It is currently late Saturday night and I really really have to write about this. I have feels, people! And I dont know what they are. 😦 This is the most confused I have been about a story. I had been planning to read this for the past 2 days. So I figured I couldn’t wait anymore so I read all 16.5 chapters of this manhwa (it’s Korean so it’s not a manga) online and now I have to tell you all about it. I found out about “Killing Stalking” from Tumblr (it was actually a YouTuber, akidearest who recently posted about this, here, who managed to really evoke my interest) and basically all I knew was that the people who liked “Yuri on Ice!” had now turned their attention towards this gay Korean horror manhwa for whatever reason.(dat description tho…)
It’s not a romance. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Killing Stalking, a manga created by the artist Koogi, is a tale best described as a psychological horror. One cannot call this story of two deeply troubled individuals, one with severely obsessive tendencies, and another who is a sadistic lunatic, a romance. There is a special, codependent bond between the two characters, complete with plenty of great sexual contact, but there is no love. It’s all so incredibly unhealthy and wrong.
My thoughts on this are really reeeeeeeeeeaaaaally a mess. It’s horrible and has even me gagging at the horror. But I am obsessed.
We begin our increasingly bloody and suspenseful journey with Yoon Bum, a skinny, non-threatening guy who chats us up about his secret crush. He speaks of how he follows his crush, a hot guy by the name of Sangwoo (with dreamy, tousled two-toned hair and cool ear plugs) on social media. And then that shit goes past being a typical millennial with an infatuation and internet access right into “What the fuck are you doing?” territory. Yoon Bum is stalking his Sangwoo. As in physically tracking him and using some CSI style moves to gain access into Sangwoo’s home eventually. It turns out that the cause of Yoon Bum’s obsession was that Sangwoo happened to intervene during the would-be rape of Yoon Bum, thwarting the rapist’s plans. It makes one pity him, you know. Stalking is bad. I know it but still can’t help but feel sympathy for him. Despite never having spoken to him, Yoon Bum builds up Sangwoo as this perfect, unattainable deity of light and goodness and masturbatory material. It’s quite disturbing to behold, and the whole time I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Yoon Bum, even as I was cringing at his creepiness. Koogi does a decent job of evoking the right amounts sympathy, empathy, and morbid curiosity in how Yoon Bum’s thoughts and actions are presented. As utterly pitiful as he is, he seems real. I sometimes found myself thinking that Yoon Bum is not a bad guy, just a lost, pathetic one, even as I watched him do things I would undoubtedly categorize as bad.
And then we meet Sangwoo. He is, inevitably, not nearly as perfect Yoon Bum had imagined. Yeah, he’s still kind of sexy up close, but he’s no god. He’s a flawed human being. And I mean fucking flawed. He literally has an insatiable bloodlust large enough to rival an entire coven of horny psychotic vampires. Yes, he is still really hot. Yes, he can be quite charismatic. And yes, that is blood on his shirt.
Sangwoo is a great antagonist, according to me. I love villains like him. His evil is appalling and stomach churning, yet he is still entirely human. His moods are ever changing, and his motive is not clear. You know how typical archetypal villains have a clear goal, lurking in the shadows and twirling their moustaches diabolically? Sangwoo is not that guy. We don’t know what his goal is, and his disposition changes often enough to create suspense and breathe life into what could have been just another boring bad guy. He is not consistent in his cruelty, but he is still very very bad. And there are these subtle hints as to why he’s like this. A bad childhood….But it brings further angst in me. How far can we blame a bad childhood for a messed up personality? What about all those people who have had messed up childhoods IRL and still managed to grow up normal?
I love that ‘Killing Stalking’ makes me ask these questions. I like that that it keeps me on my toes. I like the creator’s ability to make me feel brief sympathy for Sangwoo, although he makes my skin crawl. I’m also a sucker for stories with attractive antagonists. Most societies place such emphasis on looks that we are more willing to accept shitty things from beautiful people. Having a “beautiful” villain plays into the whole theme of making allowances for things we shouldn’t, only to end up being brutally reminded of exactly why we shouldn’t. It’s the definition of a psychological thriller. It’s a mindfuck, and I couldn’t stop reading until I’d poured over every currently available chapter.
While it’s obvious that I’m hooked, I would not go as far to say that ‘Killing Stalking’ is a must read for everyone. The subject matter alone is enough to put anyone off rightfully, and then there’s the way it handles the issue of homosexuality thus far. There’s also the growing fandom, a good chunk of which seems hellbent on trying to “ship” Sangwoo and Yoon Bum. Rooting for two characters to be together based solely on sexual chemistry is one thing. Everyone wants to see hot people be together, no big deal. It’s another when that relationship is a graphic illustration of blatant mental, emotional, and physical abuse. These characters aren’t meant to be admired or exulted.
From a storytelling standpoint, “Killing Stalking” excels at suspenseful moments. There were times when Yoon Bum would try to escape (or even the first time he tries to break into Sangwoo’s house) that had me freaking out because I was so anxious and needed to know what was going to happen. And god, Sangwoo sings! That is soooooooo creepy!!! ‘Killing me Softly with his Song’…..it’s such a romantic song but it takes a whole new creepy bone-chilling meaning with this. Gawd! This manga….sorry manhwa is soooo messed up. I cant find the words to express this. You need to read it to understand. It literally send shivers down my spine. Just this picture. Imagine! It is a very gory manhwa and it being in full color doesn’t really lessen the effect of it at all. (Although I do really enjoy reading something in color for once!)
All that said, do I recommend it?
Possibly. The subject matter can be too much for some. As I said, it had me scrunching up my eyes and cringing and looking away at some moments. There’s no shortage of gore, depictions of sex and sexual violence, examples of psychological trauma and abuse, and unpleasant things. I don’t celebrate or applaud any of these things; they’re scary. So no, I don’t “ship” Yoon and Sangwoo. I don’t find their relationship to be good or sweet or otherwise beneficial to either party; it’s unarguably wrong. Killing Stalking can best be described as a good read about bad things. It doesn’t glorify or romanticize these things but presents them for what they are as we swipe to the next page, feeling equal parts anxiousness and dread.
For my final comments on it, I would say that I do enjoy it as a whole because it is really effective as a psychological horror and the art is really nice. It probably goes without saying, but this is not light reading. If any of the themes and subject matter are things you cannot deal with, I suggest staying away for your well-being. If you enjoy disturbing (yet thought-provoking) psychological thrillers with a healthy dose of gore, and nail-biting suspense, then it’s worth a read. I would never recommend it to anyone. Simply out of fear they might never speak to me again. But since I had to talk about this, I decided to recommend it to you guys! Go ahead and read it!
P.S. I have been obsessing over psychopaths this month, haven’t I? First Moriarty then Sangwoo……sigh. Go read about my love for Moriarty here.
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