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Let Dai Mini Review (manhwa)

letdai.jpg
PG-16/18 for sexuality, violence and sexual violence, language, and torture; official series website

This manhwa is about a teenage gang leader named Dai who changes whatever world he steps into. He’s beautiful, dangerous, quiet, and unpredictable. He also has the emotional maturity of a 6-year-old, and I don’t mean that in a manchild sort of way – I mean that he literally thinks about things the way a 6-year-old thinks about things. He hits people when he’s upset, he leaves conversations halfway through, he expresses his sexuality through touching and kissing and absolutely nothing else. He beats his classmates half to death and then plays video games or rubs up against love interests instead of trying to have sex with them. He’s wholly deranged and impossible to ignore. People love Dai or they hate Dai – there’s nothing in-between.

That type of character is almost impossible to write, as Mars displayed – a sexy crazy boy is usually really gimmicky and unbelievable. But Dai is confusing and terrifying and really, really interesting. He’s appealing in a completely unsettling sort of way. In other words, the manhwaka did exactly what she meant to do – she wrote a boy who gets under your skin. Firstly, I’ll give her credit for that.

Secondly, I’ll give her credit for her interesting set-up: the comic isn’t so much about Dai as it’s about the people around him and how he changes them. It’s a really, really dark shoujo. It’s not full of goth gimmicks and melodrama, it’s just really f’ing dark. There’s rape, torture, and suicide, and people who love each other still hurt each other – usually worse than the people who hate each other, actually. The point of view is cycled among half a dozen characters or so: the teenage boy who pursues a gay relationship with Dai while waxing poetic and vomiting whenever he’s upset, the girlfriend who rejects her femininity after she’s been gang-raped, the best friend who bandages his enemies even after he’s been beaten senseless because he refuses to release his idealism. The only character who rarely (if ever) takes control of the narrative is Dai, so it’s almost impossible to know what he’s thinking. I love that. I love that hard. What a perfect way to structure a story about a life-altering boy. I also really like the way age is reflected in the characters: high schoolers really sound like high schoolers, college kids like college kids, and adults like adults. That sort of realism really drives the darkness of this comic home and makes it even more disturbing. I love it. More!

Be warned that this comic has one of the worst English adaptations you’ll ever read until about volume 7, and that can make the changing perspectives difficult to understand at times. But there are visual payoffs, at the very least, as the manwhaka draws some of the best faces I’ve ever seen.

Update: If you’re following the series online at the official site (netcomics.com), the final chapter came out yesterday. The conclusion is thoroughly bizarre. I’m sure it will divide people, but regardless – this series is absolutely worth reading to its end because of all of its successes throughout. This is a manhwa that exists in its own plane of reality but still manages to hit so close to home that it hurts. The narrative is unusual and thus the beginning can be difficult to get into, so give it a few volumes. Like many before you, you probably won’t be able to put it down.

Educated impression: This is one of the most intense character dramas you’ll ever read. If you’re old enough and you want something emotional and disturbing, this manhwa does stuff most shoujo wouldn’t dare to. It haunts me…in a good way. (Lianne)

10 Responses to “Let Dai Mini Review (manhwa)”

  1. on 25 Apr 2008 at 11:12 pm CalliopePurple

    I’m glad to have found this, since I’m linking it to everyone I try to get interested in the series. What are your thoughts now that volumes 11 and 12 are out and endgame is nigh?

  2. on 29 Apr 2008 at 8:11 am Lianne

    Since this is a netcomics.com title, NotHayama and I are following the most recent releases on the website, and are now into the beginning of Volume 14. She thought the series was going to go downhill after the suicide, but she admits it hasn’t, really. I have no complaints, either. We love this crazy comic. But at 15 volumes, it’s almost over. *sniff*

    We’re also putting money on how tragic the ending’s going to be. Super tragic, we say! We played this same game when getting toward the end of Banana Fish, which I heard Let Dai is Korea’s gay(er) answer to.

  3. on 30 Jun 2008 at 8:37 am jun

    I just bought the first four volumes of this the other day. I love kind of getting into series right as they’re ending, so I can indulge in a nice meaty marathon! :)

    Poking around on the Netcomics site this morning, I also discovered that volumes 3 and 4 of the josei-ish 10, 20, 30 manhwa are available there. Huzzah!

  4. on 01 Jul 2008 at 11:16 am Lianne

    Ah, 10, 20, 30…what a great idea, but what a terrible manhwa. I so wanted that one to be good. ;_;

  5. on 01 Jul 2008 at 11:48 am jun

    I confess that I am an awful hoarder, so I haven’t actually read the first two volumes yet.

  6. on 26 Sep 2008 at 11:07 pm subaru-kun

    I have read all this manhwa
    and it’s really great!!

    i love it!

    ^–^

  7. on 24 May 2009 at 1:54 pm em

    This is by FAR the best work of drama I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. Dai being the most interesting, disturbingly lovable character I’ve read about, I fell in love with him after about the second volume. He had puzzling expressions at times and you could never guess what he was going to do next. The art is also what did it for me. I would stare at a panel for 10 minutes, in absolute awe of the sheer power and emotion of the illustration. Characters expirienced emotions that are so well conveyed that I could actually feel them. Also, the way love was described by both Jaehee and Dai was very interesting, and after reading/watching feelings that are butchered up and sold as love by movies and television, seeing love regarded as not only joy but intense, unpleasant pain was refreshing. This is a great review, it really explains well the awesomeness of the series.

  8. on 23 Aug 2009 at 2:35 pm Anjie

    The ending is depressing, I guess the author felt like he/she had to make a point/ statement by having it end in such a tragic way. In any sense, Let Dai hit me where it hurts. . .

    -Anjie

  9. on 05 Jul 2012 at 9:09 pm sahfjsfjk

    sdfdlgks;lgksk what’s up with this ending? TvT
    This Manga have made me go crazy when I reached the last page. ;skglskgjldkgjlkgjls ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
    This is so damn depressing. This is the strongest and tragic drama I’ve ever read.

  10. on 17 Nov 2013 at 10:19 am justine

    Why ending is depressing? Jaehee’s gone to America and stay there sth. about 5 months and as his friend said – he’s doing well. He even send some pictures to Ms. Crangela. As you know Jaehee haven’t had any job and also his mother wasn’t rich, so who payed for tickets and stuff? I guess that Dai. Morover it’s impossible that Jaehee is doing well without Dai. And we know that Dai was send out to America by his father. And also we can see some pictures(?) in manhwa, one picture on every firts page in every volume – and they’re together. On the one of them there is Dai with butterfly tatoo on his belly, he haven’t any tatoo before he go to America, so I think they have found each other :)

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