I don’t like Korean manhwas. The art style, the story writing. At least, this is what I thought.
Until I discovered “Cheese in the trap” (치즈인더트랩).
Pick a bit of slice of life, a bit of campus drama, a bit of comedy, a bit of romance, and a big ladle of mystery and you’ll have a (tiny) idea of what this manhwa is about.
I usually love my mangas with a fair amount of romance (well, there are still exceptions), but with “Cheese”, I really don’t mind the lack of it. I swear. Scout’s honor.
Ok, I do. A lot. I want MooooAAAAAARRRrrr.
In spite of that, the author (Soon Kki – 순끼) has a real devilish knack of tormenting her readers, and each week you find yourself craving for your next fix of “Cheese”. As if I wasn’t craving cheese enough, as a French. Heh. But it’s easier for me to find some Cantal out there than to wait for Thursday, the Holy Day of Cheese’s chapter release. And I take this opportunity to give a big shout out to the webtoon live community (Yuko, you’re my (and all my fellow Cheese lovers) hero!), which is the team that translates/recaps this manhwa.
So, what the deal? Well, if you read the synopsis, I’m pretty sure you’d think: “boring”, “dull”, etc. Here how Baka-Updates summarizes it:
Hong Sul is returning to college after a long break. But so is the rich and charismatic upperclassman, Yoo Jung. Unlike her peers, Hong Sul suspects a dark personality behind Yoo Jung’s innocent facade, or… is she just being paranoid?
Nothing worth holding your breath for, right? Following the hackneyed Shoujo pattern, Girl meets Boy, she misunderstands him, BUT he’s actually a good guy, they fall in love, they kiss, END.
Thing is, “Cheese” definitely plays in the big league. If you believe it’s an other cliché shojo/josei, you would miss a very good story. You have a brilliant university student as a heroine, and she’s one of the best female character I’ve seen in a comic so far. She’s poor, kind, and hard-working, but Hong Sul is not your average shoujo heroine. Intelligent and independant, she is incredibly perceptive and love is really the least of her worries. She’s even the only person (not even girl. PERSON) to suspect the sincerity of the campus idol: Yoo Jung.
Looking like the perfect boyfriend/chum/son-in-law (Lee Seung-gi, is that you?), Yoo Jung is revered as a God. The fact that he’s rich and pays most of his so-called friends’ shindigs must play a part in it. But don’t be fooled: this guy is no pushover. Far from it, actually. He calculates and analyzes each situation, so as to look best and reap praises. Too bad for him, Sul soon catches on his game. And she doesn’t really like his two-faced behaviour, to say the least.
But disliking the campus star is like screaming “I hate AKB48” in an idol convention: you quickly get isolated. Sul is a clever girl, and keeps her thoughts to herself (and the one time she lets her opinion slip becomes a lesson-learned). Despite of that, she falls prey to way too many petty snares, and Yoo Jung is never far away.
At first, Yoo Jung openly gives her the cold shoulder, and does worse, but one year later his attitude changes, and he tries to befriend Sul as he’s more and more involved with her life.
Things get complicated when a third character, Baek In-ho, enters, who’s closely associated with Yoo Jung’s past, and also gets close to Sul. His character is important, as he knows the “real” Yoo Jung and feels a strong resentment against him. Plus, he’s such a hottie (look, even Sul’s friends agree).
The story is full of suspense, as we never get to understand Jung’s motives. He suddenly changes his opinion and act towards Sul, and lots of events make you, the reader, doubt about his motivation. Are his feelings genuine? Is he scheming something against Sul? Will she be a pawn in a war between the two male leads? Simply put, is she the Cheese in the trap? Har, har…Lame, I know.
Yoo Jung becomes awfully cute and adorable with Sul, and we almost forget how he can be creepy at times. His character is kind of fascinating, because he has all the charms of a romantic hero, but Sul (and us) suspects him of being a twisted person, scary and menacing. Creepy eyes galore~
This feeling of danger is deeply entwined with the pleasure of Yoo Jung’s seduction, and this spices up the suspense. Will Sul fall in the trap? That said, Yoo Jung’s wickedness may only be a creation of Sul’s wild imagination, and she’s maybe the real psycho. Heh.
What I love about her is that even when I fall for Yoo Jung’s charms, she doesn’t. In aww-inducing scenes, so romantic you could die, she’s always wary of Jung, and maybe she’s right. But her unsentimental behaviour cracks me up. Even though it seems she’s currently letting her guard down…
Let’s not forget that we are introduced to a whole gallery of characters, all very well written. So far, I’m even interested in secondary characters’ story. We follow them in the present time, mostly through Sul’s eyes, but we also get to see the past year in a series of flashbacks peppered throughout the chapters (which can be confusing at first). And thanks to that system, you can trace how characters change and evolve. I swear, it feels so gratifying to follow a series with actual character development!
Cheese in the trap’s world is rich and varied, thanks to Soon Kki storytelling chops and drawing style. It feels like a mix of european comics and manga (I don’t know manhwa enough to compare). I love the colors choices and the frames’ design, both playing such an important part in attracting us to the story, and leading us in each chapter. Also, the way she portrays the characters’ feelings and emotions is really spot-on.
I really feel like I’m watching a very good drama, only there’s no sound. There is movement though, thanks to the webtoon system (scrolling from up to down). I didn’t know that before, and I really enjoy it now. When the scenes are suspenseful, the fact that you scroll down highlights the action (in my opinion), but you can also slow down when quiet moments come. By the way, one other thing I enjoy are these slice of life scenes that give us some samples of the modern daily life of young Koreans (or rather Seoulites), allowing a fresh breath of realism in the story.
Here, there’s no world to save, nor demons to kill or whatever. This is just the story of a modern girl, showing her worries and the way she deals with them. This is a really human manhwa, and what matters and gets us completely hooked is the interactions between all these characters and their feelings. I’d even call it a psychological study, as we are able to read what’s on the heroine (and sometimes other people)’s mind. In a country like Korea, where propriety and hierarchy are so important, social relationships are particularly complex, and I enjoy learning more about it through Sul’s life.
A friend of the artist did a drama version of Cheese, but it was quite lousy (IMO), and clearly inferior to the original Cheese, though the live version didn’t respect the manhwa story. But thanks to it, I got to have THIS picture of Yoo Jung and Sul. I confess, I’m a JungXSul shipper. (What? It wasn’t obvious enough? kekeke)
To promote the voice webtoon DVD (I didn’t even know such things existed), a video was released, which kind of present the story. For what it’s worth, you can check it out here:
I didn’t intend to write so much, yet I feel like I haven’t properly conveyed my love for Cheese. One thing is sure, though: I don’t know for Sul, or for you, but I totally fell in the Cheese Trap! Join the fun!