Conor, a Korean-American, lives in a city where same-sex marriage has been legalized, but where racist and homophobic hate crimes are still frequent. He joins a band with the blonde hair, blue-eyed Simon and the two go on to create their own “dark heaven” in an abandoned church. Feelings develop between the pair, but light cannot dwell with dark, and their time together will soon come to an end...
Without a doubt one of the best BL manga I have ever read. What stands out the most to me is the mangaka's ability to create a compelling story without relying on the usual BL/romance tropes (there is one cliche in the storyline that stands out to me, but otherwise the plot and characters are refreshingly different), as well as the truly loving relationship between the two MCs. It was a bit hard for me to get into it at first, because the story starts out at the lowest point in the characters lives and relationship (after a bad breakup), and I really disliked Simon at first. However, as the story progresses and the mangaka shows you how much the main characters truly love and care for one another (not just lust for each other, but really truly treasure each other), you can't help but cherish them as well. The storytelling is also great. The pacing was very good, and I never felt like the mangaka was dragging things on for two long or inserting drama and misunderstandings just to spice things up. Everything that happpened in the story felt planned out and connected, There was a strong, continuous plot instead of a bunch of separate arcs. There are a lot of flashbacks, so if you really dislike flashbacks then you might get frustrated. That being said, I thought that the flashbacks were used appropriately and contributed a lot to the story. They were interspersed throughout the entire thing, the appearance of the characters made it clear that a flashback was occuring, and I never had that feeling of "ugh when will we get back to the main storyline". This manga also approaches the issue of homophobia in a different way than I normally see. Homophobia is a common enough theme in BL manga (at least in any manga that is trying to approach the genre in a realistic way). This is usually portrayed by bullying, parental rejection, etc. Things that are on a person to person basis. This type of homophobia definitely exists in Dark Heaven, but it the real focus is on systematic prejudice (against gay people, and also against racial minorities). This is homophobia as part of the culture, where it is spread by politics, the media, and hate gangs, and neglected by law enforcement. The mangaka does a very good job of tackling that issue and making it the backdrop of this manga. The story is set in a made up country, but it feels like a setting that I could easily find in the Bible Belt of the US and many other places throughout the world.
I'm here giving JUNS a standing applause. BRAVO JUNS, BRAVO! Without any doubt the BEST MANHWA I have had ever read and is on Top 5 on my manga list. And I firmly believe is worthy of a tv series with real people, is that GOOD! From start to end a really catching story worth reading. Is so good that I want to give a whole review about it, especially 'cus is the first one under this title on this site. The History: Simon and Conor are childhood friends who save each other, who stand together in the bad, the ugly and the good. They create a safe heaven for them and for others. But life isn't the simple especially when you are different (gay, other ethnicity, poor, etc). Van Tescosa (the country where they live) is a mess of a country (a mix between an European country, with an Asian country....I'm not going to name the countries I thought about for respect to their citizens). Even though equal marriage is legal in Van Tascosa that don't make it socially acceptable. Both main characters are pressed, pushed, smashed, slashed and used for a society who only cares about appearances and they are the only ones able the pick the pieces and put them togethers but for them to be able to do so, they need to learn, to growth, to change, to accept who they are. They aren't perfects, they are full of doubts, they are incredibly flawed, they can't do anything on their own, they know they need to do better but they at time don't know how or are afraid to do it 'cus they afraid rejection and consequences.And that my dearest readers is true life, that's why this history is so close to home. Dark Heaven' Topics: Humans Rights- Xenophobia.- LGBT rights.- Self-determination freedom- Sexuality as a means of expression- Due process.- Child abuse (emotional, mental, physical and sexual) Social Issues- Bullying (at school and work)- Cyber-bullying.- Mob mentality.- Prejudice.- Educational systems lacking of processes that keep ALL students safe.- Religion as a weapon to hate and not to help.- Lack of objectivity and professional ethic within the media.- An entertainment industry based on stripping of humanity to the celebrities.- Slave contract within music industry. Legal and political issues- Corruption.- Hate crimes.- Racial Profile.- Laws for cyber-bullying- Hate speech - System manipulation Psychological issues- Depression- Suicide- PTS- Personality disorder So, yes, isn't easy reading, all romantic, fantastic and cute. This work approach subjects that aren't easy to talk and those topics most want to ignore. The hits (may content spoiler) JUNS give us an history that make us see that not everything in heaven and in show business is gold, may shine but that don't make it valuable. It forces us to understand that as much as we want our life to be "simple" certain "complicated" things must be faced. It reminds us that politic isn't something we can easily abstract from whether we want it or not, always affect our lives.The psychological development of the (main) characters is incredible good, they change so much on front of our eyes. Main characters' emotional growth was one thing I like it SO MUCH!Although Simon wasn't exempt of emotional damage I think Conor was the one that grew the most through the history. Come out of the closet, not only in front of your religious, conservative parents but also in front of the whole country (literally), accept that while others hate you that doesn't mean you should hate them, let go of your anger and focus on your peace, being able to start over and over again without letting "failure" keep you from living 'cus isn't really failure is just hardship and EVERYONE have them in their lives. I think I identify a lot with Conor because his story reminded me of my own. The plot shyly focuses on BDSM. Exposes society' hypocrisy, full of prejudice against something they don't understand (or want to understand). Make clear that the "normal" aren't always the good ones and that the "weird" aren't implicitly bad. Special mention to the fact that both main characters are versatile 😬😌 they can act as bottom or top. More than CAN is THEY NEED TO.....I totally understand the feeling 'cus I'm the same 🤭🤭 love it, second BL history I had read making that approach in such good way. The failure (may content spoiler) Let's begin talking about a impressive characters who didn't receive the deserved treatment, Mona.One of the great objections I always have regarding the BL genre is the authors' inability to develop female characters in a comprehensive integral way. I mean, Mona is a wonderful character. Thanks to Mona both main characters were able to overcome MANY things. She is an empowered woman who challenges a system, that hold on and fights for her independence not only from an economic point of view but rather ideologically. She is a woman who isn't afraid to be direct while speaking even if that isn't "lady like" but also she knows that battles NEED to be chosen and being aggressive has its time and place. She is that friend who will tell you if you are right or wrong but she will still support you unconditionally. Is such a shame that JUNS decided to give us only minimal glimpses into Mona's world. JUNS missed the opportunity to educate readers about BDSM, that is such a shame. She forgot differentiating a CONSENSUAL relationship from a forced one. This topic is SO close to me, because I'm a polyamorous bisexual who engage in BDSM practice. The amount of prejudice, contempt, insults, accusations, ignorance I had faced is shocking. People seems unable to understand the BIG DIFFERENCE between 2 adults engaging in any consensual, safe, sane, sexual practice and heinous acts against will.I think JUNS had the opportunity to expose through main characters history that you can be kink and still be loving, caring, respectful, "good". For a story that was so incredibly detailed the ending felt a little rushed......I mean, Simon come out of the coma and they rush to marry and suddenly they are big stars(?!) So.....how the fuck they regained public acceptance? What happened to Simon's lawsuit against his company? (Something that REALLY interested me) What company signed them? (Perhaps Simon founded his own label like they talked once?) What about SO MANY INTERESTING THINGS!!!! Why 9 and not 10? I have more than 2 decades reading manga and many more years reading books and watching movies. Believe me, I'm not easy to impress, I always try to be objective and "benevolent" with my opinions but a 10 need to be earned. Having said that, I think Dark Heaven is definitely a job that deserve 10 but due to my crazy high standards it only hit 9 on my personal record. I need to give the author the benefit of doubt, I really think she wanted to explore more in depth the many issues but they were not easy things to deal with. The Art:I'm a fucking art fetishist (my frustrated artist side) so when I first started read Dark Heaven I was really struggling with the art, DON'T LIKE THAT STYLE AT ALL! Fuck it was hard to watch those main characters....but when I started to ignore the (crappy) art and I got into the story so fully I knew...."Oh this is SO GOOOOOOOOOOOD!" But, yeah, the art (according to my standards) sucks really badly.....tho, I need to say the action scenes struck me, they are INCREDIBLY good and exciting. Special Note about Quotes: JUNS' Dark Heaven give us so good dialogues, but are some I pick to leave here so that way you can understand this work' vibe. "I learned that if you keep pushing things back to wait for the perfect timing, you end up losing your special someone" "If you ask me, you uneducated, narrow-minded scumbags are the ones that degrade human nobility" "They'll cease to think and become dependent on their ruler and the mass" "Maybe they need a common enemy to hold together their shallow little sense of connectedness" "I'm writing about an uncomfortable subject...who'd go through all the trouble of reading such serious histories...." Hope many people support the artist if they can and spread the word about this amazing work.
It was alright I suppose for a 82 chapter read in one sitting, I wouldn't consider calling it that great or a masterpiece. It's rather predictable, art is mediocre and the development of the relationship between the guys was rather too quick to my taste. Also there was no music included in this manhwa so that was a bummer too.But hey I do recommend this to everyone who liked the "Given" series, which also involved BL in boybands ...
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