Greetings friends and foes alike. Today, I’ll talk about a BL title that recently started being released in English on Lezhin. The reason why this post isn’t a part of Friday BL is, that this won’t be an introduction to The Pizza Delivery Man & The Gold Palace by u-pi. Similar to a piece I’ve written on Love For Sale and transactional dating, I wanted to talk about a part of this series that struck me and immediately made it one of my favorites. Plus, the first 3 chapters are free to read, so you can give it a shot without investing money. 

However, wanting to talk about a work in depth means I have to spoil at least a part of it. That’s why, some time ago, I made a poll asking people which way would be the best to talk about spoiler-y content and the result was to blog about it. And that’s what I’m doing. So be warned with a capital W. 

To provide a summary; Woo-won has to work a couple of part-time jobs to make ends meet and send money to his mom, for reasons that aren’t very clear at the time I’m writing this (mid-August, with 10+ chapters) but it’s hinted that it’s health-related. He’s very good-looking, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on the situation. When he’s laid off from one of his jobs, a well-paying one at that, a friend recommends that he apply to her aunt’s pizzeria to do deliveries. Her aunt apparently only hires handsome men and the place is in an upscale district, specifically near The Gold Palace. 

The Gold Palace is one of the most luxurious apartments in the area and the residents tend to tip the delivery people generously so thankfully, Woo-won is hired on the spot. Although he’s been to the other flats in the apartment before, his first time visiting the penthouse is a lucky coincidence for its resident Seo-An, whose friend pranked him by ordering pizza in his stead. It’s not their first encounter, as one day when it was heavily raining, Woo-won handed an umbrella to a then-downcast stranger and Seo-an hadn’t forgotten this kind person’s face. Not that he could anyway, he’s one gorgeous man and Seo-an prefers his men pretty. With the lucky reunion, Seo-an enters his pizza addiction era, and these young men’s lives are entangled from then on. 

As I mentioned, I’m writing this piece early into the series so it’s quite soon to predict how the themes I’ll talk about will be further developed, but I still wanted to put my two cents on my blog because this series has touched my heart deeply. 

I don’t mean to say ideals shouldn’t exist or are unnecessary. They are useful in providing motivation or drive, they function as an end goal or a blueprint of what we can expect from the future. However, they are what they are: ideals. When we talk about emotions, especially about love or kindness, mentions of purity and genuineness always accompany it. Love can be ‘real’ or ‘pure’ only when it has no precedent. Slightest motive or expectation behind your emotions and you don’t actually love that person deep down. Any kind deed that you do with any type of personal gain is suddenly not a kind deed anymore. Every other day I come across the ever-popular Insta-advice, “If they really wanted to do that for you, they would,” hence, if the person in question is not doing the thing you expect ‘any person with common sense’ would do, for example calling you often, then they aren’t engaging in the act because they actually don’t want to or don’t care about you. The same is sometimes argued in groups that come together for political reasons. Any type of personal gain or expecting self-satisfaction is equal to not doing it for the cause.

Of course, vague expressions like the above have the danger of oversimplifying things or making us lose context, because, depending on the act, expression, or interpersonal relationship we’d either agree or disagree. Though, I think I managed to get my point across. 

But why do we strive so hard to attain the unattainable? In On Balance, Adam Phillips cites Anna Freud’s “In our dreams, we can have our eggs cooked exactly how we want them, but we can’t eat them,” in a fantasy/desire context, but I’d like to use the analogy to describe ideals as well. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe unconditional love or kindness is nothing but an ideal. Even when we think our actions or emotions are unconditional, considering how complex we are and have a constantly flowing undercurrent that is the unconscious that pretty much dictates our behavior according to the bearded man with glasses. You know who. And I came to think that… maybe we have to make peace with this side of ourselves and maybe it’s not that bad to have expectations or behave in a way that we are benefitting as well. Or at the least, we shouldn’t be demonizing ourselves. I’m being vague again, heh.

We, then, naturally arrive at the question “Why’s Nora talking about this? Why does it matter to her personally, and more importantly, why’s she taking our sweet & valuable time hostage?”. All very important questions. This is a meaningful topic for me because for many years, and I kind of still am, plagued by the emotional purity idea and if-they-wanted-to-they-would knee-jerk reaction when it comes to responses or behaviors I expect from friends or family. I still, against my better judgment, deep down believe that I shouldn’t be walking people through the steps they should be taking because it’s “the most basic course of action”. If the person cannot do it without me spelling it out for them, then it has no worth in me talking about it because then, they’d be doing it only because I told them to, not because they genuinely wanted to. See? It took me a very long time and some spent in therapy to even realize what might be wrong with that way of thinking. Or how detrimental the idealistic unconditionality can be, both for me and my interpersonal relationships.

Looking at the comment section under romance webtoons or reading takes on them on Twitter proved time and time again that I’m not alone. People far too frequently read similar depictions in fiction as manipulation instead of reading them for what they are, but that discussion’s for another post!

How does it all tie to The Pizza Delivery Man and The Gold Palace? U-pi frames Woo-won and Seo-an’s first meeting and Seo-an’s eagerness to create more instances where they can spend time and get to know each other in a very impressive and touching way. When Woo-won spots Seo-an standing outside the pizzeria waiting out the rain with sunken cheeks and an unquiet gaze, he hands him a spare umbrella because, sure he has the means to help this stranger and he doesn’t want him to wait for a sudden rain that doesn’t look like it’ll settle anytime soon, but at the same time, he himself feels quite down that day. And we are let in on his inner thoughts that on days he feels small and insignificant, a thought pattern that is enforced by the unfortunate circumstances in his life and paths he was more or less forced to take, he pushes himself to do at least one kind thing for someone else. Others might see this as ingenuine, and that really might be the case, but he ends up doing a good deed that benefits someone, which in turn lifts Woo-won’s spirits and he doesn’t feel as unimportant anymore. 

Seo-an, on the other hand, already had to grow up in a wealthy family that emotionally neglects him (or sometimes even resorts to physical punishment) and due to a traumatic event that hasn’t been revealed yet, he’s suffering from insomnia and a panic disorder that triggers severe anxiety whenever he’s in a crowd. He’s going through therapy and is only able to go out with his very close friend circle to places where they can rent rooms. Otherwise, he spends most of his time in his ginormous penthouse doing whatever, and he is expected to “grow out of this” and return to work as soon as possible by his father. After Woo-won hands him the umbrella and he’s touched by this stranger’s kindness, the first thing he notices in Woo-won is of course his beauty, and then, he isn’t as anxious when talking to Woo-won during their brief pizza-delivery-slash-interactions. His therapist suggests he create a chance where they can get closer because it’s been a long while since Seo-an isn’t afraid of making a new connection and this person can shift his recovery in a positive direction. Hence, as far as Seo-an’s intentions behind befriending Woo-won go, they aren’t ‘pure’ at all either. 

And that’s the unmatched beauty of this series. At least, for me. Both men have their personal circumstances and motives when approaching the other and making a conscious effort to create chances so their paths will cross. These calculated acts aren’t presented as sinister, or aren’t at the expense of the other’s well-being. And that pretense the characters themselves feel uneasy about can turn into a sincere relationship that will heal their wounds and encourage them to take a step for the better. 

Another point that makes this series shine is that, when Woo-won confides in Seo-an about his personal life, Seo-an’s first course of action is never to solve his friend’s problems by throwing him money. It’s very obvious that he could, without making even so much of a dent in his wallet, but instead, he chooses to listen, be there for him, and offer a simple escape like taking him on a bike ride at night and sharing a cheap drink under the night sky in silence. In one chapter, Woo-won loses the money pouch he uses for delivery work. Instead of offering to compensate the amount Woo-won has to pay back to the restaurant and trying to gain his favor, he instead wants to help search for it, and when he’s finally finished with that day’s shift, Seo-an makes sure to follow up with a call and an outing to take his friend’s minds out of his worries. I have to mention that there are things Seo-an does for Woo-won, and he can do so because he’s rich, but considering his background it’s admirable that his reflex isn’t to magically make everything okay using that financial privilege. 

You think I’m done with highlighting this series’ good points? Well, think again! Woo-won is a brilliantly written character and both the psychological and the economical background of his personal circumstances are in line and come off quite realistic. I think it deserves no elaborate explanation that coming from a low-income family doesn’t just mean that you don’t live in an X or don’t have money to spend on the latest version of Y. It limits your chances of networking or connections and limits your choices in education, hobbies, or professions. It has lasting effects on your self-confidence or shapes your behavioral patterns that in turn affect your relationships with others. And you have to build your life on a very delicate balance when you don’t have the means to take risks. When even one aspect goes slightly wrong, lots of other things come down like dominoes and you never have just one problem to fight. This is the harsh truth when you are stripped of a support system and have to rely on a low income that you work too hard to earn. In that sense, I think Woo-won’s helplessness, his inability to lean on others, and the need of being in control of something -anything- are portrayed neither in an overly dramatized way nor are completely ignored for the sake of convenience in the plot. Plus, he has to cutest blush in the world. I’m SO smitten with him if it wasn’t obvious already.

I have reread and edited this post over the past week before posting and I’m not even sure if it makes sense or whether my ideas are coherent anymore. But hopefully, I did an OK job of conveying my thoughts and why this series is so meaningful to me. As much as I love the genre and read about almost everything, once in a while such a series appears, blows my mind and my brain turns into mush after every update that I need a one-hour break to stare at the ceiling. Or open the window and silently scream at the seagulls or crows, whichever’s available at that moment. 

Do you think unconditional love or kindness exists? Or is it impossible to make a grand generalization because our strong opinions are shaped by who we are, or to quote a book I’m currently reading, “… the story you believe depends on the body you’re in,“? Are you reading The Pizza Delivery Man and The Gold Palace? Or would you be interested in picking it up? As always, eager to hear your thoughts! Thank you so much for reading up until this point, see you around ~

UGHHH the feminine urge to nom those cheeks!!!!

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  1. This sounds like a wonderful manga! Very sweet. I don’t think trying to get closer to someone or doing nice things for a stranger really makes someone a less genuine person, it just makes them human. Humans are social animals, and it’s natural for us to want to make connections with other humans and want to do kind things for others.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Reading it really warmed my heart!

      “I don’t think trying to get closer to someone or doing nice things for a stranger really makes someone a less genuine person, it just makes them human.”

      Definitely agree, and some readers labelling a character’s conscious effort to connect with another character as “manipulation” makes me feel… tired, to say the least. As always, thank you for your thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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