Manga Review: Not So Shoujo Love Story, by Curryuku
by Bren B. | 03/11/2022
I am often the first to say that as a person in my 30’s I don’t enjoy reading stories with high school aged main characters but I am so glad that I put that aside and let myself read Not So Shoujo Love Story, by Curryuku! This webtoon is hilarious, touching, and has some of the best character development I’ve seen in any graphic novel medium I’ve consumed:
Romance-super-fan Rei Chan is ready for her first boyfriend and she knows just who it’ll be: the most handsome boy in school, Hansum Ochinchin. But her plans for the perfect love story are derailed when the most popular girl in class declares herself a rival….for Rei’s heart?! This is the year her not so shoujo love story begins!
All artwork in this review is protected under copyright to Webtoon and the Creator, Curryuku. The Queerblr has used the snippets of the artwork in the webtoon to emphasize portions of the review. Artwork shown here is not meant for reuse, citing, or reblogging/retweeting without credit to Curryuku.
[Quick definition stop before moving forward: Shoujo is a genre of Japanese comics and animated films aimed primarily at a young female audience, typically characterized by a focus on personal and romantic relationships]
Honestly, doing this review was just an excuse for me to go back and reread Not So Shoujo Love Story because we could all use a good laugh right now. This webtoon is hilarious! It takes your typical “shoujo” plot of a young high school girl looking for love or being oblivious to the affection towards her from those around her and flips the genre on it’s head. And it is full with a delightful cast of characters:
There’s Rei, our main character, who is loud, vulgar, and a little scary at times. She’s effectively the social outcast at school but one thing few students know about her is her obsession with shoujo mangas. The story starts out with a new school year and Rei’s determination to find love like in her mangas and boy howdy are we as readers in for a wild ride of her trying to navigate that.
There’s Hanna, who is one of the all star top students of Koko high school and one of two residential heart throbs. Her story is centered about feeling isolated due to her overwhelming popularity, navigating her relationship with her father, but most of the focus is on her feelings for Rei and navigating her romantic feelings while also wanting to maintain a friendship at all costs, because just having Rei in her life is enough.
There’s Hansum who is the other all star top student of Koko high and heart throb. But Hansum comes with a plethora of questions and very few answers. Like, why is his face like that? Is he human? Why is no one but Susan suspicious of him? And what is the purpose of his questions during the valentines day game show? (When you read that far, at me on twitter and let me know your thoughts cause I have theories!)
And then there’s Susan who comes in a little bit later in the story and announces herself as Rei’s rival in love, cementing Rei’s idea that she’s living out a shoujo story. The only problem is Rei jumps to the conclusion that Susan is her rival in love for Hansum when Susan is declaring Rei her rival for Hanna’s affection. Susan is an imposing looking person who deals with people being afraid of her when she is one of the nicest people in the entire story.
This story obviously has more characters than just those four, but those are the main characters that take up the most “screen time.” Each have a unique relationship to each other and have a fun dynamic in their group when they all start to hang out as a unit. And even though the words “lesbian” or “bisexual” aren’t used anywhere in the webtoon, Hanna and Susan are very apparently queer and, as to not lead you a stray, Rei begins to questions her sexuality in the third act of the season.
What appears to be a comedic story with the comedic narrative at times, ridiculous faces and poses that Curryuku draws in panels, is actually so much more than just a silly high school story. This story tackles a lot of big emotions and themes, some of which readers haven’t seen the full extent of yet (but I’m sure they’ll be addressed in future seasons of the Webtoon). Rei has some dark traumatic reason she’s transferred school so many times, there’s bullying, dealing with superficial friends, the trials and tribulations of being popular without really having any friends, as well as coming to term with your sexuality, and unraveling what you thought you knew you wanted in life and realizing you had no clue all along.
This webtoon always has me oscillating between laughing so hard that I’m wheezing to riding the roller coaster of emotions with the characters as you learn more about them and their pasts and how they’re growing into themselves as time progresses. The dialogue is so quick witted that it’ll be in the middle of an emotional scene, they’ll break away for one or two lines of humor, and transition right back in. This helps the tension and keeps the narrative light and engaging while still being enthralling. And the season, to me as a reader, felt like it had three distinct arcs, all of which added to the individual character arcs of Rei and Hannah, and later to Susan as well. Who the hell knows what’s up with Hansum and Susan, bless her, is the only one who seems suspicious of him because she is the best.
Even though this webtoon’s genre is categorized as a comedy, which I’m not arguing, I would also call it the slowest of slow burn romances. Rei is your grumpy vulgar type and Hanna is the sunshine golden retriever type. Each act of the first season brings them closer, from strangers, to friends, to feelings being slowly realized on Rei’s part. Hanna confesses her feelings in the first episode, so I’m not spoiling anything with that give away. But their relationship grows in such a wonderful way; they learn how to communicate with each other, they learn how to read each other’s facial expressions for when they aren’t being authentically true, and genuinely become close friends. And it is such a heartwarming relationship to watch develop.
And of course, we can’t talk about a webtoon without talking about the artwork! Curryuku’s art style is simultaneously breathtaking and absolutely ridiculous. Part of me wants to put some of the more hilarious panels below but I don’t want to ruin the shock value of seeing them organically in the story. Let’s just say that Curryuku has perfected drawing “ugly” face and other unattractive facial expression to help enhance the humor of the story. Because the humor comes from character dialogue, throwaway lines from background characters (there are so many poop jokes in the first act–so many), and then the art itself. Whenever I need a good afternoon of laughter, I go back and reread this webtoon and it has me wheezing every time, even when I know what is coming.
Currently, all of season one is up and available on Webtoon! I haven’t seen any updates or information on when season two will start to have episodic releases but as soon as I know I’m sure I’ll tweet about it because I’m excited to see where this story goes after the events of season one. I’m excited for all of the ways that Curryuku is going to make me laugh. Until season two drops, though, I will continue to watch Curryuku’s Instagram because their content there is hilarious!
5 out of 5 Rainbows
Recommended Reader: Anyone magna/webtoon reader who enjoys a good comedic manga that can waffle between side splitting laughter and heavier emotions. If you enjoy internet and meme humor and stories that make fun of their genre, then this is definitely a webtoon for you!
Tune in March 16th for The Queerblr’s pre-release review of Undergrounder, by J.E. Glass!