“A Shoulder to Cry On: A Mellowing Tale with Lingering Darkness” by Dongmul

2022 has been the year of webtoon adaptations. Starting from Semantic Error which broke the internet to Cherry Blossom After Winter, the bar has been set too high. Another webtoon adaption, A Shoulder to Cry On, will make its way to the screens soon and today we bring you its webtoon review. Written and illustrated by Dongmul, A Shoulder to Cry On is a coming-of-age story of two boys trying to deal with life. You can read the story officially on Lezhin.

Dayeol is lying in the nurse’s office one day when he hears two guys fooling around in the bed next to him. Before he could realise what was happening the nurse walks in and he accidentally knocks over the curtain rod separating the two beds. The next moment, one of the two guys, Taehyun, starts crying and accuses Dayeol of sexual harassment. Before Dayeol can even correct the misunderstanding, it is already too late. His archery scholarship is in jeopardy. All the teachers start treating him like a predator. He is almost on the verge of losing everything when none other Taehyun swoops in and gives a statement in his favour. Left utterly confused and with raging anger, Dayeol thinks it is best to just endure everything and live the rest of his school life focussing on his career as an archer. Until he finds Taehyun attached to him like a leech. On top of that, Taehyun, who is also irritatingly handsome, shows no remorse for his actions. Now angry for entirely new reasons, Dayeol’s emotions are all over the place. Does he like Taehyun or does he despise him or is it both?

A Shoulder to Cry On is not a love story, far from it. It is a story of two characters who are trying to make meaning of the life they are living. The story is very well written and the characters are very well developed. Their actions have a meaning. But at the end of the day, they are just two kids who want a shoulder to cry on. It cannot exactly be said that they found their home in each other, both of them bring out the worst and the best in each other. But also, nobody understood them better than they understood each other. It is also not lighthearted. There is always a grim feeling, like a melancholy which keeps following the characters, or maybe just Taehyun.

Taehyun is not a very likeable character. But he is very realistic. He is not to be taken at face value. Sometimes he acts like a prick, sometimes he does not; always wearing a smirk to cover up the pain behind his eyes, hiding the pain he does not want to deal with. His past is filled with trauma, the trauma he suppressed to the point that now he does not feel any emotion; or maybe he does and does not want to acknowledge them. It was exhausting to watch him. He has friends, but he is so good at hiding everything that nobody realises the things that he is dealing with. But, most of the time, he is not aware of what he is feeling. He had no one he could talk to about those feelings, nobody to understand him, nobody to tell him that it is alright and that whatever happened was not his fault. You know, a shoulder to cry on. So instead of dealing with his emotions, he refuses their mere existence. But his character just made its way into my heart. A soft corner which I did not know I could offer. So let me phrase it better; for me Taehyun was the best character. The reality he presents is the reality that can be understood. More times than I can count, I have tried to run away from painful memories. Suppressing them, not wanting to talk about them and then doing something to exhaust myself. It is a defense mechanism, as given by Sigmund Freud. The lingering darkness that his character has is evidence that he could break apart at any time. Except, he does not. He knows that if he acknowledges these complicated feelings, he will break apart and there would be no one to pick him up. There would be no one to collect the pieces and fill the cracks. So he hides his pain behind his teasing smile. Until he meets Dayeol, who is the first person to witness that his smile has cracked. That is why his dialogue, “If I apologise to you, can I keep talking to you?” breaks my heart.

Dayeol’s life turns upside down when he meets Taehyun. He should hate him, but he just cannot bring himself to. At first, he thinks it is something like Stockholm syndrome. Falling in love with your captor, who gives you nothing but pain. But there were no captives. I read a review where the writer said that the readers mirror the feelings of Dayeol while he slowly gets to know Taehyun. I agree with her. His hatred, his fear, his attraction and his love. I could feel everything that Dayeol was felt for Taehyun. He was scared because Taehyun is so unpredictable and does things which can potentially harm him and all the others for no reason. He shows no remorse for his actions. He has no empathy. But he is damaged, and Dayeol realises that makes it easier for him to deal with Taehyun. Once he could get past the “why does he do this?” phase, does he realise that behind that persona, Taehyun is just a scared boy who wants somebody to care for him. Dayeol is just as scared, though. Realising that what he spent his entire life doing is not something he is good at, talking about it with his father, losing his scholarship and then trying to find his calling. His life is not easy on its own, but he never abandons Taehyun. That does not mean he did not want to, though. Every time he gets closer to Taehyun, his insides would scream at him to run away, but he would stick around.

All in all, it is a sophisticated story, written in a mature way. A very realistic story about finding your person, finding your “shoulder”. Not just romantically, but the first person who understands you and lets you heal; makes you realise that the past is not your fault. And then waits patiently, for you so that when you heal they can get to be with you. The real you who does not do things aimlessly, even if it means dealing with the awkwardness of dating a friend.

Rating- 4.5 out of 5

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