13th Boy 12

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2012 – 12 volumes

Hooray! So happy to see the end of this! It wound up being very satisfying, but admittedly, it would have been hard to upset me in almost any way here. I’ve loved this series all the way through, and any of the scenarios I was imagining would have been fine.

I can’t say too much without spoiling it, but one of the things I liked most about the ending of this one was that the usual romantic triangle was difficult (or impossible) to resolve without actually killing one of the characters. While most romance comics are content to pair up the other boy with someone else for a lukewarm ending, that wasn’t going to be possible here, so I liked the extra emotional impact.

I did like how everything was dealt with. One of the characters undergoes a personality change… actually, technically all three do, I suppose, but one was done well. Hee-So goes through a lengthy period as not herself, and watching her snap out of it at the very end of the book was quite rewarding.

I can really only comment on one other small thing, which is Christmas in the Eun household. I loved that all three girls asked for outrageous things, and their dishrag father did his best to get them all, despite their mother’s protests that they didn’t earn them. Plus, he put on a Santa suit to do it, which is just sweet.

Similarly, the epilogue was very funny, if only to see the extra bit added on about Hee-So’s terrifying older sister. That was quite funny.

Actually, the whole thing was funny all the way through, which was one of the best parts for me. Funny, sweet, eccentric, and just a little bit different from the usual romance comic. It’s worth picking up, and it was one of my favorites of the last few years. Too bad these Korean romance series don’t do so well, because I would love to read more by SangEun Lee. Or anyone, for that matter.

But! It looks like Goong is re-starting soon, so I have that to look forward to. That’s another incredibly addictive series.


13th Boy 11

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2012 – 12 volumes

I somehow almost forgot this series. It’s extraordinarily adorable, and it’s unforgivable I let the last two volumes slide to the bottom of my to-read pile. It deserves better than that.

This is winding up for the big finish, and honestly, there’s only a couple things that happen here. Hee-So begins to act strangely around Whie-Young, and can’t quite figure out why. It starts to happen more after they share some rather intimate kisses, and then she has some embarrassingly steamy dreams. A friend helpfully points out that she has a crush on him, and while she doesn’t believe it at first, Hee-So then switches into full gear and begins her whole boyfriend act, doing a complete 180 personality-wise, which creeps Whie-Young out.

I like this series a lot for several reasons here. One is that Whie-Young rejects her completely, telling her over and over again to be her usual obnoxious self, and Hee-So has to process that. Another section features a conversation with Beatrice. Beatrice still has a crush on her, and Hee-So knows that it’s cruel to discuss her feelings for Whie-Young with him, but he’s such a major part of her life, and Beatrice knows there’s something wrong, so she breaks down and tells him. During the course of this conversation, she reveals that the usual thing she does to get a boyfriend is to get excited and go after him with all she has, but she compares it with bargain shopping. She burns herself out on one, and then is on the eye out for the next big sale after the relationship ends. Even though she really likes Whie-Young, she knows their relationship will end sometime soon, and the thought depresses her.

Meanwhile, Whie-Young still has the weird life-threatening condition that means that he can’t really like Hee-So back. This is kind of funny to me, since it means that Whie-Young is a huge jerk to everyone, but Hee-So has never really been phased by this. Anyway, Beatrice is faced with a problem. He knows he will have to give his life in order to make sure Whie-Young doesn’t die and can have a proper relationship with Hee-So. While he is “irreplaceable” in Hee-So’s life, he will never be the man she loves. Plus, Whie-Young is on the cusp of dying, and all it’s going to take is one more instance of him using his powers just for Hee-So, which he can’t help but to do. Whie-Young refuses to take back what he gave Beatrice, however, since he created Beatrice in the first place in order to stop Hee-So from crying, and he knows losing him would absolutely break her heart.

I talked forever, but there’s really only a few points being made in this volume, and a lot of discussion to go with them. One of the other things I liked about it was that all the romantic interests sort-of had an even chance all the way through. That’s still the case going into the last volume. There are certainly heavy odds on one of the boys, but the situation isn’t one that’s going to be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction, so I wonder if it will be as clear-cut as that.

I think I’m going to go read it now, actually.


13th Boy 10

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2012 – 12 volumes

While I got down on both Blade of the Immortal and Ouran High School Host Club tonight, 13th Boy is something I couldn’t be happier with. Right now, the romantic triangle of Whie-Young, Beatrice, and Hee-So is raging beyond belief, and it’s still a page-turner. I like it better now that it’s gotten simpler.

Hee-So is still trying to figure out if she likes Beatrice… romantically, or if it’s because Beatrice is someone she can’t live without. Beatrice is still resolving to be strong and turn into someone she doesn’t have to take care of like a pet. But most of the volume is about Whie-Young, and how he’s dying. He continues to use his magic, and he does it every time for Hee-So. He’s not sure why, since he finds her so annoying. As a result of the fact he is dying, the spirit within him shows him the error of his ways and why it is he likes Hee-So so much. We see a flashback to their childhood, and we learn… that Whie-Young will never love Hee-So unless he reclaims the part of himself that he gave to her. The part that loves her.

And it’s totally obvious where this is going, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise out of context. Long story short, this is going to a terrible place within the next two volumes. The kicker is that I’m not sure who will win the battle for Hee-So’s affection. Either boy is likely right now, and that’s almost unheard of in this type of story. There’s always a clear winner. I almost would have believed it was Won-Jun since it seemed to be what Hee-So’s heart wanted, but now… I just can’t tell. And I’m delighted. I’m never surprised, and I’m happy this series can pull that off.

Plus, even with all this depressing story and emotional flashback stuff going on, it still manages to be fairly funny and upbeat, which was always one of its best qualities. I’d recommend it highly for anyone that enjoys reading romance comics, if you haven’t picked it up already.


13th Boy 9

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2011 – 12+ volumes

This volume has two distinct halves. We know that Won-Jun is stepping out of the story for the time being, so the first half focuses on making some nice memories between Won-Jun and Hee-So, having Hee-So deal with the parting, and the parting itself. Hee-So is surprisingly mature about all of this, and it might be more than a little telling that she wasn’t as broken up about being separated from Won-Jun as she was when Beatrice was missing. I don’t want to spoil too much of this part of the story (I’ve probably already said too much), so I’ll just leave things at that.

The second half of the volume addresses the awkward situation between Hee-So and Beatrice. Hee-So just can’t see Beatrice as anything but her cactus and childhood friend, whereas Beatrice is crazy in love with Hee-So. He makes no secret of this, and does all he can to be with Hee-So while living his life at Whie-Young’s place as, more or less, a maid. You can get to feeling pretty badly for Beatrice. Since he has no identity, he can’t go to school, and living with Hee-So as a cactus in her room for so long means he’s more than a little socially awkward, and doesn’t really interact with anyone outside Whie-Young and Hee-So. All he can do is stay quietly and fruitlessly in love with Hee-So and do Whie-Young’s chores for him soas to earn his keep. It’s a really sad existence, though Beatrice is surprisingly positive about it, saying he’s doing things he always wanted to do while he was a cactus trapped in Hee-So’s room.

Part of the story here is also about Hee-So’s classmates begging her to introduce them to her “cousin.” What seems like a good opportunity to get Beatrice out into the world is more or less quashed by Hee-So. She doesn’t want to explain the awkward relationship between she and Beatrice, and more importantly, she doesn’t seem comfortable with him going out with other girls. She also still selfishly depends on him for emotional support, especially after Won-Jun’s departure. And yet, she herself seems put off by the thought of romantic feelings for Beatrice, who is simply hers. He was, until very recently, literally her possession in the form of an anthropomorphic cactus. You can’t really blame her for being uncomfortable with the sudden shift from friendly cactus to brooding teenage boy.

I think it will only be a matter of time before she falls in love with Beatrice, though. And yet there are still other factors in play. Won-Jun is clearly punishing himself more than a little by staying by Sae-Bom’s side. Sae-Bom doesn’t love him, and he falls more than a little in love with Hee-So before he has to go. His former feelings for Sae-Bom seem to only exist as a sense of duty now, and he says himself that he’s only going with Sae-Bom because she has no one else. This leaves things open for a reunion between Won-Jun and Hee-So, though I think this is more than a little unlikely. Or, if it does happen, it will be part of the climax, where Hee-So has to choose between Won-Jun and Beatrice or something.

Also interesting is Whie-Young. He’s a bizarre and very misanthropic character at this point. What I thought was an inevitable relationship between him and Hee-So seems extraordinarily unlikely at this point, though the fact remains he keeps using his life-threatening magic whenever Hee-So asks for it. Still, as boyfriend #1, I suspect he is not the titular 13th Boy of the title. His role at this point seems to be as a mentor for Beatrice, but he’s a fairly lousy one.

My favorite scene in this volume takes place over the course of two appearances. The first time, Hee-So is on a bridge with Won-Jun, and after an extremely pleasant and exciting date between them, she begins describing how much she likes the bridge they’re on, and that they should come back in the fall when the area is swarming with dragonflies. Won-Jun then takes that comment to sour the good mood, telling Hee-So he won’t be around in the fall, and breaks up with her. Later, in the second half of the volume, Hee-So returns to the bridge with Beatrice while the two are still trying to figure out their place in each other’s lives. It is fall, and Hee-So gets to experience the swarms of dragonflies with Beatrice instead of Won-Jun, but she still lets herself revel in her good memories of her last date. It’s a wonderful scene, and not only is the moment extremely romantic both times, it shows just how much balance the author gives to all the characters.

Basically, if it wasn’t totally obvious, I am still all kinds of addicted to this series. It’s still really fun, and a nice mix of humor, romance, and bittersweetness. It manages to be a fairly realistic romance while still containing elements of bizarre magic, and that only makes it more unique. This relatively new wrinkle with human-Beatrice still hasn’t lost its novelty for me, and I can’t wait to see how things shape up between Hee-So and Beatrice. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ve once again caught up to the Korean release, and the next three volumes appear to have a six-month gap between them.


13th Boy 8

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2011 – 12+ volumes

Reading three volumes of this in a row was both a good and bad idea. It’s good. Seriously good. I’m a little jealous at myself now, because I don’t think I can save it up for that long again. The bad news is that now I have to wait until November for the next volume. And it’s going to be a long, hard wait with the impending bombshell at the end of this volume. It’s not even a cliffhanger. I know it’s coming. I want to watch that train wreck anyway.

Lots and lots of good stuff in this volume. Hee-So’s depression deepens as summer wears on and Beatrice doesn’t turn back up. Not even Won-Jun can cheer her up, and he, in fact, only makes things worse when she tells him why she’s so sad. He blows off her talking cactus story as a sign he should stay away.

There are a couple criminally well-placed romance plot devices in this volume. The first deals with Sae-Bom, and makes it so that Won-Jun may have to finally come to terms with how he feels for both Sae-Bom and Hee-So and choose one. Another is a rainy day scene that resolves one problem and creates another, but is so terribly mushy and well-played, with both of the couple stories going at once, that I read it two or three times through. I am ridiculously weak for stuff like this, I’m sorry.

Beatrice’s story advances in this volume, too, and things get significantly cheerier through the second half. Which is good, because 13th Boy is at its best when the characters are joking and thoroughly embarrassing themselves in good fun. One of my favorite scenes in the volume is when an outside character gets a first-hand look at Hee-So’s family. It’s such a creepy scene, and it pegs all those side characters so well I couldn’t stop laughing.

I liked that this volume also developed the friendship vs. love themes a little more. Beatrice/Hee-So and Won-Jun/Sae-Bom really do reflect one another, for the most part. Beatrice is in love with, and 100% hopelessly devoted to, Hee-So. Hee-So is hopelessly devoted to Beatrice too, but still seems to put her romantic trust in Won-Jun. Clearly Beatrice means everything to her, so it’s interesting she hasn’t reflected on this. But maybe she really does see Beatrice as more of a brother than a potential romantic interest (although I’m willing to bet that’s going to change, I had forgotten that Won-Jun was boyfriend #12, and Whie-Young boyfriend #1, until this volume kindly reminded me). Won-Jun is still obviously in love with Hee-So, though his most important person is Sae-Bom. Sae-Bom doesn’t seem to really love Won-Jun, nor is he her most important person, but on the other hand, he’s all she has, and she’s a sad character. This volume’s all about making all these characters think and analyze. Who is just a friend? Where does love lie? As cheesy as that is, I completely loved it, and it looks like it will carry over into the next volume.

Absolutely amazing stuff. This is one of my absolute favorites right now, and is quickly vying for a spot as one of my top girls’ comics of all time. I love it, and anyone who loves comic-style romance stories should probably give it a try.

This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.


13th Boy 7

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2011 – 12+ volumes

Every volume of this series just keeps getting better and better. I was most interested in the off-balance love triangle that’s been setting itself up the last couple volumes, and that’s not addressed here. That the story is pursuing a super-unlikely path for these relationships is interesting to me, but after this volume, I don’t think that’s the most interesting.

No. The talking cactus, the character that shouldn’t make any sense but is still super-important, takes center stage in this volume, and I couldn’t be happier. Beatrice has been playing more and more of an active role lately, especially since he disapproves strongly of Won-Jun. Suddenly, in this volume, Beatrice turns human and can’t figure out how to turn back. Strangely, both he and Hee-So take it in stride, but there are… complications when your best friend, formerly a cactus, turns into a good-looking boy that you have to hide in your bedroom.

Actually, my favorite part of this volume was the way that Hee-So really did take this in stride. She bent over backwards to keep Beatrice company, get him food, and think of ways to turn him back into a cactus. Nothing gets her to leave his side, not her favorite food for free, and not even Won-Jun. That boy-crazy Hee-So, who wants nothing more than to be Won-Jun’s everything, breaks a promise to him because she thinks Beatrice is hurt, it says more than the characters ever could about how much Beatrice means to her.

I think the best part is that Hee-So doesn’t realize herself just how important Beatrice is. He is what he is, and he’s been a part of her life for over eight years. His circumstances don’t change that, and any situation that means that Beatrice can’t be close is unacceptable.

The second half of the volume throws another complication into their relationship, and seeing the cheerful Hee-So, who will do anything and everything to get what she wants regardless of what anyone else thinks, reduced to tears and hopelessness over the situation, was most heartbreaking. I can’t believe such a silly comic could be so effective at making be feel bad for its super-selfish main character, but here you go. That’s just how great 13th Boy really is.

As I’m sure I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of all of these super-girly Korean series that Yen Press publishes. You’re So Cool, Pig Bride, and 13th Boy are probably my favorites, and of those three, 13th Boy is probably the best. I still can’t believe it so seamlessly combines magic and contemporary romance, and that Hee-So is so likable. The next volume just arrived, and I’m really looking forward to it.


13th Boy 6

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2011 – 12+ volumes

Yet another series I’m a big fan of, this time a Korean girls’ comic. Again, it’s the strange mix of fantasy and reality that I like in this one. It’s mostly a standard romantic triangle, with two boys, two girls, and everyone in love with the wrong person at the wrong time. But there are bizarre extras that make it really special. One of the boys, Whie-Young, has a strange power to grant wishes. He almost never uses it, and when he does, it’s usually only for Hee-So’s benefit. Also, there’s a talking cactus that periodically transforms into a boy. The cactus’s name is Beatrice. Beatrice isn’t really a joke, he’s a character the series takes pretty seriously. I enjoy absurd touches like that immensely.

Hee-So is over the moon now that Won-Jun has asked her out and confessed his feelings for her. Nothing could make her happier. But Sae-Bom isn’t as happy, since she also likes Won-Jun, but doesn’t want to lose her friendship with either Hee-So or Won-Jun over Hee-So’s jealousy. But aside from being lifelong friends with Won-Jun, she also… you know. Likes him. Because this is a girls’ comic. It’s not really addressed in this volume, but it’s there.

Elsewhere, Whie-Young is sleeping a lot more now that he’s been using his power more frequently, which also apparently means he will die soon. On the way to school, he runs into Hee-So and hijacks her into going on a nice date with him. Neither seem to enjoy the time together, and Whie-Young isn’t about to admit that he might actually really like Hee-So, but it is a date all the same, and Won-Jun catches them at it. Beautifully, this scene goes much different than I imagined it would.

The date with Whie-Young was what I was most interested in, though. The relationship between him and Hee-So is my favorite thing about this series, and there are lots of enjoyable moments between the two during this scene. They’re rarely alone, which was another great thing about this scene, though very little of serious note happens between them.

There are obvious couples from the beginning, but currently, nothing is being done to actively get these obvious couples together. It makes me wonder if perhaps this series will go down a different road? Hmm. Luckily, volume 7 just came out and I have it here to read, though it looks like the story tackles a completely different topic in that book. Still, I’m looking forward to it.


13th Boy 5

SanEun Lee – Yen Press – 2010 – 6+ volumes

And what better to follow up a volume of hard yaoi than 13th Boy, a sweet love story?

On one hand, I was a little disappointed that the pace of the series slowed here, and that there was less madcap strangeness afoot. On the other hand, this volume addresses some of the relationship and character issues that have been developing, and there are some major changes that happen. Less of what I like, but probably still one of the best volumes of a series that I am very, very fond of.

One of my favorite things in this series is the relationship between Hee-So and Whie-Young. The magic element in this series, while sort of ridiculous in context, lends an air of innocence to the childhood memories of Hee-So, and to her life in general, really. It also makes the prickly Whie-Young’s soft spot even more apparent, both in the past and present. The fact that he was the first boyfriend of boy-crazy Hee-So, all that time ago, is also pretty fatalistic in the same way. Anyway, in this volume, Hee-So finally realizes that it was Whie-Young that did all the magical things for her back in childhood, that he was the one that gave her Beatrice, and that he was also the one that brought Sae-Bom’s Toe-Toe to life. She confronts him about it, and about her feelings and his. It’s a great scene, but lacks a little bit considering my wish for Whie-Young to be the primary love interest. There’s something missing on both sides of the conversation, and it’s unusual because of it. Like it’s game changing, but not really.

Later, Hee-So drags Won-Jun and Whie-Young to Sae-Bom’s house to celebrate Sae-Bom’s birthday. Typically, Sae-Bom spends the day alone with Toe-Toe since it was the first day they met, but now that Hee-So realizes that Toe-Toe is like her Beatrice but dead, she decides that’s too depressing and tries to liven things up for her. And hook up with Won-Jun on the side, of course.

Beatrice comes along, too, in human form. Beatrice calls himself Edward, though, because Beatrice is an unlikely name for a boy. I love that the story addresses this bizarre anomaly.

The sad story of Toe-Toe is recounted later on, too. For a magical, foul-mouthed bunny, he sure does have a compelling past. And present. It also makes you feel bad for Whie-Young. He will literally do anything and everything within his considerable power for Hee-So. And she… doesn’t really look his way.

There’s another great scene at the end of the book, too (I’m sorry, I’m really trying not to spoil things, but there is a lot of wonderful stuff here). Straight out of the girliest girls’ comic you’ve ever read. Joy on both sides. Except there’s something a little off about this conversation, too, though the feeling is there on both sides. To a ridiculous extent.

I love this series, and every volume makes me love it a little more. It’s offbeat and the absolute perfect mix of all the girliest things I can think of, including fatalism, magic, best friends, boyfriends, love triangles, cute childhood flashbacks, talking stuffed animals, and even a strong heroine that’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind in any situation.


13th Boy 4

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2010 – 7 volumes

I reviewed this for the final Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check it out over there.

Unlike Madness, I love this series to pieces. The weirdness has stabilized here, so it isn’t throwing any new curveballs, but it’s still a great read. And I can’t help but lose myself in the unabashedly girly, romantic, and upbeat plots series like this and other Yen Press manhwa has. It’s just what I like to read, but the weird magic-ness that 13th Boy is able to pull off gives it a special place in my heart.


13th Boy 3

SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2010 – 7 volumes

This series keeps taking sudden turns on me.  To be fair, the twists aren’t that devious, just kind of bizarre.  And some of them are romantic-oriented, so it’s not hard to guess what will happen, but all the same.  I’m never sure what kind of screwball pitch is coming next, and I really like it.

Again, I think it’s the subtle use of magic that makes this one special.  Normally such a bad thing, here it throws an interesting and fantastic twist into things.  And all the magic elements come together in this volume, so they’re not longer disparate and… well, basically, we find out why Hee-So has a talking cactus named Beatrice that turns into a boy every full moon, and somehow, it makes sense.  Which speaks volumes about the story here, I think.

Other than that, there’s a lot of normal stuff going on.  The triangle set up with Sae-Bom last volume complicates things here as expected, with Sae-Bom in love with Whie-Young, who is in love with Hee-So, who is in love with Won-Jun, who is in love with Sae-Bom.  Classic, but it’s working to great effect here.  Whie-Young’s crush is downplayed until certain events are revealed, and Won-Jun’s affection towards Sae-Bom is more brotherly than romantic, though it’s more than clear he’s not looking for another girl.

I’m wondering how the character of Sae-Bom will be handled in the future.  She clearly has some sort of handicap, which is treated lightly and a little disrespectfully by some of the characters . It’s alluded that she’s in some sort of arrested development state, though we are offered no real explanation or history of this, just a bit of backstory that doesn’t go far to explain it.  She gets fierce bullying from girls at school who think she’s faking it, which strikes me as extremely insensitive.  Again though, I’d like to think that this will be made up for later.  Experience has taught me that these things typically aren’t handled with a gentle touch, but all the same, I’m optimistic.

This is certainly among the better series that Yen Press releases, and with You’re So Cool, Pig Bride, and One Thousand and One Nights wrapping up this summer, 13th Boy will be one of my most eagerly anticipated titles from them for the near future.  Great stuff.  Weird stuff.  I’m excited to see where it goes.


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