Angelic Layer Chap. 5: The Art of Losing


Remember when I said we’re going to talk about Hatoko? It’s time to talk about Hatoko.

Misaki can’t land a hit on Hatoko’s angel, Suzuka. She keeps dodging Hikaru’s attacks, and Misaki can’t figure out how.

This is only Misaki’s second battle, and it shows. She’s making what is probably a rookie mistake. When she wants Hikaru to move right or left, she’s also moving her own body right and left. As soon as she figures this out, Misaki stops moving. She doesn’t give Hatoko any more hints about what she’s planning to do, and starts turning the fight around.

When we first met Hatoko, she’s just called an “Angelic Layer nut”, but it’s supposed to be a surprise when we find out that a six-year-old is the reigning champion of the game. I don’t remember if I was surprised when I first read this, but I have a feeling that I probably wasn’t.

There are two things I don’t like about Hatoko’s character. The first is that she’s a six-year-old, and doesn’t act like one at all. Hatoko is intelligent, calm and collected, and sure of herself. That’s not to say that young children can’t be smart and calm (though I’ve yet to see a kindergartner as un-excitable as Hatoko), but it seems highly unlikely to me that she would be so disciplined, and so well-spoken.

No one talks like this.

She’s a just a little kid, playing with her favorite toy, and being really good at. From the child prodigies I’ve seen in various anime and manga, they all seem to be set in one mode: calm and smart. I think a prodigy character would be much more interesting if she acted…well, acted their age. A child, smarter than most adults, given tasks required of adults and lauded for their intelligence…that’s a cool idea. But what if they just wanted to go to the playground instead of doing rocket science? Or their parents want to make them go to bed, but they really want to finish finding the cure for cancer tonight? I like that idea much more than one that treats child prodigies as just a smaller version of adults.

The other thing about Hatoko that I sort of disagree with is her concept. She’s already discovered something that she’s the best at, she’s already a champion. And she’s six. So…what the hell is she going to do with the rest of her life? And even though winning is a lot of fun, and everyone likes to win, if you go into every contest knowing you’re going to win, wouldn’t things get a little boring?

Pretty soon, Hatoko will just be like a tiny Forrest Gump.

“And then I played Angelic Layer, again…and then I became world champion, again…”

Or maybe she’ll just crash and burn horribly like other child stars. I hope not.

But back to Misaki and her second fight. It’s not a huge leap to guess that she’ll win the tournament, which she does. She’s the heroine of an upbeat manga, after all. But what I hadn’t been expecting, as a thirteen-year-old, was that she would lose this fight. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone that she loses to Hatoko; even Misaki accepts it.

Icchan says that the thing Misaki needed to learn to succeed in Angelic Layer was how much losing hurts.

I was a little conflicted about how I felt about this. Of course, I’m part of the “self-esteem” generation. That is, me, and people my age, all got told that we were special and unique snowflakes, that we should all believe in ourselves and have confidence. I do believe that it’s important to have self-confidence, so I’m okay with some of this.

However, I’m not okay with overly-sheltering children. Yes, kids need to be protected, but you can’t shield them from everything. You can’t stop them from failing, or save them from disappointment. The hope is that when children fail, they learn something, and strive to improve themselves. Kids need to learn how to lose, because life is full of losing and failing. Hearts get broken; dreams don’t always come true, no matter how much you want it or believe in it.

You have to learn how to fail, so you can pick up the pieces, and and strive to make yourself better.

And that’s exactly what Misaki does.

And, that’s it. We’ve reached the end of the book. It was nice to revisit these characters again, and remember the joy and excitement I felt watching Misaki’s journey through the first time. But the nostalgia isn’t enough to make me keep this book. Misaki grows up in her story, and so have I.

Final Verdict: For Sale

Next I’ll be starting up a rather long project–and I almost can’t believe I’m saying this–Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Stay tuned!

Angelic Layer Chap. 4: Sportball

As I mentioned before, CLAMP is known for their beautiful artwork, but this series really doesn’t show it off. When Misaki interacts with characters as rambunctious as Tamayo and Icchan, a lot of the art looks like this:

I used to call it “squid art” for some reason. Maybe because the limbs look like tentacles? There’s a lot of this throughout the series, and I think it gets used way too often. I know that creating a comic is a ton of work, and not every panel will be — or even needs to be — a masterpiece. But to use a such a simplified method of drawing the characters so often just feels, well, lazy. Especially when I know that CLAMP has produced some amazing work.

Maybe I should cut them some slack. Everyone needs a breather, right?

Long anime series tend to usually have a few “filler” episodes, where the characters go to the beach and nothing important happens. You won’t see this as frequently in manga, and definitely not in Angelic Layer. The whole series is only five volumes long, so the story is quite compact. At the beginning of the book Misaki’s just learning what Angelic Layer is; by the end of this chapter, she’s in her first fight in a huge tournament. Moreover, her opponent is six-year-old Hatoko, but I’ll come back to that in chapter five.

On the subject of the tournament, there are a couple things that confuse me. First of all, the announcer tells the crowd the basic rules of angelic layer: the first angel to lose all its health, or to be pushed out of the arena (the “layer”) loses. Okay, I’m down with that, but have you ever actually heard a sports caster explain the rules of the game as it’s being played? Everyone in the audience is already a fan; they know how this works. I’ve never sat down to watch the Super Bowl and heard the announcers explain the basic rules of the game while it’s going on. It might be nice if they did, because what even is football? But it just feels a little out-of-place here. It would make more sense if Icchan explained all this when he was helping Misaki learn the basics of Angelic Layer.

Also, those appear to be the only rules of the game. But when Hatoko’s angel, Suzuka, lands her first blows on Hikaru, Mr. Exposition the sportscaster announces that Hatoko’s got the first set of points in this match. That is the first and the last time “points” are ever mentioned.

You don’t need points to win, so I have to assume that one of the following things happened here:

(a) points refer to the angel’s health, or “hit points”

(b) translation error

(c) CLAMP changed their minds about how the match winner would be determined and forgot to go back and change it

(d) There’s a gritty underground ring of people betting on Angelic Layer matches, and gamblers have created a “points” system in case of close matches or to determine payout.

The first option makes the most sense, but I like the last one the best.

Angelic Layer, Chap. 3: Do Angels Dream of Electric Sheep?

I always liked this chapter, because a small gag in it became a big joke between my friends and me. It also explains a lot about how the game Angelic Layer actually works.

Under the guidance of her mentor, Misaki learns how to control Hikaru’s movements. I wouldn’t admit it when I was reading this in junior high, but I really hoped that Hikaru would become a real character who would bond with Misaki. But Hikaru doesn’t magically come to life when Misaki is practicing, she never speaks, and Misaki is totally in control of Hikaru. Misaki loves Hikaru, but in the end, Hikaru’s just a doll, and the love Misaki has for her only goes in one direction.

That’s a little sad.

Icchan, Misaki’s mentor, teaches her the basics of how Angelic Layer works. The angel has a special cord, and the angel’s owner, or “deus”,  wears a special headset. These allow the deus to send her thoughts to her angel and tell it how to move.

Wait.

Did I just read that right?

In this world, there is a machine that can read minds. And you’re wasting it on toys?! Of course it would be amazing if you had a toy that moved just by thinking it. But why is that the only way this technology ever gets used? 

Why is this series about a tournament? If I had a machine that could read minds, I sure as hell wouldn’t waste it on a game.

Okay, I actually might. But I’ll be damned if technology like that exists and it’s not used by the government or military. Man, this series would be so much cooler if it were about Misaki using her toys to become an international super-spy, or something.

There were so many good storytelling possibilities here, and they all ended up wasted so we could watch a twelve-year-old become a champion in a game that doesn’t exist in real life.

Remember when I said that Angelic Layer wasn’t the type of manga I’d pick up today? Yeah.

After a couple hours of practice, Icchan decides that Misaki’s ready for some real Angelic Layer. She joins a walk-on competition and makes a fool of herself at first. With a burst of inspiration from her new-found friends, though, Misaki wins her first fight; a promising start to her career as a deus.

I like Misaki because she’s sweet, because she’s a small girl who finds her courage and self-confidence doing what she loves.

So, exactly the opposite of who I was in junior high.

Angelic Layer, Chap. 2: Making Friends

Time for another action-packed episode of Angelic Layer!

Except not at all.

The first chapter was all about explaining just exactly what Angelic Layer was. In the second chapter, we learn a little bit more about the sport, and Misaki makes some friends. That last part is probably the most important for me. People read fiction for all kinds of reasons, entertainment being the most obvious. But I think wish fulfillment is also a big part of it. It’s one of my theories as to why Twilight was such a success. Bella is so bland and dull that it’s easy for readers to put themselves in her shoes.

Fortunately, Misaki is likable and has a personality (unlike Bella), but I think there’s still some wish-fulfillment for the thirteen-year-old version of me reading this. This is because junior high is pretty much the worst time of anyone’s life. It was a time when I was bullied and miserable, bushy-haired and awkward.

Maybe kids are nicer in Japan, because Misaki makes two friends with ease on her way to school. They start talking about Angelic Layer, and that’s that. I wish making friends was that easy in real life, and that the kids I went to school with were really that friendly. And even though I had more friends during middle school than I’d ever had up to that point, friendship still comes with drama, jealousies, and petty squabbles. Misaki and her friends don’t have any of that. They support each other and cheer Misaki on. It’s simple and uncomplicated. I could call it unrealistic, because relationships aren’t that straightforward. Maybe it’s the leftover strain of reading Snow Drop talking, or maybe it’s because it would be nice for things to be that easy, I’ll forgive it.

One trope that CLAMP is really fond of is a young genius character. In Chobits, it’s Minoru. Here, it’s Hatoko. I’m generally okay with it, depending on the kid. The thing withe child prodigies is that writers will sometimes forget the “child” part, and just focus on the “prodigy”. Minoru is a cool, intelligent twelve-year-old, who also dresses his persocoms (humanoid robots, for those who haven’t read it) in sexy, revealing outfits. Minoru’s calm demeanor and wisdom don’t really make him seem like a pre-teen, but I could totally see a twelve-year-old boy dressing up his robots in sexy clothes, whether he’s a genius or not.

Hatoko is six years old, and doesn’t act like it at all. She’s cheerful, but is too well-spoken and mature for her age. At six, most kids can’t sit still for more than a couple minutes. Even if she runs off from her older brother, Hatoko’s really not like that. It’s Misaki’s other friend, Tamayo, who’s bursting at the scenes with energy. I found Tamayo pretty obnoxious as a kid, and still annoying as an adult. This might be because I was similar to Tamayo when I was in eighth grade, and had a lot of self-loathing going on. Many years out of junior high later, it’s embarrassing to think that I used to act like that.

Or perhaps Tamayo is objectively annoying. Can any other Angelic Layer fans confirm or deny this?

One last thing before I go: Hikaru’s armor. The clothing angels wear is made out of special fabric and designed by their owners. Okay, I can buy Misaki sewing Hikaru’s clothes in a few hours. Hikaru’s small, and Misaki is clearly a beginner, but puts a lot of effort into the outfit. The head-scratcher here is the details of Hikaru’s outfit. Those screws and cuffs at the top of her gloves can’t be fabric. Even as a kid this bugged me.

Angelic Layer, Chap. 1: Impact Lines. So Many Impact Lines.

After the mess that was Snow Drop, I’m going to a much lighter manga: Angelic Layer, by CLAMP. CLAMP is a group of four manga artists who are known for beautiful artwork, and compelling storylines and characters.

And they also made Angelic Layer.

Angelic Layer is not the type of manga I would pick off the shelves today, and probably would have ignored even at the height of my weeaboo days. However, it will always have a special place in my heart. Angelic Layer is the first manga series I ever read. It was my gateway drug to the world of manga. Following Angelic Layer would come Rave Master, Wish, Dragon Knights, Mars…more comic books that I care to remember (or think about how much I spent on them over the years). My weekly allowance was quickly spent at Walden Books (when there was a Walden Books); my calendar marked with manga release dates. I would save up to buy anime box sets on eBay, the only place I could find them at the time.

And at the beginning of it all was Angelic Layer.

Looking back now, I can see why I was drawn to it when I was in eighth grade. The main characters were in junior high, and I had the same outlook online as the Misaki, the lead. She’s small, just like I was (and still am, but I was even shorter then), but wants to prove that she’s strong. There’s some intrigue around the mystery of her mentor’s identity and mother’s whereabouts, but it’s never heavy-handed.

It’s the story of a clumsy girl who finds self-confidence, and also something she loves.

Yes, this will be a nice change of pace after Snow Drop.

My first impression of the book was that it was a bit disappointing. Through the first chapter, I kept hoping that it would be something else. The title itself sounds so mysterious and magical, and the brief prologue tells of a girl “seduced to the realm of the angels”. That sounds like an awesome build-up for a girl to go on an epic adventure! But it’s not like that at all.

It turns out “angels” are an expensive, high-tech toy, and Angelic Layer is a game wherein two competitors have their angels fight against one another. There’s no magic involved, no real angels, no epic story line that will have Misaki saving the world. Instead, it’s all about the sport of Angelic Layer, and one newcomer to the game battling her way to the top.

In short, not a book that I would pick up today, or even in high school. But Misaki’s likable enough, if not particularly in-depth at the moment. Maybe it was the magic of my first manga series, or the characters. Maybe it was the hope that it would turn into something more. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it, even if I had to look at the how-to-read guide every time I opened the book.

One thing that I didn’t really like as a kid was reading all the action scenes. I found them difficult to understand what was going on, largely because of the amount of impact lines and sound effects, written in katakana. I mostly relied on the characters’ narration to tell me what was happening in a battle. In the years that have passed, I’ve read a lot more comics–manga and Western–so I’ve learned how to read (and understand) action scenes much better. However, I still find it easier to follow violent action in Western comics. I think that having color helps, whereas most manga is printed in black and white. Even so, the first fight scene between two angels is still a bit confusing to me. Impact lines everywhere!

That’s why I paid more attention to the dialogue than the fights when I had a choice. It’s not a great sign of things to come, if you’re reading a tournament manga.

And, because I can’t write a single entry without at least one nitpick, I’m finding it pretty doubtful that Misaki’s never heard of Angelic Layer before moving to Tokyo. I know that one of the easiest ways to convey information to an audience is to have the world explained to another character, but Misaki just discovering the game is a little implausible, given the rest of the story’s universe. Angelic Layer tournaments are broadcasted on TV, and champions are bigger than pop idols. How did Misaki manage to miss all this? I don’t watch sports, but even I could give you a basic explanation of how each game works, and even name some players. Did Misaki live under a rock before coming to Tokyo, or what?

Biggest Bullshit Moments in Snow Drop, Part 2

Unfortunately, Snow Drop doesn’t end with So-Na getting away from her horrible father. Instead, the story only goes downhill from there, bringing us bigger and bigger moments of utter shit. Watch out, it only gets worse.

  Volume 7: Easily Forgiven, and True Love


Watch out, this one’s a two-parter. Volume 7 is a tribute to bad decisions. Hae-Gi and So-Na return to her home, so Hae-Gi can ask her father for permission to date her. So much for that independence she was trying to achieve. Dear old Dad finally reveals why he’s so against their relationship: Hae-Gi’s brother, Gae-Ri, was the one who kidnapped So-Na years before. In retaliation, So-Na’s father had Gae-Ri and his accomplices killed.

You’d think that would be enough to break up Hae-Gi and So-Na, or at the very least, make them re-think the relationship. While So-Na does show some hesitation about moving forward, about five minutes later Hae-Gi says that he doesn’t care what happened between their families, just that he loves So-Na. I love my boyfriend, too, but if his parents killed my sister, I don’t think we’d continue seeing each other.

It doesn’t matter, though, because So-Na and Hae-Gi run away together. I used to think that was romantic and brave, but now I think it’s really dumb. So-Na clearly has a death wish, as she keeps saying that as long as she and Hae-Gi can die together, she’ll be happy. What?

But even more than that, what bothers me is this “one true love” nonsense. Remember, Hae-Gi and So-Na are seventeen. They’re in high school. Think back to the people you dated in high school. I became enamored with the first guy I ever dated when I discovered that he was a Lord of the Rings fan, just like me. Or the second person I dated in high school, who I was first interested in because he was an anime fan. Because clearly liking the same thing means that you’ll be together forever. The idea that you’ll find the person you’re meant to be with forever in high school, to me, is a load of crap.The first person you date is most likely not going to be the person you’re going to marry, and they’re definitely not going to be worth dying over.

Volume 8: So-Na Dates Hwi-Rim

Or, put another way, So-Na willingly dates the man who tried to rape her

There are so many problems with this. I’m not even sure where to start.

Rape in fiction is a quandary, and we could argue all day about using it as a plot device, as a way to show character, and whether or not it’s okay to use. It may make me uncomfortable, and I may not like to see rape used in fiction, but does that mean it should never be used? I believe – and this is just my own opinion – that if rape (or in this case, attempted rape) is used in a story, it has to be necessary; it can’t just be for shits’n’giggles. That is, it should propel the story forward, reveal something new about the characters involved, and not trivialize the victim’s experience.

So-Na’s kidnapping traumatized her for years, and left her reclusive and depressed, and she admits to being suicidal before the series began. Sure, it’s not the happiest backstory, but her reaction to it, I think, is normal and expected of someone who’s been through that. However, Hwi-Rim’s attempted rape doesn’t have that same effect on her. Even if it So-Na didn’t suffer long term effects from it (which she didn’t), I don’t think she would want to be anywhere near Hwi-Rim, let alone dating him. This is what I mean about trivializing the victim. The attempted rape is all but forgotten, and the only hang-ups she has about dating Hwi-Rim is that he’s not Hae-Gi. And the reason Hwi-Rim tried to rape So-Na in the first place was because he loved her.

For some context, Hae-Gi and his family were exiled to America, and So-Na wants to date someone to forget about him. She chooses Hwi-Rim because…well, I don’t know. If she wanted to date someone, she could have gone out with, say the class president who asked her out, and by the way, hasn’t tried to fucking rape her. 

I think the lessons Snow Drop is telling us is that:

1. Rape is an expression of love.

2. Attempted rape has no lasting traumatic effects on the victim.

3. A romantic relationship with your would-be rapist is okay and probably healing.

I just…if I had a week, I couldn’t tell list all the reasons that explain how fucked up that all is.

Volume 9: So-Na Has No Identity Outside of Hae-Gi

This book is much more mild than the last few, but there’s still one thing in it that really bothers me. So-Na is now going to a different school and has made friends with the “delinquent” girls. This is supposed to show us how depressed and self-destructive So-Na’s become since Hae-Gi was exiled, but I think it misses its mark. It doesn’t make me pity So-Na; in fact, I think it makes me dislike her a lot. I think this is just my own mentality, though. Maybe this hit harder for other readers, but I’ve always been the girl going, “I don’t need no man!” I hate when a girl loses her lover, and falls to pieces. Part of that is because I don’t think I’ve ever seen the reverse – a man losing his lover as well as the will to live – but I hate how tied in So-Na’s mental health is to Hae-Gi. When she’s strong, it’s because she has Hae-Gi’s support. When she’s weak, it’s because he’s gone. Her dependency on him for her own happiness and well-being is cringe-worthy at best, and falls into “Bella jumps off cliff to see her ex-boyfriend” territory at worst. This is exactly why I said I didn’t want this series falling into unsuspecting hands. It’s not romantic, it’s not tragic; it’s a teenage girl making bad choices because she’s going through a break up. So-Na, just get a dramatic haircut or something and move on with your life, like a normal eighteen-year-old.

Oh well. At least no one was sexually assaulted in this volume.

Moment of Redemption: Hae-Gi and So-Na’s Reunion

At this point, Hae-Gi and So-Na have not seen each other in at least a year. So-Na travels to America with Hwi-Rim just so she can see him. Literally, just to look at him. Because she swore that she would never see Hae-Gi again, So-Na has no plans to interact with him. When she does get a glimpse at him, though, she’s so overwhelmed she has to run away. Hae-Gi spots her and chases after her, and the couple finally meets again. It’s sad and romantic, and I love the artwork in this scene.

Volume 10: Ha-Da Rapes Ko-Mo

It’s not graphic, but I still don’t want to put a picture up. Please enjoy this royalty-free picture of inter-species friendship instead.

I’ll try to make this quick, because I’m not sure how much more I can stomach. Ha-Da accidentally gets Ko-Mo high as balls (it’s a long story), and has sex with him. That’s bad enough, especially considering that Ko-Mo has spent most of the series trying to get Ha-Da to leave him alone. But, because Ha-Da is a “hero” in the story and we’re supposed to be cheering for him, Ha-Da having sex with a drugged up Ko-Mo can’t be seen as a villainous thing. We’re supposed to like this guy, after all. Instead of Ko-Mo being horribly scarred or attempting to kill Ha-Da (which he’s done), he falls in love. Ko-Mo falls in love with his rapist.

You here that, fellas? If they keep saying “no”, what they need from you is a good dicking.

Fuck. That.

This is even more troubling to me that So-Na dating Hwi-Rim. Hwi-Rim’s attempted rape of So-Na was portrayed as monstrous and violent, but Ha-Da’s rape of Ko-Mo was portrayed as romantic. All Ko-Mo needed to finally say yes to Ha-Da was a shitton of drugs.

This might be the worst thing I’ve ever read. And I once read a graphic fanfiction about Princess Leia and Optimus Prime.

Volume 11: Snow Drop Just Keeps Going

At least Romeo and Juliet stayed dead.

Snow Drop‘s tagline advertises the manhwa as “a Romeo & Juliet style romance”. I’d say that’s accurate, as both works feature feuding families and teenagers making stupid decisions. It really looked So-Na and Hae-Gi were going to go the same way as the original star-crossed couple, when they are shot and stabbed by their own family members. As they lay dying in the hospital, So-Na sees her mother and Hae-Gi in the afterlife. They are amazingly happy, but decide that they want to live together. They don’t die, their families forgive each other, and even Ko-Mo returns his feelings for Ha-Da. It’s a happy ending for everyone!

Except it doesn’t end there. The second half of the book looks like it belongs in a completely different series. The big conflict is that Hae-Gi wants to marry So-Na, but she thinks they’re too young. Finally, she says something sensible. Had I been the creator, I would have either killed them off, and let the second half of this book be about their families, or I would have ended it with Hae-Gi’s and So-Na’s happy ending.

Volume 12: Choi Kyuang-ah Just Gives Up

 

Choi Kyuang-ah is the creator of Snow Drop, by the way.

I’ve got nothing against happy endings. I think real life needs more happy endings. Even after such a dramatic series where everything is doom and gloom, it’s nice to see So-Na and Hae-Gi succeed, and eventually get married, with their parents approval. In fact, one of my favorite moments comes at their wedding, with So-Na’s father and Hae-Gi’s mother respectfully bowing to one another. But it just drags on and on after that. In fact, most of the book doesn’t even focus on Hae-Gi and So-Na. A good portion of it is dedicated to Hwi-Rim finding love (with a high school student…), and glamour shots of Hae-Gi and So-Na kissing and declaring how much they love each other. The only thing resembling a plot towards the end is So-Na being upset that she likely won’t be able to have children. Flash forward, and we see her, Hae-Gi, and their new baby. 

Everyone getting what they want and living happily ever after isn’t a bad ending, but there are two things that bother me about it. First of all, a lot of this really feels inflated and unnecessary. It makes me wonder if Kyuang-ah actually intended for the series to end this way, or if there was some sort of contract stipulation that said “you need to create X number of chapters”. In one of the bonus comics illustrating her life, she even says that the ending was originally going to be much darker. I have to wonder if she gave us the light and fluffy ending because she wanted to, or if it was a case of editorial meddling. 

The other thing that bugs me about the ending is that it just doesn’t fit with the rest of the series. Snow Drop is convoluted, violent, and over-the-top dramatic. This ending is so happy, and comes to the characters so easily, makes it feel like it was ripped from a completely different manga. It’s just…too happy, and too neat.


Final Final Verdict:

If you haven’t lost your lunch yet, I’ll be back on soon with The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis.

Biggest Bullshit Moments in Snow Drop, Part 1

In my introductory post about Snow Drop, I described it as one of the most misguided comic series I’ve ever read. I already know I won’t be able to stomach re-reading the rest of the series, never mind blogging about each book. However, the fist volume only scratches the surface of all the melodrama to come. There’s so much crap in these books, I’ve decided to highlight some of the biggest instances of bullshit in the series.

Volume 2: Ha-Da Pursuing Ko-Mo

Ha-Da attempts to date Ko-Mo, and this doesn’t go very well for him. To begin with, no one – including So-Na, Hae-Gi, and Ko-Mo himself – tells Ha-Da that Ko-Mo’s male. Ko-Mo isn’t gay, either. Nor does he like being pursued by Ha-Da. Yet, Ko-Mo never tells Ha-Da that he’s a guy. As much as Ko-Mo tells Ha-Da to leave him alone, Ha-Da never takes the hint. Now, when someone tells you to stop doing something because they don’t like it, and you continue doing it, it’s called harassment. Ko-Mo finally puts a fucking KNIFE up to Ha-Da’s throat and mugs him to get him to back off.

He doesn’t.

Volume 3: So-Na Gets Roofied

At this point, So-Na has acquired a rival, Jin Sun-Mi. Sun-Mi is in love with Hae-Gi, but he’s dating So-Na. Sun-Mi decides to try to sabotage their relationship by drugging So-Na so she passes out in a storage shed at school. If that highly illegal and immoral behavior wasn’t bad enough, Sun-Mi has Ha-Da go to the storage shed as well, where he sees unconscious So-Na. He figures out that she’s been drugged, and that Sun-Mi was the culprit. Does he try to wake his best friend? Find help? Call the police? No. Instead, he kisses So-Na. This is meant to be romantic. Instead, the whole situation is disturbing as all hell, especially because Ha-Da knows that So-Na was kidnapped and molested when she was twelve.

What the fuck am I reading.

Moment of Redemption: Hae-Gi and So-Na’s date


Nothing is completely awful, though, and Snow Drop did have times that I really did enjoy, things that made me want to keep reading, despite all the bullshit going on. Here, Hae-Gi takes So-Na out on an impromptu date. She’s nervous to be alone in the dark with him at first, but comes to realize that she does trust him. They go to a park and stargaze, and So-Na lies down next to him, which is a big deal for her, even if she does panic. This scene also gives us the couple’s first real kiss. It’s a very tender scene, especially considering all they’ve been through to get to this point.

Volume 4: So-Na is Attacked and No One Believes Her


Trouble continues to brew when So-Na finds out that she finds out that she’s engaged to someone she’s never met, Hwi-Rim. Naturally, she objects to the prospect of arranged marriage, and especially to her fiance. It’s fair to say that she didn’t have the best first impression of him. Before So-Na and Hwi-Rim formally meet each other, he breaks into her room through her bedroom window, suggestion that they have a little “morning action”. So-Na throws a number of items to defend herself from him, including a stool, yet he never backs off. In fact, it looks like it’s a turn-on for him. By the time So-Na’s bodyguards arrive on the scene, he vanishes.

Later, So-Na’s father introduces her to Hwi-Rim, telling her that they are engaged now. So-Na tells everyone that he broke into her bedroom. Her bodyguards heard the commotion, and they even say there’s security tapes that could prove it was Hwi-Rim. Does her ever-loving father call off the engagement? Question Hwi-Rim’s character? Listen to his daughter? No. Instead he calls her a liar, and says she’s panicing because she doesn’t want to be married.

Also, how is Hwi-Rim staying in that tree? He has one leg supported by a branch, it looks like, but he’s not holding on to anything. He’s just sort of…hovering above it.

Volume 5:  A Failure to Communicate

The biggest bullshit moment is actually a little hard to find in this volume. Drama happens, of course, but nothing to the degree of the previous books in the series. In fact, So-Na and Hae-Gi come out triumphant in the face of adversity, for a change. But this is also the book where Ha-Da finds out that Ko-Mo is a man, even though they’ve started dating. Ko-Mo, by the way, still doesn’t like Ha-Da, but is using him to get information. What bugs me about this is So-Na knew that her best friend really liked Ko-Mo, but also that Ko-Mo is a guy. How hard would it have been for So-Na to tell Ha-Da that Ko-Mo’s a guy? Maybe she thought it was funny at first, but really…you dropped the ball on that one, So-Na.

But that’s not so bad. After the questionable (and illegal) behavior of the characters so far, this volume was exciting and more light-hearted than the previous four. If the rest of the series were more like this, I would probably like it a lot more. But that hope spot is short-lived, however, and I remember why this series is so fucked up…

Volume 6: Hwi-Rim Attempts to Rape So-Na

I don’t want to put up a picture of this. Here’s a picture of my dog instead.

This scene freaked me out when I read the series, and still puts me on edge today. Maybe even moreso now. It’s fucked that she’s engaged to this guy, and that no one who can do anything about it will listen to So-Na. She already hated this guy, and the audience already knew that he wasn’t above attacking So-Na…so why put this in? Just to show how depraved Hwi-Rim is, when we’ve already seen it? Hae-Gi at least beat Hwi-Rim to a pulp, but other than that, our villain doesn’t suffer any consequences after that. What’s even more disturbing is how So-Na, a couple books down the road, just seems to forget what Hwi-Rim tried to do to her.


Moment of Redemption: So-Na Stands Up to Her Father

Throughout the series, So-Na’s father is a bully. He verbally abuses and blackmails her, and hits her more than once in the series. He refuses to listen to any of her objections about her engagement to Hwi-Rim, which was arranged to set-up more funds going to his political party. Many times, he tells So-Na that she’s unable to live independently. During a party to celebrate So-Na’s and Hwi-Rim’s engagement, she tells him – and everyone else there – that she and Hwi-Rim will never be married. Her father says that everything she owns, even the clothes on her back, are from him, and she will never survive on her own. So-Na says, “Watch me, I don’t need anything from you!” takes off her dress, and storms out of the dinner in just her underwear. Yes, it’s over the top, but after all her dad’s put her through, I love how she blatantly defies him.

That last book got a bit heavy. Let me end with just one embarrassing story to make things a bit more cheerful around her.

Manga Will Ruin Your Life: So-Na Gets a Job

Remember when I said I didn’t want these books to find young, impressionable minds? This is the reason why. Out on her own, So-Na tries to get a job, and she only gets hired once she admits to her employer that she’s only in it for the money. Her boss tells her that’s the only reason why anyone works, and she should have just said that from the start. It turns out that this is actually pretty terrible advice.

 Eventually, I turned sixteen, and went to a local grocery store for my first-ever job interview. When the woman interviewing me asked why I wanted to work there, I replied, “I want money.” I thought she would appreciate my honesty. She didn’t.

I didn’t get the job. Thanks, Snow Drop.