There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Breathing the Same Air.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to pseudo-incest, homomisia, divorce, cheating, violence, chronic illness, kink-shaming, compensated dating/escorting, sex work, prejudice, assault, blood, criminal or gang activity, forced regurgitation, excessive drinking, slut-shaming, invasion of privacy, bullying, harassment, obsession, drugging, and sexism (toxic masculinity), as it appears in the manhwa.
Haeshin lives alone, and he prefers it that way. Having grown up being raised by a womanizing single father, Haeshin was used to people coming in and out of his life on a whim, and rather than deal with the same thing in his adulthood, Haeshin would prefer the solace of singledom. This also befits his sexual preference for solo anal stimulation, which he does frequently just before bed to ensure he gets a good night's rest. Unfortunately, his peaceful, homebody lifestyle ends when his former stepbrother comes to live with him.
Haeshin never wanted to live with Sangheon, but after his father, who still pays part of his rent, comes to Haeshin with Sangheon's mother in tow, Haeshin can't help but enthusiastically agree. It probably wouldn't be such a bad living arrangement if Sangheon and Haeshin didn't hate each other due to their strained relationship as children. It's even worse as adults, with Sangheon being messy, a smoker, and prone to destruction, which is entirely counter to Haeshin. Will Haeshin be able to regain his peace, or will he be stuck fighting against Sangheon for the rest of his life?
I very much dislike this art style. It's super inconsistent, the body proportions are wild, and the designs are just generally unattractive. As with most inconsistent styles, there are times when it can look nice, but those are few and far between. I honestly found myself laughing when our main characters kept commenting on how attractive they found each other, only for the visuals of them being attractive were still not all that good-looking. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I wouldn't say this is terrible. It definitely gets better by the end, but it is still most certainly not my style at all.
Usually, even if the art isn't my favorite, the story or characters can save it. Unfortunately, this is a loss here, as well. Both of our main characters are assholes, though one is clearly more of an asshole than the other. Sangheon is a complete jerk for so many reasons, and I despise that he is the lead for this series. He beats random people on the street because they remind him of Haeshin, destroys Haeshin's house just because he can, and then stalks and harasses Haeshin just because he enjoys anal stimulation. I'm all for a red flag redemption story (and some of my favorite tops are the reddest of the red), but Sangheon feels irredeemable to me, partly due to the length of the story, which is far too short for the redemption he needs. His shift from complete and utter ass to this fluffy tsundere just doesn't feel realistic to me, especially when he is set up as such a jerk from the very beginning.
However, I will say that I like the development of their hateful, antagonistic relationship to a more loving one. While it is unbelievable, seeing Sangheon be a bratty dog type is pretty cute and a combination I don't see often. Haeshin is a judgemental ass in his own right, but from the very beginning, he is very much the mother hen type, doting on Sangheon equally as much as he nags at him. This transition in their relationship is really sweet and creates a nice dynamic between two very counter personalities. That just makes it all the more disappointing when it dissolves again due to hateful Sangheon returning to his violent and cruel self simply because Haeshin confesses to being gay. I understand Sangheon might be going through some existential crisis of his own, finding himself attracted to Haeshin and finding out there could be a mutual attraction. Still, these steps backward in his personality make it utterly impossible for any redemption by the time the story ends. The rest of their relationship also ends up being just full of physical violence from both sides, which just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I've been extremely critical of this title, rightfully so, in my opinion, but I want to end the main review on a positive note. I do like the push and pull of their relationship. I like how fluffy and sweet Sangheon can be and how forward he is in his affections with Haeshin despite his initial fear of being gay. I also like that Haeshin, though often cruel and violent, still holds his own even after getting into a relationship with Sangheon. He still calls him out and shares his feelings, which I appreciate. I also love that they tried to drug each other. It's completely nonsensical and ethically wrong on so many levels, but I admittedly found it funny how they both attempted to drug the other to force the other's feelings out. I don't think any of these points saved this story for me, but I appreciated their presence nonetheless.
This is a miss for me. I have plenty of toxic relationships that I still love. I mean, this is fiction. I'm not here to police fiction for morality, but I do want to share my thoughts and preferences honestly with those who might be concerned with similar content. I hate that these two continue to physically abuse each other all the way up until the very end, and I hate that any redemption that might have been had for either of them is cut off because of the length of the work. It feels like so much is missing that might have benefited the development of this relationship, but we're stuck with them both settling for each other, and it doesn't feel good.
Have you read Breathing the Same Air? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!