Writer/Artist:JiSang Shin / Geo
Translated by:Jackie Oh
What They Say
Chuyosi is a restless troublemaker whose strict grandfather has finally been given the reins to crack down on him. His grandfather sends him on a quest to find the roots of their ancestry. The family names’ roots brings him to Korea where his taxi driver, an chatty energetic girl named Very, passes out on him. Despite an ugly first encounter, the two later grow close and learn to respect each other’s differences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Tsuyoshi Takuan is a spoiled Japanese teenager. Heir to the largest food manufacturing company in Nagano, he’s handsome, smart, and tough. Unfortunately, he is also constantly getting into trouble for fighting, messing around with girls, and wrecking his motorcycle. He has no respect for authority, defies his doting parents, and takes his life and wealth for granted.
Be-Ri Kang, on the other hand, is a Korean teenager, living under much more modest conditions. Her father passed away when she was young, and she now lives with her mother, her older sister, and their tenant, who also happens to be her sister’s boyfriend and Be-Ri’s crush. Be-Ri has a quirky knack for taking other people’s throwaways, refurbishing them, and selling them for a profit. But interestingly enough, though she is almost obsessed with making money, she hardly spends any.
These two very different teenagers live in two completely different worlds until one day Tsuyoshi’s grandfather gets fed up with Tsuyoshi’s selfish ways. He reveals to him that he is actually descended from a Korean and then abruptly sends him off to Korea to learn more about his Korean heritage! And as it turns out, Be-Ri’s family is Tsuyoshi’s new neighbors. By chance, they run into one another at the airport the day Tsuyoshi lands in Seoul and immediately get off on the wrong foot. Unfortunately, the two of them are going to have to learn to get along because, not only will they be classmates, they’re going to be class partners!
Very! Very! Sweet is not the easiest read for American audiences, and I would not recommend it as a first title for a neophyte. As mentioned in the Text/Translation section, with all the different languages and terms involved, things can get very confusing for those unfamiliar with Japanese and/or Korean very quickly. Translation issues aside, it is a contemporary story supposedly about culture clash between characters from two Asian countries that have had long-standing conflict, and many of the characters’ remarks and reactions can only be understood within the historical context of this conflict.
However, even if you can make sense of the translation and have a decent background on Korean-Japanese relations, the manhwa doesn’t make for the best plot. The concept of a Korean and Japanese forced to live in close proximity and work out their differences sounds like a pretty good basis for a story, but the plot doesn’t quite deliver. Tsuyoshi is very flat as a character, while Be-Ri’s is overdeveloped. Before Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi even cross paths, we learn that Be-Ri has a bit of a daddy complex, a huge crush on her sister’s boyfriend/the household tenant, an inferiority complex in regards to her sister, a kind of love-hate relationship with a certain boy at school, and that she dotes on her cat. In the meantime, all we learn about Tsuyoshi is that he’s rich, he has an attitude, and his current ability at Korean stinks. It almost feels as if the story is predominantly about Be-Ri, and Tsuyoshi is just another male character in Be-Ri’s life.
In addition, the main jokes have to do with Tsuyoshi’s poor language skills in Korean and the Korean names Tsuyoshi’s grandfather gives to him and his guardian Ito, who is posing as his uncle. Strangely enough, Takuan, which is Tsuyoshi’s Japanese family name, and Dan Mu-Ji, Tsuyoshi’s Korean name, both mean yellow pickled radish. However, for some reason, Tsuyoshi’s being named after yellow pickled radish is hilarious in Korean but not in Japanese. At any rate, I suspect all these name puns and language humor are a lot funnier in Korean than they are in English.
Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: C
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: June 30th, 2008