There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Wolves Behind Bars.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to murder, rape, incest, sextortion/blackmail, sexual assault, corruption, prostitution, PTSD, drug use, false imprisonment, suicide, violence, and blood as it appears in the manhwa.
Kiyo is an omega and a struggling artist with an intense hatred for alphas due to his father. His father, a crime lord alpha, treated Kiyo and his mother as nothing more than commodities to earn money. Thankfully, Kiyo has escaped most of his father’s influence and has been surviving on commissions from people while he holds up in his small apartment. Unfortunately, after taking a gory commission from an anonymous client where he painted various murder scenes and posted them online under a series known as The Game of Darkness per the client’s instructions, Kiyo is arrested for the murder of various high-profile alphas, which were all depicted in his paintings with details that the police had never released.
Unfortunately, the client was using an untraceable online presence, and the payments all originated from the accounts of dead people, so Kiyo is the only one in the crosshairs for these crimes. He is arrested and taken to prison until his trial and possible sentencing are complete. Due to a clerical error, though, Kiyo is placed in an alpha-only institution. The head of the prison wants to avoid any complaints or scandals, so he quietly brushes the error under the rug while pushing for a transfer as soon as possible. In the meantime, Kiyo is forced to room with an alpha named Iri, placed there by the warden to protect Kiyo until he can be transferred out.
Iri doesn’t seem good or bad, which in a prison teeming with alphas that want nothing more than to break Kiyo is better than nothing. Even so, it is impossible to tell if Iri is truly Kiyo’s ally or his enemy, as there are plenty of people gunning for Kiyo both because he is an omega and because of his father. With no one else to turn to, Kiyo relies on Iri emotionally, but over time he soon begins to rely on him physically. As Kiyo and Iri start a physical relationship, Kiyo does everything he can to fight against the overwhelming lust and love he begins to feel for Iri because what is more important is survival. Will Kiyo be able to survive prison? Even if he does, will he be able to prove his innocence? And what are Iri’s true intentions for Kiyo?
The cover is a trap. The art on the cover is pretty stunning and captivating, but the art style in the series is a bit lacking. The first chapter feels close to the cover art, but it loses some of that allure and sensuality once we get into the story. It becomes a bit cartoony and comical looking and a bit inconsistent, especially when the characters are facing straight ahead. That is not to say there aren’t pretty parts in it. The shower kiss scene, in particular, is gorgeous, but if you’re expecting the level of quality that the cover art presents throughout the story, I am sorry to say you will be disappointed.
Something I have to point out that also bothered me was the use of pet names. Our main character Kiyo is known as Chick in prison, and I can’t express how much I hate that. I know it’s a bit of a triple entendre with the slang usually being for women, another being for someone afraid or easy to scare, then, finally, the literal meaning for a small, young chicken, which plays on Kiyo’s looks and age. However, despite its clever use, I hate that it’s used. Something about the word and how it sounds is so sharp and unattractive, and unfortunately, even after they get out of prison Iri still calls Kiyo Chick. It also gets worse when they decide to name their pregnancy Chirpy, which leaves that same bitter taste in my mouth. This is a bias I have and will probably not apply to most people, but I have to mention it because it bothers me.
I’ve been speaking negatively about this thus far, but I really like this series. I especially love the metaphor of the dog coming to help or the wolf trying to hurt, explaining how Kiyo sees alphas and all those who approach him. I like that in the end, though, everyone is a wolf, but not every wolf is trying to hurt him. I think this was a really smart move and helped establish Kiyo’s growth as someone who assumed everyone was a wolf and, in turn, as someone who wanted to hurt him, and while there are still wolves, not every wolf is out to hurt him. It also gets much more interesting when Kiyo ends up pregnant because now he is desperately trying to protect his baby, regardless of whether or not the father is trying to kill him, and really puts Kiyo’s growth to the test to see if he can actually trust a wolf.
Finally, I have to talk about their baby. The baby, Jio, is precious. The art style works for the baby, and the fun, light stuff in the side stories. Really, the art style kills it any time there is fluff and love, but when it has to be serious or dark, it doesn’t work out as well, in my opinion. But that enhances how great the fluffy parts are because they are great when they are there. Seeing baby Jio kiss a sleeping Kiyo or having the rough and tumble Iri loving on Jio does the heart some good. I’d say this series is worth reading just for the side stories because they do tug at the heartstrings and exemplify some of the best parts of omegaverse: pregnancy and child-rearing.
I ultimately enjoyed this, though I am extremely biased toward omegaverse content that includes pregnancy and child-rearing. The art style is a bit lacking for my taste, but the sex and the fluff are great. The story is decent enough to carry it along, but I was there for the omegaverse content and was not disappointed. Come for the sex, stay for the fluff, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This is a solid omegaverse entry.
Have you read Wolves Behind Bars? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!