“Who are you?” The significance of Masks in manhwas 👺 (second version)

Be aware that most of the manhwas I am using as illustrations are mature Yaois, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. Please support the authors by reading the manhwas on the official websites. This is where you can read the manhwas. 

  1. BJ Alex / Dine with A Vampire / The Beast Must Die / Legs That Won’t Walk / My Suha / Painter Of The Night / Legs That Won’t Walk / The Blood Of Madam Giselle / The pawn’s Revenge / Unintentional Love Story are on https://www.lezhinus.com/
  2. ENNEAD https://www.tappytoon.com/en/comics/ennead-mature
  3. Under The Green Light: https://tapas.io/series/under-the-green-light
  4. True Beauty: https://www.webtoons.com/en/romance/truebeauty/list?title_no=1436
  5. Doctor Frost: https://www.webtoons.com/en/mystery/dr-frost/list?title_no=371

Here is the link, if you are interested in more analyses about these manhwas:  https://bebebisous33analyses.com/2021/06/06/table-of-contents-of-analyzed-mentioned-manhwas/

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In this essay, I won’t examine a certain manhwa very closely, but I will focus on the mask, its different forms and functions in manhwas. Yet, the highlight of this analysis will be BJ Alex. Now, you are probably wondering why I picked such a topic. While reading these stories, I often noticed the presence of a mask, though it was only palpable through the mind’s eye and not to the eye. The reason for their presence is quite simple. The use of mask is strongly intertwined with the protagonists and identity quest. Therefore there is this question in the title: “Who are you?” Many characters are using a mask to hide their true personality or thoughts from their counterpart. Before starting to study the different types of masks and their utilization in the different manhwas, it is important to look at the definition of mask.

“Mask: a form of disguise or concealment usually worn over or in front of the face to hide the identity of a person and by its own features to establish another being. quoted from https://www.britannica.com/art/mask-face-covering

1. Mask and acting

As you can note, the mask is related to acting, but also to protection. That’s why in certain cultures, during religious ceremonies the priest will wear a mask, for he will represent the deity or the spirit the participants are asking for help or protection. This is no coincidence that in the theater of ancient Greece, the actors were wearing masks too. They had two reasons for this. First, women were not allowed to play a role, so a man had to take over their part. Secondly, by covering their faces, they would hide and protect their true identity. In other words, the mask in a religious ceremony and in a theater play ensures that the spectators are not confusing the identities. They have to distinguish between the seem and real, and as such between the person behind the disguise and the character represented. In other words, the viewers are asked to accept that the people covered with a mask are not representing themselves, but a different person: a god or a character.

2. Mask as protection

As for the protection, I could use as an illustration the mask put on the mummy in the sarcophagus. It was to protect the deceased in the afterlife. And these two functions (hiding the identity and protection) have not changed at all nowadays. That’s why we have in BJ Alex, the main lead Ahn Jiwon hiding his face with a mask, while he is following his ex-lover. (chapter 55) He doesn’t want to be recognized, but more importantly he is determined to hide his true feelings from Nam Dong-Gyun, for he believes that he has no chance to be his lover again. Moreover, during the Corona pandemic, people are requested to wear a mask in order to stop the contamination.

3. The use of a real mask

3. 1 A necessity or a desire?

To sum up, the person behind the mask would like to cover his/her identity or his/her true personality, implying that this person will play a role, while the mask will serve as a shield too. This explicates why in The Beast Must Die, the protagonist hides his ASPD (Antisocial Personality Disorder) from others. If people knew that he was a psychopath, he would get isolated. His parents are already very distant with him, for they view him as a monster. Due this experience (he killed a dog and his mother caught him), he got aware that he was not allowed to act on his urges. For him, the mask is a necessity, as he is living in society. He doesn’t want to end up in jail. But is it the same for Nameless from Painter Of The Night?

The criminal puts on his mask, when he decides to kill the vicious servant. (chapter 54) He is switching his identity to become a killer. In this panel, the manhwaphiles see the transformation of the figure, as his face is already half-covered. He is no longer a joker, but not the ruthless murderer yet. However, when he kills the servant, he has the cover on. (chapter 54) By putting a mask, he is protecting himself too, for he is acting as someone else, therefore his heart can’t be wounded. In this case, it is more a desire, though in truth it is a combination of both. The “butcher” has to hide his true identity. So when he wears his mask in chapter 44, he is doing his job. He won’t be recognized, but also he won’t feel remorse. He has been paid for that and the mask is helping him not to get emotionally invested. On the other hand when Jihwa met him in chapter 51, the manhwalovers could perceive the low-born’s true personality which coincides with the absence of the mask. In that episode, he was literally naked in front of the noble, which explicates why he showed concern and care for his client. He let the noble express his worries. Let’s not forget that the jester is a person with a pure heart, when he is true to himself. Hence I come to the conclusion that the mask serves as a protection for the criminal’s mind and heart. And now, you comprehend why Nameless didn’t feel remorse for hurting the painter. According to me, in this scene, it was Kim who was scaring the painter. (chapter 66) This is important, because the mask had two purposes here: to hide the identity of the perpetrator, but also to slip into a role, No-Name’s, the assassin. The main lead’s face was covered and turned around. At no moment, the “butcher” could see the victim’s gaze and facial expressions. The mask helped him to be ruthless, while he threatened Baek Na-Kuym. He might feel pity, but that was it. (chapter 66) In that scene, the manhwaphiles thought that they were seeing Mumyeong, hence they imagined that Jihwa’s safety meant more than the artist’s life and possible scars. But if you take my theory seriously, this was Kim, then the words from the butler had a different meaning. He was hiding his action behind the nobles. Only after paying attention to the mask, I realized the existence of two masks. (Chapter 61) (chapter 61) Smiling mask versus threatening mask. The presence of two masks explicates why No-Name had the impression that after the painter’s return nothing bad had really happened. He was not aware of the butler‘s wrongdoings. Simultaneously, since the artist had not been killed, No-Name imagined that he had done nothing wrong. (Chapter 61) Hence the existence of the Joker’s mask outlines the criminal’s duality. He can be a ruthless killer, yet he can be gentle and caring too. At the same time, it implies the presence of a biased view.

But let’s return our attention to the scene, when Nameless stands up in order to eliminate the vicious servant. Putting the mask had another purpose in that scene as well. It was to scare Deok-Jae. And note that in that moment the domestic got paralyzed, when he saw No-Name putting his mask and approaching him. Observe the divergence between the two panels from chapter 54. When Deok-Jae recognizes the seriousness of his situation, the mask is covering the low-born’s chin. Scaring an enemy was another function of the mask in real History. Greek, Roman or Japanese soldiers would wear one in order to instigate fear in their opponents. The mask gave their enemy the impression that they were not fighting men, but demons. As you can see, it was to disguise their true nature.

3. 2. The mask: a source of power and magic

And this leads me to the following observation: the mask in different cultures is often associated to supernatural powers. When a shaman wears one, he can chase evil spirits, cure illness, predict events etc… it was, as if the cover contained divine powers. Hence this is not surprising that in ENNEAD, the god Seth loses his mask (chapter 73), the moment he is deprived of his powers. It was, as if he became a human. This is particularly perceptible, when he accepts the judgement of Maat and says this. Striking is that in this panel, the mask doesn’t appear as a source of advantage, rather as a hindrance. He couldn’t see and hear the consequences of his crimes due to the mask. He was blind and deaf. By removing his mask, he becomes human and can face reality: he is facing his sins and the suffering of his victims, their wounded soul.

This leads me to the following conclusion, Seth chose to hide his pain under his mask. He acted as a terrible god, for he had lost his own identity. When Seth discovered that everything in his “life” was fake (his family [chapter 35], his son, his title [chapter 35], his power over the desert [chapter 35]), he lost his identity. Osiris made sure to imprison his brother, because the former was lusting after him and had the impression that the latter would always escape his control. (chapter 35). At the end, he raped him in order to claim him. The latter got literally destroyed, hence he hid his pain behind the mask and chose to hurt others. (chapter 37) In other words, the loss of identity was the reason why Seth decided to hide himself under the mask. Who was he in reality? The god was so tormented by his tragic past, Osiris had hurt him with his actions and words. He made sure that his brother would doubt himself. Hence the mask became the only reason to keep living. This item helped him to hide his wounds, but also not to lose himself completely. Hence I conclude that the “evil god” wasn’t just blinded by his heartache, but also by his mask, for the latter hindered him to see the real impact of his terrible actions. (chapter 37)

As you can see, we have the functions I mentioned in the introduction: disguise, protection and identity quest. Therefore we could say that in ENNEAD, the mask is a source of power, yet represents a hindrance. While Seth becomes human (chapter 73), his son makes the opposite experience. He transforms himself into a god, Anubis, hence he gets a mask. (chapter 73) However, this signifies that he won’t see his wrongdoings too, he will be oblivious to the pain he is causing to others. This time, his blindness will be caused by his resent. While in the past, Anubis was a sensitive and gentle person, but no real god due to Seth’s curse, in chapter 73 he becomes Osiris’ true son, an evil god. Why do I judge him like that? It’s related to Osiris’ words. The latter is encouraging his son to feel hatred for the one responsible for his curse, Seth. Moreover, he asked his son to forget his past signifying that he should cut ties with his previous family. Therefore I believe that in the future, Anubis will fight against Seth and even Horus. Nevertheless, the wounded Anubis doesn’t realize that he has been manipulated by Osiris. The latter used his vulnerability and fear to approach him and appear as his savior. (chapter 73) Besides, Osiris was in fact accountable for his injury (chapter 37) and curse (though indirectly). The latter took possession of Anubis’ body in order to approach Seth. (chapter 37) In other words, the god of the afterlife used a disguise, though his brother had the impression that Osiris was real. Yet, one might argue that in that scene, Osiris was not wearing a mask. However, since he took possession of Anubis’ body, we can clearly see the presence of a cover. Let’s not forget that this terrible god is not allowed to leave the Underworld, hence he needs a subterfuge to enter the world of the living. That’s why I perceive it as a disguise. While the Egyptian god used Anubis as his vessel, Kwon Sungha from Dine With A Vampire took a new identity: he became Sooin’s bodyguard. As you can see, in both cases magic provided the villains a new occasion to deceive their target. And this shows that a mask can eventually cover a whole body, when it is to create a new “identity”.

4. The visage and make-up as masks

However, I would like to remind my readers that a mask in literature and especially in manhwas can also have many different forms… We shouldn’t reduce it to the use of a real mask. And this is also visible in ENNEAD. On the surface, the goddess Isis is wearing no mask, just like Ra or Hathor. Yet, note that they are all women. Secondly, if you pay attention to their appearances, you’ll detect the presence of a hair dress and make up, especially around the eyes. This is no coincidence in my opinion. These accessories should be perceived as a “mask”. The make-up and hair dress are a form of disguise. This becomes really obvious in the manhwa “True beauty” from Yaongyi, where the heroine Jugyeong Lim hides her insecurities and true self behind a make-up. This is the real and natural protagonist (chapter 7), while we have here the disguised heroine (chapter 0). This goes to the point that her boyfriend Sujeon Han has no idea how she really looks like. As a conclusion, the make-up and hair dress should be judged as a mask too. That’s why in traditional Chinese theater, the actors have painted faces. It was, as if they were wearing a mask.

5. The importance of the eyes in connection with a mask

Besides, let’s not forget the saying: the eyes are the mirror of the soul. Therefore the gaze reveals the true thoughts and emotions of the person to his beholder. While a person can control his facial expressions, it is impossible to control the gaze. (Doctor Frost, chapter 2) That’s the reason why the author Black Apricot didn’t drew a mouth, when she presented Song Ji-Sung here. (chapter 9). She wanted her readers and the main lead to realize the character’s true personality. The latter was upset, because Kwon Soo-Young was keeping his distance from him and it looked like, he had found a new protector/boyfriend. When the protagonist Kwon Soo-Young had met Song Ji-Sung for the first time, he had only paid attention to his smile. Therefore he had misjudged his personality. And now, if you contrast the previous panel with the following one (chapter 16), you’ll notice an important detail: The eyes are closed, when the character is smiling. In this situation, the figure was actually hiding his true thoughts, this explains why the main lead couldn’t correct his false impression about his future lover. He had no idea about his true nature, as the latter keeping concealing his true intentions, he was faking his emotions with his facial expressions. This confirms my interpretation: the face can also be a mask. For me, this character is like Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this picture, Kwon Soo-Young got scared, when he saw this gaze and refused his lover’s advances. He is brutal, selfish and very manipulative. And now, you understand why in ENNEAD we had two different kind of masks: Seth and Horus are wearing real masks, while Osiris and Isis use their own face and make-up to conceal their true personality.

But closed eyes is not the only strategy to create a mask and as such create a certain deception. The nature of the gaze can be changed due to the make-up. As you can see, the hair dress and the make-up can be viewed as disguise… and remember that a mask is judged as a disguise. That’s why in ENNEAD, Isis is a real hypocrite and deceiver. She is similar to Seth, as she has been terribly wounded by Nephthys and Osiris’ betrayal, yet she chose to blame Seth. She decided to protect her husband’s reputation in the end. She prefers blaming the real victim of this tragedy. And this observation leads me to the next conclusion. It is no coincidence that Osiris is painted in green. (chapter 7) Sure, the color refers to his death, a decayed body, nonetheless the readers should judge the painting as a cover. Since he is using a whole body to disguise himself, this signifies that he is hiding his true personality and thoughts more than Isis or Ra. That’s why it is not surprising that this god is particularly scheming and deceptive.

5. 1. The absence of eyes

And note that in this image (chapter 73), the god’s face is not even visible, a sign of his deceptive nature and lies. He is not revealing his true plan to Anubis. What caught my attention is the importance of the eyes, since the latter are a reflection of the person’s true character. In other words, the absence of eyes in a manhwa can have a different meaning that just an indication of “blindness”. The absence of eyes is a clue for deception and manipulation. That’s why in the Pawn’s revenge, Jeon Hee-Seong is seen without eyes in chapter 6: The hair fringe and the shadow serve as a mask. In this scene, she used her body to divert her lover’s attention and hide her true intentions. She was inciting Do Seong-Rok to kill on her behalf. However, this temptation left such a deep impression that the main lead was tormented in his sleep later. His unconscious was telling him that he had been manipulated. As you can see, the absence of eyes in the manhwa can be viewed as the presence of a mask and as such a sign of deception. We have another example in BJ Alex: (chapter 10) The mask is a combination of shadow and absence of eyes. Here, Ahn Jiwon was remembering his first love and boyfriend, who faked affection and care for him. As a conclusion, the eyes symbolize honesty and naturality and its absence the presence of a mask.

Therefore the readers should pay attention to the characters’ gaze and eyes. This observation brings us to my next point.

5. 2. The presence of glasses

I came to this topic “masks” due to Painter Of The Night and Dine With A Vampire. In both stories, we have two characters wearing glasses, the scholar Jung In-Hun and the internist Kwon Sungha. While examining their characters, I made a connection between the glasses and their personality. I defined the function of the glasses as a mask, because both almost act the same, as vicious hypocrites. They hide behind their glasses and their fake smiles so that people misjudge them. And remember doctor Frost’s advice: Observe that each time the villains from the two manhwas smile, their eyes are closed. It was, as if they didn’t want their eyes to betray them and the glasses were a tool to redirect people’s gaze to their smile not paying attention to the eyes. This item serves as a guarantee that people would rather look at their smiles in order to mislead them. This explicates why people close to them are not aware of their manipulations. Not only Sungha’s girlfriend has no idea that he is two-timing, but also he chose her because of her social background. Baek Na-Kyum also fell for his teacher’s lies, as he could never see the scholar’s real gaze. However, the teacher reveals slowly his gaze and as such his true personality, that’s why in the chapter 29, the low-born detects his first betrayal, but he doesn’t realize his vicious and double-faced nature.Observe that the smile is less pronounced, giving the impression that it is vanishing. Simultaneously, the eyes are shown oozing a rather cold and heartless side. In the scene at the library (chapter 40), he’s finally able to perceive his own reflection in the scholar’s gaze, since the smile has totally disappeared. The gaze exudes coldness, despise and filth. Combined with the harsh words “you were born to be a prostitute”, the painter’s identity and personality are literally destroyed. The scholar has reduced Baek Na-Kyum to a prostitute, the lowest rank among the commoner. They have no rights and no real identity as they are forced to do what their clients want. (chapter 41) Hence it is not surprising that the protagonist remembers the cold gaze. His eyes were the other reason why Baek Na-Kyum’s heart was so wounded. He could sense despise and rejection. In other words, the scholar had used two weapons to hurt the main character: the gaze and the words. This connection between the smile and the eyes is visible in Dine With A Vampire too. As soon as the smile vanishes, the eyes become visible unveiling their true personality. That’s why it is not surprising that Kwon Sungha has the same behavior towards the main lead Joo Sooin. The former has also destroyed the protagonist and reduced him to a puppet. The villains keeps calling him a pervert. He was even worse than Jung In-Hun in the sense that he kept abusing him mentally and physically after the coercive persuasion. Both are hypocrites hiding behind their glasses and their gaze. Therefore they are portrayed as cruel and mean hypocrites. The other common denominator is their hatred and rejection for homosexuality. Kwon Sungha seems to be even worse than the scholar, as he is in reality a repressed homosexual. He has sex with Joo Sooin, but resents him because he sees in him the reason for his “perverted” sexuality. He rejects sodomy because of the Church and his mother. Both reject this sexual orientation. I could mention Carter Nathan from The Blood of Madam Giselle (the fake and the real (chapter 13) or Jung from Unintentional Love Story as well as selfish and ruthless hypocrites. In other words, the next time you read a manhwa, be careful with characters wearing glasses, they might be dangerous and their smile might be fake.

However, the manhwaphiles shouldn’t generalize, Mathew Rayner from Under The Green Light represents an exception. (chapter 16) The main lead explains that he chose to wear glasses, because he desired to avoid rejection and fear. He had noticed that the absence of facial expressions (smile) and his cold gaze would be misjudged by people. Here, Matthew used the glasses as protection. And this illustration reinforces my interpretation: glasses in manhwas have a huge importance in the end, they should be considered as masks too.

6. The mask wearers

But the example with the glasses illustrates that there exist two types of characters utilizing masks. The first ones are the villains and antagonists who are hiding their true personality in order to achieve their goal. They need people and good connections so that they can gain power or more money. As for the second category, they are the main leads trying to hide their own issues and wounds (Nameless, Mathew Rayner, Ahn Jiwon, Yoon Seungho, etc). For them, the mask is a shield, they are trying to protect themselves from torment and rejection. Their acting is not mainly to hurt others. And note that the moment Kang Moo from “The Beast Must Die” removed his mask, he unveiled his inner thoughts and emotions to his lover Lee Ki-Rin. The latter is the only one who can control him.

7. BJ Alex: Mask and identity quest

This manhwa is very interesting for two reasons. First, in BJ Alex, the author used so many different types of masks. I have already mentioned two of them: (the absence of eyes and the shadow in chapter 10, the normal mask in chapter 55) . Why are there so many? The reason is simple. The central topic of this manhwa is the protagonist’s journey to find his true self! Remember what I wrote in the introduction: a mask concerning a protagonist is always connected to identity quest.

So it is time to focus on the main character Ahn Jiwon. He is introduced wearing a mask, for he is broadcasting. (chapter 1) This is his second identity: BJ Alex. On the one hand, he desires to remain anonymous so that no one can recognize him in real life, on the other hand this signifies that he is living a double life. He would like to protect his privacy, but also his secret life as homosexual. That’s why he said this, when his relationship with Nam Dong-Gyun was revealed: As you can observe, a name and as such notoriety can also serve as a mask. The president of the council was admired by his peers, he was so perfect that some students even wondered, if he was human.

Here, I could also mention two other manhwas, where reputation was used as shield and mask: Yoon Seungho in Painter Of The Night and Park Do-Hyeok in My Suha. The latter utilized his grand-mother’s favoritism, for President Lee considers Park Jiwon’s father as a black sheep. Since Park Do-Hyeok’s father was obedient, she assumes that the red-haired grand-son is the same. Due to this privilege, the villain was able to create the perfect illusion, he is the perfect grand-son. That’s why he is also faking his smile and the president is not recognizing it. But why is reputation a mask? It is, because people often judge others on hearsay and first impressions. The social medias are the perfect example for superficial and quick judgement. But we have to question ourselves about Ahn Jiwon’s initial motivations to hide behind a good notoriety.

But let’s return our attention to the manhwa BJ Alex. Ahn Jiwon had the reputation of the prefect student , for he was always friendly and kept helping people. In the beginning of the story, he doesn’t even know the other protagonist very well, yet he is willing to take care of him, when the latter is drunk. The president is seen constantly smiling and has never externalized negative emotions (anger, violence…). This explicates why the uke was so shocked and confused, when he saw a brutal BJ Alex. The latter had discovered his secret, hence the former felt vulnerable. On the other hand, Nam Dong-Gyun wondered about Ahn Jiwon’s true personality. But the uke was not the only one who had no idea about Ahn Jiwon’s true character. The latter was also confused.

What caught my attention is that Ahn Jiwon is not only hiding his identity, he is also hiding his true self from his fans. Note that during the streaming, he told old or possibly fake stories, until he met Nam Dong-Gyun. His interaction with the other main character affected his broadcast so much, for his stories felt more real, genuine and exciting. Besides, observe that in the picture above, Mingwa didn’t drew his eyes. This is relevant, because it truly exposes Jiwon’s life. He is soulless, signifying that he isn’t true to himself in reality. Why? It is related to his childhood. Due to his neglecting parents who always favored the eldest son, the main lead was forced to live in his brother’s shadow. But the worst is that his parents never looked at him. This explicates why the parents in all the panels are represented without eyes. This signifies that the protagonist was never confronted with his own reflection. (Doctor Frost, chapter 11). That’s why he became an empty man in the end. He has no idea about his true self (his likes and dislikes). He was forced to follow his parents’ requests and his brother’s shadow. This emptiness is palpable in chapter 49, when the main lead confesses this:

All these observations lead me to conclude that Ahn Jiwon had not only be wearing one mask in fact, but minimum 3!! We have

  1. the mask BJ Alex (chapter 1)
  2. Then he became a second version of his eldest brother: (chapter 49) Since the adults kept criticizing him, he imagined that if he copied his brother, he would get recognition and acceptance. In other words, he forced himself to become a second version of his brother. But even copying his hair dress and tastes, he was doomed to failure, for the parents had already categorized him: he would always be inferior to their eldest son. He realized gradually that this wasn’t right, for his parents still didn’t perceive his true identity. That’s why he feels drowning, when he loses his mask. He doesn’t have the impression to exist.
  3. Furthermore he had imagined, if he was popular at school, his parents would change their mind about him through the comments from people (other parents, teachers, students). (chapter 49) That’s why he chose a third mask: he tried to be admired at school. He was caring and considerate towards his fellows. However, since he had made this rational decision, in his mind he was acting. Hence he didn’t truly enjoy this situation. (chapter 49) He felt that he was forced to smile. Besides, I believe as he was fake, this admiration was quite superficial in his mind. Therefore he didn’t feel truly loved. That’s why at some point, he wondered if he would ever be loved… However, the readers should interpret this question differently: he was asking indirectly, when his true self would be recognized by someone. And the one who made him discover his true sexual orientation was unfortunately a player. That’s why the main lead was so devastated and hurt, when he discovered that his relationship was based on deception and fakeness. So after being sent to the army, Ahn Jiwon chose to act like in the past. He became a role model as a student, yet he could no longer hide his homosexuality. Hence he led a double life.

Through his interactions with the other protagonist, Ahn Jiwon was forced to recognize that he needed to drop the mask BJ Alex. In the presence of Nam Dong-Gyun, the dark-haired man came gradually back to life. The break-up and their last sexual encounter, where the uke refused to look at him, made him realize that he was in reality Ahn Jiwon and not BJ Alex. The latter was just a role and not his true self.

Because of the uke’s frankness and sincerity, the main lead was forced to feel emotions. And this leads me to the following observation. The author even used panels to illustrate a mask. (chapter 08) In this scene, the charater is disguising his true thoughts. The black and red are representing his emotions: he is irritated, because he needs to have sex with Nam Dong-Gyun. Note how Ahn Jiwon is avoiding his counterpart’s gaze. The figure is acting, his mask is his face and the presence of the colors symbolizes the repressed and hidden thoughts and emotions. Mingwa colored one picture in chapter 51 marking a turning point in the protagonist’s life. For the first time, he was acknowledging his feelings and as such his own desires. This picture represents the removal of one mask. He is slowly living for real, but in this chapter he still hadn’t found his true personality. The other mask (his reputation as good student) was still existent. Besides, he still believed that his smiling and caring attitude were just an act, while in truth he was genuine and caring. But due to his past, he had already internalized that this was just an act. And now, you comprehend why the latest episodes from BJ Alex are in color. The main lead had finally found his own identity and place.

As a conclusion, the masks in manhwas can be represented in many ways: real masks, absence of eyes, glasses, make-up, facial expressions (Painter Of The Night, chapter 54), colors, reputation, etc. The protagonists are often hiding their true thoughts and emotions due to their past, while the villains are using masks to deceive people.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My instagram-tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.

Painter Of The night: The heart versus the mind

This is where you can read the manhwas. https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/unintentional  https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents:  https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/

Announcement: I updated the essay “The heart and the mind” (number 98)

On the surface, this title is very similar to the essay which I have just reviewed. Nevertheless, there’s a huge difference, because in this analysis, I am focusing on the struggle between the heart and the mind, and more precisely on Baek Na-Kyum’s inner conflict. The latter stood more in the center at the end of the season 2. This was very perceptible in chapter 68, 70, 71, 74, 75 and 76. Yet, as the readers have already noticed it, I am including another manhwa called Unintentional Love Story written by PIBI. While reading this contemporary story, I couldn’t help myself smirking due to certain parallels between these two manhwas. Both Jung are portrayed as well-mannered, smiling and caring, whereas in truth they are just using the protagonist’s innocence and gentleness for their own interest. (chapter 1: Ji Wonyoung is standing in front of Jung) Or both main leads come from a rich family and are called Yoon (in Unintentional Love Story, it’s Yoon Taejun). However, the real reason for bringing up this modern Yaoi is the resemblance of Ji Wonyoung’s personality with Baek Na-Kyum’s. Both are selfless, naive, social, kind but more importantly cheerful. They are easily affected. Yet one might argue that the painter is different, as he knew about his sexual orientation very early on, whereas the pure and cheerful Ji Wonyoung is presented as straight. However, an important detail caught my attention. The uke only dated women who would confess to him. He never initiated anything. This signifies that the main lead started dating these women, because he felt grateful and touched. That’s why all his ex-girlfriends had nothing in common. In other words, he was never really in love with these women, therefore we could say that he was straight out of convenience. This explicates why he gets more confused, when he starts falling for Yoon Taejun. He goes so far to ask a friend how to recognize love. The latter replies with the following description: – He would think about the person all the time, the body is reacting with heart pounding , blushing , finally he would ramble things and make a fool of himself. I included these pictures from Painter Of the Night for a reason. They expose how the painter is definitely in love with the main lead. And this clearly reveals that Baek Na-Kyum was never in love with the scholar in the end. Hence you comprehend why I am presenting Ji Wonyoung from Unintentional Love Story. It helps to grasp why the painter was in denial for so long. He couldn’t understand his emotions, as he had never felt like this before. Moreover, unlike to our modern protagonist, the artist had no one to confide, not even to his noona. When he saw his lover kissing another man, he was bothered, but he couldn’t admit it entirely. He wondered about his emotions. When he finally met Heena, it was already too late.

But let’s return our attention to the modern main lead. Imagine how he reacted, when he noticed that he was behaving exactly like his friend had portrayed it. He got really confused . Thus he started denying his feelings for Yoon Taejun. First, he reduced it to admiration and tried to find excuses for his reaction: As you can detect, his mind tried to reason his behavior and emotions. More striking is that the character Ko Hotae is the one who pointed out to him that he was just using too much his mind and he shouldn’t ignore his heart. As the manhwaphiles can detect, Ji Wonyoung was struggling to admit his feelings for the potter Yoon Taejun. Nonetheless, this has nothing to do with fear of stigma or loss of reputation, because the moment Wonyoung started dating the main lead, he had no problem to kiss his partner outside. At no moment, he shows real concern or fear that people might discover his relationship with Yoon Taejun. Sure, he is careful due to the special status Yoon Taejun has as a famous potter. And all these observations led me to the following conclusion: Ji Wonyoung had never fallen in love with anyone before and as such, he had never truly paid attention to his true sexual orientation. He was neither a homosexual nor a straight person per se. He just dated girls, because he felt “attached and obliged” as a gentleman. However, all his partners could sense in the long term that their affection was not truly returned. Striking is that in this story, Ji Wonyoung had a similar attitude than Baek Na-Kyum. The low-born would always use his brain and mind to diminish his emotions. (chapter 56), even his unconscious was telling him that he longed for the lord’s affection. Both characters were struggling the same way, yet for different reasons.

In the first season, the painter was denying his sexual orientation and even worse the existence of sexual desires. That’s why he kept hiding behind doors. The artist feared the gaze and judgement from others. This fright was linked to the scholar’s indoctrination: sexuality is dirty, especially copulating men were filthy. Nonetheless, Yoon Seungho was able to revive and liberate the artist’s body on two occasions: first during the sex marathon (chapter 31) and secondly during their sex session, when Yoon Seungho was behaving like a client at a brothel. (chapter 48) The artist was forced to admit that he felt pleasure while having sex with the main lead. However, this doesn’t mean that Baek Na-Kyum was truly emancipated. It was only a partial victory, because the low-born would still deny the existence of feelings. He wasn’t just refusing to acknowledge any attachment from his part, but also from the main lead’s. And we have to question the reason for this attitude. In my opinion, it is related to Heena noona. Why? It is because her words are still lingering in her brother’s mind, while the latter is on the verge to admit his affection for Yoon Seungho. In this panel, his face is literally glowing. Yoon Seungho’s words accompanied with a huge smile have already moved his heart, hence his mind reminds him of this: He is not allowed to love Yoon Seungho, his noona forbade it. That’s the reason why Baek Na-Kyum drinks in the tavern and blames the noble for his fickle nature. His mind is trying to refrain the heart, to rationalize why he shouldn’t fall for the noble. As you can see, his denial is strongly intertwined with the kisaeng. Then I suddenly remembered this panel from chapter 56. The artist always felt the urge to get hugged. As you can see, the artist longed to be embraced as well. Surprising is that in chapter 66, Baek Na-Kyum got hugged by his noona. However, this embrace didn’t give him the warmth he was truly seeking, explaining why he didn’t follow his sister. He preferred remaining by the lord’s side. And this observation made me realize that the artist had always desired to be embraced by his lover, but his wish could never get fulfilled with Heena or with Jung In-Hun. Why? It is, because the kisaeng and the scholar are both rejecting sex and sexuality. For Heena, it is more understandable, as it represents a part of her work and world. She is confronted with rich nobles who are often violent and misogynistic. That’s why I believe that while the scholar killed the painter’s body, the noona held her brother’s heart captive. It was enchained. There is no doubt that the kisaeng was well aware that the painter was longing for warmth and love, because she describes him as a sweet boy. That’s why I think, she knew that the artist was easily swayed, if someone was quite nice and gentle. Note that she hugs him a second time, after the painter has already confessed to her that he had developed some attachment with the main lead. In other words, he was similar to Ji Wonyoung from Unintentional Love Story, he would feel gratitude and become loyal, as long as the person would be caring and warm towards him. I believe that Heena knew that the painter had such a disposition. That’s why she says this “my poor, tenderhearted boy”. If a person showed some affection through caresses and hugs, he would become obedient, as he would be thankful. Yet, in chapter 68, the kisaeng failed twice with her attempts. She even tried to stop him from replying to her points by putting her hands on his cheeks. She imagined, the artist would react like in the past, when she sent him away. He listened to her words, although he was definitely wounded. Therefore I come to the conclusion that not only the scholar stands for social norms, but also the kisaeng. In my eyes, Heena has never accepted her brother’s homosexuality, she only tolerated it, as long as Jung In-Hun was his muse. She knew that the artist would never outlive his homosexuality, because she was well aware that the scholar was not interested in sex. She might have even realized that her brother was more admiring the scholar than truly loving him. Furthermore, what caught my attention is Heena’s reaction, when she heard that Yoon Seungho had confessed to her brother. She denied his feelings, saying that he was just confusing fear with love. He had no idea what love is. She tried to convince him in every possible way that his feelings were not real or in the last resort, he should not act on his emotions. As you can observe, Heena was talking to his mind. We could say that she embodies the mind, hence she was the cause for the inner struggle in chapter 75. For she symbolizes the conscious, she also advocates the social norms. If a man showed his love for another man, then this would be a real scandal. From my point of view, she can’t accept homosexuality for two reasons. First, it is related to the nobles’ hobbies. The latter were the ones who bought the artist’s publications, and Heena hates filthy rich aristocrats. But there’s more to it in my opinion. For her, homosexuality is a synonym for addiction or bad life, because love between two men can’t exist. Why do I think like that? It is connected to the image “man consumed by lust”. Note that till the end, the artist worries about this aspect. If the artist were to admit his love for the noble officially, then he would be perceived as a man consumed by lust. That’s why Heena is against this relationship. She knows that all the other nobles will never admit having sex with other men. They are able to maintain their respectability. Thus the kisaeng says this: However, let’s not forget that his relationship with the main lead was always full of pain and violence, hence when the artist confesses his love in front of his sister, the latter should have already realized that the artist didn’t develop such an affection out of convenience or gratitude. That’s why she presents it as the opposite: Yet, if you pay attention to her words, the situation is in truth similar, as there’s a certain expectation and pressure. However, despite all her reasoning, Heena failed, since his feelings were already too strong. His mind and heart were no longer receptive to her advices and points. Only her words lingered in his mind in chapter 75, when the artist was about to accept his feelings.

On the other hand, she was able to stop the artist from confessing his affection to Yoon Seungho. Out of fear, the artist desired the noble to become responsible for him. This explicates why Baek Na-Kyum kept waiting for a signal from his lover. That way, the artist would have a better conscience. He wouldn’t be associated to the image “man consumed by lust”, as he was just following Yoon Seungho’s request. However, nothing happened, like Baek Na-Kyum had imagined. The protagonist was no longer willing to put his companion under pressure, he wanted him to make the decisions himself. He should follow his heart and mind, and the main character would listen to him.

And now, it is time to focus on the decisive moment, when his heart is no longer ruled by his mind. There’s a reason for that. For the first time, the artist is terrified. He gets so scared, when he meets the criminal by chance that his mind is no longer functioning properly. He can no longer rationalize his emotions or blame his lover. I could say, his mind is paralyzed, hence he embraces the noble by instincts. Only in his arms, he feels safe, warm and comfort. As you can sense, the low-born acts by instincts. That’s why he doesn’t pay attention to people. But more importantly, this situation makes him realize that this embrace has nothing to do with “man consumed by lust”. That’s why he actually enjoys being in the lord’s arms. He is definitely moved, as he blushes and feels more relaxed. At some point, he even closes his eyes, a sign that he is trusting his lover and enjoying this instant. Everyone can see that there’s only affection and even the merchant is quite nice. Therefore, I believe that for the first time, Baek Na-Kyum recognizes the real meaning of such an embrace. The lord had already done it before, yet the artist judged it as fake or he associated it to sex. And what the painter feared the most, the disapproving and judgmental gaze didn’t occur at all. Everyone acted, as if this embrace between a noble and a commoner was a normality. The mind representing society and its rules was defeated by the unconscious which stands for nature and instinct.

As a conclusion, Ji Wonyoung and Baek Na-Kyum had a similar conflict, their mind tried to deny their growing affection to the respective protagonist. However, the heart was always the winner in the inner conflict. Why? It’s because true values like love and friendship are more important than reputation or social norms, like I already mentioned it in “The heart and the mind”. If someone is not true to himself, he will never feel happy, Min is the best example for this situation. He hides his true nature behind his smiles and laughs, yet he is always dissatisfied and envious. The only huge difference between Painter Of The Night and Unintentional Love Story is that homosexuality was a real taboo in Joseon. Nowadays, it is still not entirely accepted, but the existence of this type of love is no longer denied and such people are no longer persecuted in Western societies. Consequently, imagine how much pressure the commoner is facing, when he admits his love for the main lead in front of people. Yoon Seungho can act so fearless, because he has money and power, but it is not the same for a low-born like Baek Na-Kyum. People could definitely say that he is doing it for privileges and favors, especially when the following rumor starts spreading: Yoon Seungho even bought such an expensive music box for his lover! Some jealous and ill-intended people will say that the low-born requested it… However, for the artist, it will no longer matter, because he has finally experienced what a real embrace is and what the lord was willing to do in order to protect and console him: he remained seated on the ground, until the painter had calmed down.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My instagram-tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.