There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Sign.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to ableism, rape, sexual assault, violence, and abuse as it appears in the manhwa.
Kang Soohwa’s life isn’t all that great right now. He has almost no money left in his bank account, his laptop is broken, and he doesn’t have a job. So to better his situation, he goes out on the hunt for a job, trying to find someone with free WiFi so he can apply to jobs on his phone. The moment he does find a connection, though, he is hosed down by a strange man on the balcony of a cafe. Absolutely shocked by his terrible luck, he passes out.
When he wakes up, he’s in the cafe, and the strange man is looking over him with an equally odd little man beside him. It turns out they are workers at Cafe Goyo – Yohan being the owner who sprayed Soohwa down, and Gyoon being an employee helping out. As retribution for being assaulted with a water hose Soohwa begs for a part-time job at the cafe. At first, Gyoon refuses, but after some desperate persuasion from Soohwa and some pitying tears from Yohan, Gyoon relents.
On his first day, Soohwa tries to communicate with Yohan only to discover that Yohan is deaf. However, that isn’t the only thing Soohwa learns. It turns out that Soohwa is attracted to Yohan’s voice, which of course, makes working together incredibly awkward. So, to avoid more embarrassing scenarios, Soohwa makes it a point to learn sign language, but he has to learn from Yohan. So Soohwa must do his best to learn sign language from Yohan without ever hearing his voice. Easier said than done. What would Yohan think if he found out about Soohwa’s weird fetish?
Let me go ahead and say this is one of my favorite manhwa in all of existence. It has just the right amount of wholesome fluffiness, comedy, and drama with a splash of sexy time all rolled into one. With that being said, I am extremely biased. At this point, I think I have read this around 6 times and will probably have read it even more after this review comes out. It’s a great one, and, in my opinion, if you don’t read this one, you will be doing your disservice. With that, let me tell you some reasons why it is so amazing.
This has one of the most unique art styles I have ever seen. I actually almost didn’t read this one because I saw the art on the cover and didn’t think I would like it. Is it the prettiest? No. Is it perfect all the time? No. But there is something about this style that is particularly sweet. It is cute. That is the best way I can describe it. It is pretty sketchy early on but cleans up as it goes on, with the character designs coming into their own. The art style paired with the story really just cements this as one of the sweetest, lovey-dovey romances you will ever see. Somehow, it also fits sexy scenes. Don’t ask me how. It is absolute witchcraft, and I love it.
Speaking of character designs, I have to talk about my two favorite beans of all time: Soohwa and Yohan. Yohan is a big teddy bear. He is absolutely adorable, and when he is in the bedroom, he goes into instant daddy mode. However, he isn’t even the best design. That goes to Soohwa. He does not look like your typical bottom. He isn’t particularly pretty and is actually really average-looking, which makes him even sexier. I am not going to lie; when I read BL, I typically like to picture myself as the bottom – am I depraved? Yes, but I won’t apologize for it. Because Soohwa isn’t this perfect specimen we usually see in manhwa, everything felt much more realistic and satisfying, and I don’t just mean the sexy time. His comedic timing, his pain, and everything in between felt so much more real simply because his design is so much more realistic than what I am used to seeing manhwa. I honestly can’t praise the artist enough here. I promise you, the moment I find something else from Ker licensed in English, I will be throwing all my money at it. This is well worth every cent.
Moving on from the art, let’s talk about the story, and this is where I will be a tad bit critical. First off, though, let’s talk about the good stuff – what a genius idea for a manhwa. First, Yohan being deaf is so great (my sister is deaf due to cancer, so I loved the representation here). Then for him to be independent, run his cafe, and fight against people’s perceptions of disabled people – Yohan goes against all the ableist tropes I am used to seeing with disabled representation. It was everything I could have asked for. This isn’t half-assed in any way. We see actual panels of Yohan and others signing, and multiple times we see characters tapping tables to get his attention or him reminding people to look at him so he can see their lips. Never once did it seem like the creator forgot Yohan was deaf. Plus, for Soohwa to be attracted to Yohan’s voice and then Yohan to be attracted to Soohwa doing sign language… *chef’s kiss*. Even I was getting attracted to sign language by the end of everything.
Now, then, let’s talk about the “bad” stuff. I say it’s bad, but in reality, it’s just not the strongest part of the story. One of the primary antagonists is Byung, Gyoon’s brother. He doesn’t really get any background and, as a result, just seems crazed for the sake of being crazed. It’s clear he has anger issues, but again, we don’t really see why so sometimes he felt a bit like a cartoony villain, which was unfortunate since everything else about this felt so down-to-earth and genuine. Even so, he doesn’t appear all that much, so in the grand scheme of things, he is just a tiny smear on an overall perfect story.
I don’t think I really need to say this, but I will anyway: I love this story so, so much. I wish we could get a physical version in the United States because you better believe I would order that baby in a second. I implore anyone who is reading this review to please give this one a try. If you like BL and mature scenes, I promise you will not be disappointed.
Have you read Sign? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!