You may wish to get in some siege rations and clear your schedule for a couple of days if you want to read this…
Ding Jiayu is crazy about photography. She is absolutely determined to become a world famous photographer and surpass her idol and (in her eyes) nemesis Yung Jo. Naturally, when a position as one of Young Jo’s assistants comes up, she grabs it. However, Jo famously never allows women to work in his studio – so to achieve her dream Jiayu must pretend to be a guy?! Sure enough, hilarity, heartbreak and love triangles ensue.
I don’t generally re-read series that I’ve read online. I’ve read Ingenuo twice since finishing it the first time. It’s irritatingly compulsive reading. As shoujo goes, it seems like a predictable scenario enough – however Ryan has done his readers a huge favour by not giving them the classic passive, cute and (let’s face it) mildly irritating heroine; Jiayu is a frank, tenacious and likeable character that a lot of people can relate to, (I particularly related to her obsession with food and eating) – an active protagonist that goes out and does things for herself, instead of waiting for other characters to push her in the right direction. I’m also extremely fond of the cast of supporting characters that are not only comic relief, but also a meaningful part of the plot; the “Best Supporting Character” award has to go to Lulu.
As far as the artwork is concerned, initially I wasn’t keen. Then it grew on me as the story progressed and the drawings improved. Whilst it’s not as obviously beautiful as, say, Masca or The One – it is oddly mesmerising, to the point where you are reading for the artwork just as much as the (highly compelling) story. I remember the first time I read it, it was impossible for me to do any drawing of my own for a while because I’d blink and see Ryan’s in front of me.
I absolutely adored the central couple’s chemistry and the unconventional progression of their story, – my only criticim would be that there is some unnecessary subplotting going on in the last couple of volumes, one suspects to bulk it up a bit. So on those grounds, a 4.95 out of 5. There is a sequel called Steel Rose, that follows Jiayu’s friend Le Ting – and Lulu’s attempts to woo her, but I would suggest avoiding it if you want to preserve the image of brilliance from Ingenuo. For some reason Ryan’s artwork changes almost beyong all recognition and every looks like ugly aliens with oddly flat hair and overplucked eyebrows. Stay tuned folks!