13th Boy 9

December 12, 2011

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.

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