The title of Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool (Netcomics) is accurate, though it takes a while to figure out what that something is and if you’d like to see more of it. By the time I’d finished the first volume, she had gone from blandly quirky to confidently madcap, and I was very much in her corner.
Sunyool is the illegitimate daughter of an ambitious politician, and she joins his family rather late in life. She’s an unruly, borderline cynical teen-ager before she goes to live with her dad, but her father eventually sees the advantages in having an attractive, marriageable daughter in his political arsenal. When she reaches her early 20s, he offers a slate of matrimonial candidates for his now fully cynical daughter to evaluate. Any of them could further his career, so it’s only a matter of which beau strikes her shifting fancy.
I always feel a certain resistance to arranged-marriage comedy, particularly when it isn’t a period piece, but Youngran Lee approaches it with such a bemused smirk that it’s hard to get too bogged down in my western perceptions. Sunyool sees the set-up as an unavoidable lark, a chore with benefits. While there are bits of her selection process that are kind of cute, it isn’t until she selects and weds the nicest of the candidates, Sihyun, that things really fall into place in a comedic sense.
The newlyweds address the fact that they don’t know each other very well, and they admit that they’d like a real marriage, at least in contrast to all of the marriages in their immediate circle. Sunyool may be in it mostly for the laughs, but she’s not immune to romance or lust, for that matter. She and Sihyun come to appreciate each other’s attractive attributes, and they eagerly anticipate the moment when their marriage of convenience will become a real love match. (They’re so eager and ardent that they make their respective best friends kind of nauseous, which is funny and reassuring to readers who might have been feeling the same way.) Then things fall apart through no fault of the lovebirds, and Lee’s capacity for cynicism fully reveals itself.
Through it all, Sunyool displays a withering capacity for bluntness and an uncanny instinct for deflating the smug, the bullying, and the deceptive. And since she moves in political circles, she never suffers a shortage of victims. This mutant ability to prick a hypocrite’s balloon is likely the “something” of the title, or at least it is for me. It might also be her ability to adapt to given circumstances, which is also charming and enviable. She’s cannily playing a game of low expectations, which even she admits, but she’s not immune to possibility. I’m looking forward to seeing her refuse to suffer new fools and roll with life’s nastier punches as the series progresses.