JiSang Shin / Geo – Yen Press – 2010 – 8 volumes
Okay! Things are starting to right themselves in a shoujo-manga way. The four main characters are no longer pursuing depressing paths, where they hope and wish that the person they have a massive crush on returns their feelings, and things are looking much more positive and healthy towards the end.
For some reason, Erica’s always given me a bad vibe. She’s never really done anything underhanded or more deceitful than loving Tsuyoshi, so I’m not sure where all the hate came from. She gets burned pretty badly in this volume, and shot down in a way that she finally can’t ignore. One of the other characters points out that she’s always been a good sport about Tsuyoshi, and I realized there wasn’t really any reason to hate her. I suppose in other stories, she’s usually the bratty, clingy ex-girlfriend that tries to set up the heroine, but not in this one. She turns out to be more of a friend than anything, and she gets along with everyone very well.
Meanwhile, the language barrier continues to pique my interest. Tsuyoshi confesses his feelings to Be-Ri in grand style, but in Japanese. Be-Ri mishears his “daisuki” (I like you) as “Ya ee saekki” (you bastard), with hilarious results. Tsuyoshi laughs at this later, and finds a more genuine way of confessing his feelings later, turning the mistranslation into a heartfelt sentiment. Meanwhile, Be-Ri’s sister’s boyfriend still confesses an interest in Be-Ri. She’s had a crush on him, so she’s confused about that. On a secondary plotline, Be-Ri’s sister is trying to figure out who it is that she really loves.
There’s lots of absolutely adorable moments as Tsuyoshi tries to find a way to get his feelings through to Be-Ri. Again, I love the language barrier in this series, I wish that was a plot device that was used consistently more often (the only other series I can think of that used it occasionally, off the top of my head, is Hana-Kimi). It’s a cute shoujo romance with genuinely strong and likable characters (in fact, Be-Ri’s strong will is central to the plot of the series), but again, if you don’t like girls’ romance comics, there’s not going to be much here to sink your teeth into. And yes, I will continue to repeat that at the end of every review until something interesting happens.
JiSang Shin / Geo – Yen Press – 2009 – 8 volumes
The language barrier continues to be a very interesting element in this series. When Tsuyoshi calls Be-Ri out on her bogus dating of poor Mu-Hyuk (she doesn’t like him, but he’s had a huge crush on her forever, she’s basically using him as a rebound guy), he gives her a list of ten reasons why she shouldn’t date him. He can’t really communicate himself very well, and can’t say the final reason because he’s embarrassed to admit that he may like her, though she misinterprets this as a failure to speak Korean. He also can’t count in Korean, which is kind of funny, too. The language barrier also leads to strange misunderstandings in a conversation held between Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi’s grandparents about arranged marriage. Two very different couples come from that conversation… the language barrier only plays a masking game in the initial scene (most of the table, and the people involved, can’t speak Japanese), but a misunderstanding also plays a part.
The Tsuyoshi/Be-Ri relationship is developing very, very slowly. Be-Ri is committed to doing right by Mu-Hyuk, trying to learn to fall in love with him and patiently nurturing their relationship. Tsuyoshi is obviously smitten, though he isn’t acting overtly on his crush yet. Also, there’s a great scene between San-Ne and Be-Ri’s sister. I’m not sure if it’s a further split or a reconciliation, but it was still powerful stuff, and their relationship on the backburner is an interesting thing to keep in mind.
It’s still pretty typical girls’ comic stuff, and I don’t think the plot or characters would appeal to anybody who wasn’t a fan of shoujo manga, but it’s still a lot of fun so far. Here’s hoping it remains solid for the next three volumes.
JiSang Shin / Geo – Yen Press – 2009 – 7 volumes
I do love Korean girls’ comics almost unconditionally (I’m looking at you, Sarasah), and this one is no exception. But I’d be the first to admit there’s… a lot of the usual stuff going on here, with a pretty strong heroine surrounded by a good group of friends and a difficult relationship. I’ve forgotten how big a jerk Tsuyoshi was in the other volumes, so at this point he’s even a decent guy that the heroine’s falling for. I’m going to forego commenting too much on this volume in favor of watching the relationship build a little more and seeing if there’s more to say about it then, but there are a couple interesting things to note here.
There is, of course, the jealous lovers coming in between Tsuyoshi and Be-Ri’s fake relationship. I think the language barrier is an interesting element in this story. Not only because Tsuyoshi can’t express himself clearly to Be-Ri and others, but also because it gives Tsuyoshi’s former Japanese girlfriend something of a shield to hide behind when she wants to talk to Tsuyoshi without the others knowing what she’s saying.
I also thought the racism being represented between the elderly Korean woman and Japanese man was interesting. That never, ever comes up in manwha, and it’s almost made into a joke here (more precisely, used as an excuse to push something aside), but it was interesting just how violent the grandmother got in this scene, and just how much was between the lines there. The translation note in the back spelled it out clearly.
Other than that… a relationship is revealed between Tsuyoshi and his keeper, Be-Ri’s older sister is going through a rocky time with her boyfriend, Tsuyoshi and Be-Ri are growing a little closer… you know the drill. Like I said, there will probably be more to comment on next volume. I’m planning on finishing this off within the next couple days, too.
Actually, the girlfriend from Japan turned out to be less of a drag than I thought she would. She basically gets rejected by Tsuyoshi several times, but she manages to drive a wedge between Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi handily despite the brutal rebuffs. I was really worried about the whole “living in Tsuyoshi’s house, going to Tsuyoshi’s school, sitting at Tsuyoshi’s desk, spending every minute with him” setup more than anything, but he manages to kick Erica out of his house pretty early on. Unfortunately, she still hangs around A LOT.
Even though she’s pretty nasty to Be-Ri, Be-Ri can’t help but do everything she can for Erica, much like she couldn’t crush the impulse when Tsuyoshi was rotten to her. When Erica gets thrown out by Tsuyoshi’s grandpa, it’s Be-Ri that spots her and lets her sleep over for the night. In fact, after hearing Erica’s philosophy on love, Be-Ri really wants to be Erica’s friend. Erica doesn’t really consent to this until it’s convenient for her, but she also treats Be-Ri a lot better from that night on.
Things are about the same on the romance front in this volume, save for the fact it’s more apparent that Be-Ri’s sister is planning to cheat on her boyfriend. Tsuyoshi and Be-Ri are still little more than friends, Mi-Hyuk is still trying hard to woo Be-Ri, and Be-Ri still only has eyes for her sister’s boyfriend.
Later, in order to fool his grandpa, Tsuyoshi makes a deal with Be-Ri so that she’ll act like his girlfriend. These scenes between Be-Ri, Tsuyoshi, and the grandfather were my favorites in the series so far. They do a good job of looking at the importance of certain traditions to both Korean and Japanese culture, no matter how silly they may look to an outsider. It also looks at cultural misunderstandings, and while the characters don’t really understand each other (Be-Ri doesn’t speak Japanese, the grandfather doesn’t speak Korean, and Tsuyoshi’s grasp of Korean is still poor), they come to some of the same conclusions. It really is a wonderful scene.
This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.
Ooh! I liked volume two a lot more than volume one. The strange relationship between Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi is fleshed out a lot more here. I was expecting the two of them to have an antagonistic, oil-and-water-type relationship where they fought all the time and were attracted to one another anyway. But that wasn’t how things went down at all.
Tsuyoshi actually eases up quite a bit on being a rich, spoiled jerk. Despite the fact that he’s been sort of rotten to her the few times they met, Be-Ri decides to help him out anyway since she can’t bear seeing all the problems he’s having adjusting to life in a new country with a new language. Things get better between them when Be-Ri insists on walking him to and from school and making sure he knows his way through the neighborhood. She also realizes that she misunderstands Tsuyoshi’s bad Korean sometimes, and one of the more aggravating comments he made last volume is cleared up when Be-Ri realizes he just didn’t have the words to say what he wanted. The two start getting along much better, though neither one of them seem that interested in romance at this point.
The romantic situations in this book are actually sort of atypical and pretty funny. Tsuyoshi is the only one who realizes Be-Ri likes her sister’s boyfriend. Be-Ri’s longtime friend Mi-Hyuk decides that he will start dating Be-Ri when he feels that Tsuyoshi is getting too close to her, but this is very much against Be-Ri’s will. Tsuyoshi steps in to help her a couple times, and Be-Ri puts her foot in her mouth in front of the hottest guy in school, too. Meanwhile, Be-Ri’s sister is actually sort of bored with her nice-guy boyfriend and starts wishing for more romance in her life, and Tsuyoshi winds up taking care of his Japanese girlfriend when she randomly shows up.
I was actually kind of disappointed when the Japanese girlfriend showed up (and is apparently going to stick around). It’s such a common plot device, and she’s an extremely horrible person on top of that. But Tsuyoshi has no problem telling her this, and a really nice scene comes of it when Tsuyoshi explains to his uncle why it is he doesn’t want her in his life anymore.
The weird sense of humor from the last volume is maintained through this one, too. It’s a bit over-the-top, but it works with all the weird characters running around. It got a laugh out of me during the scene where Be-Ri is confronted about who it is she likes and is basically asked out by three different boys at school.
I am curious how Tsuyoshi’s girlfriend will fit in with the rest of the cast, and I’m also waiting to see where Tsuyoshi’s heart will eventually land, and how the situation between Be-Ri’s sister and her boyfriend will work out.
This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.
Strangely, this is one of the only Korean series I’ve ever read that keeps Korean honorifics intact. In fact, they use the term “oppa,” and the last time I saw that was in a series called Sweety. Sweety is nothing at all like Very Very Sweet, but I am tickled by the similarity in the titles.
This series is mostly about a wealthy Japanese boy named Tsuyoshi whose grandfather ships him unceremoniously to Korea to “get back to his roots.” Apparently, one of their ancestors was originally from Korea, and Tsuyoshi’s grandfather wants him to be acquainted with the country and its culture. The grandfather mentions that their Korean ancestor was a monk named Takuan. I paused a minute because that’s the same name as the monk from Vagabond, but Tsuyoshi helped me out in the very next panel by asking the question himself, and supplying a portrait of Vagabond-Takuan in his thought bubble. This is the second time in the past month or so that a manhwa made exactly the same from-left-field joke I was thinking. It’s great, and a little creepy. And for the record, apparently the ancestor really was the same person historically as the monk from Vagabond.
The series has kind of a weird sense of humor. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s a shame that it has to be so heavily footnoted, but I wound up liking the overall “personality” behind the humor quite a bit.
The book was mostly focused on the difficulties Tsuyoshi is having in coming to Korea. He actually didn’t speak Korean prior to coming to the country, and nobody he interacts with speaks Japanese, so he has a hard time communicating with people in general. It’s doubly hard for him, because he’s also a huge jerk, and his tirades remain unintelligible. To make matters worse, everyone laughs when they meet him and his… uh, companion (uncle? cousin? slightly older friend that he grew up with?), because Tsuyoshi’s grandfather chose really horrible Korean names for the two of them (Tsuyoshi’s name apparently means “pickled radish,” and I believe the companion has the Korean equivalent of the name “Melvin”).
Tsuyoshi isn’t the main character, though. The main character is a girl named Be-Ri, Tsuyoshi’s handy next-door neighbor. The two learn to hate each other pretty much right away (Be-Ri drools on Tsuyoshi’s pants, Tsuyoshi spits on Be-Ri), but as neighbors, they wind up running into each other, and are even coupled together at school. I like their antagonistic relationship a lot, and I like Be-Ri’s hobbies, which seem to be scavenging throwaways and making them into things she can sell. She’s actually a pretty cool character. And because this is a girls’ comic, we also have potential love interest in the form of Be-Ri’s sister’s boyfriend, and Be-Ri’s sister seems to be developing a crush on Sam-Shik, the Melvin character I mentioned earlier.
This volume was mostly exposition though, so I’m looking forward to seeing what direction the series takes in volume 2.
This was a review copy provided by Yen Press.