Yoon Bum is a broken, beaten, and scarred human being, whose mental instability and loneliness have led him to unhealthy outlets for his pent up emotions. With his weakened mind, Bum has found solace in watching his handsome classmate Oh Sangwoo; Bum's love runs so deep, in fact, that he has begun stalking him. While creeping in Sangwoo's house one day, Bum makes a horrifying discovery—a torture chamber and a naked young woman tied up, gagged, and pleading for help.
The life of this woman is doomed, and Bum cannot escape either, as he is soon discovered. His eyes sickening and crazed, Sangwoo takes Bum as his newest pet and victim. What awaits the mentally tortured Bum is a world of physical mutilation, toxic dependence, and abuse masquerading as so-called love.
Killing Stalking won the Grand Prize in Lezhin's 2nd World Comic Contest. The series was digitally published in English and Japanese by Lezhin Comics from November 24, 2016 and January 16, 2017, respectively, to March 22, 2019. It was also published in Italian by Edizioni BD under the J-Pop imprint from July 12, 2017 to June 12, 2019.
There seems to be some tension about the merit of Killing Stalking due to a toxic fanbase and relatively questionable content, so there are a few things that should be made clear right off the bat: Killing Stalking is NOT a Romance.
Yes, the series centers around a pairing is gay. Yes, it is sexually explicit. But it is NOT cute. It is NOT hot. It is not about the romance, if you can even consider it that.
What it IS is a Psychological Thriller manhwa that truly excels in every category, and I’ll be addressing some of the discourse surrounding it first.
Yaoi is a very
loaded genre in terms of both content and fanbase—There are some (a lot) of BL (short for boy’s love, i.e. everything male x male no matter how explicit or not explicit the content) that are extremely fetishizing and problematic, perpetuating a “female fantasy” of what gay relationships are like with tropes such as rape and pedophilia. A good portion of the fanbase would also consider themselves diehard fujoshis/yaoi fans (fujoshis literally meaning rotten girl, as in “I'm rotten for reading about gay relationships” which isn’t homophobic at all of course) that glorify such tropes and deny any criticism that comes their way. This portion of the fanbase also tends to be the loudest and most unapologetic, which is why they’re looked down upon by non-BL readers as they should be.
However, many non-BL readers then go to label all BL and BL readers according to these trends because these trends are the most “loudest” (cringey and vocal fujoshis, notorious rape and pedophilia yaoi series). Do you see where this is going?
So now we have Killing Stalking, a twisted story about two mentally unstable people in an incredibly toxic and unhealthy relationship, and those two people are male. So not only is it now labeled as a Yaoi and inheriting all the stereotypes that come with that genre, but it’s also now inherited a fanbase that definitely has a few crazies that will see that relationship as hot.
And so then non-BL readers have this opinion, or at the very least a preconception, about what Killing Stalking is: a gay torture porn that is the epitome of fucked up yaoi.
Just to be clear, the blame doesn’t fall just on the crazy fujoshis. If you have a Thriller with straight, ‘normal’ romance it’s still a Thriller. If you have a Thriller with gay romance, like Killing Stalking it’s suddenly become Yaoi. When series have gay (particularly male x male) relationships, that series will suddenly get the “Gay label.” It’ll be placed on a special Gay bookshelf where all the other books with The Gay are placed. Even if there is a substantial amount of gay content (like with Killing Stalking), the main genre is far overshadowed by the fact that it’s Gay.
With Killing Stalking, I imagine that a lot of people see the Yaoi tag and automatically turn away, or are at least somewhat deterred. Then they hear about or see the violence/abuse/psychological aspect and they tie the two together and think, “oh, so it’s weird gay torture porn,” whereas if the couple was straight it would just be “an abusive relationship.”
To reiterate what I said before, Killing Stalking is first and foremost a Psychological Thriller. The story centers around Yoon Bum, a loner with attachment issues, who falls in love with Oh Sangwoo, a popular, charismatic, attractive guy that he finds out is also secretly a serial murderer (you learn all this in the prologue and first chapters don’t worry). For some reason Sangwoo decides to spare his life after Bum confesses to him and thus an incredibly complex relationship/character dynamic ensues and evolves.
There is gore, sex, murder, and some fucked up themes surrounding all of those. I don't want to reveal too much because the reveals are worth experiencing, but does get a little heavy at times, but if you can handle it then it’s definitely worth the read.
The characters, their development, and their relationship are for sure the winning point of Killing Stalking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as well done as in KS. Koogi does a masterful job in this aspect in multiple ways: first, both Bum and Sangwoo have extreme emotional depth, the complexity of which is slowly revealed throughout the story. While Bum seems like and is a quiet, socially anxious stalker and Sangwoo seems like and is a manipulative psychopath/sociopath, the degree to which these characterizations are true and how they change throughout the story as the two characters interact and develop is the most interesting part.
From the first several chapters, we already learn that Sangwoo has several sides to his personality and is able to project and manipulate a certain image of himself based on his audience. This leads to a variety of questions: which Sangwoo is the “true” Sangwoo, what triggers him to act a certain way/shift personalities, do more sides exist, why all these different sides of him exist, and how they originate. At the same time, we begin to see how these sides of him change and develop as other characters and events impact his psyche.
With Bum, our understanding of him is totally different. The story is told mainly from his point of view and so the reader is let in on his thoughts and feelings from the start. However, as the story progresses, the reader learns that what Bum hides from the readers and consequently, himself, reveals just as much about him as what we are otherwise shown and told. This also means that one of the driving forces of Bum’s character development is how he changes and evolves, whereas with Sangwoo, the focus is primarily on unearthing his already existing complexity. These two different modes of character development are a testament to Koogi’s ability to create characters that aren’t just interesting and complex, but also complex in different ways.
This leads into the second thing Koogi does really well in terms of characters, which is the execution of their development. More specifically, Koogi is a master of storytelling, subtlety, and a slow, bit-by-bit reveal that isn’t too vague nor too explicit. Especially in the second half of the series, each new chapter begins to feel like an additional puzzle piece in the larger puzzle that is what the hell is going on. The foreshadowing is also very well done. This is particularly true for Sangwoo’s past, which becomes more complicated than anyone could’ve imagined at the beginning. There are definitely a lot of “woah” and “oh shit” moments throughout the story that are credited to the way Koogi is able to build suspense and execute reveals.
Playing into that is the way the characters’ relationships reveal more about each character while simultaneously flowing completely naturally. Nothing feels forced and everything slots together truly like a puzzle, creating a seamless and immersive experience. Even the sexually explicit scenes have a purpose and are rarely just for the sake of appealing to fans.
Another thing that makes KS so seamless is how interconnected the plot is with the characters. Plot events happen because it makes sense for the characters. It’s as if the characters are deciding the plot, which is how it is in real life and how it should be in non-fantasy, real-world manhwa.
The suspense and story are especially gripping because Sangwoo’s mysteriousness and mental state make him unpredictable and able to take the story anywhere. This is established from an early point onward and keeps the story from falling into cliches. The plot never gets boring for the majority of the story.
However, because of the focus on the characters, the last third-ish of Killing Stalking ends up becoming not as plot driven as some other Thriller/Horror series near the middle and end. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing and is pretty expected given the large psychological aspect of KS. There are also some times when the plot does slow down a little. It usually makes sense later on in establishing a certain image/mood, but can feel flat in the moment.
The art is stellar. The style is pleasing while avoiding same face syndrome and the color palette nicely complements the mood of the manhwa. Art plays a large part in the quality of storytelling through things such as perspective, angles, and progression of panels, and it’s safe to say both are top notch.
I will say that it does get explicit, both with sex and with gore. It’s definitely not the worst I’ve seen and it’s artfully done so that it’s not “depictions and close ups of gore/sex for the sake of gore/sex.”
Finally, I highly HIGHLY suggest you read the chapter reddit threads for the later chapters when it becomes more subtle and confusing. I only did it from chapter 55/67 onward and a few random chapters before then that I was confused about. This is because sometimes you might miss out on crucial foreshadowing and they usually pick up on it in those threads. People also have some interesting theories and predictions that enhance the experience a lot, given that so much is left to be implied/not explicit until much later.
Go onto reddit.com/r/killingstalking and search “chapter ##” and you’ll get the discussion thread for each chapter when that chapter was released. There most usually won’t be spoilers because future chapters haven’t been released yet at the time the thread is made.
Do NOT read this if:
- You’re here for the Yaoi/a “dark but cute” romance. Sorry but the only ships you should shipping are Yoonbum x Therapy and Sangwoo x Prison. If you ultimately think the main pairing is cute or hot you need to stop fetishizing gay couples and you probably also some need help.
- You can’t handle gore, murder, physical and psychological abuse
DO read this for:
- The best characters + character development I’ve ever seen, hands down
- Unique, suspenseful story that avoids cliches
- Amazing storytelling through pacing, foreshadowing, etc
- Amazing art
Even if you’re deterred by the Yaoi tag, give it a shot. It’s not a Yaoi with Psychological Thriller aspects, it’s a Psychological Thriller with Yaoi aspects.
Read the chapter discussion threads on Reddit.
*******Also! if you do plan on reading it, here are some things to think about/watch out for while reading:
- Placement and types of injuries (won't be hard to miss)
- Clothing (won't be hard to miss)
- Who has power, and what actions or objects show that (becomes very interesting near the end)
- Significance of the different floors of the house (interesting to think about)
This review contains possibly spoilers. I remember reading it back in Early 2017 and following it till it ended in Early 2019. My opinion to it changed quite over time. First of all, the fanbase is probably one of the worst, most toxic ones I've seen so far. Shipping a Serial Killer, Abuser and Rapist with the victim is a big no-no. Fans, Sangwoo Stans and Fujoshis don't care though. Many of Sangwoo stans even went so far to victimblame the Character Bum.
The Art is probably the best one in a Manhwa I've read so far, but there were many panels were characters wouldn't have
faces, or the Author would sometimes forget things in the panels. And while the Art itself became way better with each season, I prefer Season 1's art style over the other ones, it suits the atmosphere perfectly.
The Characters Bum and Sangwoo were deep, but I was amazed every time with how stupid the Side Characters and Police were. Also, Seungbae deserved more love.
Yoon Bum is the Protagonist, a pitiful loner type guy who is a victim of severe abuse throughout his whole life. I liked the way the Author showed how his Obsession slowly turned into Stockholm Syndrome due to Sangwoo abusing him. The Author also hinted at his BPD in the beginning and showed several symptoms throughout the story (Bum's self harming for example). I honestly just felt bad for him the whole time, he was severely abused and used like a sex toy his whole life.
Sangwoo is the second Protagonist, the Antagonist. I am really, really not a fan of him due to how abusive, narcissistic and homophobic he is and his Fans didn't make it any better. It's the Ted Bundy Situation all over again. I don't think that I ever despised a character more than him. Fangirls of his think that Looks=Good so they deny the fact how he kidnapped, beat, tortured and killed women or beat, tortured and raped Bum. I can admit that there was also more to him though, although it never changed my opinion over him, he was a selfish piece of shit to the very end and his death wasn't as satisfying as it should have been.
Seungbae is the Tritagonist, basically Sangwoo's enemy and the only one who could save Bum from his situation. He goes through some Development over the story.
Since it's a Manhwa, there was no Music of course, but I remember that the Song Deep Horrors was used for a specific chapter (Which was also my favorite chapter).
Overall, I basically have a Love Hate Relationship for it. Personally, my favorite season was the first one due to the Mind Games which is why I guess part of the reason why I'm giving it the lowest rating. First of all, many things were left unexplained till the end. Then there were characters who were forgotten for a majority of the Manwha (Seungbae for example, and another one). Many Rape Scenes felt like "Sexual Abuse Porn" for the Fujoshis. It also felt like that the Author was contracting herself for what she was actually going for, as some of the Special Chapters felt like Fanservice for the toxic Shippers, trying to put Sangwoo in a different light. And it's not just Koogi, but the fans as well. Best example is when Bum's Grandma is trying to excuse Bum's Uncle disturbing abuse on Bum, because the Uncle had a sad past. Koogi was literally pointing at all the Readers and Shippers that a sad past is no excuse for Sangwoo's crimes and abuse on Bum, but they all were either too delusional to catch that, or didn't give a shit. I think the Manhwa was special, but not only got worse with each season, but also had the wrong fanbase, unfortunately. I really wish that I could have given it a better rating because it was one hell of a complicated ride, but there were too many things that bothered me over time.
Story: Boring. The fact that it has 3 seasons is still a wonder. Everything could have been wrapped up in one season.
Art: Disturbing. The Author didn't need to shove rape scenes into my faces which only Fujoshis would enjoy. Yikes.
Character: Sangwoo deserves to rot in hell, Seungbae was right since the beginning and Bum deserved a better ending.
Enjoyment: Nothing to enjoy here.
Overall: Overrated and disgusting. Feels like the kink of a sick mind. If the Author actually gave 2 fucks about the characters or justice then Sangwoo would've gotten in jail and rot in there, Seungbae would have caught him way earlier and Bum would
have gotten into a mental hospital to get over all the trauma he has because of his parents death, and the abuse of his uncle, the guys in military and sangwoo.
I remember hearing about Killing Stalking for the first time from a friend who was obsessed with romance yaoi manga ... I did my research the next day and there it was.What an interesting manhwa i said to myself..
I don't read yaoi,but i found this one very different and interesting from any manhwa or yaoi stories out there.
So now we have Killing Stalking, a very twisted story about YoonBum,a boy who likes another boy and stalks him on social media. At least that's how the story starts.It gets fucked up very soon and you get to see how the toxic but
addicting relationship between these two are. I really enjoyed the story,it's a rollercoaster of emotions and it's making you feel either sad or scared through the pages.
The ending made me really emotional.I wouldn't ship their relationship of course, but somehow the Author really made me feel like i was in Yoonbums head when he got the ashes-heard from the grandma that he was screaming bums name-when he had flashbacks of him, i got really upset about all this..
Very nice art style..I feel like the art was changing through and i really liked that.I also like the fact that they used specific tones of colours which put you into a specific mood too(like when things go dangerous ,some red tones drop and not only)The character art is also great,i loved their characteristics,their faces,and their eyes(!) they really showed emotion.
eeek! i love the characters.. bum is a typical antisocial boy with sad eyes who stalks his crush,Sangwoo,a hot tall man..who is also a psycho and a serial killer...what else can i say? There is gore, sex, murder, and some fucked up themes surrounding those too as well,the characters, their development, and their relationship are for sure the winning point of Killing Stalking.
i did enjoy this manga a lot.. and i finished the full manga in 5 months.. and it was worth paying for it.. thanks Koogi!
I liked it! i really did liked it,the story,the art,character development,everything was on point.. if i had to say something bad about this manhwa it would be the ending only..that's why i gave it a 9.. but aside from that the whole manga was a great experience. it's sad to think that a lot of people see the yaoi tag and automatically turn away,and lose interest as if this is a violent gay torture porn.Cause really if you read the story you're gonna change your mind.
(DO NOT READ IF YOU'RE NOT INTO DARK THEMES THO)
I think the thing that makes me the most sad, is that... no one will ever know what these two went through. The trauma they experienced, and the physical and mental abuse that made them who they were. That is what gets to me the most. Their stories are lost, and no one will ever be the wiser. On one hand, Sangwoo got what he deserved, but on another, I feel... so bad for him. Then there's Bum... that hit me hardest. I wanted his life to turn around for the better, at least. This ending was so sad.
Also, I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but... Sangwoo died the same way his mother tried to kill him as a child... smothered by a pillow. That realization hurt, a lot.
But aside from that..for all of you who feel sad, Bum is with Sangwoo now. Though he didn't mean to, he fulfilled his promise to him.
"If I die first, I want you to die, too. If you fail, just keep trying. Don't let me down. Ever."