There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Home Alone Together.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to suicide, cancer, character death, violence, blood, self-harm, bullying, mental illness, and abuse as it appears in the manhwa.
Junwoo is a hikikomori – a young adult who has become a recluse. For the past five years, since graduating high school and after the death of his parents, he has holed himself up in his childhood home, where he spends his days in idle existence. The only thing he has to look forward to is the occasional visit from his neighbor Hanbit, a guy he's had a crush on since he was a kid. Otherwise, his days are filled with severe loneliness and the self-loathing he hasn't been able to shake.
One day, Hanbit comes by, implying that he might be moving in with Junwoo. This lights a fire under Junwoo, and he immediately assumes this is his chance to win over Hanbit. However, when Hanbit comes over, he brings along a stranger: Wooyeon. It turns out that Hanbit isn't planning to move in. On the contrary, he is moving away to be with his longtime girlfriend. However, in fear of Junwoo being left alone unsupervised, Hanbit has the great idea that Wooyeon should move in with Junwoo.
Neither Junwoo nor Wooyeon seems jazzed about the idea, but both seem compelled to go along with it because of their affection for Hanbit. So begins the awkward orbiting the two have as they live together. Despite their disdain for each other's company, slowly but surely, they grow to tolerate one another. And soon, that tolerance evolves into something more, something neither of them expected it would be. But these two have a lot of old wounds that threaten the peace they have created with each other. Will they be able to move forward, or are they destined to drown amid their surging trauma?
This one is going to hurt. Like bad. If you're looking for fluffy romance, you are in the wrong place. This is a story of two very, very hurt and broken people who are toxic to themselves, each other, and everyone around them due to their trauma. Of the three leading players, Junwoo, Hanbit, and Wooyeon, Wooyeon might be the most reasonable, which isn't saying much. But, again, all of these people have intense backgrounds with hefty amounts of trauma and little to no coping skills, so to expect any of them to act reasonably or logically is asking a lot, especially since none of them seek professional help to work through their issues (at least, not until the end). I say all this to warn potential readers that if you expect logical and unemotional decision-making, turn away now.
I am making it sound like this is a bad or challenging read, but it really isn't. This is actually one of my favorites, breaking into my top ten, if not my top five reads. I've read it three times before this review (the fourth time as we speak so I can write this review as accurately as possible), and I foresee myself reading this many more times in the future. Junwoo, our main lead, is a complete asshole and takes out his insecurities on everyone around him. Still, I found that pretty endearing since he is stunted back to his childhood days when his parents died. Wooyeon is super noncommital, but once you learn it's because he lost his lover to cancer, that, too, is endearing. My least favorite character (minus the asshole side characters) is Hanbit. He plays this savior role for both Junwoo and Wooyeon, but that role really makes him insufferable, as he helps enable many of Junwoo and Wooyeon's poor behaviors. However, without Hanbit's terrible idea of healing Junwoo and Wooyeon by having them live together, we wouldn't have this story. So, thanks, I guess, Hanbit.
On another note, this probably has one of my favorite art styles of all time. It isn't perfect every time, but there is something so unique about it that I'm attracted to. Its use of heavy lines and the sharp features of the characters are just great. Plus, the use of color is phenomenal. It's predominately cool and monochromatic throughout the series, with pops of color and warmth during the happier moments. The use of color helps establish the emotion of the scenes, and it is so stark in contrast between those two moods and color pallets that it makes for a visual feast. There are moments when the two mix, creating a nice emotional gradient throughout. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Art is good, and it makes me very happy.
I especially love the epilogue for this. There isn't a definitive ending for the couple. Since they are no longer bound together by their insecurities and trauma, their relationship is no longer reliant on Junwoo's dependence on Wooyeon. Instead, Wooyeon is doing the chasing now, which is an excellent role and power dynamic reversal. It is implied that they are happy together and will probably be together for a while, but the fact that Junwoo is in such a healthy place that he can imagine an independent life beyond Wooyeon is a happy ending in itself. Some people might be bothered by the fact that Junwoo longs for more than the relationship he is in with Wooyeon, but I think that really shows Junwoo's growth as a person and, similarly, Wooyeon's growth since he is now willing to be vulnerable with someone again. They are not fully healed and probably never will be, but they can move forward despite that, and that's where the happy ending lies, whether they end up together or not. I love that so much.
This is a must-read for me. It certainly isn't for everyone because of its dark themes and sometimes insufferable cast, but if you are okay with that, this story is a real treat. It will give you all the emotions, and you'll be thanking it for them at the end. Of course, I am a bit biased because I am someone who loves a good cry, but I still think this is a great one. I highly recommend it, and I will be reading all of the manhwa currently available from this artist.
Have you read Home Alone Together? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!