Flowers of Evil (Manhwa) Review


Plot: Seh-Joon and Seh-Wah are extremely close twins. So close, in fact, that they’ve developed a bit of a romantic relationship. When their closeness catches the attention of their classmates and people start suspecting that they are more than close siblings, Seh-Joon panics and essentially cuts off all physical and emotional closeness with his sister. Devastated, Seh-Wah tries her best to get him back, but Seh-Joon will have none of it and tells her to find other friends or a boyfriend to focus her attention on. While Seh-Wah is not interested in the least to be with anyone besides her brother, she finds herself slowly getting closer to their old childhood friend, Sung-Chan, who has renamed himself to Gi-Hoon. But the fire of this love is far from snuffed out, and everyone’s set to burn in the flames.

Breakdown: I swear I didn’t plan a damn near back-to-back incest feature in here.

This is a highly praised and rated manhwa from Lee Hyeon-Sook, but I gotta admit, as much as I got into following this series, I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as most people seemed to.

I know this series is called Flowers of Evil, but there is a significant lack of people you end up truly caring about. Everyone in this series is seemingly an asswad at some point in time or just as a whole. Oddly, the most unlikable character through much of the series, Seh-Wah, and her creepy dependence on her brother and simultaneous cold demeanor towards others, ended up growing the most in her learning to let go of Seh-Joon, though not entirely, as time went on. I can’t say I grew to fully like her, especially since she kept flip flopping between moving on and clinging to every bit of affection Seh-Joon threw out, but she was one of the higher ones on the list.

Sung-Chan comes off as creepy several times over the course of the series, though some of his creepier actions are more understandable when his story is explored near the end.

Even Seh-Wah and Seh-Joon’s father has a moment where you think he’s a complete douche. The story doesn’t make it clear, but he may have let a small boy die or purposely killed him for the sake of giving one of his organs to his kid.

Seh-Joon is the one who comes off the worst here, and as time goes on you can pretty much tell that it’s supposed to be that way. However, like Seh-Wah, it becomes incredibly irritating when he flip-flops back and forth between pushing Seh-Wah away, almost cruelly in some instances, and reeling her back in again.

For example, he invites his girlfriend over so they can make out in front of Seh-Wah and seemingly bring her into his room to have sex. When Seh-Wah has a massive mental breakdown at this, he shoos his girlfriend away. Essentially, he used her to mock Seh-Wah and push her away even more even though Seh-Wah, at this point, was already breaking away and moving on with Sung-Chan.

While I get that he’s just jealous, it’s also very annoying when he gets pissed at Seh-Wah for so much as being slight friends with Sung-Chan when he picks up a new girlfriend immediately after cutting Seh-Wah almost entirely out of his life.

Another weak part of this series is that, despite being built around the strong love the two have for each other, we never really learn why Seh-Joon and Seh-Wah love each other so much. Basically, Seh-Wah just says and acts like she’s hung on everything Seh-Joon has said and done throughout their lives, while Seh-Joon might be so close to her because he fell in love with her shortly after she fell ill as a child. Their interests are never well-explored except Seh-Wah has a love of horror movies and literature, and both are pretty stone-faced and overall expressionless throughout much of the series. It keeps telling you that they’re in love, and they say pretty things to each other while showing physical affection, but we never get a good understanding as to what it is about the other that they love so much.

Sung-Chan brought up a very good point that Seh-Wah is likely confusing sibling possessiveness for romantic love, and Seh-Joon is probably doing the same considering that this seems to have started after Seh-Wah fell ill. His fear of losing her may have culminated in a possessiveness and protectiveness of her that he himself is confusing for romantic love or has mutated that way.

Seh-Wah offers a theory to Seh-Joon and states that some people believe male-female fraternal twins are the spirits of lovers reincarnated. She expresses this as a beautiful and romantic theory, but Seh-Joon points out the very obvious downside of this as lovers being unable to be together in their next life since it’s taboo for siblings to be romantically involved.

Oddly, the two other pairings in this series were more interesting in regards to connection and development than Seh-Wah and Seh-Joon. After he cuts Seh-Wah off, Seh-Joon hooks up with a girl who has been vying for his affections for some time, Su-In. At first, they seem to legitimately care about each other, even seemingly hooking up a little before the whole ‘Incest is icky!?’ revelation Seh-Joon has, and he does try to get her back when he goes too far in his frustration with his relationship to her affecting his relationship to Seh-Wah, but there are several aspects of it that show signs of a relationship that would never work.

Su-In seems to be at Seh-Joon’s beck and call, even allowing her grades to drop significantly due to how much attention she’s putting on her relationship. I don’t know entirely why. She really seems like a sensible girl yet she’s letting herself be yo-yo’d by Seh-Joon and is also trying to monopolize her own attention by being with him as much as possible. Really seems like she was being set up to be one of those cautionary tales of smart girls who have a bright future then throw it away for some guy.

While she does seem to really care for him, his caring for her seems lukewarm at best throughout the series to the point where it becomes obvious that the whole thing is just meant to be a barrier between him and Seh-Wah. He treats her like a tool several times and I was almost disgusted that he tried to get her back after slipping up and venting on her like that. Yeah, I’m sure any girl would love to take back a guy who described sleeping with her as “sickening” and something he’d never want to do again.

The other relationship at focus here is Sung-Chan and Seh-Wah. At first, Seh-Wah really doesn’t give a crap in a can about Sung-Chan, even forgetting that they used to be childhood friends. Slowly but surely, Sung-Chan is able to crack through Seh-Wah’s hard outer shell and catch some glimpses of her human side.

Likewise, this relationship helped Seh-Wah grow as a person and break away from her reliance on her brother. While Seh-Joon’s actions were still bothering her throughout the entirety of the book, she was able to deal with it better as she grew closer to Sung-Chan. I really liked their relationship and wished that the story had gone the way of the twins actually learning to let go of their attraction and attachment to each other while finding love elsewhere.

Now, one could argue that this isn’t really a story of love but of obsession and possessiveness masquerading as love, as we explored before. However, while that is definitely a factor, there is still some stock to Seh-Joon legitimately being in love with Seh-Wah.

He greatly fears them being unable to be together at all if anyone saw them being romantic with each other, which is why he starts this whole separation thing to begin with. He still keeps tabs on Seh-Wah and protects her from a distance, but completely bars them from even being a little close. And yes, it apparently took him until he was 16 to realize that being in a romantic relationship with your sister is not socially acceptable and is a religious taboo. Also, he’s Catholic, so we get the weight of his sins being the forefront here several times.

Another moment pointing to Seh-Joon’s legit love of Seh-Wah is when Seh-Wah tells him the story of a boy who was loved by all and one day he fell in love with a woman. The woman couldn’t betray her husband, so she left the boy. The question left by the story is whether it’s preferable to be loved by all or by one. Seh-Joon says his answer is simple, he’d be loved by one. However, he states that would be impossible. It’s implied that he believes this to be impossible because the only one he truly loves is Seh-Wah, and they could never really be together.

Also, there’s more indication that maybe Seh-Wah wasn’t in love with Seh-Joon anymore by the end or maybe at all when she seeks out help from Sung-Chan in her time of need instead of looking to Seh-Joon like she normally would.

Now for some ending spoilers.

While you could say it was a complete accident that Seh-Wah died at the end, I feel like that’s a bit too easy. Of all people, why would Seh-Joon be the one to forget that Seh-Wah needs to take medication on a daily basis? Medication that keeps her alive? Seh-Wah had a heart condition when she was a child and she needed a heart transplant. However, the transplant gets attacked by her immune system if left unchecked, so she takes medication to combat it. Seh-Joon took her to live in the woods with no medication for several days, maybe weeks, and didn’t think to even try to get some?

Keep in mind, the reason that Seh-Joon was so attached to Seh-Wah was because he was traumatized by her illness as a child. Thinking she might die at any moment and being physically separated for months at a time, he became insanely protective and possessive of her. You’d think that would be the best reminder ever that she needs to be diligent with her medication. And hell, he takes similar medication because he also had that same heart condition, albeit much milder.

I almost want to say that he planned this and wanted Seh-Wah to die so he could kill himself and they’d be together forever in the afterlife, but I also have to take into consideration that Seh-Wah herself never said a damn thing about her meds either. So I guess I just have to chalk this whole thing up to bad writing.

It’s especially weird when Seh-Joon says her passing was God’s way of punishing them for sleeping together and giving into their forbidden love. She never would’ve died had they just taken some medicine from home before leaving. Their parents were probably at work when they decided to run away, so they had plenty of time to get that life saving medication from home. Hell, their dad is a doctor so he probably had a big stash of those handy. This whole thing is dumb.

That being said, I do like how they wrapped up Sung-Chan and Seh-Wah’s story. Like I said, she reached out to him in her time of need, which, ironically enough, was her feeling trapped and scared by Seh-Joon whisking her away to their grandparents old house for who knows how long. She tried to text him but he couldn’t answer because he was in a coma after Seh-Joon tried to beat him to death with a rock. When he saw that Seh-Wah’s last actions were trying to reach out to him one more time, it proved to him that she may have finally been thinking of him over Seh-Joon, though Sung-Chan could, sadly, do nothing to help her.

Seh-Joon killing himself at the end was probably the only way to go with that, and it is realistic considering how obsessed he was with Seh-Wah and how much pain he was in when they were apart. Though I do find it odd that Seh-Joon was never arrested for nearly murdering Sung-Chan. At the very least, he conceded something to Sung-Chan in the end by giving him Seh-Wah’s phone.

End of ending spoilers.

I suppose the last thing I really have to address is the actual aspect of the incest angle. I’ve seen several manga and anime with incest being one of the main points of the plot, because it’s just a thing apparently, with the most infuriating, to date anyway, being the recently reviewed Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wa Suru. Like this manhwa, that anime had a very possessive and creepy male sibling struggling to restrain his feelings for the sake of maintaining an illusion of normalcy and avoid the harsh stigma of social judgment.

Unlike this series, however, the sister in that situation seemed forced into the romance. Like this series, it could be that she tricked herself into believing she had a romantic love for her brother when it was being confused for sibling possessiveness. However, Seh-Wah seems a lot more willing in this relationship than Iku was.

Unlike this series, BwInKwS shoved religious imagery down our throats and basically screamed in our ears that incest was taboo. There are religious discussions in this manhwa, but the family is catholic and they don’t shove imagery in our faces to make a SUBTLE statement, they just show how this conflict within Seh-Joon is affecting him on a spiritual level.

To make a long story short, The Flowers of Evil is definitely the best rendition of an incest story that I’ve seen so far, and it does a lot of things right that BwInKwS did horribly wrong. But does it deserve the incredibly high praise its received?

Bottom Line: In the end, this was one of those series that I left with a bit of unease. I didn’t really know how I felt about it. On one hand, there are a lot of overly dramatic and annoying parts to this series with almost every character being an asshole in some way. On the other hand, the story admittedly drew me in and I never once felt bored while reading. The characters came to life for me, even if the leads tend to seem constantly emotionless while also being overly dramatic at the same time, and the art was very beautiful at many points, even if some frontal shots seemed odd with how the noses basically disappear.

The story did get into a slight rut of ‘I hate everything, I love Seh-Joon, but he’s being an ass to me!’ ‘I’m Seh-Joon and I’m going to keep being an ass to Seh-Wah’ (insert Sung-Chan/Seh-Wah relationship development here) but it stayed steady, told the story it wanted to tell and ended up wrapping nearly every storyline pretty cleanly.

While I don’t think it deserves the perfect scores across the board that it seems to get, it’s a pretty good manhwa with a good length for this type of story, and I’d gladly recommend that people give it a go.

Additional Information and Notes: Flowers of Evil was written and illustrated by Lee Hyeon-Sook and it was published by Daewon C.I.

Volumes: 7

Year: 2006-2008

Recommended Audience: Incest angles a plenty, depending on how much that bothers you. Some nudity, but everything graphic is ‘painted away’. IE Sailor Moon-esque boobs with no nipples. A few sex scenes, but all tastefully done with no graphic shots. Several instances of violence, two of which being particularly brutal and slightly graphic. Adult themes. 14+

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2 thoughts on “Flowers of Evil (Manhwa) Review

  1. This is a great breakdown of the series. I agree it does have quite a few breaks in the story(fickle character motives, the whole meds thing) and the characters are cold/hard-to-like.
    A question I would like to pose is do you think the author made all the characters so unlikable so that small changes, like Se-Wa accepting other people into her life, are more impactful and amplify a more-likable-ness in the characters?
    Or perhaps the cast of flawed characters was meant to draw a generally gray-moral-world… do you think this manhwa would have been better if the characters were more likable from the beginning?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      That’s a hard question to answer. Sometimes, when I see so many unlikable characters in a story I think that that can’t possibly be on accident because you have to be able to read your own work and have a similar response as an average audience member would and think ‘Huh, these people are really unpleasant.’ On the other hand, there are some authors who just write characters like this and don’t see how they’re unlikable and will vehemently defend them being as such.

      It’s extremely weird, but I’ve found that this is actually somewhat common in the romance genre, which is weird because you’d imagine if there’s one genre where you’d want everyone to be at least some degree of likable, it’d be romance, but I find a disturbing amount of romance stories where a bulk of the characters are just terrible and they don’t seem to be making any sort of statement or commentary by making them that way.

      I feel like it’s plausible that the characters were made this way on purpose purely on the fact that the title is ‘Flowers of Evil’ but what kind of message the author may be trying to convey by doing that is something I can’t work out. Maybe putting extra emphasis on the contradictory and selfish nature of humans and the darker side of love, corrupting what would otherwise be a very beautiful and positive thing.

      You make a good point that making Seh-Wa unpleasant makes her more positive moments more noticeable and impacting, but there has to be a careful balance with that. If you have mostly negative and not enough positive, it, in my opinion anyway, makes you care less that they’re showing signs of changing, like in redemption arcs where the redemption doesn’t seem earned. It’s not that it’s not good that the character is changing for the better, it’s that they’ve built up such a cold/negative rapport that it’s hard to connect with them at that point and become invested in their changes.

      You can do a lot of morally reprehensible things and still be likable. Even villains have enjoyed loving fanbases because they’re charismatic or funny or they had more understandable reasons/justifications behind what they’ve done or how they became the way they are.

      If the characters behind Flowers of Evil were made more likable, I do believe it would be easier to establish a connection with the characters, but on the other hand the more dour vibe to the story helps make Flowers of Evil stand out to people, and it could very well be one of the biggest points behind the message of the story. I honestly can’t say whether it would be another forgettable romance title in the bargain bin if they toned down the unlikable nature of the characters. It’s interesting to think about, though.


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