Illustrated by: JINHA, Adapted for Webtoon by: Cafelatte, from the Original Web Novel Senior, Don’t Put On That Lipstick by Elize.
In the last year, I have seen so many Twitter debates about the compulsory requirement of a ‘Happy Ending’ in Romance. These are technically not debates to me, but just some misguided and misinformed readers who do not understand how a genre works. A story can be romantic and a love story and still not be romance if it doesn’t fulfill certain criteria of romance genre (which is HAPPY ENDING). A novel with mystery at its core cannot be a mystery novel if the mystery is left unsolved. May the fickle gods forgive the ill-informed.
In my search for happy endings in comics, I found She Would Never Know, a webcomic adaption of a popular Korean light web-novel Senior, Don’t Put On That Lipstick written by Elize, that was also made into a critically acclaimed and widely loved K-drama. She Would Never Know revolves around Songa, a workaholic assistant brand manager at the popular luxury cosmetic company called Klar. Songa is a soft spoken and highly independent person who likes to have her life sorted and hassle-free according to her desires. Secretly she is dating her boss, Jaesin Lee, and as we all know, office romance may create problems, hence the couple have kept their relationship hidden. Songa is not upset about the arrangement and is pretty content with how things are; her job is interesting and she is earning well and her love life is fine, or so believes. But one day, trouble pops up when Hyeonsung, Songa’s junior (whom she hired off campus selection) stops her from wearing the lipstick that is Jaesin’s favourite colour. Eventually due to a certain interfering junior, Songa learns Jaesin is planning to marry the younger sister of Klar’s president, and intends to send Songa away to Europe.
After learning this information, Songa decides to breakup with Jaesin. But does a douchebag two-timer understand "no"? Jaesin refuses to let her go and our knight in shiny car Hyeonsung steps in to keep the pest away. Hyeonsung convinces Songa to pretend that they are dating each other in hopes of keeping the vile creature away. I began to read the story after I had watched the K-drama. So I came into the story expecting three hundred, chapter long, emotional rollercoaster rides where I would pity the bad people because of their well fleshed out back stories and motivations. In the sixteen episodes of the tv drama, lots of things have happened with interesting sub-plots. Surprisingly the webtoon which I know is adapted from the webnovel, was very straight-laced about its characters and has no time for sub-plots. The author is happy to keep Jaesin irredeemable, and his fiancé Hyoju is actually wired oddly; I would’ve loved few more chapters on her motivations on why she was head over heels in love with that crazy man.
The art of She Would Never Know is cute: it’s shiny and bright with the lovely colour choices. I would buy those Klar cosmetics, especially the lipsticks! The story is also an office romance, so we see Songa and Hyeonsung mostly in office clothes and romancing like two middle school puppy-lovers. I loved what Songa was made to wear was frilly and feminine without catering to male gaze; she had beautiful earrings, gorgeous kitty heels, and handbags to die for. Hyeonsung was totally drawn to feed my desires: tall as an electric pole, handsome, supportive, and communicative! The fellow understood the assignment of being a better boyfriend to Songa.
Generally in an office romance story, a reader is bound to expect jealous and gossipy coworkers. There are soft talks here and there about the duo, but Klar only employs nice people who support their coworkers, and are interested in launching new brands and establishing global markets... they have no time for office sweethearts. Jaesin is the only petty, horrible coworker here!
While our sweethearts negotiate the language of new love, Jaesin becomes vile and viler with each passing day; he simply doesn’t understand that he can’t have a wife and a mistress if the women are not consenting to his plan. He comes up with various schemes to win Songa back, including riling up Songa’s really horrible mother. That lady needs therapy; she doesn’t want her daughter to ever get married or move to Europe, as her career demands! Songa’s mother is a character that got some redemption, but that lady sure did rile up the fandom. She is an example of the toxic motherhood trope, which usually mostly comes with the misunderstood, mistrusting, mean, male protagonist. But here the tables have turned, and she is a woman dumped into the bed of Electra Complex with abandonment issues.
She Would Never Know, uses the damsel in distress trope to its full potential without ever making it cringey. Songa’s genuinely kind and helpful nature towards everyone brings in the support of colleagues and seniors when she needs it most. I loved that the author showed what a work place can be if it doesn’t naturally slide with the top-dog's version of the story. Jaesin is clearly placed higher in position of power, with his good looks and work history people are bound to take his side over Songa, a young woman with no money, yet the author chooses not to go down that narrative road of victim blaming and I am so glad. Despite Hyeonsung being Songa’s support, Songa knows she has to fight her own battle and make her own choices. Hence at end of chapter 50, I really loved that Songa knows no matter how much she is in love with Hyeonsung now, she has to love and respect herself, mostly discarding what her mother wants or society expects.
She Would Never Know ends in two weeks time; I finished reading the story faster by meticulously collecting free coins. You can start binge reading the 48 chapters now before all the chapters go under daily pass system on its official completion in the Webtoon app.
Aritra Paul is a book editor and digital marketer from India. She enjoys reading manga and webcomics and aspires to be a comic book writer. But mostly spends her time writing fanfictions and uploading pictures of her cat Gucciko, food, and books on her Instagram.