Unbalance Unbalance

AH! You guys thought, “Oh, he’s only going to put out one review this month! Lazy guy!” Look, tap dance class takes up a lot of my time, okay? College this semester is really wearing on me. Sure, I’ve had free time, but school before cool reviews, dudes! Never saying that again.

Speaking of school, how about a school-based manwha? Yeah, “Unbalance Unbalance” is about the love between a student and his teacher, or, at least, I’m assuming later volumes take that direction. What else do you expect? It’s like a typical romance meeting… but honestly, it’s even better.

Hae-Young is just your average attractive woman. Except for one thing: She hates men! Oh, goodness! Does it have anything to do with her father’s abandonment? Nope, couldn’t be. While at the bookstore, she loses her wallet, only to be discovered by Jin-Ho, a nice young man and typical comedy-ish bland protagonist.

Ladies and gentlemen of the supposed internet, that last statement was a total lie. Jin-Ho is anything but bland. He’s not made out to be “Mr. Perfect Pureheart” or something. As it turns out, he stole Hae-Young’s money. You heard it here first, people. Hae-Young, being a decent person, tells him that the money he stole is to be considered a loan and he must pay it back by tomorrow. And the next day, as it turns out, Hae-Young is now Jin-Ho’s teacher! Oh, gracious, that’s a shock! But really, there’s not many options to make that original.

What I find most interesting is the student-teacher relationship in all this. It’s common for the characters to hate each other before falling in love, but I get a feeling far different than “That jerk! He stole my money!” or “She’s so uptight! Why can’t she just chill out?” Gradually, these two DESPISE one another. The very last chapter of the first volume has some reconciliation, but it’s preceded by so much hate and distrust that it comes off as weak when the two try to be friends.

And trust me, these two are not shy about their mutual hatred. Jin-Ho flat-out calls her body “slutty,” which makes Hae-Young slap him until her student bleeds. Yeah, she’s not entirely in the wrong. Sure, we don’t live in that time anymore, but Jin-Ho was asking for it. You do not call a woman “slutty”.

And that’s what kind of ruins Jin-Ho for me. On one hand, it’s great to see a male protagonist who isn’t soft-spoken and scared of women. But that means he’s the other extreme: Unbearably mean-spirited. Okay, fine, he doesn’t want his teacher to get the wrong impression from that one time he saw her panties and that other time he groped her. But his other actions are instigating, stealing, and misogyny, so he doesn’t really have much positive to go on.

From his perspective, Hae-Young is the mean ol’ teacher who wants him to fail because he just “borrowed” some money. But he doesn’t come off as that. The dishonesty is refreshing, but there’s nothing to really counteract that. In a nutshell, Jin-Ho doesn’t add anything positive to make the nebbish protagonist more interesting because he’s the embodiment of what goes wrong if a male protagonist isn’t bland.

And I really wanted to like him. He’s not “a total jerk, but a guy with a gold heart” like Inukami!, nor is he “that just sort of happened to me,” like Guardian Hearts, neither-nor is he “my life is a total joke, even with these pretty girls” like Enmusu and almost everything else. I realize the harem genre and busty-women motif are just fanservice, but there’s so much of it that I don’t feel much originality from them. Just because it’s porn doesn’t mean it needs to yawn.

Hae-Young, being the older-woman character, has more of a grip on relationships than Jin-Ho, but not her anger. I like the contrast between her and her friend, especially since her friend is the antithesis of everything Hae-Young believes in. Honestly, I wish we could have seen more of them together in this volume, but that’s not the main dynamic.

The other characters are… meh. Look, how often do I say “MAN! That side character love interest is super amazing! They should have made her the love interest!” I almost never say that. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that about the best friend-type. He’s the same as every other best friend: Balancing out the traits that the protagonist doesn’t have. Jin-Ho’s friend likes women, but Jin-Ho couldn’t care less. But the dean seems alright to me. However, he’s got… a thing. I don’t know, I’m sure it pops up in one of the other nine volumes in full form, but when Hae-Young does something that bothers him, he angrily grabs her arm. She complains, and the dean releases his grip. Yup, that won’t be important later.

I went into Unbalance Unbalance expecting a terrible excuse for fanservice. But honestly, it’s a pretty decent excuse for fanservice. The art is fine, the leads, while Jin-Ho is over the top, do manage to retain interest, and when the drama works, it really works. I think the best moments involve Hae-Young’s relationship with her father. I say give it a go if you want something not perfect, but unexpected.

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