It’s been a while since I talked about a webtoon on here and I think it’s a perfect time. Ok, it’s a little late. Fine, it’s not a perfect time at all! New Year’s is sort of the same as Christmas, right? How about this, you can humour me and we’ll consider it a late present since I never received yours… So we all agree, it’s Christmas time and Hotel Phryne is kind of a Christmas story. In hell!!!
You’ll see what I mean.
Why I Picked up Hotel Phryne
I stumbled onto this one completely randomly. I was actually looking at a list of comics for a seasonal post I wanted to do and Hotel Phryne really stood out. It has a pretty unusual title for a webtoon and the image was just an ominous shot of the hotel in a page full of colourful characters in action with cute titles or long light novel type ones, Hotel Phryne was the immediate outlier and I just had to see what it was all about.
It’s Christmas Eve, and Doyoung’s made a reservation at a luxurious hotel in the hopes of spending a romantic day with his crush, Hyunjin. But nothing seems to be going according to plan. They lose cell service, miss their reservation, and drive through a terrible rainstorm only to arrive at a haunted-looking hotel. When Doyoung asks for a refund, the imposing concierge insists he must participate in a game—a game that quickly turns Christmas into a nightmare.
My First Impression
Good dialogue…wait this is weird
Hotel Phryne IS weird but in a very good way. The official synopsis is written to not give anything away however I’m going to. But first, let’s get into some of the spoiler-free remarks.
Like I said, the dialogue is good. The story basically starts mid-conversation. Not exactly conversation, two people driving in a car lost, trying to figure out what to do next. And that exchange felt very natural and real to me. Like the rhythm of the conversation, the short noncommittal answers. All of it sounded exactly like I imagine such a conversation would go.
I have long since accepted that conversations in comics of all forms can be stilted or odd sounding, especially in early paragraphs, because the author often needs to put exposition in there or turn a lot of the nonverbal communication into text. As such, the early dialogue in Hotel Phryne was a very welcome break from that.
I also liked the art, especially the concierge. It’s not that unusual or striking but I find that webtoons can have spotty quality when it comes to artwork and Hotel Phryne was pretty decent and very consistent. I particularly enjoyed the colour palette which fittingly is just full of earth tones!
Ok so this is spoiler town, but everything I’m going to talk about is in the first of the 48 chapters so I wouldn’t exactly call it a big twist pr anything. It’s basically the establishing premise. The thing is, I think I need to tell you about these things for you to properly understand what I mean by weird in a good way.
So our two main characters are a little lost in a storm on Christmas eve on the way to a hotel. Classic horror movie set up! One has a so far one-sided crush on the other and this trip was supposed to be the start of their relationship but now they’re lost in the middle of nowhere when out of the blue, the hotel is right there. So far, it’s not very weird but it’s not the usual setup for a romantic BL webtoon.
At this point, they run into the hotel to avoid the storm and Doyoung wants to cancel everything. He first starts to notice something odd when the entire hotel smells like flowers, in fact, it almost looks like an interior garden despite the fact that it’s winter. But then the concierge shows up and refuses to accept cancellation telling Doyoung that it’s just not possible. Did I mention that the concierge is a rose person? Like a man with a rose instead of a head. Yeah… People are remarkably relaxed about this.
And he is telling Doyoung that his room is the one on the ground floor and that the twelve other rooms on the upper floors are for his friend which seems like a waste until Doyoung discovers that there are suddenly 12 Hyunjins…
And that’s the end of chapter 1. Amazing, right?!
I read a few more chapters and the story takes a step back and establishes how Doyoung and Hyunjin met which is a nice way to make sure the characters get some depth.
Like most Boy Love stories, this one isn’t very well rated but I loved the intro and I have every intention of reading the entire thing. So if you want to read a very unusual Christmas story to get you in the mood for the rest of the holidays, and you don’t mind some BL, you should check out Hotel Phryne. It’s weird…in a good way.