There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Siren's Song.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to assault, sexual assault, r-slur usage, dubious consent (dubcon), rape, confinement, stalking, child neglect, corruption, child abuse, suicide, plagiarism, self-harm, kidnapping, murder, incest, pedophilia, gang activity, and blood as it appears in the manhwa.
Yul has lived his entire life hopelessly strung along by others. “Lived” is a generous term. With his life never fully in his control, he has always been forced to follow the whims and commands of those around him. Even as an adult, that hasn’t changed. He currently lives in an apartment owned by his adopted brother, who has an unhealthy obsession with him that goes beyond a sibling relationship. In that home, alone and unable to leave, Yul spends his day under surveillance and composing music that is presented to the world under his brother’s name. His only solace is out on the apartment balcony, where he can sing and smoke to his heart’s content.
Yul’s small world is rocked, though, when one evening on the balcony, his singing is overheard by a neighbor on the balcony above. The neighbor Luan is immediately drawn to Yul for an inexplicable reason. However, Yul allows Luan to begin his plan for revenge against everyone who made his life hell, even if he has to destroy Yul in the process. Luan doesn’t expect that as he grows closer to Yul and begins to uncover the history behind his existence, Luan not only wants revenge for himself but for Yul as well. But what he fears more than anything now is losing or hurting Yul amid his vengeful warpath.
Let’s get the art out of the way. It is simultaneously stunning and rough. It can often feel like aesthetic whiplash. The main issue is with body proportions. There are some panels where their heads look gigantic with arms and hands that would be better suited to mice. Luan’s haircut also makes his head and face go cooky constantly. However, Yul’s face is stunning. The way the style colors his lips pink, the shape of his head, and his big beautiful eyes are truly breathtaking. It’s unfortunate to see such beautiful panels with his gorgeous face, followed by panels with the characters looking like they are reflections in funhouse mirrors.
Now, where the artwork tends to be the best is during the sex scenes, and thankfully there are a ton of them. To be clear, it isn’t always perfect during the sex scenes, but it does lean on the more consistent side. However, with that said, I found the sex to be pretty uncomfortable between Luan and Yul. It’s primarily because I don’t know how old Yul is and because of how innocent he was at the start of everything. He doesn’t know what sex is nor understands what it means to kiss or feel pleasure in that way. So seeing Luan guide him through it all feels uncomfortable and predatory to the point it gives off pedophilic vibes. That is not to say that Yul is underage, because I don’t think he is, but it just feels that way based on his social and emotional intelligence.
There is an apparent power dynamic with everyone Yul encounters, with Yul always seeming to fall on the weaker side of it. That, of course, is the crux of the story and is why his eventual decision to stand up to his brother is so important to the story, but even that is based on his relationship with Luan. Luan guides Yul along, using Yul’s innocence, fear, and self-consciousness to string him along. He definitely does give Yul more freedom and choice, but he also takes advantage of Yul’s affection, and Yul is easily swept away by it all. So even though the primary purpose of this story is to give Yul power back over his life, I never really got the feeling he did, which is unfortunate and weakens the narrative overall.
I also have to talk about the odd relationships built around this. Luan’s partner in all of this has a little brother that seems to go beyond a sibling relationship. Then, there are Luan’s twin siblings, where it is implied that the twin brother is sexually attracted to the twin sister. Finally, Yul’s adoptive brother is drawn to and obsessed with Yul. I will say, about that last relationship, I found it clever that it seemed to be a carryover from his other, who used to be similarly obsessed with Yul’s mother, so it was like a torch that carried on to the next generation, but still. There is an odd fixation on incestuous relationships that don’t really seem to be resolved or developed in any meaningful way, so it’s just a smattering of strange and often uncomfortable situations for the sake of shock value.
I’m at a bit of a loss for this one. I like aspects of this series a lot, such as Yul’s character design and the reflection of the parent’s relationships in the next generation, among other things. Still, those positive things are heavily overshadowed by the inconsistent art and odd narrative choices. It sometimes feels like a bunch of shock value for the sake of shock value and sex for the sake of sex with nothing else. At the end of the day, I am glad I read it, but not enough to reread it. I’m not sure I would readily recommend this when there are such stronger series out there to enjoy, but it might be worth a read if it is on sale or if you don’t have anything else to read.
Have you read Siren's Song? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!