Sunrise Blossom, created by Nina Aberlein and orginally released in October, 2018, tells the story
of Ivy Vespertinus Bubo, a young harpy who takes interest in human culture. Ivy is eventually
taken in by a human named Violet, and the two quickly develop a close friendship. As the story
progresses, the two women grow closer and stronger in order to face numerous adversities and
complications thrown their way. As they become closer with each other and more in-tune with themselves, Violet and Ivy come to realize that their feelings for each other may go deeper than just friendship. Sunrise Blossom is a fantastical journey into a world inhabited by mythical
creatures; but, beneath the surface, the book seeks to explore the world and how difficult navigating the complexities of the real world can be for mythical creatures and humans alike.
The art featured throughout Volume I is inconsistent.
The first 34 episodes of Sunrise Blossom utilize drawings that make it feel like less than a cohesive story, backgrounds and character designs throughout these episodes feel flat and not as inspired. Volume I also tends to fluctuate between colored illustrations and black and white on Webtoon-and is completely monochrome in the physical copy which is the focus of this review. Although not a detrimental mistake on the part of Aberlein, this decision does make the first season feel disjointed and lethargic. However, after the first 34 episodes, the art quality makes a drastic improvement. Although the series’ background art is often still flat and struggles to maintain interest when it’s opponent is the artists’ own unique and inspired character design, Aberlein shows page after page progress in sharpening her skill. Ivy is displayed beautifully on the cover photo, and this detail
gives life to the character before the audience even opens the book. Ivy is shown spreading her
expansive wings, and the art style in which she is illustrated creates beautiful texture and
distinctiveness. Although the art is lacking in some areas, the book’s illustrations overall are
incredibly charming and spunky.
The story line throughout Volume I is riveting and unique, and it’s obvious that an immense
amount of time and forethought went into the writing of this book. Both the human and the
mythical characters are given unique personalities that age nicely as the story progresses, the plot
is not complex which makes it an easy read and also makes it accessible for all ages to enjoy.
The history behind the mythical world is intricate and fascinating, and allows readers a window
through which they can gain a deeper understanding of the story’s world. The story, at times, can
also be quite hilarious. The characters are thrown into numerous bizarre and outlandish
situations, and must try to navigate these situations with limited experience of their world. The
events and broad story-arc of the book keeps readers on their toes, the twist and turns, suspense,
and passion all tie into a story that is difficult to put down once started. The bond between Ivy
and Violet deepens naturally throughout the story, the relationship growing gradually from
strangers to friends, and, eventually, to lovers. The story itself ends with a cliffhanger, which, as
a reader, was incredibly frustrating-but I can say that it left me personally wanting more immediately!
The cover/title cards are colorful and enticing, and the basic layout of the book is standard but
makes for a convenient read. The book’s structure can, at times, feel a little repetitive, and due to a industry wide lack of exploration in the formatting of layout in the medium makes it difficult to distinguish this book from any other, in it’s physical construction. Aberlein,
refrains from taking really any creative liberties with the design of the book and the layout; and, because of this, there are numerous instances of emotional or suspenseful moments being deflated before the reader can even react. This dulled effect is not due to sloppy writing, but to the author’s hesitation to utilize negative space to enhance her story. Instead of allowing characters an isolated space to convey the entirety of their own emotional response, Aberlein often
stacks an emotional moment on top of multiple other illustrations and dialogue which instantly
pulled this reader out of that emotional moment and into the subsequent illustrations and dialogue.
The positioning of the characters can also start to feel repetitive, despite this however,
readers are still able to see every aspect of the characters. Aberlein does accomplish
familiarity between the readers and characters, and characters are shown in various lights and
angles, effectively establishing them as three-dimensional beings. Although the panel layout is lacking
in “flare” or “style”s its only a minor disparagement to the rest of the book as the illustrations are joyously consumable.
The value of this book can differ depending on a reader’s preferred reading medium. The entirety
of Volume I is available for free on Webtoon, along with the existing content for Volume II.
However, a physical copy of Volume I is available for around twenty-two dollars USD. The
physical copy is thick, offering readers hours of entertainment and immersive illustrations.
However, the physical copy of Sunrise Blossom is illustrated entirely in grayscale, effectively
infringing upon readers’ engrossment into Aberlein’s fantastic world. This reviewer would have easily given the physical book
a higher rating if it was in color. The price is incredibly reasonable, but, myself and I’d imagine
many readers, would be willing to pay more to experience the story in color. On
the other hand, the comic is completely free through many online platforms; one of these
including the aforementioned website and mobile app, Webtoon. I would be the last to scoff at a
free comic book, and I cannot deny that the main way to consume Sunrise Blossom would be
through the mediums it was intended for. For a die-hard fan of the author or series it’s a no-brainer to invest into a physical copy, but the majority of readers are perfectly content getting their comic fix online. I
would be more congratulatory with the objectively low price of the physical copy if I could say that the story was equally immersive in both grayscale and color, but this is just not the case. Can we petition the creator to release a giant sized omnibus in color?
Sunrise Blossom is obviously a independent self-published offering, but,
considering this, it manages to still look and read comparably to any mainstream published
comic. Aberlein crowdfunded through a few sites to attract attention and fiscal backers for the
release of the physical book. All together, she managed to raise around three-thousand dollars
USD for the production and paper-publication of Volume I. Although this is an impressive
amount for a indie creator, the cost of publishing a comic book can range wildly across the board. Aberlein has amassed more than three-hundred-thousand
views on the Sunrise Blossom issues available on Webtoon and a little over one-hundred-thousand
views on Tapas. This is an incredible volume of traffic for a creator’s
work, but these views likely amount to around two-hundred dollars monthly-a miniscule budget
for such a detailed and worthy story. These things being taken into consideration, the book’s production
quality both online and physically exceeds the standard for similar content.
Sunrise Blossom is a fantastical and imaginative story that, at its core, seeks to explore both
humans and humanity. The decision to write the story’s point-of-view from a non-human adds
humorous and introspective layers that deepen the reader’s overall experience and connection
with the book and its characters. Aberlein has
effectively crafted Sunrise Blossom into a truly entertaining and bingeable story worthy of praise.
The book isn’t perfect, and it’ll be interesting to watch Aberlein grow sas a creator as her
audience increases; Sunrise Blossom being an independent and smaller budget project almost
adds to its charm. It’s a truly imaginative and immersive experience that I would excitedly recommend to any indie or otherwise comic reader!