I welcome you to yet again a short review of a series I’m reading. I wonder if writing about the stuff I read on a weekly basis and still having trouble deciding which title to pick is a sign of me reading too much… there are so many good stuff to talk about! Sometimes I have more to say and I prefer putting them on my blog, other times less so I only put together a thread on my Twitter. But either way, BL is a gift that keeps on giving. Without further ado, my -technically- last week’s pick is here! Enjoy ~

I raise you with “Why not both!”

Title: Checkmate
Author & Artist: TAN
Status: Ongoing, 39 and 16 chapters, respectively. 
Where to read: On Lezhin – All-ages & Mature.

Your family or friends would congratulate you for coming second in something you’ve been working hard at. After all, it’s no easy feat to compete and earn yourself a rank! But it’s also the truth that only the firsts earn a place in everyone’s memories, not the second bests. And that’s where Soohyun is at, always a step behind, a tad below, crushed under the perfection in the form of his classmate Eunsung. You know, the whole “good looking + friendly + best at academics and sports” package. This bitterness slowly turns into an obsession to get ahead of Eunsung for Soohyun but until the bitter end, things don’t go the way he wants. 

Although his frustration never dies down completely, Soohyun has reached a point where he’s content with his mundane, day-to-day life. That is until he hears Eunsung’s name involved in a huge scandal with a big shot painter in the news. Soohyun’s past obsession surges once again; he resigns and finds a position as a reporter, carefully planning for the day he will topple Eunsung over and revel in the sight of his nemesis cowering under him. And he strikes a deal with Eunsung.

Oh, look what we have here, another favorite dynamic of mine! The petty second place x the perfect first place. A refined example of the enemies-to-lovers trope. Because nothing beats the satisfaction you get when two people who hate each others’ guts slowly fall in love and be extremely dense about it in the process. Checkmate is a less funny and more scheming version of it, and I have to say it works very well. One detail I’m wary of with BL works that incorporate suspense is that it usually resolves too quickly. If you are to introduce a serious traumatic event or intense emotions only for it to be settled in a manner of chapters where the couple is immediately over whatever they had going on and become lovey-dovey, the whole structure becomes inconsistent. 

This can, of course, be partly attributed to the length where commercial BL manga is more often than not wrapped up in only one volume, whereas in webtoon format there’s space to introduce more events and characters other than the romantic developments between the characters. In this sense, Checkmate does remarkably well in carrying the tension without dropping throughout the chapters, both between the male leads and with the scandal Eunsung finds himself in. The clean and minimal art style, along with the palettes consisted of washed-out colors give out an intentional dullness to everything and everyone in the series, save for Eunsung’s amber eyes that stare into the reader’s soul. 

At some point, I was very close to dropping the series (and platform altogether) because I was so frustrated with Lezhin. Checkmate first came out as just ‘Checkmate’, without any mention of its age rating. I’ve been keeping up with the series ever since its release, week by week diligently purchasing chapters. After 6 months, they suddenly announced there was actually a mature version of the series, and I had to buy the chapters again if I wanted to read it. The worse part of it all is that it’ll take another 6 months for the new release to catch up to where I left the all-ages version. 

I’m trying my best to support the artists I love but the companies are testing me.

But that’s a me vs. Lezhin problem and neither the artist nor the story has something to do with it. Maybe we’ll have our enemies-to-lovers glow up with Lezhin one day, but we’re still in the “throwing hands at the slightest inconvenience” phase. We’ll work it out. Hopefully.

Checkmate is a series that I’ve grown really fond of gradually, I can’t wait to see how the scandal will resolve and the male leads’ I-hate-you-so-much-but-you-kind-of-turn-me-on-so-having-sexy-times-is-ok-i-guess dynamic will find its way to more genuine feelings towards each other. I recommend it for people who love suspense and drama, power struggle and manipulation between the leads, steamy scenes sprinkled in between, and a compellingly written plot. Hope I was able to paint an interesting picture of the series, and as always, you can let me know if there’s a series or platform you’d want me to cover. If not, thank you for tuning in and see you next week!

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  1. I’m in the same boat cuz I remember seeing Checkmate as being the adult version. And I didn’t know they had the adult version retain the name so I didn’t pay attention to buying the adult version. I ended up paying for the All-Ages edition cuz i thought they had changed the content to be agreeable with all ages, rather than having a separate adult version, albeit on sale. And now, if I want to follow the rest of the series, I’ll have to wait for the catch up and I’m just groaning a little. I’m ambivalent about the story, it reminds me of a story about an alpha and Omega where the omega hates the alpha, but in reality really likes him and misses him, and the alpha was portrayed to be a mean asshole, but he was just callous, and you can tell he’s really caring, even if he’s very callous w his words. It’s mostly in the Omega’s interpretation. (The omega really likes the alpha’s brother, but the real relationship he has is with this alpha.) Anyways, it wasn’t quite enemies to lovers but it still has a bit of i-hate-u dynamics. For Checkmate, I myself don’t sense the tension. It is more Soohyun’s issue (his interpretation of the events and Eunsung). My guess is that he’s always liked him. In the alpha/omega story it was pretty much like that. If he didn’t like Eunsung, he wouldn’t have let himself be f*cked by him, unless Eunsung literally was just *aping him and it didn’t seem to be the case. I don’t think Eunsung is a literal d*ck, just in Soohyun’s eyes. So the tension really didn’t exist for me. It also didn’t matter to me that an art student had a fallout w an art professor. I mean, maybe a fallout w a company or some higher up in business or something is a bigger deal to me. I guess it’s not believable for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! About Lezhin US’s way of handling their platform: it’s a trainwreck lol. I’m 99% of the time displeased and currently don’t start any new series unless I have bonus coins lying around and decided I won’t be spending any more money. I was upset what they did with Checkmate as well.

      And thank you for your input about the story. What I meant by tension is that SH’s obsession still haven’t resolved into romantic love openly and the nature of his relationship with and feelings towards ES changes very slowly and gradually. That’s what I liked about the series. What you mentioned about that Omegaverse story is… you can apply to any and every series that ever produced. For example, every series with enemies-to-lovers trope will end with enemies falling for each other, that’s how tropes work and we enjoy the ride. That’s the case with almost all commercial BL (or any other genre). While I don’t think that’s a fair criticism, I understand that you don’t enjoy it as much. Thank you for the comment ~


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