Evil or Live Episode 2: Could There Be One Nice Character In This Story?

Review:

This week we move away from the instructors and their deliberate acts of cruelty (though they do get one fairly ominous looking scene) and instead we focus on the cruelty that people can inflict upon one another once they start forming packs and seem to have absolutely zero empathy. It wouldn’t be so hard to watch except that each new character you meet seems to be more warped and twisted than the previous, to the point where for a moment I kind of thought Hibiki wasn’t so bad (then of course I remembered he’s an obnoxious little rat of a human being).

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This is certainly not comfortable viewing as we have female ‘students’ publicly groped and stripped and deals involving females sleeping with a male in order to gain access to a phone. Though one has to wonder where the instructors were during any of that and how purple hair has seemingly unlimited information access (which opens up a whole other series of issues).

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Visually this remains odd and from a story point of view, uncomfortable. Yet it is kind of like watching a train derail in slow motion so I somehow don’t think I’m going to look away just yet particularly because despite finding every character in this show so far to be hideously obnoxious, I still actually kind of want to know what happens to them (even if what happens turns out to be very bad things).

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So, not recommending this one but not dropping it either.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 13 Review

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

This chapter is kind of amazing.

It is substantially longer than the previous one but all that build up comes to a head here and yet we get to the end of the chapter without anybody dying but it isn’t a let down.

If you aren’t interested in plot spoilers please stop reading now. There’s a few big ones in this review.

The police officer uses the lame excuse of a noise complaint to Sangwoo to get inside the house. We know Sangwoo doesn’t buy this. Firstly because we know that he’s stood outside and shouted for help with Bum with no concern whatsoever for anyone hearing or complaining. And in case that wasn’t enough to make the officer’s story totally suspect and for the readers to figure out that Sangwoo knew this, we get this line from Sangwoo:

“Which is why I’m so surprised you received a complaint…”

The whole scene as Sangwoo allows the officer to check the house just smacks of Sangwoo’s usual games. It’s satisfying enough but nothing spectacular and then the officer notices the missing knife.

Killing13.JPGAt this point the reader inevitably draws the conclusion that his time is short. It’s going to be brutal and its going to happen soon. We keep cutting between Sangwoo and the officer to Yoon Bum who is cowering, hands over his mouth (which is interesting in and of itself given this is potential rescue material but clearly Yoon Bum isn’t interested – unless he’s also smart enough to have figured out there’s no chance of one guy overpowering Sangwoo and is waiting a better chance).

Then the officer does the second idiotic thing in this chapter. To delay leaving he pretends to receive a phone call. Of course he actually gets a real phone call. It all seems like death is looming.

And finally, Sangwoo leads him to the wardrobe. He’s going to open the door and then he’s going to stab the officer with the knife. But that isn’t what happens. I love being surprised by a story in an intelligent manner and not something totally random. So the officer opens the wardrobe and there is no Yoon Bum. The officer is confused. He was certain someone was in the house. He was sure the wardrobe was where they had to be. But there’s nothing. And so he leaves.

Then, and this is why I started this review with ‘this chapter is kind of amazing’, we get this expression from Sangwoo:

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That was so incredibly satisfying. For 13 chapters we’ve not seen Sangwoo even vaguely rattled. Crazy certainly, furious occasionally, smug and self-assured almost constantly, but that look… I would almost say it is worth reading the 13 chapters to this point, even if this isn’t your style of story, just for the satisfaction that this look will bring you.

Following this Sangwoo literally tears around the house, almost mirroring the path of the police officer, frantically searching. Then he runs outside and has kind of a break down and we get a weird mix of sexual desire and murderous intent. There’s also some foul language but all of this can be neatly summed up by Sangwoo’s statement:

“He actually ran away.”

Sangwoo is being hit by mixtures of betrayal, heart-break, loss of control, rage, abandonment issues, and there’s definitely some sexual tension thrown into the mix. And it shakes him hard.

Meanwhile, as a reader I’m frantically trying to put the pieces together. I know Yoon Bum hasn’t run away because the whole time the search was on we saw Yoon Bum in the closet…

Wait, no we didn’t.

We saw Yoon Bum in a small space, cowering. I assumed, as the police officer did, that he was in the wardrobe because that’s where we saw the foot through the mail slot in the door. And suddenly I get it.

It’s a very weird reunion at the end of the chapter and what, from anyone else, would sound like a marriage proposal but all and all it just means that this creepy and highly dysfunctional relationship is going to continue and now I’m really not sure what the end game is unless eventually the plan is for Sangwoo to just snap. More importantly, the officer still knows something is off. Will he come back?


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Killing Stalking Chapter 12 Review

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

It’s definitely wrong for me to get my hopes up that the police officer will prove useful. It’s definitely wrong. Even if he doesn’t turn out to be completely inept, I’m pretty sure Sangwoo is not going to take any interference lightly. Still…

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Not going to lie; seeing the police office actually see this in the footage and follow up kind of gave me hope that maybe there’s an out to this that doesn’t involve complete tragedy.

Of course, that just makes me think the writer is playing us the way Sangwoo keeps playing Bum. There’s the possibility, the che smallest of chances, that somehow things will be okay. Right, you believe that? Let’s snatch it away and watch you crumble.

Chapter 12 is pretty short and really we see the police officer get the footage and begin using his time to watch Sangwoo (I’m avoiding the term stalk only because well that mirrors Bum’s story too much but it might be accurate of what is happening here). Naturally because the officer in question has no friends at the station he’s working solo and the chapter ends with Sangwoo literally catching him on the doorstep.

I think there’s a great deal of credit needed for the writer here. Nothing in this chapter was unexpected and yet it still managed to keep me waiting and built tension beautifully throughout.

Seriously worried this is not going to end well for the officer.


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Tokyo Ghoul Series Review

Overview:

Kaneki Ken is probably the single unluckiest character to be scripted in recent history (and there are a lot of unlucky anime characters). He’s a nice, shy guy who likes reading books and the girl he likes who also likes the same author has finally spoken to him. They go on a date, she tries to kill him, but he’s ‘saved’ when they are both crushed in an ‘accident’. Only, a pesky doctor decides he can save Kaneki by doing an organ transplant, from the killer date who it turns out was a ghoul. Thus begins Kaneki’s new and wondrous life as a half-ghoul thing who has no clue about how the world really works.

Review:

Straight out I am going to tell you that this review is limited to the first series. I’ll get to the mess that is season 2 at some other stage.

With that said, I finished season 1 in a single marathon sitting unintentionally because I just couldn’t stop. I really loved this. Not that it isn’t without its flaws (even season 1 has a number of glaring issues if you stop and think about them) but because this show was kind of built to appeal to the b-grade horror/action junkie hiding inside me that just wants to have a good time while watching something that’s just a bit dark but a lot of fun. Tokyo Ghoul is not the kind of trainwreck that Highschool of the Dead managed to be, but it certainly is going to appeal to a similar audience unless you were watching Highschool of the Dead for the physics defying breasts in which case you’ll probably be out of luck here.

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So, we’ll just go with a straight plus/minus format because for everything I loved in this series, there’s definitely a few little bumps that need to be addressed.

Plus +

Kaneki Ken is a great protagonist in season 1. Initially clueless and relatively powerless, thrust into a complicated world, gradually becoming award and finding his limitations, and yet seeking to help before having any hopes that he might be helpful dashed utterly horribly. You really feel for Kaneki. He got dealt an incredibly unfair hand and yet after his initially absolute despair he starts to climb his way out of it. The road isn’t smooth and he doesn’t always make the right choices but he consistently learns from his mistakes and continues to push forward. What I really admire about Kaneki as a character is that even though he talks with others and tries to change their way of thinking when they are clearly prejudiced against certain ideas is that he never takes the ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ approach that so many protagonists might. Part of this is to do with his much gentler personality than so many shonen protagonists and part of this is he’s a more logical thinker and one who has to process everything before he can act (though that is also a weakness of his). Plus, Kaneki is a bookworm and to be honest I’d like him as a character just for that trait.

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Minus –

While Tokyo Ghoul does have an excellent character journey laid out for Kaneki this season, the plot is a little… Okay, they had a good concept. Cool premise now where’s the story? We leap between threats and conflicts as Kaneki’s world view expands but there’s really no overall antagonist or conflict driving this forward. And even Kaneki doesn’t really have a goal other than learning to live with himself. Which could have been an admirable focus around which to build a character driven plot but Tokyo Ghoul is more of an action/horror and Kaneki’s personal journey is clearly a side-note. In the space of 12 episodes we have a fight between two ghouls that is upsetting the power balance in the city, Kaneki’s conflict with his friend Hide and the ghoul at his university, the gourmet crazy guy, the doves, and a group of ghouls who have decided to declare war who seem to come out of nowhere toward the end even though technically they are foreshadowed earlier in the story they don’t really have significance until suddenly they are there. All of this makes it kind of messy. Fast paced and with limited down time, but messy.

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Plus +

The fight sequences in this anime are great. Mostly this is because of the unique take on ghouls that this anime has other then just being flesh eaters. Ghouls have Kagune which take on different forms but essentially come out of their backs and work as an offensive or defensive weapon depending on the type and they allow for some pretty cool effects during the fights. Not to mention the ghouls’ skin can’t be cut by your standard knife so the government agents (doves) use weapons fashioned from these Kagune to hunt the ghouls. It’s a creepy plot point and makes the doves even more loathesome at times.

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Minus –

Early on, Tokyo Ghoul, would have you believe it is going to look seriously at the idea of discrimination by having Kaneki straddling the gap between human and ghouls. This plot point gets thrown out the window very early and other than the doves, there are almost no human characters of consequence. The one character who desperately needed more development and screen time, Hide – Kaneki’s apparently only human friend from before he became a ghoul, kind of vanishes for large chunks at a time and so any serious dialogue about similarities and differences kind of gets shuffled away as does Kaneki’s overall conflict at being a ghoul. By the end of the first half Kaneki is entirely caught up in various conflicts that the ghouls are facing and his own nature and the conflict that this had brought is almost entirely shelved. That doesn’t mean his character growth stops, it just goes in a very different direction compared to where it seemed to be going.

Plus +

The character designs are really interesting. Each character is quite distinct to look at (the ghouls have unique Kagune but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to visually differentiating the cast). Their mannerism, clothing, speech, and everything about the characters makes them feel like distinct entities even if some of these are a little one dimensional. The colours and fashion choices are great and really enhance the viewing experience as well as they contrast sharply with the fairly dark tone most of this anime seems to be draped in.

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Minus –

Alright, I really loved this season, but it ends on an absolute cliff hanger and while it is an awesomely cool scene leaving the show hanging there was really cruel. I’m not going into the what happened but if you are squeamish about torture let’s just say Tokyo Ghoul is not the anime for you and leave it at that.

Plus +

And to end on a positive note, the theme song is amazing. While it doesn’t have the uplifting warmth of History Maker from Yuri On Ice, given the nature of the show that would be absurd, what it does have is an absolute tone of despair and loss of identity. It perfectly plunges you into Kaneki’s mindset and prepares you for the sad tale you are watching. There is just enough hope in the opening to make you think things will get better and to not crush your soul but just the song itself is a moving experience.

While there are certainly elements of this show that could be improved, pretty much if you like dark anime, a bit of action or a bit of horror, you will love this viewing experience. It moves quickly, has great characters, some excellent fight sequences, and just enough moments of gore and pain to really hit home for the horror fans. It may not be for everyone but if you know you like that kind of thing and you haven’t checked it out, it is well worth your time, even with the non-ending that season 1 delivers.

If you’ve seen Tokyo Ghoul I’d love to know your thoughts and I will get to season 2 at some point but I’m going to be a whole lot harsher on that one.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 11

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

Okay, I’m confused, but that’s probably because I don’t get the whole black box thing.

This chapter gets us out of Sangwoo’s house for the first time in awhile. We follow the pint of view of that police officer we met quite a number of chapters ago. Turns out he isn’t well liked by the other police (partly because of past success, and because he’s new in the area, and partly because his personality stinks). Anyway, while out on patrol he comes across a argument between two drivers who have had a minor collision. I’m assuming the younger one is Sangwoo (or maybe he’s Clark Kent, I’m not really sure on that one given despite there being a police officer on the scene neither motorist was asked to identify themselves).

Anyway, it gets to a point where the police guy asks the two drivers to hand over their black box footage and given the next drawing, I’m guessing that’s some sort of camera in the car, but I’m not entirely sure. Nor am I entirely sure why the younger driver at that point admits they were both at fault, though the police officer jumps onto the idea that maybe he has something to hide on the footage.

Which then got me thinking so the rest of this is random speculation. If the driver is Sangwoo (which is a logical deduction given I don’t think we know any other characters at this point that it could be) and if we assume the black box footage comes from a car camera that can operate when the car is not operational, then there’s been a recent incident involving Sangwoo’s car that might be of note. When Yoon Bum crawled into the street and was beaten down, Sangwoo threw him at one point onto the hood of a car. If the camera caught that then it would be on the footage.

Again, this is highly speculative and I have no idea if that is how the black box thing works or not, nor do I know for sure that it is Sangwoo or his car.

Still, that might be some way to move the story along if someone actually starts looking for Yoon Bum.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 10

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

How is it? Your first killing.

I’m going to stop being surprised by how twisted Sangwoo is eventually.

There isn’t much too this chapter so this is going to be pretty short. Essentially, having lost the card game, Yoon Bum is now terrified of being killed but Sangwoo isn’t done playing just yet. He decides to have the other guy be the one to kill Yoon Bum.

Only, as much as the other guy wants out of there, homicide is apparently a step too far. So, Sangwoo, being the sweet guy he is helps him out. By blindfolding him and then taping the knife to his hands. Let me just assure you this doesn’t end well and leave the rest of the scenario for you to find out when you read it.

Taken by itself, this chapter really is nothing. As a follow up to the previous events, it is as horrifically perfect as can be expected. Although, given Sangwoo seems very seasoned at this sort of thing I have to wonder where he’s been hiding all the bodies.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 9

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

How about it? You’re going to be the masters of your own fate! What a joke! But it’ll be exciting, like a roller coaster.

Sangwoo is really, really cruel. I can’t help but admire how incredibly expert he is at playing on human emotions, building up small glimmers of hope and then crushing them mercilessly under foot. He’s the brilliant manipulater and the game he sets up in this chapter brings that attribute to the foreground.

We pick up exactly where we left off in Chapter 8 with the new guy being thrown into the basement. Sangwoo, after forcing introductions, decides that the best way to break the ice will be a card game and of course it isn’t any fun if there isn’t something on the line. Why not bet their lives.

So begins a game that kind of reminded me of some of the episodes of Death Parade. The characters are doing something totally innocuous, but with the stakes as high as they are, emotions frazzle and things rapidly spiral out of control. In this case, Yoon Bum having won the first game before Sangwoo declared it a practice round, becomes desperate. In his desperation he clings to the only thing he has and that is Sangwoo.

Now, Sangwoo could have just let things run their course but that is not his style. Instead, after looking at Yoon Bum’s hand, he sits behind the other guy and begins indicating to Yoon Bum which card he should pick. Naturally, this gives Yoon Bum just that little bit of hope that Sangwoo doesn’t intend for him to lose.

Which makes Sangwoo directing Yoon Bum to the joker just that little bit more cruel. The fact that as readers we see this outcome coming from the moment Yoon Bum looked desperately at Sangwoo doesn’t take away the impact of that final draw.

Of course, knowing how many more chapter already exist after this one, I’m pretty convinced Sangwoo isn’t about to kill Yoon Bum so now I’m curious as to what the twist will be next chapter.

That’s really all there is to chapter nine. It is a delight to read and in terms of sex and violence is probably one of the safest chapters yet (except for the part where Yoon Bum is still pretty naked and covered in bandages from previous damage, and the bondage on the other guy), however there is definitely tension cutting through the entire chapter that leaves you just a little bit tired after reading because you’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since the game started.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this chapter.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 8

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

Violence and sex and trauma. That’s probably the best description chapter 8 is going to get. It works aswell as the other chapters so far at drawing you in, delaying reveals, building tension, but it certainly hits you with enough different atrocities that by the end of the chapter it would be hard to say you were in a good head space. Of course, it didn’t help my journey through the chapter that they managed a hold his head under water scenario. This was nowhere near as graphic as some of the other incidents but it pushes my panic buttons so that was when I started feeling a just a bit sick in the stomach.

We continue from where we left off in chapter 7 with Yoon Bum finally opening the door to reveal Sangwoo. Sangwoo calmly sitting and waiting for Yoon Bum. He says he was hoping that Yoon Bum wouldn’t come out, but that’s hard to believe really given the set-up in the basement is ready to go. What makes this encounter truly memorable is that Sangwoo let’s Yoon Bum fall down the stairs and claw his way to the gate, he even holds the gate open while Yoon Bum crawls into the street. Sangwoo stands over him and actually calls out for help with Yoon Bum, knowing of course that no one will hear and no one will care. Sangwoo likes to play. The game is far more fun for him when he dangles just that tiniest ray of hope before snatching it away.killing8

Then again, part of this seems to stem from some real trust issues. It does seem at times this chapter that Sangwoo was genuinely hoping somewhere inside that Yoon Bum loved him and hadn’t been lying to him. The mixture of his own anger at that tiny hope he hadn’t even really been aware of being crushed and his genuine enjoyment of causing others pain leads to some very uncomfortable following scenes.

You wanted to know, right? What I wanted…

This chapter gets a lot more phsycial. Yoon Bum is beaten when he resists being carried back into the house. He is beaten again in the basement and nearly strangled when being suspended from the ceiling. He is dropped from the ceiling to the floor (remembering his legs were broken not so long ago). HeĀ  is held under water by the rope that had been used before to suspend him. And he is cut. Remember the threat about what would happen if he tried to leave?

Through all of this physical abuse we see something truly strange transpiring as Yoon Bum both hates Sangwoo and wants to escape him and still desperately clings to him and believes that he might actually be special to him. Yoon Bum calling out Sangwoo’s name to save him while he is choking actually turns Sangwoo on and while Yoon Bum is saved, the complex emotions are unresolved.

Then we finally get to the end of the chapter where it seems that Sangwoo has decided the game needs another player. A man, picked up at a club, is unceremoniously tossed into the basement and the question becomes, what will Sangwoo do next?

This story continues to hit all the right notes as a psychological thriller and despite being outright uncomfortable at times in terms of content, the characterisation and pacing remain pretty flawless as it conveys this fairly tragic tale. I honestly wonder though how much longer you can continue this scenario before it feels like it is dragging but for now, every scene and moment feels like it has been perfectly place for maximum emotional impact.


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Killing Stalking Chapter 7

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

For a chapter where nothing happens in terms of plot, everything happens. Chapter 7 picks up with Yoon Bum left home alone and knowing he has until seven when Sangwoo is coming home. So, the question becomes does he wait quietly or does he attempt escape.

While the conclusion is more or less obvious, this chapter really manages to make watching his inner confusion and indecisiveness extremely compelling.

This chapter is filled with Yoon Bum haunting himself with visions of what Sangwoo has done to others and what might yet happen to him if he stays. Contrasted with this are moments where we see Sangwoo almost gentle as he talks to Yoon Bum about what is waiting for him outside. For the first time we get a clear look at the misery that has been Yoon Bum’s life. It’s a very solid effort at trying to make the audience emphasise with the impossibility of Yoon Bum’s situation.

I think where this works really well is we know from the previous chapter and from a number of clues this chapter that once again Sangwoo is setting Yoon Bum up. We know all of this agony to make a decision about whether to stay or leave is pointless and he’s really just wasting his time. It makes him seem incredibly tragic and more than a little pathetic.

This chapter was at its best when it was low key. The few gore filled moments (bodies falling out of the dryer, Yoon Bum’s throat being slit in the kitchen) didn’t shock because of their delivery and had less emotional punch than Yoon Bum’s delusion of Sangwoo whispering in his ear.

It’s a great read full of tension though clearly this episode of the escape (or non-escape as is definitely more likely) is not over so I’m looking forward to what Sangwoo intends to do next now that Yoon Bum has in fact tried to leave the house.

What did you think of this chapter?


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Killing Stalking Chapter 5

Before I get into reviewing this I want to make it clear that none of the content being reviewed in this post is suitable for children and even for adults is probably going to be confronting. Anyone who has been following the copious posts about Killing Stalking on Twitter probably already know that, but just giving everyone else fair warning.

Review:

There’s not a huge amount I want to say about Chapter 5. The events continue on logically from where we left off though it is unclear whether Yoon Bum’s illness is definitely caused by ingesting rat poison or whether Sangwoo had switched out the bottle contents, just like it is unclear why Sangwoo seemed to suffer no ill-effect from the meal. Though, it hardly seems to matter given what is important in this chapter is the back story we’re finally given on Sangwoo.

It’s not a complete picture or even overly detailed but the short scene we see of his father explains so much.

For all that Killing Stalking is definitely using sensationalised violence and sexual tension as a drawing card, underneath what I’m finding is that this world feels really, tragically real and the two characters are believable in their own messed up ways. While not every child who grows up a victim of domestic abuse becomes an abuser, in Sangwoo’s case his desire for emotional and physical control show clear parallels to the behaviour modelled by his father, only taken to an extreme form.

While I guess the fans who were hoping for these two to become a couple will probably appreciate the interaction toward the end of the chapter it seemed like a really bizarre time for that scene. As Yoon Bum pointed out, he smelled like vomit. And he was covered in sweat. And it wouldn’t have been difficult for Sangwoo to carry him into the bathroom prior. Also, did we hear the cries of another victim in the house during this chapter or was Yoon Bum a little delirious?

What was made clear, other than a motivating factor for Sangwoo, is that Yoon Bum is not over his fascination with Sangwoo despite everything he’s been through and that makes you wonder just what else has happened to him in his life that he is clinging so incredibly desperately to this one, deeply flawed, human being.


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