This is going to be a bit of a shift. I imagine that most of you in the internet sphere are aware of what Manga and Manhwa are, if however there is any doubt on the matter, let me explain it to you.
Manga and Manhwa are comics, particularly comics from Japan and Korea respectively. Both have a long history and have, for the most part, enjoyed a much more positive reception in the cultures from which they stem as compared to their western counterparts. Both of these genres have become exceedingly popular in recent times as a result of an Asian soft revolution of sorts through its media.
While I have been an avid watcher of Anime and reader of Manga since I was quite young it wasn’t till recently that I realized what Manhwas were though I had unknowingly read some over time.
All this being said, this post is not about the media itself but one particular instance of it, i.e. “Killing Stalking” made by the artist Koogi.
The name does not necessarily inspire confidence. I have grown accustomed to poorly titled manga so it didn’t bother me but if it does bother you, try to look past it, there is far too much else in the Manhwa to be bothered by.
The premise of the Manhwa is simple enough, Yoonbum a young socially inept man is going about living his life when he meets Sangwoo the popular jock in his college. For reasons we won’t get into right now Yoonbum gets infatuated with him and decides to stalk him and break into his house. This might seem creepy already but it’s only at this point that things take a turn.
Sangwoo manages to break in but instead of finding a college boy’s bachelor pad as he had expected he finds a sadistic serial killer’s layer. There is a girl trapped in the basement and just as Yoonbum is about to help her Sangwoo returns. Sangwoo is about to kill him when Yoonbum confesses his love for him which convinces Sangwoo that he’s interesting enough not to kill instantly and so he keeps him in the basement a la “Misery” by breaking both his legs.
This may seem like I’m giving away a lot but all of this happens in the first chapter.
I found the story fascinating but to many of you it may seem off putting so let me give you a few reasons why you should read this one.
For one the story is quite interesting and in spite of being a bit drawn out is handled very well. The characters, as disturbing as they are, are convincing in their roles, their depravity to an extent makes sense and that is hard to do.
Another facet which I think most of you will enjoy is the art itself. Since I’ve read Manga for so long I have become slightly inured to the art. Its beautiful but in most cases standardized, however the art in “Killing Stalking” is full of thought and commentary.
The characters for the most part are drawn pleasingly but there is always an undertone of something that is not quite right. I think the best examples of this is the lighting. Muddy versions of green and brown suffuse most scene’s giving the whole work a dreary ominous atmosphere. Both the lead characters have deep under-eye circles and during scenes when something horrible is happening, they are drawn to look more gaunt making Yoonbum look skeletal and malnourished and Sangwoo look crazed.
While reading the work it is clear to see how the art informs the story and that is something I admire greatly.
Another thing that I appreciated which might be off putting to most of you was the sexual relationship between the characters. It would be easy to mess this up by romanticizing the relationship and by portraying it as healthy but the artist makes sure that it is, from start to finish, disturbing.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the work, there are some issues that I must point out.
I liked the relationship that they have but I can’t help but notice that by making queer characters psychopaths, the artist inadvertently links homosexuality with insanity. There is a long history of things like this happening and it didn’t entirely sit right with me though I was willing to look past it and appreciate the greater story.
The writing is also not very strong though it gets the job done. There are parts where I thought scenes could be written better and of course because I was reading a translation there were many sections where lines came off as clunky.
All this can be forgiven though if you’re in the market for a gutsy and strange Manhwa. If this is your first time reading a Manhwa then it might not be the best starting point but give it a go anyway. If it traumatizes you then I’ll be sure to recommend something prettier next time around.
As of now the Manhwa is only available legally at lezhin.com which is webcomic publisher. There are other avenues from which to get it but I don’t want to upset anyone so I’m going to leave it for you to find if you want it.
If any of you do read this then do let me know what you thought in the comments, I would love to know what your impressions are.
Rating: 3 stars