Can Yun-Ook learn to trust Bum-Moo and give love a chance?
Writer/Artist: Uhm JungHyum
Translator: Hyeung Im
Adaptation: J. Torres
What They Say:
With the arrival of Bum-Moo's stepsister, Yun-Ook is even more confused about her feelings for him. Although he wants to be with her, she keeps treating him as just a friend. Then, Yun-Ook's ex-boyfriend enters the scene! And as if matters weren't complicated enough, the stepsister wants Bum-Moo to move out and live someplace else with her! Will these two roommates ever become something more?
After Bum-Moo confesses his feelings to Yun-Ook, he is less than satisfied with her reaction. Living together in a cramped apartment, she manages to put distance, both emotional and physical, between them. Where they once shared an easy-going camaraderie, the atmosphere has now become decidedly intense and awkward. Bum-Moo is confused by Yun-Ook’s casual dismissal of his feelings, while Yun-Ook just wants to avoid any messy emotional attachments.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The characters are both flawed, which makes them very sympathetic to the reader. They have both been burned before, and they are both hesitant to become involved with anyone else again. Bum-Moo, succumbing to the intimate living arrangements, can’t help but get swept up by his feelings. After fleeing from an unpleasant family situation, he has resigned himself to being alone and not being a burden to anyone else. He can’t fight his feelings for Yun-Ook, however, leaving himself open to her rejection when he tells her that he has a crush on her.
A large portion of this volume was dedicated to Bum-Moo’s back story, rounding out his character by presenting his sad past. After the death of his parents, he and his step-sister are left to fend for themselves. To help ease their financial burden, his sister agrees to marry a co-worker, and soon the newlyweds are bickering because her new husband is suspicious of the relationship between the siblings. Feeling guilty because he is the cause of their fighting, Bum-Moo packs up his meager belongings and moves out. This flashback sequence forcefully strikes home how unfortunate Bum-Moo has been, and why he would fall so hard for a woman older than he is so easily. Yun-Ook may be poor and distant, but she’s provided him with the peaceful haven that he so desperately needs.
The illustrations in Forest of Gray City compliment the story; the character designs are just the slightest bit awkward. The characters are all long and lanky, with slightly indistinct features. In some panels, the faces come across as smudged, giving a dreamlike aura to the overall look and feel of the book. Bum-Moo’s attraction to Yun-Ook is a little forbidden and teeters on the edge of fantasy, and the art is likewise hazy, fading in and out like a dream.
I felt let down by the ending, because it feels too rushed. It almost ruins the otherwise methodical pacing of the story, where Yun-Ook and Bum-Moo stumble forward, tentatively searching for a path that will bring them happiness. Instead, the conclusion comes to a jarring, screeching halt that was out of tune with the lyrical tone of the rest of the story.
Despite an ending that was rushed and unfulfilling, Forest of Gray City delivers a powerful snapshot into the lives and growing relationship of two emotionally detached individuals. Bum-Moo’s puppy dog devotion to the jaded and distant Yun-Ook causes the older woman to re-evaluate her stance on life and love. By always keeping a tight rein on her feelings, she has managed to avoid a repeat of the heartbreak she experienced after her first relationship failed. By shutting everyone out, she was left grappling with loneliness until the fateful day when Bum-Moo moves into her spare room. I liked the story enough to wish it continued on for another volume, because the conclusion to series didn’t do the story justice. I felt shortchanged in the end, and it seemed almost as though Uhm JungHyum lost her enthusiasm for the project and just wanted it to be over and done with.