I have been wanting to write about this manhwa for a while now, but then I fell behind in reading the end of the first season (that’s chapter 1 – 44) due to volunteer work but now that I have had time to finish the first season I know this would be one of my big posts for the 12 Days of Yaoi, after all to say this manhwa from Lezhin has taken the yaoi fandom by storm is a huge understatement. There is no part of the fandom not talking about this manhwa and like I wrote in yesterday’s post I have not seen this much hype around a title from Lezhin since Killing Stalking!
Before beginning this review however, if you are not familiar with manhwa and are not a fan of dub con or abusive relationships this is not the manhwa for you and this will be the only warning I give.
First previewed on Lezhin July 10, 2019 and then officially released almost two months later Painter in the Night by Byeonduck, this manhwa tells the story of two individuals from opposite ends of society that never should have met, if not for one of them having an obsession with the erotic art of the other to the point where he orders his underlings to find him the artist so they can work personally for him and become his own private painter.
Yoon Seungho is the apittimy of a spoiled rich brat who because of his power as a noble can do whatever he wants without consequence. He is an impatient man with an insatiable apatite for sex with men and a violent streak for when he does not get his way. There are a lot of similarities between him and Sangwoo from Killing Stalking, except where Sangwoo is calculating and sneaky with his predatory ways, Seungho knows he can get away with what ever he wants so sees no need to hide who he is, so in a way he is a much more dangerous man than Sangwoo. If you are interested in a deeper dive into the type of psychopath Seungho is I highly recommend reading the article Yoon Seungho’s Psychopathy analysis. Painter of the Night, 2020’s most captivating webtoon by bkty5181. In the article they write about what makes is a psycopath and why Seungho could be classified as a high functioning psycopath. I found it to be a fascinating read while I waited for updates back in July.
Baek Na-kyum would be considered by most the lowest of the low in society. Orphaned as a child and left of the steps of a Kisaeng, which is pretty much the ancient Korean equivelent of a brothel he at a young age showed an aptitude for art. Unfortunately the subject of his drawings was male one male sexual acts in particularly sodomy. As he grew older he would sell collections of these sexually explicit images under a pseudonym before becoming nothing more than a traveling drunk. But when Yoon Seungho wants the artist behind his favourite erotic pictures found he is pulled out of hiding and forced to work in the palace as a painter while watching the nobleman partake in these acts.
Seeing as the nobleman Seungho is paying attention to this young artist, jealousy begins to rear its head in other noblemen who enjoy there activities with Seungho so of course this is where the drama begins. From acts of jealousy to try and get the young artist banned from the house to other deeds the life of luxury is not at all kind Baek Na-kyum but because Seungho wants him to stay and paint for him he will do anything to make the man stay.
Now I can not talk about the relationship between these two without talking about the biggest thing that will keep some away from this manhwa. There is a lot of rape, non-con, dubious consent and out right abuse in this manhwa and it even a few times made me uncomfortable for the level of cruelty. That being said at no times during my reading of the first season did it ever feel like those elements were being romanticized, it came close a few times but it was treading a very fine line. So fine in fact I’m still on the fence even by the end of this season whether I consider this even a romantic relationship or just sex for the sake of sex. There is an obvious connection growing between the two, it is just not a very healthy one in my opinion.
As I wrote this is a series that has amassed a lot of popularity this year in and even out of the yaoi community. From reactions and reviews of the series on YouTube to some damn stunning cosplays on Instagram and even boys love TikTok (which I did not even know until a month ago was a thing because I do not use TikTok) to say that this series has taken over is an understatement.
But why the sudden popularity? I think a lot of it has to do with timing, after all this series came out around the same time Killing Stalking was coming to an end, plus a lot of people have been home to read thanks to this year. I am happy to see this community growing and loving new works. There has been however, one small tiny detail about the fandom surrounding this series that has me just a little concerned and it once again goes back to my post about minors in the fandom. Like Killing Stalking before it this series has and continues to cover some dark and heavy themes and is in no way suitable for younger boys love fans to read, I don’t care how pretty you find the art this is not content for minors. Call me a gatekeeper if you must, but 18+ fucking means 18+ for a reason at the end of the day.
Other than that though I have been enjoying my time in this fandom and have also been enjoying the latest chapters over on Lezhin, and though I do not enjoy this series as much as Killing Stalking or BJ Alex it has still been a fun journey I don’t intend to get off of any time soon…