The series is set in the 21st Century in Korea, however Korea is still a monarchy. The royal family rules with Parliament in a way similar to England. The prince of the country Shin is being pushed to marry by his elders and since he has no choice in the matter he proposes to the girl (Hyo-rin) that he loves. She turns him down because she has ambitions to be a ballerina and doesn’t want to become a doll of the palace. However, his family already had a fiance for Shin, a headstrong common girl that goes to his school (Chae-Kyeong). Her grandfather had promised Chae-Kyeong to the prince when they were babies. And thus Chae-Kyeong and Shin become married, both without much hope of happiness. The manga is about the struggles of Chae-Kyeong to adapt to the rituals of the palace and its cruel political power struggles. She is a 17 year old girl who has a cold husband/guardian whom she cannot disobey. The former crown prince (Yul) moves back into the palace and becomes one of Chae-Kyeong ‘s cherished friends. Although Yul has an agenda of his own, he wishes to take from Shin just as the throne was taken from him when his father died when he was a child.
I would never have even considered this series had the first 2 chapters not appeared as bonus chapters in my Yen Plus magazine. I read the first chapter and I didn’t think I liked it. But when I got the next issue it was one of the first chapters I found myself reading. And then I decided for the hell of it I would read a bit more to find out just what happens next…2 days and 116 chapters later I’ve caught up to Korea. So basically I approve, I plan on keeping up with this series as each chapter is released. So this series join the ranks of ongoing series that I stalk (ex: Skip Beat!, Claymore, Parfait Tic, Ouran High School Host Club, etc…)
For me half the fun of a shoujo is watching the couple struggle to figure out their feelings and get together. Usually after the couple finally “gets together” half the fun of that series is taken away from me. But this series is unique in that the two get married first and then awkwardly understand one another. Shin and Chae-Kyeong are a really compelling couple and I anxiously await to see their fate. I think I’m all the more anxious just because of all the extra pressures and possible dangers to their relationship as a royal couple then there are to your typical high school love story. They have far more drama in their relationship then I would EVER want in mine, or wish in anyone else’s relationship for that matter.
I believe what initially turned me off is the art style when the characters make funny faces. When characters make funny faces in most of my series it’s an adorable chibi type thing and the character doesn’t look nearly so repulsive as the characters in this series. In general I’m not a fan of the art in Manhwa…that is except how they draw girls. I think the girls in the Manhwa series I’ve read are really drawn with wonderful delicate beauty. The guys…are usually drawn with TOO MUCH beauty and it creeps me out. But in this series only Yul is the only one drawn a bit too much like a girl for my tastes, I can stand Shin’s look probably because of his dark eyebrows and dark hair.
One thing is how weird it is that all the covers portray the couple as very much in love and happy with one another…you don’t see much of that in the series. They disliked one another prior to the marriage, Shin only agreed to the marriage so the nation would suffer under a terribly dumb princess. Chae-Kyeong only agreed to the marriage to save her family financially. But she actually decided against marrying a few hours prior to the official announcement, but the paparazzi had gotten hold of the news by then and there was nothing more to be done, the world knew her face and she could never go back to being normal. Shin is quite cruel to her in their relationship, and frankly is probably borderline abusive. But I guess girls looking for a good romance would be less inclined to buy the series if the cover was of Shin throwing her off a balcony huh?
The setting…ok even I admit the setting is only what it is probably because the author wanted to draw a royal setting but still with modern conveniences/inconveniences (paparazzi, cell phones, etc…). But the author doesn’t really try to hide this, she flaunts it. I really enjoy all the opening chapter drawings she does of Chae-Kyeong dressed up in traditional royal garb yet listening to a CD player. Although it was a bit weird when they brought Prince William of England in as a character. Especially when they made him act really weird, made me wonder if he had ever seen this comic of him chasing after a dirty old eunuch servant…don’t ask…I didn’t care for that part.
One aspect that I think is INCREDIBLY over done is the humor that the dirty old eunuch in this story is supposed to bring, he doesn’t really make me laugh or smile. He is supposedly in love with Yul and fawns over him throughout the chapters as a source of humor. The story would be fine without him. I skim over the words when he speaks, I’d skip him altogether if he didn’t occasionally have times when his words are crucial to the plot.
When I picked up this series I was really in the mood for an intense shoujo (or josei) series to pull me in, and this one fit the bill for me. For those who love live-action series seems like the live action series associated with this manhwa did particularly well. The wikipedia page on Goong is focused more on the live action series then the manhwa.