by Kim Kang Won; adaptation by Bailey Murphy
published by Tokyopop; $9.99 US
One morning, Sey is woken by moving men. Her mother has decided to go to Italy to work on her novel, and she’s rented out their house. Sey will be living with her mom’s friend Meja, a happy homemaker who’s always wanted a daughter.
And here comes the element that sets this story apart from other teen manga romances: Meja does have a daughter, Hali, but Hali has to pretend to be her dead brother Terry to keep Meja from having a breakdown. This impersonation extends to dressing in a boy’s uniform at school. As a result, no one knows the real her, not even her parents. Her one attempt to reach out, making a pass at her tutor, was rebuffed due to their age difference.
That tutor, Mr. Cho, is now a popular teacher whom Sey has a crush on. Other characters include Sey’s friend Rea, a shameless flirt who wants to be a teen model, and Siho, a skater boy with a bad reputation. There’s also a fourth girl, Jae Eun, with an interest in cosplay and a crush on a boy at the bakery.
The title means both “I Envy You”, capturing the idea of the grass always being greener elsewhere, and “Innocent, Nice, Vivid, Unique”, descriptions of the four girls. Since this story is translated from Korean, not Japanese, it doesn’t have to be flipped to read left-to-right. Artistically, the character’s faces are all saucer eyes and pointy chins, while bodies are mostly spider-like arms and legs. The strangely elongated, angular figures are oddly appropriate for a story about gawky teenagers, and the fashions are attractively detailed.
The storytelling is choppy and abbreviated, with incidents and important pieces of information dropped in wherever. We’re told more than shown characters’ feelings and motivations. Some events, like Sey slapping Siho, have to be explained in captions, since they’re not obvious from the art. There are few transitions; instead, the camera just jumps somewhere else. Several scenes need a bit more space, more breathing room. It feels like there’s more story to be told than the artist had room to draw.
Two other volumes in this series were published, but several years later, the concluding book four has yet to appear.