Let Dai 15

So here we have the last volume of the series.

It opens with some extremely brutal violence.  Dai-Oxin and his gang decide to take their recent troubles out on Jaehee when they spot him out with Yooneun.  Jaehee takes a savage knifing, and Dai shows up to insult Yooneun (by giving a really mean-spirited speech where he basically admits he’s jealous without actually saying so) and to beat the punks up and talk about why being a punk is scary because you just can’t quit.  Yooi shows up later, and there’s a great scene between the two brothers which is quite wonderful in a very understated and emotional way (though Yooi still tells Dai he’s crazy for liking another guy, he’s probably the only person who hasn’t beaten the two up when he found out about them, and he pretty much tells him that they’re still brothers and all).  The whole Yooi-loves-Yooneun-who-loves-Jaehee-who-loves-Dai-who-is-Yooi’s brother thing that’s been going on for most of the series is resolved right here.

Then there’s a beautiful, long scene where Jaehee and Dai live the perfect life.  It even has a little tragedy mixed in, since Jaehee has to hide something from Dai.  If this volume had actually ended with a particularly sad, bittersweet scene between the two boys on the beach, I would have been perfectly pleased since I could have imagined a number of my own outcomes.

But it keeps going.  The second half of the volume separates Jaehee and Dai.  For real this time.  Dai doesn’t come back or get in touch or anything due to his family situation.  A few years pass.  There’s a really weird epilogue that I couldn’t figure out, and then the two most cryptic last pages in any manga I think I’ve read.  But the outcome is pretty clear, and I have to say I was okay with the ending as it was, weirdness and all.  There’s no classic shoujo ending or anything, but that’s okay since this isn’t a typical shoujo series.  It’s very passionate, which is what this series does best, and it ends with the wonderful secondary characters discussing things.  I think that’s fine.

But if you’re curious… here’s some spoilers.  let me mark out the spoilers.

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So… I understand why Dai keeps his identity hidden when he and Jaehee reunite.  He doesn’t know if Jaehee feels the same way after all those years, and he’s really upset about it.  It may also have something to do with the promise to his dad about never returning.  And it just occurred to me that he may be ashamed of his former punkish self, and him saying “Dai is gone” may be a way of hinting that Jaehee will have to accept a changed man.  But it seems like if you run into Jaehee in your cabin that he can only be coming to because he misses you desperately, you wouldn’t need the disguise.  Plus, you know, it seems like you’d drop it after Jaehee guessed who you were and clearly felt the same way, too.  And maybe he did drop it. The scene ends right after that part.

But then, it ends with Dai telling Jaehee about the note at the airport.  It’s sort of implied that Jaehee runs out of the house (in the middle of a snowstorm) right after he hears about the note.  But if Jaehee knows that it’s Dai, why did he run off when he’s finally got the real thing in front of him?  He’s wearing the same clothes and everything, so it must’ve been the same day.  The note scene was certainly good enough to wait all this time for, though.  It was one of those things that got to me the first time I read the series.

And those last two pages!  What the hell!  The narrator is most likely Jaehee, but much older, and probably in America.  He mentions going to a bar while older, then thinking back to hanging out with his friends at a bar when he was younger and them being very upset about Ozzy Osbourne leaving Black Sabbath.  That made me mentally move the entire series to the 70s, and I wasn’t sure if it made a difference or not.  Then I remembered that the characters used cellphones and dreamed of visiting Britney Spears, so I knew it was set in the present.  Then… what about crying over Black Sabbath?  Then he starts talking about Jerry Garcia or something.  This entire first passage didn’t made much sense to me.

Then he sort of talks obliquely about his and Dai’s life together as adults and the average life they lead, and talked about how being young made everything far more important than it actually was and made them overlook the fact they had pretty good lives, which I think is an interesting final note for the series.  Then he goes back to the beginning about how he’s in the bar by himself reflecting on all this, and says that the only friend he had at the bar was youth.  Hmm.

So yes, fiddly ending.  But it was a fantastic series, and it could have any ending it wanted considering how consistently good the rest of the series is.  It is one of my favorites ever, period.  The most romantic manga/manhwa money can buy.  READ THIS SERIES, or at least do so if you have a high tolerance for violence and soliloquies.


Let Dai 14

One more tonight, though I still have one more volume of this and a volume of Banana Fish to talk about.

This volume was mostly just disturbing violence.  There’s actually some cute stuff in the beginning with Jaehee and Dai, but after they are thwarted yet again in their quest for happiness, Dai blows up and bad things happen.  This goes along with the gang life sneaking back up on Dai.  He proves his status one last time, but it is not pretty.  Not pretty at all.

Naru is doing well after what happend last volume.  I’m glad the series has a character like him, someone who can basically pick himself up and look on the bright side no matter how many terrible things happen.  He’s pleasant to have around after the long Jaehee moping scenes and Dai’s fits.

It’s seriously heartbreaking how Dai and Jaehee can’t catch a break.  Of course, Dai’s jealous friend squeals on him to his brother, but even when the two leave town to be together they can’t find peace.  And the end result of their fun night is that Jaehee has to leave his school for basically no reason.  It’s very sad.

More sad is the beating that happens at the end of the volume.  There’s a freshman named Dai-Oxin that keeps trying to get Dai to fight with him (he’s the one that beats Jaehee up last volume, more by accident than to bait Dai).  Dai-Oxin works out a plan to jump Dai, but it backfires horribly after Dai substitutes two other victims in his place.  Dai doesn’t lift a finger save to beat the punks up once they finish with their unintended targets, but he manages to ruin the lives of every one of the gang members.

And next volume is the last one.


Let Dai 13

Hmm… did I post reviews yesterday?  I think I did, but I just realized I had five volumes to talk about tonight.  I didn’t think I read five volumes in one day (six counting Captive Hearts, which I have to finish tomorrow), especially on a weekday, but I guess I did.  I suspect I may have… some sort of problem.

But if the problem leads to me reading Let Dai, I can’t complain too much.  It looks like Dai is going to be avoiding Jaehee for the duration of the series, but… well, you know.  They’re soul mates and all, so they’re going to run into each other at least a little bit.

The bigger problems in this volume deal with the rapidly escalating sad situation surrounding Naru’s dad, a new gang showing up at school that have it out for Naru for getting the Furies members in trouble, and Naru, Jaehee, and Gohee getting in trouble for jumping the Vice Principal a few volumes back when he was forcing himself on Miss Jin.  Gohee needs to avoid punishment, since he’ll be expelled if he gets in any more trouble.  The gang stuff sort of drags Naru and Jaehee back where they don’t really want to be, though, so they’re the ones taking the punishment for jumping the principal.

Jaehee takes a beating, just like he always does, and after avoiding him like crazy, Dai steps in to save him by beating the shit out of the punks.  This scene is quite nice, but I have to say… the scene that takes the cake this volume is the aftermath, where Dai gets himself drunk after his run-in with Jaehee.  His brother comes to pick him up at the bar, and tells him he saw Jaehee kissing Yooneun in the street.  Dai has to get out of the car to puke his guts out while his heart is breaking.  While you may not think puking is that romantic, it’s the best reaction I’ve ever seen for a character finding out about a cheating lover, and it’s all the more potent coming from the rather stoic Dai.

I was afraid I had burned myself out on this series, but I still love it SO HARD.  Even after reading all the volumes over and over again the past couple months, I still thoroughly enjoy every page.  It’s just the best.


Let Dai 12

I know it seems like I’ve been reviewing a lot of boys’ love lately.  I can’t help it.  It’s all been good lately.  Blame Let Dai and my desire to find something better than it.  But there is nothing better, I think.  Let Dai is just one of the best BL titles there is, and probably one of the best shoujo titles in general, too.

This volume is probably the best in the series.  Dai and Jaehee get to live together briefly and have their perfect life while Dai’s family is away and Jaehee is still at odds with his mother about loving Dai.  The volume opens with one of the most erotic manga scenes I’ve ever seen.  More than a kiss is implied, but the implication is in Jaehee’s imagination.  Again, this series does more with kisses than almost any other series can do with pages and pages of sex scenes.

One of the most powerful scenes in the series also occurrs in this volume.  After some uncharacteristically sentimental lines from Dai, the two are laying rather innocently and silently on top of one another in the grass.  After an entire volume of the two boys doing nothing but enjoying each other’s company, this moment is sort of the climax of all their time spent together.  It is extremely touching.  Then, Dai’s father walks up unexpectedly and silently takes in the scene from the edge of the yard.  Then the pair is shown again.  Except, this time, instead of being touching, the scene has turned ugly as you are forced to consider the views of Dai’s father, even without a confrontation or so much as a word from him.  The characters and writing is such that the switch is literally a plummet, and it had quite an impact on me the first time I read it.

Again, most BL series won’t deal with the societal implications of homosexuality, but this one does.  It almost constantly weighs against the pair, and is discussed often by both boys.  To silently invoke that concern at that moment… it was very compelling.

And in case you thought Dai’s father might also have been touched… well, a bit later, he beats the shit out of Dai and tells him never to see Jaehee again.

Meanwhile, Eunhyung’s choice weighs heavily on Gohee, Naru, and the boys who committed the act against her.  Her parents and sister get involved with talking to the boys responsible, and… well, basically Naru ruins their lives.  They aren’t really thinking too much about what they did when Naru first confronts them at the beginning of the volume, but it’s certainly penetrated by the end of the volume.

On another note, I found Jaehee and Dai’s fashion sense apalling.  Jaehee especially.  He’s wearing two remarkably horrible shirts back-to-back.  Later, Dai decides to have a barbecue in the yard (which leads to the scene I mentioned earlier).  They pick clothes for the event, and Jaehee rather enthusiastically chooses a hawaiian shirt, while Dai goes with one of those tropical wrap skirts.  Yeah.

So in case you’re not sick of hearing me praise this series… yeah.  It really is the best, and this is the best volume of the best.  Not to say that there isn’t some good stuff to come, it’s just… well, Dai and Jaehee have a rough road ahead of them.


Let Dai 11

Naru Hagi.  I expected better.  Britney Spears?

BRITNEY SPEARS?!

I laughed so hard.

This was another volume where Dai and Jaehee don’t get to see very much of each other.  But as far as their separations go, this one is probably the best of the bunch.  Dai is roused out of bed at an early hour to flee the country with his family.  He tries unsuccessfully to text Jaehee and get him down to the airport, and there’s a whole long scene where Dai is arguing with his brother several different times about how he can’t leave his lover behind.

The texts are intercepted by Jaehee’s mom, who suspects, so Jaehee is spending a summer alone and not knowing what happened to Dai.  You can imagine the lamentations that spill over the pages while he angsts about this.  Somewhere along the line, he tells his mother the truth about Dai, and is promptly shamed and beaten.

One of the things I like best about Let Dai is that it puts Dai and Jaehee’s relationship in the context of their society, so that the two of them deal with friends, enemies, parents, and the general public who is rather prejudiced.  Not very many BL series actually put the relationship in a context outside what it means to the two characters.  Let Dai has an overly violent approach to absolutely everything it does, so I can’t exactly call it realistic, but it is a lot more… shoujo-y to me than your typical BL relationship.

Of course, Jaehee breaking into Dai’s house and living in his room is by no means typical, and borderline creepy.  The end of the volume hints at something good coming of it, though.

There’s some stuff going on with Naru Hagi and his family, and his dad’s health looks like it’s flagging.  It’s pretty sad, especially since it seemed like every member of Naru’s family was pretty upbeat.

And… there’s some more fallout from what happened to Eunhyung.  I think she’ll be quite involved with the rest of the series, actually, despite her absence.


Let Dai 10

Okay, so all that stuff I said about Eunhyung feeling better last time? Yeah. It’s one of those things where you can see one little push finally sending someone over the edge. It was very, very sad and kind of unexpected. I mean, this series isn’t exactly upbeat or cheery or anything… but Eunhyung went to a place where she shouldn’t have. I’m very sorry about it.

Actually, her entire day is pretty rotten. I can see how that series of events preyed on her the way it did. I wish she’d stuck around for the extra day, though. It made Naru Hagi very, very sad. He got one of my favorite panels of the series so far, where he folds his hands and apologizes when he finds out for sure.

The chapter with Eunhyung and Dai at the very beginning of the book is nice, as is the scene with Dai and Jaehee up on the rooftop. Both show a definite… mellowing out of Dai’s personality. Dai is making a conscious effort to get along with Eunhyung for Jaehee’s sake, and he’s also trying to stay out of trouble for Jaehee’s sake, too. To think of Dai doing these things even a few volumes ago was kind of a stretch, and the change has been gradual, but it’s nice, and I like seeing it come.

The scene up on the rooftop between Dai and Jaehee was very nice. There’s not much else I can say about it other than that. As always, it’s terribly romantic without having much contact between the boys.


Let Dai 9

God, I love this series so much. Did I mention that? I really, really do. It really is very romantic, and I love the way the entire cast of the series contributes to the angst/drama plot totally independently of the main couple.

I’ve sort of ignored Goohee almost the entire series (I think he appeared in, like, volume 2), but he’s actually a really great character. He was introduced as sort of a bad guy, but his earnest and shy pursuit of Eunhyung is quite adorable and understated. It’s a shame pretty much every single character gives him the shaft as far as… well, everything goes. He gets taken advantage of again in this volume when a gift he picked out for Eunhyung scores Naru Hagi brownie points, even after he tried to use it to try and get closer to Yooneun.

I’m glad Eunhyung is getting better. What happened to her was terrible, and I’m glad it wasn’t taken lightly in the context of the series. Actually her surviving and dealing with being raped is probably one of the main themes of the series. Seeing her getting back to a regular life and accepting the good things around her again definitely makes all the guilt I had reading the previous volumes worth it, because it really shows how the event changed her, and how she’s gradually healing and looking up once again wouldn’t seem as realistic if she had done it to begin with.

Something terrible happens to Dai in this volume, too. He cries. Sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between whether Dai is sweating or crying when his face isn’t shown, and I’m pretty sure the ambiguity is intentional. But here… well, he’s just crying, and it is most heartbreaking. He has every reason to cry, and the dialogue that goes with that particular panel is also quite well-chosen.

I liked that scene and the aftermath quite a bit, actually. Dai winds up at Jaehee’s house, and Jaehee’s mom revises the opinion she had developed about him at the hospital (it’s not stated what the opinion was, but it was either hostile or uneasy, it doesn’t really say why). Later, she… revises the opinion again in a scene I don’t quite understand (was the bathroom door open? why was the bathroom visible from the front door?!). She tries very hard not to think about it, which doesn’t bode well.

Also, this is as good a time to mention it as any, because Dai was apparently showering in his tighties. I kind of wonder what kind of censorship guidelines the magazine this ran in had. Jaehee and Dai are shown sleeping together several times, but never having sex, and they’re always wearing pajamas, sometimes matching ones. It’s implied that they have sex, since Dai admits at one point that Jaehee was his first. They kiss, but never are they shown kissing with their tongues. There was one or two other things that struck me as slightly off, which I may mention later, but I’ll say it again: this series has the most erotic relationship I’ve ever seen between two people, and that this is accomplished with little more than kisses between the couple is nothing short of amazing.


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