Seyun and Yoojin have remained friends since childhood, even though Seyun’s family had to move away because of financial troubles. As the boys have gotten older, though, their feelings have changed from friendship into something more intense, but neither has been able to tell the other. Slick, beautiful Seyun and manly, judo star Yoojin must navigate the murky waters of each others’ lives to try to find happiness together.
If you, like me, think that Rakun’s style in U Don’t Know Me looks familiar, that is because she is also Yeri Na, creator of 50 Rules for Teenagers (ADV), Peter Panda (DramaQueen), and Do Whatever You Want (Netcomics). Rakun is the name she uses for donginji (the Korean term for dojinshi) work. According to Netcomics, U Don’t Know Me was originally published in three donginji. That answers all of my questions about the setting and the character names, but doesn’t explain why U Don’t Know Me is published in right-to-left format. (Since Korean reads left-to-right, manhwa titles published here in the U.S. read the same direction as U.S. comics.) Yes, it is a minor concern, but it was bugging me while I read.
I didn’t know the story behind U Don’t Know Me’s original publication before reading, but now that I know I can understand why the plot seems a little disjointed and meandering. Rakun sticks in a lot of elements, which does make her characters’ lives more realistic–after all, real life is hardly neat and tidy–but it makes the plot a little hard to follow at times. I wasn’t sure which parts were the “important” points I should pay close attention to and by the end, the story had gone in a direction I wasn’t able to predict, which is both bad and good. There is a rape scene, the usually type that occurs in yaoi due to miscommunication. There’s also a lot of the “I can’t let you love me because you deserve a wife and kids” kind of angsting. But, and this is a big but, Rakun wrote this in 2008, so her main characters ultimately have more freedom to choose love over tradition than characters in older titles. The end is hopeful and sweet and modern and realistic, a trend I hope is starting to make its way throughout yaoi.
Rakun’s art has a little something for everyone. Yoojin is athletic and strong. Seyun is very bishonen, but also a street punk, so he’s no pushover. The sex scenes between the two of them–and there are a good amount of those–are gorgeously drawn. You can almost feel the sweet drops and the brush of skin against skin. Some of the minor characters are a little hard to differentiate, but the major ones are distinct enough. I like that Rakun was able to make the boys look like their fathers without making them exactly the same. There are plenty of cute little moments, which help to lighten the tension in a serious story. Rakun is good with those also. She has a way of using chibi-like characters to make a point, whether funny or touching, but never seeming intrusive or abrupt.
By the end, there are still questions unanswered about Seyun and Yoojin, but that’s life, isn’t it? You don’t always know how things end. A few of the characters are rather abruptly introduced, almost thrown in. But overall this is a fine work that more than holds up upon re-reads. I’ve liked Yeri Na’s work under her own name and I really enjoyed reading her Rakun pieces. If you are looking for realistic, sensitive yaoi that doesn’t just offer romance, but actually thinks about the characters’ place in the world, you would do well to check out U Don’t Know Me. It’s a worthy read.
NOTE: This review was previously posted at an old blog of mine, Fujoshi Librarian.
U Don’t Know Me