There will be spoilers for the manhwa series DEAR. DOOR.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to death, murder, religion, incest, confinement, violence, blood, rape, sexual assault, obsession, Stockholm syndrome, cults, depression, suicidal ideation, self-sacrifice, betrayal, explosives, gun violence, terminal illness, war, BDSM, coercion, animal cruelty, animal death, human experimentation, kidnapping, self-loathing, implied homomisia, self-harm, PTSD, torture, ableism (including use of m-slur), manipulation, epidemic/pandemic, child labor, possible grooming, bullying, child abuse, implied alcoholism, and cheating, as it appears in the manhwa.
Kyungjoon is struggling. He's doing everything he can to keep it together while out on the beat as a police officer, but the moment he gets back to his empty apartment, he's forced to remember that his girlfriend and fiance have died. He spends evenings mourning her death while recreating moments of their life together and tending to the plants she left behind. Kyungjoon is stuck, with no sign of moving forward, not that he even wants to, to begin with. Thankfully, the rising threat of a cult keeps him busy, but the nights are still lonely.
He's at home alone, as always, when something comes flying in from the balcony, breaking into his apartment. Rather than fearing for his safety, he's more worried about the plants that have been destroyed. He can't focus on this new loss for long, though, as a strange, humanoid, demonic creature appears before him alongside another demon. They're discussing all kinds of things like “doors,” “mana,” and “war,” but none of it makes any sense to Kyungjoon. Then, before he can even begin to wrap his head around this chaotic scenario, Kyungjoon feels immense pain, so strong he feels that he's ripped apart from the inside out.
As it turns out, he has become the door for the king of the western faction of hell, Cain. What does it mean to be a door? He is the way the demon king can go to hell and back to the earthly realm. Cain can open the door with a spell, which is the terrible pain Kyungjoon was subjected to. Or, he can use much more… pleasurable methods. Will Kyungjoon be able to maintain his dignity and sanity amid this civil war in hell, or will he meet the fate of every cultist that has been a door thus far and die?
The art changes a ton from beginning to end. Kyungjoon isn't as pretty initially, and Jinyoung isn't as hot, but it finds its groove and comes into its own with massive men with massive pecs (it's taking everything in me not to write about the man tiddies at length) and giant dicks all over the place. This is smut heaven (and hell, lol). There are so many panels I want to show in the YouTube version of this review (check it out here if you're interested) that I just can't because there's too much smut. It's big, and it's bold. There's no such thing as subtlety here. I typically prefer more subtle things, but this is like a fantasy circus, loud and proud. I love it. The action scenes can be hard to discern, but it's action and war. It's not the most clean-cut subject in the world, and I think expecting it to be super clean when depicted in art is a bit unrealistic. The action is dynamic and beautiful, the smut is delectable, and the characters are varied and stunning. The art isn't always perfect, but it's so much fun to look at. Well worth a read just for the art.
Just to be clear, I am super biased, like majorly. I have actually purchased this across three different platforms (Tapas for the uncensored version, Lezhin just cause, and Tappytoon because it was the first place I found it), and if this ever gets an English physical release *fingers crossed*, I will be purchasing that, too. I love this. It's one of the first fantasy BL I've read that I felt was long enough to flesh out the world and the fantastical concepts. There are other good ones, of course, but this one has the length to dive in, explore characters, have flashbacks, play with fantastical concepts, and all while treating us to fluffy romance and dirty, dirty smut. It's great. It isn't perfect. I would have liked to explore how hell was built up and how the need for balance even began, but this has plenty of context for it to be a very fleshed-out story. It is probably the best BL fantasy manhwa I've read to date.
Because of the length, we get a cast of fun and interesting characters with detailed personalities, interests, goals, and backstories. They all feel pretty distinct, even the ones who don't get very much in the way of backstory. You invest in all of them, even the ones you're meant to dislike. For example, the forever unnamed masochist/sadist enemy demon “latex perv.” He doesn't even have a name, and I was still so pumped to see him when he appeared again and again. It's awesome. Sid, one of the main villains for a while, is so layered that you feel terrible for him but equally disgusted with his actions. He's a wonderful mess of contradictions. There's also Aaron and Gayle with their amazing friendship that never feels sexual or romantic (making it a genuinely platonic and well-crafted friendship). Jinyoung, the suffering, and obsessive best friend. Gabriel, the lithe, beautiful, but commanding archangel, and so many more. I could spend multiple posts exploring each character, and I'm tempted to do it someday, but today isn't the day. Regardless, just know that these characters are distinct and will linger with you long after you've finished the series.
While this is very dramatic, smutty, violent, and fantastical, the comedy and romance in this is peak. Cain and Kyungjoon fall for each other rather quickly, which I know some people may not be fond of. Still, how the cold and pained Kyungjoon melts into Cain is very endearing. Cain being the passionate side of Satan, developing those feelings as his strength and letting a weak human like Kyungjoon lead him around falling for each other just makes the heart swoon. However, while I love our main couple, my favorite has to be Aaron and Jinyoung. Jinyoung was so broken, literally and figuratively, from his toxic door-demon relationship with Sid and his strained friendship with Kyungjoon that trust and vulnerability would be something he might be fearful of, especially with another demon. On the other hand, Aaron lost his former human lover and marooned himself in the human world, almost as punishment for losing him. Having these two hurt individuals comfort each other and find closure in each other was so satisfying. Not to mention Jinyoung and Aaron are so hot. Multiple couples in this are worth seeing, some more romantic and toxic than others, but they all have something to give, and I love them all in different ways.
I have to discuss the title before closing out this review. I imagine the creator coming up with the main story ending and then immediately coming up with the title. It works on so many levels, and it makes me swoon. Kyunjoon is Cain's door. Very direct meaning there. However, their relationship goes beyond that to a romantic and intimate relationship, where the “dear” comes in as an endearing term. In turn, “door” becomes a bit of a pet name, signifying a much deeper relationship than the standard door-demon relationship. There is one more meaning that isn't revealed until the end, but it's so good I refuse to spoil it. I know, I know. This is a spoiler-full review as it is, but that moment was just so poignant and sweet. I wish I could experience it for the first time again. I won't take that experience away from someone who hasn't read it yet. But for those of you who know, you know. It's so sweet.
This is one of those series I followed religiously as it was released, re-read it constantly, and ended up falling more and more in love with it as it went along. It's worth every penny I spent to own it across platforms, and I have no doubt it will be considered a BL classic. This is packed with all of the best parts of BL and then some. It's got a ton of dark elements, so it's certainly not for everyone, but if you're ok with them, it is worth every penny to read it. I highly recommend the uncensored version on Tapas, which is the one linked in this post, but any official platform you can get it on is worth it, regardless.
Have you read DEAR. DOOR? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!