Comic review: Date King 1

Photo: Epigram Books
Photo: Epigram Books
The dating scene in Singapore has been touted as the most terrifying around the world and sometimes those of us wanting to navigate the minefield might sometimes get flummoxed at the intricacies of it all. Growing up the guide for most of us was The Teenage Textbook, but with a new generation comes a need for a new updated guide. Up steps Date King 1: Singapore Dating by Adrian Teo and Kenfoo – will this new graphic novel published by the folks at Epigram Books be the next big Singapore dating guide?

Date King 1: Singapore Dating is a graphic novel that somewhat follows the life of Ah King aka Date King (quite a mouthful there) as he attempts to teach the clueless just how to get a date via stories of his “agonising” dating past. It’s interspersed with guides to various types of girls and guys in Singapore, together with some pages of “letters” asking for advice answered by Date King. If you’re looking for some heavy reading that pontificates the meaning of life – well you’re not going to find it here, but DK1 is a nice, light read that shines a pretty keen lens on the dating scene in Singapore.

Photo: Epigram Books
Photo: Epigram Books
Now, I won’t count myself as an expert in the dating scene, having pretty much only dated two girls my whole life (and successfully avoided all kinds of Government intervention) – so compared to many others out there it might seem like I’ve barely dipped my toe into the killer wave-pool that in Singapore. Still, there’s a lot in Date King that one can identify with – from the awkward moments when you’re meeting someone for the first time, to trying to impress someone (in something you absolutely have no idea what to do), to just the regular girl stereotypes (archetypes!) you see in Singapore (there’s 14 here, which is a pretty huge number, but it works pretty well. Oh, and there’s also 11 guy stereotypes).

So all this adds up into a nice smorgasbord of random dating-related vignettes that really brought me back to those days of self-loathing and pain. Good thing, then, that writer Adrian Teo and artist Kenfoo have managed to make it all rather humourous – you won’t be rolling on the floor with laughter, but whatever stage of life you’re at, I’ll bet it’ll bring a smile to your face. While the book teases volume 2 at the end, one wishes that there was more of the good parts of the book, namely the anecdotal moments. The other bits, like the “letters” pages do come off as forced, and given that we see a stumbling Date King in most of the stories, the ultra-confident advice dispenser seems to come out of nowhere. Of course, it’s written wholly tongue-in-cheek, but I could have just done with more comics.

Photo: Epigram Books
Photo: Epigram Books
Some might take offence at what seems to be sexist (a guide to girl archetypes, for starters), but Date King’s obvious inability to be an actual “date king” does temper that. There’s also the aforementioned list of guy stereotypes (that don’t work quite as well), but Date King truly is more of the lovable bumbling fool rather than some vile woman hater. And I think I managed to file my wife into two archetypes, so it kinda works!

In the end, Date King book 1 isn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny (especially if you’ve seen the originals way back when they first went viral), but within it there’s a lot of heart and just enough cheesy humour to make it seem harmless. It doesn’t tout itself as a guide for the lovelorn, but there’s really a lot to appreciate about local dating in there. Still, more of the relatable dating anecdotes would have been lovely, but we are promised a book 2, so there’s that. If you’ve ever traversed the “horrific” dating scene that is Singapore’s, or if you’re in the middle of it, or are just about to, there’s just going to be something you’ll find in here that’ll bring a smile to your face.

Also: Bonus Troy Chin appearance for the win! That really brought the chuckles.

Date King book 1 officially launches at Kinokuniya Ngee Ann City at 2pm, Sept 14, or you can just buy it online at Epigram Books (but how fun would that be?)!


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