Cheese in the Trap (Impressions)

Jan 9, 2011

I keep putting off a re-read of the next manga I'm gonna review. When I do get to it, every couple of pages I open another window and look for something else to do, like visit forums or read my mail or watch a clip or two of stand-up comedy on Youtube. And then eventually I just stopped reading that manga and continued what else I was doing. That's how much I hate that manga. So that's the bad news: no new review for a while. The good news is that during these bouts of procrastination I found something good to read.

Cheese in the Trap is a web manhwa (like Noblesse), which follows the same page format, and it's colored. I don't want to say it's a romance, because depending on interpretation it could be the standard romance where the girl initially dislikes the guy and grows to like him, or it could be a mild thriller. Why would it be a thriller, you ask? Well...it's a long story. Things at first seem fairly simple. The heroine has a guy from school who she dislikes for a few reasons, one of which is that he's two-faced. Or she just suspects him of it. This is where it gets tricky.

The guy in question has the image of perfection: good-looking, rich, smart, and is very nice. He treats people to food, always smiles, and never loses his temper. There is not a smudge on him. The heroine has no problem with that, everyone keeps up an image to some extent. What begins her suspicions is his well-hidden snobbish personality. He sneakily spills water on an underclassman's skirt to shoo her away from him (and still acts cavalier throughout) and the heroine overhears him call her "indecent" on the phone when she drank liquor from a leaf to hoots and cheers from friends at a party. And this when he was so nice and would never say a mean word to anyone at the party. In other words, he was being deceitful.

Her dislike for him goes beyond that, though, as shown in flashbacks interspersed through the story. 'Proof' of his evil behavior, if you will. In the beginning when she tries to be nice to him, he ignores her, and then a little later seems to show contempt for her when she carelessly trips and drops some papers. The worst of it is when he suddenly gives her friendly attention, bringing the wrath of his fans down on her head. And he just conveniently calls her when she's trying to explain to said fans, too, and makes the situation worse. The thing is, though, those scenes could be interpreted another way. Here comes the beauty of this manhwa's storytelling.

The story begins with us wondering why this girl would dislike a nice guy like him, and readers (especially those familiar with how shoujo goes) might think "she must be thinking too much; she's mistaken and he just likes her." And then come the flashbacks. They come in little bits and pieces, slowly painting a picture of the previous year when all those events took place. While the heroine goes through present events and awkwardly interacts with the guy she dislikes, we see just exactly why she thinks badly of him. And to the readers (well, for me at least), those reasons become convincing. It's probably because we see things through her eyes, and so we will always think the same way as her, right? Wrong.

Maybe it's because of the way those events are recalled (it's not in a strict chronological order, and there are some details the heroine admits to not understanding or picking up), but it's also because the heroine is someone you can believe. She's not some dumb, naive girl with an overactive imagination. She has a good head on her shoulders, and her instincts have proven to be right on other things so far. She's also an observer, and has a good idea of other people's intetions and feelings. An example would be during a study group; she correctly guesses at how a member of the group was feeling when no one seemed to notice (or care). Another is despite evidence pointing to it probably being an innocent mistake, she deduced right that a girl gave her a wrong assignment on purpose. She was also right about a stalker's intetions. And, as is slowly revealed, she is sometimes right about creepy Mr. Perfect.

So again, why thriller? Well, what a thriller has is mystery, suspense, and tension. Now consider this: even when we know the heroine is perceptive, even when the events might prove her right, those flashbacks are still from her point of view. There are some things she doesn't know. The story is written in a way that things are slowly revealed, and that there might be some facts we're missing. That is the mystery. Is she right or wrong? The suspense and tension stems from the fact that if she is right, then she has an intelligent, manipulative, sinister, and possibly dangerous guy after her. And right now he is succesfully, slowly chipping away at her defenses. Scarier than an obvious stalker is one that seems perfectly normal on the outside. Like the antagonists in classic thrillers, you know? The psychopaths. The guy in this story probably isn't as dangerous, but the tension feels the same, and you fear for the heroine. Unlike in classic thrillers, though, the tension in this manhwa is more subtle, and there is more mystery than fear.

So yeah, Cheese In the Trap is really good. Why I didn't post this as a review, though, is because of this very bad news: it won't be translated any more. Apparently it was a request from the author to stop posting the manhwa elsewhere. And since I can't continue to read this (DAMMIT!), I can't give a complete review. At the very least, I thought I should write about it (it's just that good), and maybe I can introduce this to Korean-speaking readers. I really hope the author just offers an English version of the manhwa from his/her site, though...



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