Greetings! Writing as a way of arranging one’s thoughts is given as a piece of advice quite frequently; whether it be emotions regarding a specific event in one’s life, a dream, or one’s thoughts on a certain piece of media. Here I am putting that advice into practice once again to sort out just what Saha is because it’s one of the most mind-boggling works I’ve experienced in a long while, not just in the BL category but across the genres. With that said, I’m not sure if I’ll manage to be coherent, or make sense because I’m still baffled about it all. Please enjoy my attempt.
Author & Artist: Lee Uin
Release Year: 2017
Licensed? (Y/N): Yes, on Lezhin!
Cheon Giju is a 21-year-old young adult. He was abandoned by his mother at a young age and was taken to an orphanage. He was a beautiful boy and loved to play with that one doll he had clutched in his hand when he was abandoned, and that brought other kids’ hatred and bullying. The very same beauty also had him getting adopted by two famous art professors. Whether his beauty was a blessing or a curse, Giju had no way of telling back then.
Now, he works part-time in KFG (heh) and lives in an empty apartment, having cut ties with his adoptive family. One night when his shift is about to end and he’s carrying some boxes to the storage, a wobbling man whose head is covered in blood approaches him and asks Giju to lend him his phone. Giju nonchalantly refuses, after exchanging a couple of remarks, with little energy left the wounded man collapses on the ground. Soon Giju learns that his encounter which some might call ‘fated’ with Young-do is one of the links in the chain that binds not only them but also their pasts and presents together.
Before I talk more about the story, I have to warn you that Saha has some themes that may be triggering; including child abuse, drug abuse, homophobic slurs, and violence. These themes are all the more powerful not because of the scenes unfolding right before our eyes explicitly, but due to the artist’s choice of strong metaphors and imagery.
I started reading Saha because the cover art looked pleasant and it was in the Wait For Free section. I didn’t even check out the summary since I’m alright with reading pretty much anything, but now that I’m finished with the series I don’t think any summary could do it justice anyway.
One of the powerful aspects of Saha is the non-linear plot structure. Throughout, we have multiple jumps in time, either backward or forward, and from one character to the other. Nearing the end, the story takes a surreal turn. In this sense, I can say Saha has a similar feel to Baccano! or Durarara!!! in its inter-character and event connection. My fascination with this type of narration dates back to my high school years, so I might be biased. While it’s highly questionable whether I understood those texts at such an age, I did delve deep into modernist novels using the stream of consciousness, French symbolist poetry, and surrealist texts or movies. I was fascinated and it felt like solving a puzzle, and that’s how Saha felt to me as well.
Not just the structure, but the style of the narration is exceptional as well. The third-person omniscient narrative is used in Saha and rather than a more direct approach that’s similar to reporting, a more poetic style is preferred. This approach brings additional flavor to what otherwise might play out like just another mafia-related story with traumatic backstories. Saha is mainly black & white, with occasional blue and addition of red towards the end. It’s clear that I’m no art historian, but the artists’ interest in certain colors like blue or black, the context of their meaning, and the production of the pigments is known. The color blue has significance in Saha too and is used in different shades to highlight certain aspects related to Giju. The character design is somewhere between the usual manhwa style and GC’s and it was interesting to see many different and experimental approaches coming together and blending in so well.
Overall, Saha is a story about two characters trying to find themselves a place in the world and is more experimental than the usual BL titles. I’ve read it with great excitement and intrigue, and with heartbreak at times. The characters are interesting, the story itself and the narration tools are compelling, it was definitely a different experience. I didn’t talk about much on the characters, but this manhwa has good female characters, especially Giju’s younger sister Yuju was so endearing and cute. While I had some idea of what the ending signified and its context, I wanted to keep the post spoiler-free. If you think this series might align with your tastes, you give Saha a chance and would like to have a discussion over it, I’d be more than glad! I’m mostly active on my Twitter.
Whew, this wasn’t much but I hope you enjoyed or I was able to make some sense. I kept whining about this post while it was in the making and wanted to give up on it and pick another title, but re-reading it, contemplating and completing the post indeed helped me understand it a bit mroe in the end. I wish you a great weekend and see you next week!
A — Ameiro Paradox
B — Blue Sky Complex
C — Coyote
D — Dear, My God
E — Endou-kun no Kansatsu Nikki
F — Full…
G — The Good Teacher
H — Hakujon to Kurobotan
I — Itadakimasu Gochisousama
J — Jealousy
K — Koi wo Suru Tsumori wa Nakatta
L — Love Tractor
M — Momo to Manji
N — Novae
O — Oh! My Assistant
P — Piercings
Q — Quit Writing, Dear Author!
S — Saha