There will be spoilers for the manhwa series BJ Alex.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to bullying, obsession, stalking, BDSM, violence, physical and sexual abuse, child neglect, drugging, cheating, homophobia, breath play, coercion, and dubious consent (dubcon) as it appears in the manhwa.
Dong-Gyun is a returning student in college. When he's not getting back into the swing of things for school, he spends his time on Nutworthy, a cam site with lots of camboys to ogle at. Though he's spoiled for choice, Dong-gyun only has eyes for one specific camboy named BJ Alex. Alex is muscular, lusty, and kind in his streams, and he wears a mask, which adds an air of mystique to the already perfect package. Dong-Gyun loves Alex so much that he even gets a part-time job to send him tips. Though Dong-Gyun dreams of someday meeting Alex in real life, he knows that's only a dream, and he's happy just to be able to see him every day on his stream.
One evening, Dong-Gyun goes out to drink with his department and ends up absolutely wasted. His sunbae, Jiwon, offers to help take him home. While bringing a drunken Dong-Gyun home, Jiwon ends up covered in puke. So, while at Dong-Gyun's house, Jiwon cleans himself up and even helps clean up his drunken hoobae. Eventually, Dong-Gyun sobers up enough to realize where he is and sees Jiwon half-naked.
The first thing he notices is the substantial birthmark on Jiwon's side, the same exact birthmark on Alex. When he tells Jiwon that he knows he's Alex, he realizes the mask he wears on stream isn't the only mask. Will Dong-Gyun be able to love Jiwon despite the fact he isn't anything like the Alex he's known on stream? And will Jiwon be able to keep a safe distance from Dong-Gyun, so neither of them falls in love with the other?
This was actually the fourth or fifth BL manhwa I read, but with all the other manhwa out there to read and explore, this one got lost in the shuffle (even though this is considered a classic at this point). First, let's talk about the art. When I first read this, I thought it was some of the best art I had ever seen. Having read so many more manhwa by this point, I do think it's pretty good, but it's certainly not the perfection I had once thought. They all have relatively long faces but super short foreheads that give them a distorted look. I am also not a massive fan of the character designs, especially our main character Dong-Gyun (or DG, as he is affectionately called) and the side character MD. DG's hair is rough with how short it is and because of the awkward height of his forehead vs. the length of his face. On the other hand, MD looks like 40-year-old plain tofu when he was supposed to be a 32-ish hunk. Of course, it could just be a taste thing, but I wanted to note that.
To be clear, I didn't dislike the art. The sex scenes are usually stunning (the “Hyung” scene, wow), and Mingwa uses color in such a fun and emotional way. This is primarily black and white, which is pretty rare for manhwa. Some exceptions, such as intense love or lust, usually involve pink or red shading. Sometimes Jiwon's eyes are colored in, and that gold color is so striking and passionate it really highlights whatever emotion the particular panel is trying to convey. However, the best panel has to be when Jiwon realizes he loves DG, and the entire panel is colored in. It is beautiful and softens Jiwon immensely, making you feel things at that moment (even though Jiwon has been an ass up until now). The art is near perfection once you get to the side stories, which is excellent since that is where almost all of the best sex scenes are, where the fully colored stories are, and where the Chanwoo's and MD's story is.
I am admittedly a huge fan of sadistic tops, but Jiwon is a complete asshole. It's to the point that he is just plain abusive and insufferable. We get a look into his background, which turns out to be sad, but it wasn't enough for me to feel that his actions were reasonable in any sense. He was treated like garbage, so he treated DG like garbage when all DG did was show him the love he so desperately craved. It just didn't make sense to me. The most redeeming part was when he was stalking DG and was annoyed by how happy DG was without him. I was almost relieved when he said DG would be better off without him because I genuinely agreed. It was so hard to root for their love when Jiwon was so, so terrible.
The best part of this for me was almost certainly Chanwoo. He's that character type I tend to love (like Sunyool from From Points of Three), which is pretty, loud, and boisterous but not obnoxious. He also managed to say exactly what I felt, so he was the “voice of the reader” most of the time. Oddly enough, like Sunyool, Chanwoo loves BDSM, and he goes hard with MD, which I love. They had some of my favorite sex scenes in the entire series. I also love how kind and nurturing he was to DG when Jiwon was just being an absolute dick. He was truly a breath of fresh air, and I would read a series just for him and even his plain tofu partner MD, any day.
This is one of those classics that I feel most people have either read by now or have at least heard about to death. It's fine. I wouldn't say you just have to read this if you want to get into BL manhwa. There are much better ones out there (some of my faves are My Way with You, The Devil's Temptation, and Love is an Illusion! just to name a few). This is either severely overrated or underrated, depending on who you speak to because it's equally loved and hated by the community. But if you have absolutely nothing else to read and some cash to spare, why not give this a go? Don't feel like you have to, though. Mingwa has an ongoing manhwa at the moment with much better art that I'll hopefully review once it's completed that might be more worthy of your dollar at the moment.
Have you read BJ Alex? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!