Manhwa-ga: SangEun Lee
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: July 2012
Synopsis: “With the holidays finally upon Hee-So, the season of giving is in full swing! But as she gets ready for her Christmas Eve festivities, Beatrice takes generosity to a whole new level as he prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to give the present of “destiny” to his beloved friend. But if Hee-So realizes the sacrifice her darling Beatrice plans to make in order to bring Whie-Young back among the living, will she be able to look her first love in the face ever again? Hee-So’s search for love concludes in this final volume of 13th Boy!”
(Final Volume Spoiler Warnings) Against all odds, a small part of me kept hoping that Beatrice would be the one that Hee-So ends up with at the end of 13th Boy. But how often do the kind, self-sacrificing, ever-loyal ones actually get the girl? It’s little surprise that fickle Hee-So needs her man to have a little bad boy attitude to him, and while the inevitability of the series’s result left me feeling a little cold, the execution also caught me off-guard enough to make it ultimately very satisfying.
The beginning of this volume is pretty sad stuff. Beatrice says his final goodbyes to Hee-So and tries to spare her the heartbreaking goodbye scene by making his departure all cryptic-like. The finality of it still gets across though, and it was really upsetting seeing how much it pained Beatrice to be leaving her, especially since despite all the ‘I’ll always be with you’ condolences and excuses of magic soul transference and all that, he’s pretty much dying.
That being said, I was surprised to see Hee-So spends most of her page-time in this volume mourning him. I’m glad she did, it makes sense she does, but somehow I was expecting her to take a more passive attitude of ‘oh, I guess Beatrice finally found something for himself’, or some other moving-on-now attitude. It speaks to the little emotional opinion I held of her, I suppose. But, she mourns, and she mourns in a way that I really empathized with. It felt real in that it went beyond an easy display of tears.
Following that, I did like how it was Whie-Young who ends up comforting her through those times. I also liked how things weren’t as easy as ‘Whie-Young’s awake!’ and then happy times when he’s out of his coma. In fact, Hee-So holds him responsible for Beatrice’s disappearance, despite his lack of knowledge or intent in the matter. Simultaneously she has to deal with the sudden shift in his personality that seems to have at last brought her childhood friend back to her. The final scene with them in the main story block was well worked up to and was suitably, and acceptably, dramatic mush. It was a good finish to the story.
But wait, there’s more! The second half of the volume is dedicated to epilogues for the main characters. The most notable of which belonged to Soo-Bin Jung who has fallen for Hee-So’s tomboy, best friend Nam-Joo Yeo. I really loved reading about those two. It was especially fun because of how much they contrast in their spin on the stereotypical gender roles. Soo-Bin is lithe and pretty, while Nam-Joo is a star Judo player who cares more about her the smell of her armpits than her appearance or Nam-Joo’s obvious feelings as he starts puppy-dog following her around. She’s blunt about where her attractions lie and in the end there’s no big happily ever after for them, but the little bit of ground that is made feels rewarding none the less.
What I really liked overall about this volume, and the series in general, were the characters’ flaws and totally normal attributes and issues that are all too often glossed over in media. Sweat, pimples, periods, exhaustion, girls reading porn and totally average guys winning the girl – to name a few. Sure these are everyday things in real life but in a super pretty shoujo series staring another shiny-eyed blond lead (and her magical friend), these pieces of realism really make it memorable.
13th Boy was a fun ride. I never got all that attached to Hee-So or Whie-Young, but I did respect where and how they both ended up here in the last volume. Beatrice was charming, if not abundantly melancholic, and the side characters were fun. Though I was never really wowed by 13th Boy, this last volume ended so well that it all finished on a high note so it’s a thumbs up from me. It’s probably not a story I’ll fully revisit, but it was still well worth the read.
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes