually revolves around the main character Weed or Lee Hyun in real life. Lee Hyun's life is harsh. Without parents and at an early age our MC tries his best to support his little sister and his sickly grandmother. LMS' Weed is one of the best character build up I have seen. Experiencing a harsh life of poverty he definitely knew the value of money. Author's Lee Do Gyeong and Nam Hee Sung did a beautiful job especially in the first few chapters. They have showed a scene of a struggling MC which somehow reflects real life situations happening in the slums across most nations today. These subtle 'real life' situations are tackled so naturally that it makes the reader's consciousness immerse to the material.
Although having an insatiable desire for money, Lee Hyun has a bottomline. He knew that he has to earn money for a reason and not to have some comparative sh*t with other people. That's the difference between works like LMS and the other generic materials that is continuously flooding the novel and manga sites. The goal has always been to get stronger, to get better etc. For me the nver-ending repetitive comparison made most of these materials cliche and boring.
Being a charismatic MC is very important. Successful mangas like One Piece, Naruto and Hunter X Hunter often played with their MC's charisma. Compared to Luffy and Naruto, Lee Hyun doesn't have that lively personality and that's actually his own charm, and what is actually building up the great humor through the series. Although often referred to as an as*hole, being true to himself made him attract other people. Weed/Lee Hyun's character development through the series is satisfying. It started from a young man struggling for his family. His dedication to protect what's important to him later on created other types of relationships with people that he, himself is not aware of.
Plot, World Building and Art
Lee Hyun is oblivious of what he's capable of. Being in a desperate situation he auctioned his account, 'Weed' (a.k.a . God of War) on the game, 'The Continent of Magic. He played it leisurely as a top player for hundreds of hours but never in his mind that it would amount to 3 billion and 90 million won (~240k USD).
Can I change my life?
After so many years of living like a rat Lee Hyun asked himself if he could change his life with his new found wealth. It's very predictable that there's something brewing in the near future but I never anticipated that it would be as anticlimactic as it is. To make it short, he lost the whole 3 billion to the loan sharks that has been pestering his family for more than eight years. He got no choice as the gangsters started eyeing his little sister.
Let's admit it, it was very disappointing. But now we know that the money element can come and go. What we do realize is that Lee Hyun prioritizes his family before anything else. He loves money but no matter how big it is, it is always his family that comes first. These lessons are simple things that should be emphasized even in real life.
Royal Road is a VRMMORPG that was recently launched. This is where the real story started. Using what was left Lee Hyun will risk it all in this game.
The world building for Royal Road is above standard per se. There are tons of classes and races to pick, and the diversity of environment for the players to move through is also admirable. Of course, fighting classes like warriors, archers and mages are more in demand than production classes like blacksmiths and tailors. Weed's (Lee Hyun) goal is to accumulate in game currency and convert to to real life cash. So what he desired is an OP fighting class because it's faster to grind by choosing these classes.
Humor is incorporated really well especially in during quests. Most of the time the MC already had these predetermined plans of action to take but something goes wrong along the way which obviously he didn't want as a frugal person. Like he says, time is important, time is money. Most of the time something goes out of plan but it he ended up in a better outcome than what he previously anticipated. The problem is he often rejects the reality of these outcomes which added more humor to plot.
Every arc is seamlessly connected to each other. The assortment of people, social customs and backstories of characters (even NPC's) make Royal Road's world building something not to scoff off. Speaking of backstories, characters like the female lead and Weeds new found friends have their own unique stories to tell even outside the game. It's never boring and although the story most of time revolves on the comical ways of how the MC deals with situations the fillers is just as good.
The art of TLMS is not as fine as what can you read in most manhwas and pornhwas. Yep, you read it right, 'pornhwas'. Pornhwa is basically a korean manga porn similar to Japan's hentai mangas. What unique about ponhwas is their art. Generally speaking, it's not an exaggaretion to say that most of the best artworks and illustrations you can find in one manga site are from these pornhwas. Of course, there's a drawback most of their stories are full of sh*t and if you hate to be NTR'd just stay away. I think I saved you there.
Let's not dive deeper and get back to TLMS' art. The are two parts for this one because I think the artists or the art style change around chapter 52 or 53. The trademark for first 52 or 53 chapters of TLMS' illustrations are the characters faces. They are drawn much rounder compared to the standard faces we see in most mangas and manhwas. Similarly, edge of common elements are also drawn rounder and not as sharp as standard. The illustrators also loves shadows which is great. They grasp depth really well and it complemented the pastel coloring for the illustrations. I love how classic the art in the first 52/53 chapters is. The second part which currently what they are using are more standard and modern. Facial features are drawn longer. Illustrations are cleaner and more sharper as there are plenty of edges in simple details like orcs fur clothes. I like the first art style in the first 52/53. Although not as clean I think it create a more lasting impression because of the shadows.
The final verdict for The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor would be 9/10 for the plot, 8.5 /10 for the art of the first 52 or 53 chapters and 8/10 for the next chapters.
I never would have thought that I can write a review this long. I bet that there are innumerable grammar errors so please pardon me for that. If you manage to reach this part. Thank you very much. I strongly recommend reading The Legendary Moonlight Sculptor is you like something with good humor and art. Like I said a few might find the MC as as*hole but I'm sure that most of you will love his personality.
This is the end. Thanks for visiting.
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All illustrations and images belong to the illustrator Kim Tae Hyung and are only used for illustration purposes. I do not claim any of them as my own.
1.) Images are not mine they are properties of Kim Tae Hyung, and are only used as illustration purposes.
2.) The Author (LKP) is not a native English speaker therefore grammar mistakes are bound to happen.
3.) Please do wash your hands often.