As someone who loves reading webtoons, the one thing I appreciate is well-written characters that don’t fall into traditional roles of good and bad. This is exactly why manga like Monster do so well. And today, we’ll be taking a look at another main lead with a tortured past: Cha Hyun Soo.
Welcome to Character Analysis – the section where take a look at some of the most trending characters in the Otaku stratosphere and break their roles down to examine what makes them tick. After all, the best characters are always multi-faceted ones. It’s the struggling survivor doing unquestionable things from a sense of purpose. Or my favorite, the villain who believes themselves to be the hero.
Sweet Home is the popular webtoon written by Kim Carnby, with Hwang Young-Chan in charge of the illustrations. With its dark environment and serious thriller vibes, it’s no wonder it reached the heights it did. It even resulted in a well-received live-action adaptation. And the webtoon itself also got a prequel series by the name of Shotgun Boy, that looked at the events that lead to the ‘monsterization’ apocalypse.
And the nature of the webtoon is exactly why its protagonist, Cha Hyun Soo, is so interesting to break down. His motivations, which lead him to become the very monster that hunted him, are such an intriguing turn of events to look into. And that’s why today, we will be discussing Hyun Soo.
Table of Contents
Cruel Intentions; Crueler Outcomes:
The premise of Sweet Home is very different from other webtoons. I mean, of course, it is, this isn’t a romance after all. But even the conflict that drives this story along, that being the apocalypse that transforms people into grotesque monsters, isn’t like any ‘Zombie’ or ‘end-of-the-world’ cliché.
The monsters were normal humans, who were afflicted by a strange disease and had their bodies transform into the creatures that echoed their deepest, darkest desires. Their souls are still there, stuck in a dream-like state where they are happy, reunited one the ones they love. It’s almost as if they get their secret wishes granted but at the cost of losing all humanity in real life.
In a way, it’s painful how this ‘monsterization’ was, in a way, made to salvage humanity. Somebody went out of their way to create this monstrosity out of some misguided notion of helping humans, saving them even. But in the end, it’s just causing more destruction, taking away people’s inhibitions at the cost of a false paradise that doesn’t exist.
Cha Hyun Soo’s Past Reveals His Future
At the beginning of the webtoon, Cha Hyun Soo is a shut-in but that wasn’t always so. He has a normal childhood, a good family, and a bright future to look forward to. And then the bullying happens, leading to events that made him spiral into anxiety and despair. And just when it felt like it couldn’t get worse, he loses his family to a traumatic accident.
Even at their funeral all he can do is vent how bitter he feels when really, it’s a lot worse than that. He had decided that he wasn’t going to live after October 25th, moving into a rinky-dink apartment complex to count his days.
When the events of the apocalypse unfold, he finds himself facing the monsters with the neighbors that survived the initial wave. But it is in this hopeless situation, that he finally finds the will to live.
Cha Hyun Soo: How A Mutilated Monster Stands In For Trauma
It isn’t new to have a protagonist turn into the very monster they are hunting. It’s a pretty popular trope, the misguided tortured hero. But it’s especially pronounced here. His descent into monsterhood is slow, clearly being affected by his trauma and how he deigns to hope in circumstances so dire. Which is a far cry from the Hyun Soo we were introduced to, jaded and suicidal.
But the most telling attribute is how his monster form is that of a knight, a protector. Sure, it’s partially inspired by the show he liked, called Maria In The Sky. But there’s also something deeper there. During this apocalypse, he meets people, a found family that he wants to help. He finds a purpose to hold on and live just a little longer.
This is powerful; it’s what gives him the abilities of his monster form while letting him keep some of his humanity conscious and awake. Even when his Inner Monster goads him, and tries to make him lose control he resists. And channels that into control, to protect his companions from the monsters lurking in Green Roof Apartments.
So yes, Cha Hyun Soo becomes a monster by the end of Sweet Home. But it’s more complicated than that. It’s his trauma that ends up giving him power over the situation he is in. And if that isn’t a metaphor for rising above, I don’t know what it is.