Lee Hyeon-Sook – Tokyopop – 2008 – 2+ volumes
Tokyopop’s translation stops at volume 2

While this series does have pretty art, I’m left a little cold on the romance, which seems to be the point. All the same, there is an intriguing conflict set up here, and Ryumin’s intentions become puzzling and far less clear than they should be, which is definitely several points in this series’ favor.

Daoun deals with the fallout from falsely accusing a student of stealing test results last volume. The student liked her enough that she was trying to leave Daoun a present when she was caught, which of course makes this situation that much uglier. Students badmouth her, parents badmouth her, and other teachers badmouth her. Later, since the student’s opinion of her has deteriorated, she is unable to make a single one of her homeroom students attend mandatory after-school tutoring sessions, which puts her in bad standing with the administration.

She wonders if any of it is worthwhile, but Hyunwoo stands by her. He’s a good character, and I loved the way his shy admiration from afar, confident that he almost has Daoun in a position to admit his feelings after so many years, is contrasted with the bold Ryumin. Hyunwoo blows off Daoun’s concerns about Ryumin being too forward as paranoia, but as Ryumin begins to target Hyunwoo for teasing and antagonizing, he is less sure of himself. The contrast between these two, and the completely opposite ways they help Daoun, is quite unique, and I’d love to see either of them make a very serious move. Of course, Ryumin’s been making serious moves from the beginning, but his actions become less clear here.

The blur comes partially as a result of his erratic help concerning the accused student. He acts as a go-between without telling Daoun, but then does something malicious and taunts her later. He also hinders her progress in the after-school tutoring later. Does he still like her, do his actions reflect a change in his mood, or is he acting out of jealousy since Daoun is spending more and more time with Hyunwoo? The ambiguous intent is intentional, and again, I would love to see the mystery unravel as Ryumin grows closer to Daoun.

The other reason Ryumin’s intentions are unclear is because he has a girlfriend. He says no, she says yes, but he’s clearly intimate with her, and he shows at least one scene where he genuinely cares about her. She begins to pick up on his feelings for Daoun, and by the end of the volume, has Daoun in a tight spot. She’s rather evil, and the missing dangerous piece from the majority of the first two volumes: none of the characters act like a teacher and student together is a dangerous thing, but surely if Daoun was caught with Ryumin, it would be bad for her?

I’m still not entirely fond of Daoun as a main character, since she’s still rather vanilla and lacks personality quirks. I think a vanilla character is probably best considering the two types of men vying for her affection, and I am happy this isn’t being played for comedy. It’s true that neither Ryumin or Hyunwoo are terribly three-dimensional at this point, too, but all the same, they’re making some interesting friction together.

The pieces are all here as far as romance stories go, but they’re fitting together in a different way, and I’m growing to like it more and more the further I read. Its tone is also more mature and josei-ish than, say, Sugarholic, even though one of the love interests is still in high school. I do like the marginally more mature flavor here (other than the fact everything is happening slowly and a lot of attention is paid to Daoun’s career, I don’t know if this is that much different than a mature high school title), and I love the art and setup so far. It’s not one of my favorites, and I’m not absolutely crushed I can’t pick up the next volume, but I still think it’s another unique voice that won’t continue, and that’s a shame.

Lee Hyeon-Sook – Tokyopop – 2008 – 2+ volumes
publication suspended

This was one of the titles that came out during the great Tokyopop manhwa meltdown of ’08. Better titles than this lost their forward momentum (Hotel Africa, for one), but this one sounded pretty hot and heavy, and when I saw it on sale recently I thought I’d give the two volumes that came out a spin.

It is pretty intense stuff, and is one of the only series I’ve read that I’ve forgiven for being a teacher-student relationship. Daoun, a new teacher, begins to come under heavy and creepy courtship from Ryumin, one of her students. She brushes him off vigorously, but he comes on strong, sometime skewing his aim to keep her guessing about his intentions. He’s a mysterious boy, and gets along “well” with at least one of the female students. Daoun is smart enough to know to stay away, but the lingering pauses after Ryumin’s occasional acts of kindness, combined the artful way the panels are composed that screams “romance” lets you know that things will likely escalate. Realistically, it seems that Daoun has no feelings for Ryumin whatsoever, but all the nuances scream otherwise.

Complicating things (as things must be complicated) is a former college classmate of Daoun’s showing up to teach at the same school. He’s carried a torch for Daoun since he met her, but she has absolutely no feelings for him, either. He also manages to anger Ryumin, who begins acting jealous whenever he sees the two of them together. This character is rather hopeless at this point, but he’s interesting for what he brings out in Ryumin.

Ryumin’s an interesting character. He plays a genuinely mysterious beau whose real intent is completely ambiguous at the end of the first volume. At this point, if things were turned around and Ryumin was really just an aggressive creep, it would still fit. But he does a variety of nice things for Daoun anonymously, and Daoun seems to do her part by keeping Ryumin company at key times and listening to his various problems.

Ryumin is also a true romantic, and as I said, the nice art with excellent composition helps turn his various acts of kindness into something with a lot of hidden meaning. From loaning out his coat to lending an ear to tricking Daoun into a tutoring session, Ryumin has a number of approaches he uses. He is a little bit of a creep, but that hint of danger, combined with just a hint of silliness from Daoun, helps balance things out well.

But… after the first volume, other than nailing the atmosphere and artwork, nothing else about it really stands out. As interesting as they are, neither Ryumin nor Daoun is particularly likable at this stage, and no interesting plot developments have taken hold yet. There’s also not really a strong voice to the dialogue or storytelling, so there’s not much to keep the reader going. It’s pretty, but there are far better things out there. I got about what I expected, but my thresholds are pretty low.

I’m curious to see how far the story gets in two volumes. Is it an epic that goes on for ten more volumes? Maybe it wraps up in three? Maybe it’s a typical 5- to 7-volume series? I have no idea, but it’s interesting enough that I’ll probably read the second volume tonight.