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Complete White Angels Have No Wings by Gado - M - Original

Discussion in 'Other Fandoms Review Board' started by Sesc, May 8, 2021.

  1. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

    Dec 20, 2007
    Blocksberg, Germany
    Rating: M
    Genre: Drama
    Status: Complete
    Link: E.g.

    Summary: A Catholic school where everything seems tranquil and fine. But for Ayeon, a day doesn’t pass without getting bullied until one day, Yeonhwa steps in against the bullies. Ayeon is grateful for Yeonhwa but what she doesn’t realize is that there seems to be something more than just good intentions behind that beautiful smile.

    The best comic/manga/visualthing I've read so far. Which isn't saying that much, but I'm still very much in love. So what's this, aside from the perfect title that I'll never get out of my head again?

    Most importantly, not the summary (or the first chapter). This story is not about a bully and her victim -- thank god, because that would be boring as fuck. Instead, it's about one bully and another bully fighting it out, and not in the fan-service way. It's a serious, somewhat psychological teen drama, and the concept played utterly straight: It starts with a beating and ends with sexual assault, it's heavy, it hits where it hurts, and if you ever did smile, you're choking on it soon enough. Does a bully deserve getting her just desserts? If you ever cheered for the typical revenge plots, this will make you pause. In fact, "making you pause" is the central achievement of this story.

    TL;DR, a story about mad, destructive love, blindness, terrible human beings, jealousy, dependence and power; in two words: utter brilliance. If you're at all interested in a serious teen drama (one that I would love to see as a movie in Cannes), this is the best thing I know.

    There's a sequel too, it's a deeper (and explicit) exploration of the destructive attraction between Dahye and Yeonhwa set years later, and great if you're into ill-fated, dark love stories.

    Some spoilers and personal impressions ahead.

    Long after the last panel, I'm not getting this out of my head. The atmosphere, the characters, in particular Yeonhwa, who works as an anti-hero if there ever was one. She's everything I look for in a character: She might not be nice nor good, and not even entirely sane, but man ...

    ... is she memorable.

    Entering her world is mesmerising, and she lingers, long after I closed the story and the bitter and (inevitable) end is passed. She's as unique as her disability (she's an albino), and the author managed to capture this inexplicable draw the characters around her feel brilliantly, at least for me.

    She's this illusive solitary figure who's fine being solitary and whose very presence challenges everyone who implicitly cares about status and recognition; in particular, Dahye, her counterpart, the prototypical queen bee ruling her clique and the classroom. Those two can't exist simultaneously, and from this initial tension, the story unfolds, every action, every turn is due to their struggle that will only cease once one of them has utterly lost.

    And that is what the story shows.

    Aside from that, don't expect much plot. This story is a character study of two different kinds of bullies and how their actions affect the lives of people all around them. It's strictly limited to that microcosm; Dahye's older sister aside, there are virtually no adult figures, and no boys either. A study of girls -- mean girls --, their dynamics, relationships, of the powerless and the powerful, of people forced to act as others tell them, and people acting as they wish.

    The plot takes a backseat to that, and that's a good thing, because it gives the characters full control of the events. Everything that happens, happens only because one of those in power makes it happen; the characters drive the plot.

    In that sense, it's a purely descriptive, almost clinical look at this self-contained bubble through the eyes of people inside ; the characters speak for themselves and are the singular focus. And aside from the characters, this is probably the biggest draw for me. The absence of external events means the story stays entirely neutral. There's no feedback ("karma") from the world, the story neither approves nor condemns any of their actions, and leaves as much room for the characters to develop as they want.

    Consequently, there's no really "good" person in this story. You are one of five: Yeonhwa, Dahye, one of her (either) attack dogs, a helpless victim, or irrelevant. The closest are Ayeon, who's innocent but naive, and Minhye, Dahye's older sister, who tries to keep everything from going off the rails, and in the end morally sells out, too.

    In particular, Dahye is 100% bitch material. She's bullying others because she can, she's nasty because that's fun. But this is never really said by the story, so it's really the reader who has to sort through it all, especially when suddenly, Dahye is also a friend, a sister, a normal person with depth, problems at home, struggles she can't overcome and getting bullied herself.

    And so the way the story treats it, what you are on one side is neither excuse nor contradiction of any other side; -- the story simply says, that is who they are, and now take it as you will. Dahye is a bully and getting bullied, nasty and a lost little sister. And of course the coup de grâce of the author in terms of story-telling is that the person calling her out on her bad behaviour (and, of course, praising her for it and then blackmailing her) is the even worse bully: Yeonhwa, who thinks of people as toys to amuse herself.

    And as soon as you are sure about that, the story flips Yeonhwa, too, throws self-awareness at you in one of her more sane moments, a struggle against what she is and a love that can't end well because her shadow must catch up with her in the end.

    All this leaves the reader lost in the best sense. There's no convenient character to root for. There's no magic retribution. The bullied victims don't get their revenge. All there is Dahye, just the way she is, and not changing a fraction from start to finish, and Yeonhwa, who is the only person standing up to Dahye, protecting the weak from her, but doing so only because she craves their dependence on her, and because she wants to play games with Dahye, whom she recognises as a kindred spirit.

    The perspectives flip, from bully to being the one to get bullied, and the moment you feel bad either of them, they're back to bullying themself, and you realise the story has sucked you in and made you forget all about the actual victims; the girls left by the wayside in Dahye and Yeonhwa's games, no match for them.

    It's no coincidence that at the end, when all masks are off and only destruction is left, you feel conflicted; at least for me, it showed me how much more I emphatise with the underdog and the POV, and by flipping around who that is, before the end is there, you will have emphatised with both, and are left feeling empty afterwards, even though it's objectively the correct (and consequent) ending. So the author holds up a mirror to the audience as well, which is just fantastic story telling.

  2. ronin11

    ronin11 First Year

    Jan 16, 2015
    This was pretty good. Baek Yeonhwa is a Tony Soprano type of protagonist people will make excuses for until they can't. What I have also noticed is that non of the characters seem to be dumb in the way that characters in manga/manhwa usually are, they can think logically, make connections on the spot, recognize they are being manipulated if they already had such experience etc.

  3. Nicovi

    Nicovi Fourth Year

    Mar 13, 2015
    Not a proper review since all my attempts felt like an inferior ripoff of Sesc's praise.

    Some of the things the story does very well:
    - While not the prettiest art out there, it does clearly convey the characters emotions and overall creepiness.
    - No excessive graphic content distracting from the story. What there is only enhances the atmosphere.
    The story generally shows a few more images than your typical shoujo before it changes the scene . This helps to set the tone, to something less tame which has no issues bringing up problematic elements.
    - A minor but welcome detail is that the author doesn't reuse images like most other manhwa artists does
    (taking the last 2-3 images of a chapter and posting them as the first 2-3 images of the next chapter)
    and, unless I am mistaken, redraws images when a scene is revisited, often bringing in new details.