Well, it came sooner rather than later, but I have my first dropped series this Summer. Not this title, but the title I had before it: Noramimi. But this isn’t about Noramimi, which was bland altogether. Nineteen, Twenty-One is a story that’s bland on its faults.
In all sincerity, there actually isn’t much to say about this manga (manhwa). It’s short and to the point. It doesn’t try to dilly-dally too much in its own gratuitous filth. It’s a feel good story that’s genuinely good feeling. Its positives are nothing spectacular, but neither are its faults. The two sides work together to make an appropriately average story, with a tender heart at its core.
I feel I need to address a key point before I continue. This story is about finding yourself. Sounds cliche, right? You’re right. It is. Every cliche you’ll find involving a girl meets boy scenario and the events that unfold because of it are present in this pseudo-shoujo debacle. I say pseudo-shoujo because this story doesn’t really come across as “Shoujo” to me. It feels more like Seinen, only the main perspective is through a female. Even so, there isn’t a whole lot of insight that really justifies a specific gender. The things that she thinks about and how she thinks about them aren’t really any different from the things I find from a male’s perspective. But this isn’t really anything more than playful pondering. Moving on….
Nineteen, Twenty-One focuses on Yun-lee, or “Nuna,” a girl who was involved in a traffic accident (which is never fully explained) that cut out the period of time between her nineteenth and twenty-first birthdays. Because of this, she tries to partake in something eventful to fulfill her desire to relive the lost period of time from when she was still recovering from the accident. This comes in the form of Dong-hwi, a nineteen year-old boy who’s living his life carefree for the next year before he becomes an “adult.” They meet by chance, grow together through their love of cats, and eventually create an inseparable bond. Yay! Cliches!
It’s important to remember the paragraph above, because the first flaw of this manga is that it almost never brings it up. Disregarding the fact that her accident is never fully explained, Nuna hardly brings up that lost period of time outside the first six chapters. It almost feels like the main plot of this story was simply a placeholder for what the author really wanted to do: bring two people together based on their pasts. Speaking of pasts, by the very end of Nineteen, Twenty-One, we still know next to nothing about Dong-hwi outside of what’s shown of him on the surface. Sure, he has insecurities about his infatuation for Nuna and “is kind and always will be kind,” but is there anything else to him? He isn’t a very strong character on his own. Neither is Nuna, or any character in this story, for that matter. At least they have chemistry when they’re together.
The second flaw of the story isn’t really a flaw at all. Nineteen, Twenty-One simply doesn’t take risks. It’s a very well-rounded story that progresses based on all other similar stories before it. Predictable would be a term that could fit this story like a tube top on a flag pole. There aren’t many surprises or any gimmicks to keep someone’s attention. It’s just a general story told through realistic expectations and a few key chance encounters. It has the standard amount of character growth, along with a questionable lack of conflict, that makes the story feel rather lax. It’s somewhat like a tie-in to Dong-hwi’s overall personality.
The only thing worth mentioning about Nineteen, Twenty-One’s story is its handling of perspective. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s something I don’t see too often in stories regarding two opposing sides. To see both viewpoints on one argument portrayed as beneficial and harmful is a very relieving sight. It makes thinking about the decisions one makes all the more complex and impactful. It helped me to immerse myself in the situation at hand, even if it didn’t do much for the characters that were making the decisions.
Like everything else, the story’s art doesn’t stand out. There are typical shots, beauty shots, insightful shots, comedic shots, and any other shots one can imagine in a calm-esque story such as this. The expressions won’t leave the reader wanting more, but it looks like enough effort was put into it to leave an impression. The scenery may be Nineteen, Twenty-One’s strong point, which includes the backgrounds, structures, and cats. It really suited the atmosphere of the story’s serene plot. And the cats looked absolutely adorable, if I say so myself. Then again, anything cat related is enough to get me on board with something. I like cats.
Disclaimer: the involvement of cats in this story had very little effect on my overall rating. I promise.
It doesn’t tug on your heart strings; it caresses them. It doesn’t meet your fancy; it converses with it via chatroom. Nineteen, Twenty-One won’t wow you with its story-telling, or its characters, or its art, or its cats. However, there’s enough there for you to at least acknowledge what happens. In most regards, this story is forgettable. It doesn’t have that certain appeal or “it factor” that separates it from other stories like it. For what it’s worth, it’s a decent read. And it’s short, so there was never much time for it to do anything more than what it’s already become. Good stories take time to develop. Nineteen, Twenty-One wasn’t blessed with time. Thankfully, it made due with what it was allowed, and I won’t complain about that.
Personal Score: C+
Critical Score: C