Ji-Hae Namgung has harbored an obsessive crush on her classmate, Seung-Hyu, for over a year and a half. Because her “love” hasn’t faded in all this time, she believes it’s more substantial than most and won’t give up her attempts to win Seung-Hyu’s heart, despite the fact that he has repeatedly and emphatically rejected her. As she chases after him after his latest refusal, she ends up accidentally tumbling down a staircase and awakens in the world beyond, where Lady Gameunjang, the God who controls the flow of human life, is touched by Ji-Hae’s plight. It’s not Ji-Hae’s time to die, but she can’t bear returning to a world in which Seung-Hyu hates her, so instead, Lady Gameunjang sends her into a past life, where can rectify the wrong that causes him to hate her in the present.
Once in the past, Ji-Hae doesn’t seem to consider trying to fit in at all, and instead shocks her former self’s family by lopping off her hair, speaking informally, and going off dressed as a boy to search for Seung-Hyu. When she finds his past equivalent, called Ja-Yun, she rattles off a series of lies to convince him to let her stay with his family and later accompanies him to a political meeting attended by a man who will one day be an important king in Korea’s history.
I can put up with a lot of flaws in manga. I am capable of liking something when it’s silly, when it’s implausible, or when it has little merit aside from its ability to infect you with the compulsion to know what happens next. But what I cannot abide is an unlikable protagonist, and unfortunately, that is exactly what Ji-Hae is. When she describes what she loves about Seung-Hyu, it’s a catalog of physical attributes. When she springs her latest (public) declaration of love upon him, it includes a note that reads, “You are mine. You can’t get away.” And when she gets to the afterlife, she has the audacity to wail, “What have I done to deserve this pain?” Um, been a completely deluded psycho stalker, perhaps?
Because of Ji-Hae’s abominable behavior, one might assume I’d feel sympathy for Seung-Hyu, but I’m thwarted there as well, since he’s got about as much personality as a cardboard cutout. Granted, as Ja-Yun, he seems to possess at least a small quantity of kindness—or else mere common decency requires him to house the disguised Ji-Hae after she tells her hard-luck tale of orphaned woe—but is otherwise just as stony as before.
About the only thing working for this title is the setting, which allows Ryang to draw some nice period costumes and work in some political elements while eschewing a strictly realistic portrayal of living conditions during the time in question. In general, the art’s attractive (especially the color pages in the front of the book), featuring an everygirl sort of heroine and ample bishounen eye candy.
Sarasah is also a quick read, which tempts me to give it at least one more volume to see whether anything resembling a real and honest relationship between Ji-Hae and Ja-Yun begins to develop. If Ryu Ryang takes the bildungsroman approach, that’s something I might be able to get behind.
Sarasah is published by Yen Press. Only one volume is currently available—volume two is due in November—and the series is ongoing in Korea, with six volumes so far.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.