June 25, 2009
Strangely, this is (as far as I know) a Korean doujinshi, set in Korea with Korean characters, yet it is oriented right-to-left like a Japanese book. Not a bad thing, but kind of strange.
Netcomics has published a couple doujinshi series, which is kind of a cool thing especially when I get to read them in a big volume like this. I’ve also read bits and pieces of the doujinshi they have posted on their site by S-kun. They aren’t too different than the typical romance stories you’d find, but there’s something a bit more mature about them. I’d love it if this trend of publishing doujinshi caught on, even if it was only occasionally, and even if it was in an online-only form.
Anyway. This actual volume suffers a bit for having been read right after the excellent concluding volume of Future Lovers. U Don’t Know Me does a really good job of developing its characters, putting them into romantic situations rather than ones that are all about sex, and confronting them with real-life problems like what their parents think of the relationship. But… it’s not as touching, or realistic, or romantic, or appealing as Future Lovers. Very little is. I should have waited longer, and I’m sorry, U Don’t Know Me.
Basically, two boys, a manly Judo player named Yoojin and a girly-looking boy named Seyun, have been friends as long as they can remember. Because of Seyun’s family situation, he was raised mostly by Yoojin’s parents. But the two boys part ways in middle school despite remaining friends. This being a yaoi manga, the two aren’t just friends for long, and deep, secret desires surface and are admitted to. Neither wants to trust that the other wants the relationship, and Seyun in particular is scared of commitment since his family troubles stem from both his parents working all the time in order to pay back a debt, eventually bringing about a divorce. There are good friends to rely on, and Yoojin’s family proves to be both a help and hindrance. There’s also the fact that, despite Seyun’s weak looks, he’s actually kind of a punk at school.
The character development is quite good, and the doubt and hesitations that the characters go through also feel right, though there is some of the frustrating “I’m too happy, so I’m going to break it off now” type of mentality floating around in there. I loved the pacing of the story, and the way it took its time to develop the relationship beginning to end. There was some romantic rushing, and some silly misunderstandings, but overall it was quite an enjoyable read.
One of the stranger subplots dealt with a boy who is known for being both gay and promiscuous that looks exactly like Seyun. There is some speculation as to whether or not the two have met, and some of the misunderstandings hinge on rumors about thsi boy rather than Seyun. But at the very end of the book, this boy comes through for Seyun with a lovely “treasure what’s precious” message, and he also provides some hilarious gags for the 4-panel strips that fill up the back of the volume. I adored the comedic content that was included after the story, including the rather nonchalant story of how Seyun’s stoic friend found out that Yoojin was his boyfriend. I also liked that Yoojin’s dad beat up Yoojin whenever he thought he was being too rough with Seyun. That was kind of weird, but funny all the same.
U Don’t know me is a fine read. One of the better BL books I’ve read, in fact. Just don’t read it right after Future Lovers, because it won’t shine nearly as brightly as it should.