Webtoon Analysis: True Beauty, A True Disappointment

Spoilers ahoy!

True Beauty by Yaongi is a romantic comedy following the life of Jugyeong Lim, a relatable, young student who’s physical appearance is… well average. Jugyeong is no model, but she’s a cute lady who knows how to work the brush. Make-up brush that is. Her face painting skills allow her to ascend to the upper echelons of society, garnering her friends and male attention she previously lacked.

However, none of her friends know what she looks like without make-up, leaving her insecure and using make-up as a mask to hide her “ugliness”. Jugyeong is always on guard, afraid her carefully curated world as the hot girl summer will crumble once others discover what she looks like beneath the mask.

Then, a wild Suho appears!

A wild Suho!

Suho is conventionally attractive, smart, and sort of rude initially. A lover of horror and comics, he runs into a bare-faced Jugyeong at the comic store and the two eventually bond over their shared love of all things creepy. An interest that soon blossoms into love as Suho is drawn to her “true beauty”: the Jugyeong who’s awkward, likes horror, comics, and late night talks on benches while eating snacks in sweats. A Suho who encourages Jugyeong to be better, to study hard, and pursue her dreams. The feelings are mutual too.

True Beauty was sort of cheesy and not typically the sort of thing I enjoy reading, but it was light-hearted and had a semi-positive message: ladies, find a guy who likes the true you. A guy who shares your weird hobbies, isn’t put-off when you’re just chilling in sweats, and who pushes you to be better. But most importantly, a guy you’re entirely comfortable being yourself around.

Alas, all good things must be ruined by love triangles… and poor writing.

The story introduces Seonjun, who initially is very much your average bad boy type character, clad in jewelry and all.

A wild Seonjun!

He’s sort of a jerk to Jugyeong at first (or his friends are – birds of a feather, if you will) and Jugyeong is terrified of showing him her face. Unlike Suho, Jugyeong doesn’t really have much in common with Seojun. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Jugyeong finds herself interested in him aided by the fact that right as her relationship with Suho was blooming, the author put him on a boat and ships him away. Literally. Suho disappears from the story entirely for vague reasons and then the reader gets what feels like a very lengthy filler episode, depicting Jugyeong’s relationship with Seojun. Suho eventually reappears, but is basically reduced to wangsting over Jugyeong.

Seojun’s introduction essentially marked the end of what little character development Jugyeong was experiencing and what little individuality she possessed too.

Episodes later, Jugyeong never develops beyond that insecure, young lady wearing a mask because she’s terrified of her natural appearance, and her relationship with Seojun seemingly makes her regress into an even more insecure individual, obsessed with looks. And while she quickly grew comfortable around Suho bare-faced, it took her some 90 episodes before accidentally showing Seojun her face. Fortunately, he’s fine with it but still. It’s a terrible way to start a relationship and an unhealthy message to young girls.

Rather than coming to understand what true beauty means, Jugyeong seems to have become a stereotypical “pretty girl”, vain and obsessed with her appearance. And whereas at least her relationship with Suho showed Jugyeong she didn’t need to be all dolled up to obtain meaningful relationships with others, her relationship with Seojun just sort of exists as a plot device to drag the story along endlessly, with no clear ending in sight.

While True Beauty’s not over (and it’s been made into a drama apparently), it should’ve ended long ago. Yaongi seems to have either lost the plot, or is dragging the story on because it’s successful (which get the bag, but personally I do appreciate authors like Carnby Kim who create very tight, well-paced plots without filler (to be fair – those are two different genres, but even compared to “Odd Girl Out”, another ongoing manwha centered around a young woman going through life, True Beauty is lacking as the Main character Nari develops tremendously throughout the story, whereas Jugyeong does not)).

In Yaongi’s defense, the Korean title seems to be “A Goddess Descends” or “The Secret Angel”, so it’s entirely possible English translators set unfair expectations for readers by naming it “True Beauty”. Even still, it lacks character development, the male leads are static, and the story’s initial, more interesting premise about a young girl learning about the meaning of true beauty seems to have ditched in favor of a more stereotypical, love-triangle-ish story about a young women obsessed with looking pretty for the sake of others.

True Beauty Rating: 6.5/10

Manga Reviews: Starving Anonymous Is Weird

*Major Spoilers*

Starving Anonymous introduces us to Ie, arguably one of the most useless protagonists I’ve ever come across. He wants to be an artist and has a photographic memory, making him 5% useful. On a bus with his ride or die Kazu, they’re both drugged and wake up in a facility called “the Cradle” full of nude people being fattened for the slaughter. Literally. Humans are being bred and fed to giant, insect-like creatures for unknown reasons.

Never fear – plot armor keeps Ie alive long enough to be saved several times by Natsune, a six year old grown man who can regenerate his body parts and wants to kill all 1000000+ insects singlehandedly, and Yamabuki, a bisexual genius who gets turned on by people being eaten by those… insects.

What follows is loads of gore as Ie and the squad unsuccessfully attempt to escape the Cradle amidst a slew of corruption and human evil. Of course we have a classic mad scientist experimenting on humans for the evulz who exists solely to add more misery to an already miserable tale, but a good chunk of the bad guys attempt to justify what they’re doing by saying it’s for the good of humanity… which it sort of was.

Pictured: classic mad scientist who is significantly more evil than any other villain for no reason

Anyway, all escape attempts are futile. Ie gets captured, rescued by plot armor Natsune, and eventually things take a turn from the worst after the HBIC of insects manages to free them all and eradicate 40% of humanity in the process. Also Trump makes an appearance, which I found hilarious.

Natsune and Yamabuki (who can give birth to baby Natsunes by eating his flesh?????) hatch a wild plan to give birth to a bunch of… baby Natsunes and feed them to the insects, dooming Natsune to a life of eternal regeneration and pain as he’s eaten alive but effectively sealing all the creatures inside the Cradle because they have an endless supply of… food… It’s incredibly hard to explain what happens, which is why I won’t really bother.

The plan works. The creatures all return to the Cradle once their eternal meal ticket arrives, Yamabuki gives birth until he dies (??) High-key bizarre but at this point I was far too invested in this foolishness to quit.

Ie, who has been useless up to this point, remains in character and leaves Natsune to his fate as forever replicating human meat. The Cradle is eventually destroyed by the government and humanity slowly recovers from the alien insect apocalypse.

Time skip!

3 years later, Ie returns to the Cradle’s ruins still guilt-ridden over how utterly useless he was over leaving Natsune and starts digging up the ground I assume in an attempt to dig his friend out (who definitely couldn’t have liked died of oxygen deprivation or something). He fails, faints, chats with a talking lizard, and has a dream in which Natsune and Yamabuki are alive and well; they explain some weird pseudoscience that eventually Natsune’s ever regenerating body got some disease, which became deadly to the alien insects and killed them all, which was the plan all along. Ie is happy and invites them home, but it’s very clear they’re both dead and he’s hallucinating.

Ie wakes up and his homeboy, Kazu, is like “where were you, bro, I was worried but I knew you’d be here.” The story ends full circle, more or less, with the bus having just arrived. Hopefully, they won’t be going back to another fake nuclear facility full of human eating insects (though apparently there is a sequel…).

Starving Anonymous dances with some interesting themes, the main being is it okay to sacrifice some for the sake of many? Shockingly, the government isn’t completely useless and evil as is typical in fiction and real life, but instead are attempting to appease these alien insectoids insatiable appetites in exchange for preventing global warming and presumably the destruction of humanity. Alien critters whose own greed and bottomless appetites ironically destroyed their own world after they consumed everything on it.

The story is full of several twists, but unfortunately falls prey to “edgy for the sake of being edgy” of which as I read, I was like “Yes, these creatures l o v e ripping people limb from limb and tossing their guts and heads across the floor, much to the shock of the MC who does nothing but gawk. Can we move on to the actual plot now?” Like 20 chapters probably could’ve been cut from this with no real loss given that the plot seemed to lose itself about halfway through.

Furthermore, much of the world building was done via flashbacks, the characters were semi-fleshed out but could’ve all been more interesting. There appeared to be a slight attempt at some sort of commentary on capitalism and the exploitation of a few for the benefit of many, as well as the perils of greed and climate change, but the execution of these ideas ultimately got loss in a festoon of guts, blood, and assault.

Nevertheless, the story ends on a sweetly bitter note that’s oddly satisfactory and if you’re a depraved soul like myself, you’ll probably be entertained.

Starving Anonymous Rating: 7/10.

Webtoons to Read If You Don’t Want to Sleep

Sometimes you’re in the mood to get PTSD, other times you just don’t want to sleep.

Fortunately, others have blessed us with their talents and created creepy stories to keep us from getting that small taste of death at night, also known as sleep.

Nocturne

One day, you awaken to realize the world is monochrome. Literally – you can no longer see colors; your skin is gray, your speckled pjs are various shades of gray, even your bright, pink nail polish you meticulously painted on the night before is black.

You venture outside only to discover a giant, gray forest has grown around your house obscuring everything – a forest that’s pulsating with life. Panicked, you attempt to run back inside only to realize you can’t move because an angry tree root has tethered itself to you and is slowly dragging you beneath the ground. You let out a desperate cry for help, but alas! There’s nothing but forest around. The tree buries you up to your neck. Just as you close your eyes to greet a slow, painful death – you’re stopped. A faint howl wafts past your ears and you open your eyes. Some sort of shadowy, red-eyed creature stands a few feet away from you, staring down right at your head.

That’s basically what reading Nocturne is like.

Sadly, Nocturne updates rather sporadically but it has major Junji Ito vibes. It’s mostly a series of random tales, and they’re super short too in case you have to wake up for work tomorrow but still want to be nervous as you lay in bed, staring at the dark abyss also known as your ceiling.

Nocturne Rating: 9/10

Gremory Land

A bunch of teens go to an horror-themed amusement park called Gremory Land. All is fun and games, except just kidding!

From the start, there wasn’t much appealing about Gremory Land but when you toss machete wielding killers dressed as animals, rides designed to butcher you, and the traumatic back-stories of everyone involved into the mix, it’s even less fun.

Gremory Land is written by the same author as Melvina’s Therapy (which I also recommend). It has a neat twist ending that will either leave you amazed, or scratching your head in confusion.

Still, it’s uber creepy.

Gremory Land Rating: 7.5/10

Rotten (Foul Smell)

You’re a child living in an apartment alone – your landlord is an actual pedophilic demon, resembling a cross between the woman in black and the crypt creeper. The giant ogre of a man living downstairs is a serial killer; your neighbor’s apartment smells like something dead is rotting inside of it. Oh and you can see ghosts, none of whom are as terrifying as the humans around you.

That’s basically the plot of Rotten – there’s a room full of shoes, a missing girl and a twin in search of her, and a cop who can literally smell evil. Somehow, Jaeshin is tossed into the middle of all these things as he attempts to exist without dying.

Rotten is part thriller, part horror that will leave you stressed and seeing weird faces for a long time.

Rotten Rating: 9.5/10

Tales of Terrible Things

As you’re driving down the road after work, everything becomes a gaussian blur of pastel pinks, blues, and yellows.

Momentarily in awe of the beauty around you, you fail to see the ghostly half-bear, half-eagle creature in the middle of the road. Swerving, you over-correct and smash into the guard rail, flipping right over it. The car lands in a heap after sliding down the mountain, though somehow you’re still alive and well. Bloodied, you scramble out of the vehicle only to find the world is still a gaussian blur and there are ghostly, mutated animals everywhere.

Anyway, Tales of Terrible Things are a series of terrible stories, most of which have an awesome twist. The author is such a good writer that even me, who is the queen of predicting how things ends, is often surprised. It’s only flaw is that it updates sporadically but the author (Sarah Rydholm) is probably busy. She also has a Patreon.

Tales of Terrible Things Rating: 10/10

Witch Creek Road

Picture your average teenagers getting killed in violent ways by murderous but attractive, supernatural creatures in the woods and then add the end of humanity to the mix and you have Witch Creek Road.

The story does indeed start out with a bunch of teenagers on their way to death headed to the woods for a fun night of drinking, partying, and fooling around only to encounter a group of witches who have sinister plans. You’d think that’s where the story ends, but actually it’s only just begun. There’s a skinned man, a talking gun, and Pandora’s box – if that sounds confusing, it is.

Still, it’s all very creepy.

Witch Creek Road Rating: 6.7/10

Silent Horror

A bunch of incredibly sweaty people who never speak have horrible things happen to them – that’s the plot.

What makes Silent Horror exceptional though is just how squicky it is. Most of the stories are pretty short, but they’re all delightfully violent if you’re a wicked soul like me.

You use to be able to read it on Webtoon, but because Webtoon is full of pansies, you can now read it on Tapas instead, though a handful of stories are still on Webtoon.

Silent Horror Rating: 8.5/10

Ghost Teller

Ghost therapy in the afterlife – a group of ghosts get together to tell the scariest stories of all: stories about humans. Given that all the characters are ghosts, you know none of these stories end well.

Ghost Teller isn’t really scary in the bloody, violent, creepy faces sense but most of these stories hit a little too close to home in being something that could easily happen in real life.

It has two seasons, both of which are equally depressing and thought-provoking; all the stories feature different characters with various tales of woe. It’s enough misery to keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, stewing over the cruelty of humanity.

Ghost Teller Rating: 9.5/10