There will be spoilers for the manhwa series May Belongs to Me.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to rape, captivity/imprisonment, drugging, kidnapping, domestic abuse, child neglect, child abuse, alcoholism, stalking, dubious consent (dubcon), homelessness, animal abuse, animal death, blood, and violence as it appears in the manhwa.
May has terrible taste in men. His latest boyfriend tended to hit him whenever he was upset, then blamed May for “liking it.” May is pretty quick to leave when things go sour, but due to his homeless status, he's quick to get with the next man for a place to stay. He's already got Youngjin, a kind bar owner, in his sights when his abusive boyfriend comes back one evening since he's also an employee at the bar. The ex-boyfriend attacks May, choking him, but just before May passes out, a mysterious man appears and takes care of the ex before stealing away May in the middle of the night.
When May wakes, he finds him naked, in bed, in an unfamiliar, stark white bedroom. While that is strange enough on its own, he also finds a collar locked around his neck, connected to a chain. May has been in some shitty situations before, but this takes the cake. While trying to determine if this is an ex or just a psychopath, May meets his captor: Jooin. While Jooin doesn't seem like some fanatical psychopath, he also doesn't seem like one of May's exes, but Jooin acts like they know each other.
Jooin is kind and sweet (besides being a kidnapper, of course), but he has the odd inclination to treat May as if he were a cat. He feeds him cat treats, buys him cat toys… and he wants to neuter May? What is going on? Who is this guy?
Toxic, toxic, toxic. This story is about two neglected and abused individuals who find solace in each other during their childhood before being forcibly separated. They then come back together only to reaffirm that toxic dependency on each other. Don't get me wrong, I like this one, but I want to clarify that this isn't a sweet and fluffy romance. This has all that Stockholm syndrome, stalking = love goodness my toxic side desires. This is short but dark, with a male lead that expresses his love through stalking, obsession, and kidnapping and a main character that associates sex with love and is all too happy to accept stalking as a love language. If you want fluffy love and light, run now. Otherwise, let's get on with the rest of the review.
For me, the best part of this is how cat-like May is, which is the crux of this story. His facial features and overall personality are cat-like, which goes beyond a simple archetype. It adds an additional dark layer to the story when the foundation of Jooin and May's relationship is based on the co-ownership of a cat from their childhood. Jooin named it May (because of the month he found it in), and May called it Shadow (for clarity, I will refer to the cat as Shadow). Both names are symbolic in that Jooin longs to be with May, love him, and feel loved in return, while May unknowingly lives in the shadow of this pet because he longs to be wanted and loved by Jooin.
This is only further solidified after May declares, as a child, that he can replace Shadow for Jooin. Shadow is May, at least to Jooin, and May is the one who put that in his mind. I love May's realization when he recalls telling Jooin that he is still there, though Shadow had died, to don the collar. I also like that Jooin feeding May cat treats ended up getting explained because Jooin didn't actually see May as Shadow, but instead, as children, May really liked eating those cat treats. It helped ground some of Jooin's strange behavior in reality but not fully explaining away his psychopathic tendencies.
Now, I've been doing a lot of praising, especially on the story structure and how the relationship between Shadow and the two boys reflects their own wants and needs with each other. However, that doesn't mean there aren't significant flaws. I think May's actions make the most sense based on his background. Jooin, however, feels less grounded in that regard, especially his weird obsession with neutering May. I totally get that he doesn't want May to have sex with anyone else, but it is an odd step beyond and doesn't make much sense when Jooin admits he doesn't actually see May as a cat.
I was just getting ready to finish up this review when I realized I hadn't mentioned the art at all. The art is nice. It isn't always the most consistent, with the face shapes going a bit wonky sometimes, but it is pretty enough. Plus, let's face it, the smut is most important here, and it is beautiful, haha.
This concise series ends at 29 episodes, including the side stories. It's fairly dark for this short of a series; again, this is not your fluffy romance. I think that's what I like the best about it, though. It's not all that sweet, it's smutty, and it has decent writing for being so short. It doesn't get much better than that. Is it a favorite of mine? Probably not, but it's one I'll probably read from time to time just to relive the toxic goodness.
Have you read May Belongs to Me? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!