I.N.V.U., Vol. 5 | By Kim Kang Won | Published by TOKYOPOP | Rated T (13+) – After the unfortunate ramen incident involving Rea’s “borrowed” designer dress, things come to a head for her at home when Youngjun unknowingly outs her as an aspiring model to her family. Rejected by her father for her ambitions, she loses her home but unexpectedly gains an opportunity in the fashion business. Meanwhile, Sey is finally warming up to Siho (though not quickly enough to satisfy him) and Jae Eun’s crush on pastry chef Simon may not be a lost cause after all! This volume’s heavy drama, however, comes when a well-meaning neighbor shares one of Hali’s magazine spreads with Hali’s mother, forcing her to temporarily face the reality of her son’s death. This reality check sends her into a fit of violence against Hali, sending Hali straight into the arms of her teacher and reluctant suitor, Hajun.
I.N.V.U. is unapologetically soapy and certainly over-the-top, but this volume strikes an unusually nice balance between soap opera drama and real inspiration by putting Rea in the spotlight and giving her a genuinely realistic job in the fashion business—something that could easily lead her towards a satisfying career. Though the drama with Hali and Hajun is given more page time, it is Rea’s fortune that drives this volume, lending it some real (and unexpected) sparkle. It helps, too, that even the endless Hali/Hajun angst is forced to actually move forward, thanks to some serious manipulation on the part of Hajun’s conniving fiancée. That Hajun reacts to these manipulative moves with more maturity than he’s shown in the previous four volumes combined is a real bonus as well. Fans of boys’ love will appreciate Jae Eun’s subplot in this volume, too, as Simon makes a special request for future versions of his donginji boyfriend.
Five volumes in (and after a second multi-year break) I.N.V.U. seems to finally be hitting its stride. Here’s hoping the pace will pick up for publication as well!