Title: Very! Very! Sweet Vol 1
Authors: JiSang Shin & Geo
Publisher: Yen Press
May Contain Spoilers
Tsuyoshi Takuan’s life takes an unexpected turn when he learns of his Korean ancestry. Long an out of control, misbehaving brat, his grandfather has finally had enough of his selfish attitude and decrees that it’s high time that the boy start acting like a man. Hoping that he’ll learn a little humility, Tsuyoshi is being shipping off to Korea, where he can learn about the family’s roots. When he meets Be-Ri at the airport, the two end up in a fight that is highlighted by them spitting on each other. When they learn that they are now going to be neighbors, will life ever be peaceful again?
The opening of this book, with a flashback to Be-Ri’s past, reeled me in and set up some high expectations for an emotional read. That hope didn’t pan out, and I struggled to finish this introductory volume to the Very! Very! Sweet series. It has the potential to steam back on track, but I felt that there were a number of issues with the story that lessened my enjoyment of it. The humor didn’t translate very well, as much of it hinged on Tsuyoshi’s choice of a Korean name. Those jokes fell flat and got to be tediously irritating, because the puns were lost on me.
Be-Ri lives with her mother and bossy older sister, and they are trying to get by as best they can after the death of her father. Be-Ri is quite the entrepreneur, constantly scavenging trash piles for materials she can recreate into useful objects. She then sells these, banking the money and saving every penny. When she goes to the airport with her sister’s boyfriend to pick up his father, she discovers that Tsuyoshi and his cousin Ito live in the same neighborhood and suggests that they all share a cab ride, splitting the cost.
Things don’t go as smoothly as planned, and Tsuyoshi and Be-Ri are soon at each others’ throats. Spitting ensues, as well as the usual name calling, and the two become bitter enemies. This turns out to be an uncomfortable situation for both of them, because they learn that they live next door to each other, and they are both in the same class at school. Ugh! Now Be-Ri has not only the obnoxious Lee Mi-Hyuk to deal with, but also the rude Japanese transfer student.
Be-Ri’s relationship with classmate Lee Mi-Hyuk is also fiery. Unlike the animosity with Tsuyoshi, it’s obvious that Lee Mi-Hyuk likes Be-Ri, but he doesn’t know how to communicate his feelings to her. He is really cute, and even though he’s the first one to tease her, he’s also the first to defend her when he thinks she’s not getting a fair shake. He even listens to her dreams for the future and doesn’t laugh at her earnest sincerity. Be-Ri is really a very idealistic girl, and she uses her cut-throat business woman façade to hide how vulnerable she can be. At this point in the story, I am more interested in how their relationship pans out than whether or not Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi will ever be able to speak to each other without having another spitting contest.
I didn’t find this comedy very compelling. The characters aren’t very interesting, and there’s no spark when Be-Ri and Tsuyoshi are together. Tsuyoshi thinks he’s all that, because he’s good-looking and his family is rich. He can barely speak Korean, so his dialog is stilted and halting, and jarring to read. Hopefully as the series progresses he will develop a more natural, and less distracting, speech pattern. Much of the conflict between the teens comes from cultural and class differences, and not from personality conflicts. They don’t know each other well enough for that yet. The art is a bit of a turn off as well, because all of the characters have very angular faces and impossibly pointy chins. All of those big V-shaped faces are so very distracting.