There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Sweet As Hell.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to BDSM, dangerous BDSM play (choking/breath play), manipulation, bullying, gossiping, harassment, violence, sexual and physical assault, blood, stalking, threats of outing someone, cheating, homomisia, obsession, death, child abandonment and neglect, power imbalance (relationship between an adult and a student), gaslighting, rape and dubcon, and incest role play, as it appears in the manhwa.
Choi Eui-hyun and Jung Min have known each other since high school. Their relationship didn't start off great, with Min turning Eui-hyun and his friends in for smoking on school grounds. Unlike Eui-hyun's friends, Eui-hyun doesn't blame Min but instead uses this as an opportunity to get to know the cold beauty that is Min. This short time together culminates in a brief moment of them kissing just outside of school. This moment imprints itself in Eui-hyun's mind, leaving him always wanting Min, even after they graduate and go their separate ways.
During their college years, they are at the same school but live in a distant orbit around each other, especially when rumors go around about Min having come to campus to confront another man about cheating on his girlfriend with Min. Everyone assumes Min is just a stalker and avoids him. Eui-hyun, though, is just as attracted to Min as ever, and during a school get-together at a restaurant, Eui-hyun takes the opportunity to get some one-on-one time with Min. This leads to them going home together, initiating sex, only to stop just short of going at it. But even without the sex, this is the start of the casual relationship with Eui-hyun desperately pining for Min; all the while, Min tries to keep him at arm's length while maintaining their sexual relationship.
Can they meet in the middle, or are they destined for failure?
The cover art is stunning, which is part of the reason I bought this forever ago. However, I am sad to say the art in the series itself isn't nearly as detailed, clean, or proportionate as what is shown on the cover. The faces are much more angular and flat, giving them a strange look overall and, in my opinion, an unattractive one at that. Our top Eui-hyun is, unfortunately, the primary sufferer of this. When he is looking forward, his face looks wide and flat. When it's from the side, his nose bridge is so straight it comes too far from his face and just looks odd. That doesn't mean Min doesn't look weird on occasion. His poor chin sometimes seems to float away from his face, and the top of their heads almost seem flat at times. It's just very inconsistent, and I'm just not a fan. Min is beautiful for the most part, but I wish everything were just more consistent.
What I do like is the setup for this story. I like the idea of two people in a casual relationship, with one who loves BDSM while the other tolerates it for the sake of the situationship. As a BDSM fan myself, I really appreciate Eui-hyun's willingness to participate, and I especially like that throughout the series, he ends up developing his own BDSM kinks, which is super fun. I don't like how much Min pressures Eui-hyun into doing the kink, but I like that they start out compromising on it. Lots of bondage, some humiliation, and some choking. It's a good time.
However, while I like the setup, I despise this relationship. I don't mind a possessive or obsessive top, and I don't mind a reluctant bottom, but I can't stand how hard Min refuses Eui-hyun's affections. Consent and preferences are important, of course, but Min's reasoning has nothing to do with whether he wants to or not. He just wants to protect Eui-hyun from himself. I hate when people make decisions for others based on their own fears or insecurities. These two have been having sex and essentially living with each other for years. If Eui-hyun was afraid of being hurt or disgusted by Min, I think he would have figured it out by now. It's such a weak reason to keep his distance from Eui-hyun, especially since they are already having sex all the time. I mean, Eui-hyun goes out of his way to play into Min's kinks just to be with him. If that doesn't prove that Eui-hyun is in it for the long haul, I don't know what will.
That doesn't mean Eui-hyun is innocent in all of this. He is hella manipulative, playing these games to try and pull Min back to him or to make Min admit his love for Eui-hyun. I have to give it to him; he is persistent and resilient, as I think I would have left Min long ago, but his love is borderline obsession for a reason I can't understand. Once you get to the fluffy bits when they become an official couple, their personalities are much more palatable, but that character development doesn't make much sense as quickly as it happens. It was still super nice to see, but it just felt like we were seeing totally new characters.
This is rough. It had a lot of elements I like in my raunchy BL manhwa, like BDSM, broken characters, and obsessive tops, but the characters themselves just weren't to my taste. Their sexual preferences don't really align; they are both super toxic, and they don't mind hurting each other for their own agendas. If you like toxic relationships, then this is the one. I don't mind toxic characters and toxic relationships in my fiction, but these two characters weren't my favorites, so, in turn, this wasn't my favorite. It would probably be better if we had more time for them to develop and change, but we just don't get that much time. This one might be a miss.
Have you read Sweet As Hell? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!