There’s certainly plenty of precedent for romantic comedies in which a feisty, average girl exchanges snarky banter with a rich and handsome fellow (to whom she is often secretly attracted even while deeming him odious). It may just be a licensing fluke, but it seems that a large portion of the sunjeong manhwa that I’ve read (Very! Very! Sweet, Sugarholic, Goong: The Royal Palace, There’s Something About Sunyool) also follows this formula. Now, I can add Sooyeon Won’s Full House to that list.
Ellie Ji is a Korean living alone in the UK after the deaths of her parents. Although her family relocated while Ellie was in primary school, she still doesn’t feel quite at home in England, so the lovely house her architect father built and left to her is an important refuge. One morning, she is unceremoniously ousted by emissaries of Ryder Baye, a famous actor, who claim that he is now the owner of the home, known as Full House. Hot-tempered Ellie vows to get the house back, no matter what it takes, and when Ryder hits her with his car, the perfect opportunity arises.
Ellie demands Ryder hand over Full House as compensation for her injuries, but he’s not having that, and thus they embark upon the first of what will be many, many, many arguments. Finally, Ellie declares, “I’ll even marry you, if that’ll do the trick!!” Ryder is far from enthused (“How could you say such a thing, when the very idea of wedding you is so horrific?! It’s beyond absurd, and even more disgusting than vomit and foot odor!”) but his manager, Miranda, likes the idea because it’ll help quash some nasty rumors that Ryder is gay. Eventually, everyone ends up agreeing to the arrangement.
So, once Ellie is discharged from the hospital, she and Ryder officially announce their engagement and move into Full House, with Ryder occupying the first floor and Ellie the second. Whereupon they proceed to have the rest of those many, many, many arguments I mentioned earlier. Ellie can be hyper-defensive and obnoxious, while Ryder is somewhat more sympathetic but yet unable to say what needs to be said to defuse a hostile situation. Sometimes they almost seem to get along, then something happens to derail that. Seriously, I can’t even list all the things they find to get up in arms about, because it’s kind of ridiculous and, more importantly, absolutely wearing upon the reader. Probably the worst moment is when Ryder offers to introduce Ellie, an aspiring screenwriter, to a director and she scathingly retorts, “I’m so grateful I’m about to break into tears! Should I bow down and kiss your feet to show my appreciation?”
The characters do and say things that make one want to shake them, like Ellie’s reluctance to just tell Ryder that her dad built that house and that she’d been living in it. They’d also rather let misunderstandings and misconceptions of their motives persist than deign to provide an exonerating explanation for their behavior. Sometimes this kind of dynamic can work for me in a couple—I actually like all those series I mentioned above—but here, I just really found it maddening. They’re bound and determined to be nasty to each other, even though they both surely realize there’s something good about their influence on each other. For Ryder, Ellie serves as a “stimulant,” when compared with all the other docile fangirls who throw themselves upon him. For Ellie, Ryder’s insistence upon public appearances awakens her potential as a stunning beauty and helps the once uncouth girl develop genuine poise.
Beyond its aggravating central relationship, Full House has some other odd quirks. As demonstrated by the quotes above, the dialogue is often over-the-top and laughable. (Felix, Ellie’s former beau, on learning of her engagement: “I couldn’t fall asleep from being so overwhelmed and busy sobbing.”) There are some grammatical errors, as well. On the plus side, some effort is made to make the speech sound British, with a scattering of “bloke”s and “bloody wanker”s peppering the script. Plotting is also similarly melodramatic. For example, volume four concludes with the sudden revelation that Ryder has a brain tumor and only three to five months to live. Dun dun dun!
Despite my gripes, I actually don’t hate Full House at all. I do marvel, though, that there are sixteen volumes in this series, plus a five-volume sequel. Are they all like this? I positively long for these two to have a civil conversation, and perhaps they will do, if the events of the first chapter of volume five (the only portion of that volume currently available on the NETCOMICS website) are any indication.
And now I’ve just realized that my opinion toward this series—it drives me crazy, but I can’t seem to leave it alone—is exactly what’s going on between its two leads. So, perhaps what I really ought to be saying is “Well done, Miss Won?”
Full House was originally published in English by the now-defunct CPM, but only the first four volumes—out of a total of sixteen—were released. The series is being released on the NETCOMICS website with a new translation, though the last update (the first chapter of volume five) was just over three months ago. No print editions have yet been produced.
Review copies provided by the publisher.