It was my first time seeing the city at night. Those lights glittering like white sugar against the gloom of the dark sky were as wondrous as the starry heavens spread out upon the earth.
I’m not very familiar with Korean comics, or manwha, but all the examples I’ve encountered have been both excellent and distinctly different from Japanese comics, while obviously owing them a stylistic debt. Sugarholic is no exception; it’s so steeped in the shoujo tradition that it even includes a brief parody of Rose of Versailles, the shoujo manga to end all shoujo manga; and of course, the heroine is clumsy and plain. But she doesn’t start the manga by running out of the house with a slice of toast in her mouth because she’s late for school, and for that we can all be thankful.
No, the heroine of Sugarholic has left school behind: she’s 20-year-old Jae-Gyu Sin, who’s been shipped off to Seoul to live with her brother because her hardass of a grandmother is tired of her lazy, gluttonous ways. On her way to her brother’s apartment, Jae-Gyu runs into Whie-Hwan Jung, a ravishingly gorgeous muay thai blackbelt with a dark and shady past… and tears his shirt. (The next time she sees him, she pulls his pants down. Accidentally. I wasn’t kidding when I said she was clumsy.) In the following days, she also runs into an old friend from school, Hyun-Ah Im, who gives her a makeover, and Hee-Do Yoon, a boy she used to torment as a kid, who’s now a star singer in a boy band.
If all of that sounds a bit choppy and unconnected… well, it is, and as of the end of this volume it’s not entirely clear where this is going or what the different plot threads have to do with each other; Whie-Whan’s storyline is the most developed (and the most interesting), but there are lots of tantalising hints dropped all over the place about the other characters. (For instance, we do learn how Jae-Gyu’s brother is paying for his apartment, though by the end of the volume Jae-Gyu still doesn’t know.) Still, for all that, Sugarholic rattles along at a fair pace and has enough humour and charm, and likeable enough characters, to make for a fun read. What’s more, Gong GooGoo’s art is pretty and expressive, and there’s lots of potential for the story to develop in a number of interesting directions.
Yet much though I enjoyed it while I was reading it, Sugarholic faded somewhat quickly from my memory, and I have to concede that although it’s well-done, it’s not all that distinctive. If it wasn’t Korean, I’d call it a competent-but-unremarkable shoujo manga; it is in fact whatever the equivalent Korean term is for “competent-but-unremarkable shoujo manga”; worth a look if this is the kind of thing you like, but not something that stands out from the rest of the field.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher.