Sunday, January 24, 2016

Let Dai, vols. 1-15

by Won Soo-yeon (원수연)

So, I've written recently that I don't actually read that many graphic novels, but I've recently reviewed three and am now going to review a Korean manhwa series. Playing catch up on things I read long ago is partly to blame, but maybe I read more graphic stuff than I realize.

I read about this series last year in School Library Journal, I think, in an article about popular new manga for teens. (Korean "manhwa," Japanese "manga" — same diff.) My library didn't have it, so I wound up using interlibrary loan for the entire 15 volume series. I felt a little guilty about doing so, because a lot of work goes into getting a book through interlibrary loan, and once or twice I started and finished one of these books on my lunch break and checked it right back in after only having it checked out for an hour. Oh, well. Having read a fair amount of Japanese yaoi, I was interested to see the Korean take. (Boy Princess, also mentioned in the article and also Korean, was a big disappointment.)

The tender and wistful boys-love style covers belie a much darker interior. A sudden and intense attraction between two young men of different backgrounds — a clean-cut mama's boy and a rebellious gang leader — swirls into violence that threatens to destroy their own lives and brings grievous harm to those around them. It's quite tragic, really, and occasionally confusing, but overall it's a difficult story well-told. No really sexy bits, but the young men's tense and tortured relationship is convincingly drawn, and other characters are nicely developed too. Top notch.

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