Rakun (AKA Na Yeri). Oh how I wish there were more stories like hers to devour! “U Don’t Know Me” has been happily residing in the upper strata of my favorites list since my first read of it more than a year ago. The artwork is so delicious; it makes my mouth water. As a fan/producer of graphite drawings, the illustrations in this manwha really pull at those aesthetic heartstrings; the choice of tones, while obviously not pencil, are such perfect choices that I can almost smell the fixative. It’s not just the art either, what I also love about this title is the real, but subtly awkward friendship between the two leads; both felt they were at the mercy of the other, but in fact, they were equally matched. Moreover, having a coquettish uke who easily skirts the “girly” label, very un-bl-like parental involvement, and engaging dialogue, also places this in my top 25 “must haves”. I think it’s that good.
This is a story about two high school-age guys, Seyun and Yoojin, who have known each other since childhood and how they deal with the way their relationship has evolved over time. This is not a smiles & butterflies love-scapade; while not at all depressing, it has some very heavy moments. Through various conversations and fantastically intimate monologues, readers are treated to the very specific motives of Seyun regarding his choice to or not to pursue an intimate relationship with Yoojin even while they are already engaged in one. Accompanying these open-book sessions are scenes of violence, great sex and enough humor to balance out the more meditative tenor of the work. Even without a comparable number of inner thoughts from Yoojin, he is as well-developed and exposed as Seyun. While Seyun could easily be seen as “the main character,” it is Yoojin’s motives and actions that move the story along.
In the first chapter (and as it seems, prior to that), Seyun does all but say, “take me,” to Yoojin; however, in his efforts, he miraculously walks the ultra thin line between fully exposing himself and doing just enough to confuse Yoojin about his intentions. Meanwhile, our prince, Yoojin, manages to disguise his own intentions by coming off as concerned and protective instead of desirous and possessive. As the pages are turned and their truths are revealed to each other, the gloves come off. From chapter 3 on, it is a 5-way face-off between the unmasked Seyun, the unmasked Yoojin, their individual set of expectations and reality.
Some may consider some of the things that Yoojin does as extreme or gloss over them as common fare for yaoi, but I disagree. I think that passion is an incendiary device for other (usually) well-controlled, but potentially explosive emotions. It is particularly so when the passion itself has yet to be fully defined, thus making it difficult to control. In Yoojin’s mind, his desire to act on his feelings for Seyun had been constantly restrained as a measure to ensure that he does not ruin their friendship or impose on Seyun’s free-spiritedness. So when he thinks that his efforts were all for naught, he snaps. If you consider the relationship that they have on the surface and the unspoken relationship they each desire as equal parts of a whole, you may be able to avoid dismissing those scenes as the ubiquitous non-con fodder and get a better understanding of the weight of those panels.
I loved “U Don’t Know Me” from go. While there are illustrators that I love more, the illustrations for this really get me and have made it onto my Drinkable Art list. Similar to how I can watch some (a precious few) movies from any point, I can start reading this from any page. Although I’ve only focused on the two leads, they do not stand on this stage alone. There are interesting subplots that do a great job at further enhancing our comprehension of Seyun and additional characters that keep the reality of the couple’s situation from being trampled by the fervor with which they are assailing each other as they endeavor to challenge the title of the story.
Do yourself a favor and add this title to your bookshelf as well.