There will be spoilers for the manhwa series One-way Romance.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to gambling, gang/mafia activity, possible xenophobia/racism, violence, corruption, peer pressure, excessive drinking, confinement, BDSM, rape, sextortion/blackmail, non-consenting porn, potential Stockholm syndrome, attempted drugging, obsession, framing, and blood, as it appears in the manhwa.
Jae-hwan is a reporter. A broke reporter, more specifically, having lost all of his money in the stocks. Looking for a huge scoop to score a huge payday, he turns his attention to the upper crust. More specifically, he focuses on Hong Kong mogul and CEO Heo Chung. He's gotten a tip from a colleague that Heo Chung is going to be at a rooftop party, and Jae-hwan is determined to go and schmooze with Heo Chung, hoping to unearth some juicy gossip at least but to also expose his company's ties to the mafia.
Unfortunately, Jae-hwan isn't the only one looking to hang out with the hot-shot CEO. Every time Jae-hwan tries to get close, a whole gaggle of people surrounds Heo Chung, making it impossible for Jae-hwan to get in to talk to him. Add to the problem that he's been ensnared by a beautiful woman, buying round after round of drinks, and this mission has become impossible if it wasn't already. Sloshed, Jae-hwan's sense of decorum has gone out the window, and he decides to just go for it. He grabs two glasses of wine and makes his way over to Heo Chung, but he, unfortunately, bumps into someone else the media has kept their eye on: Liu Yuan, leader of the Hong Kong mafia group 13.
Jae-hwan spills all of the wine on Liu Yuan just before passing out. When he wakes up, he finds himself chained and in bed, with Liu Yuan explaining that he owes him around $90,000 for the ruined clothes. It goes without saying that Jae-hwan has gotten much more than he ever bargained for. Not only will he probably not get the scoop and subsequent payday he was hoping for, but there's a chance he doesn't make it out of this with his life, either.
I'm going to be honest. I hate this art style. It's messy, which isn't an instant dislike for me. Some of my favorites have a sketchy/messy art style. But pair that with weird, inconsistent proportions and an inconsistent clean and smudgy coloring style, and it's just chaos. That didn't dissuade me from reading this, though I nearly did avoid it due to the cover art, which I knew wasn't my favorite style from the get-go. If you like the cover art, be warned, the work itself isn't nearly as clean, and the characters can look very different from how they appear on the cover. If that's ok with you, I think the story is worth reading, though this is very specific to my tastes. We'll get into that shortly. Just note the art is far from my favorite.
An element I do love about this is the obsessive nature of the mafia top Liu Yuan. I love that he genuinely does seem to fall in love with our main character, which causes immense pain for our chaotic main character Jae-hwan. This is where the title really comes into play because of Liu Yuan. He has a lusty romance with Jae-hwan, but it's all torment for Jae-hwan. It comes off as if Liu Yuan has never been in love before, and the only way he knows how is to tease and torture Jae-hwan, as if that is his love language.
However, the “one-way” portion might not be limited to the one-way nature of how Liu Yuan loves Jae-hwan with no reciprocation on Jae-hwan's part. It could also be about the implied, possibly Stockholm syndrome-esque, attraction Jae-hwan might have started developing, manifesting in a nightmare where Liu Yuan leaves him for a pair of beefy fuck buddies. The one-way might be that Jae-hwan has no choice but to love Liu Yuan, eventually losing his job and being named a criminal, thus unable to return to his old life. This is very much noncon/dubcon, so please don't read it if you find those elements triggering, especially since it is treated in a humorous manner. I don't mind it, but I want to be clear for anyone bothered by this subject matter.
What I don't really care for, beyond the art, is the needless introduction of Heo Chung. He is the first person we see among the three main characters, but he doesn't play a significant role until over halfway through (beyond being the reason Jae-hwan runs into Liu Yuan, that is). Heo Chung seems to be Liu Yuan's handler while also being his brother, though I'm not sure if they actually are siblings since the word brother was put into quotes. It seems they are, as they mention Heo Chung's secretary as if she is their sister, but that's never confirmed. And when I say he played a significant role, all he really does is make Liu Yuan jealous and end up in a threeway with Jae-hwan. That's it. While I'm all for threesomes, I wish there was more purpose in his character reappearing. I'd have much rather gotten more development between Liu Yuan and Jae-hwan, but here we are.
If you're just looking for chaotic, dirty smut with a touch of humor, you've found it. However, if you want some story to accompany your funny smut, you will be disappointed with this one. It's full of noncon/dubcon, criminal activity, and chaos facilitated by an obsessive top and a ditzy bottom. It's got a lot of interesting elements but not much substance beyond them. It's pretty short, though, so it's just right for the price, in my opinion.
Have you read One-way Romance? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!